Fighting for Football: From Woolwich Arsenal to the Western Front - The Story of Football's First Rebel: Tim Coleman Stood Up for Players' Rights and Became a First World War Hero Hardcover – 10 Apr 2009
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Coleman appears to have been a very good, but perhaps not great, footballer, notable as much for his attitudes off the pitch as for his play on it. From blue-collar stock, he resented so called "gentleman players," amateurs who could afford to play in the league for free, and club and league management. He backed the first players' union, and was ahead of his time in his understanding of how to deal with the media and present himself in print.
Fighting for Football plods a bit for the first two thirds, charting Coleman's time at then-Woolwich Arsenal, Everton and other clubs, but picks up considerably upon reaching the start of World War One, and Coleman's entry into the conflict. Here, and perhaps due to more bountiful source material upon which to draw, Myerson takes us to the Belgian countryside and paints a bleak, dreadful picture of the brutal warfare that claimed so many promising young lives, whether outright or over a prolonged period thanks to the effects of shellshock and mustard gas. Myerson details the Footballer's Battalion, so named for its composition of volunteer players from around England, and relays the importance to morale of playing games among the troops, including official tournaments among teams drawn from various divisions and brigades.
Coleman survived the war and earned a medal for his valor. In contrast to today, neither his status as a professional athlete nor as a decorated war veteran provided him financial security or the promise of future opportunities. After a brief stint managing in Holland, Coleman returned to England and by World War Two was a labourer working in London. He fell to his death trying to repair a building damaged during the Blitz, and was remembered in his local newspaper only after his son sent them word of his demise.
If I could I would give this book 3.5 stars. I found myself trudging through the account of Coleman's pre-war career, which is dealt with deliberately and painstakingly. Looking back, I would have preferred one third of the book dedicated to his playing career and two-thirds to his time playing and fighting in the army, which on the whole seems far more poignant and worthy of remembering.
Though the author writes perfectly competently, along the way I found myself irritated by the repeated lack of sources given for quotations, either inline or footnoted. Readers are left to guess who may have given them and in what context.