on 21 June 2013
I downloaded the Kindle version of this book and was hooked from start to finish.
As a Hendon fan, many of the names in the post-war campaigns were ones that I'm quite familiar with. Not having seen any of the players in action, but my Dad could regale me with stories about Jimmy Quail, John Swannell, David Hogwood, Terry Howard, Rod Haider, Peter Deadman and co for hours and hours on end.
There was a lot I didn't know concerning 'shamateurism' and the conflicts between the FAs of the Home Nations. A thoroughly entertaining read with plenty of first hand accounts from the players themselves.
A must read for anyone who remembers the glory days of the Amateur Cup.
on 22 February 2012
Menary captures the romantic age of British amateur football in stunning fashion in this fascinating biography of the nations forgotten Olympic football team. The book examines the reasons why amateur football was held in such high esteem prior to the abolition of the maximum wage, the class and regional divides which dogged the Olympic set up throughout its history.
Starting with Upton Park who represented the nation in 1904, Menary examines the events and profiles the players who took part in the world's first truly international football tournaments.
Champions in 1908 and 1912 led by the great Vivian Woodward who would be England's leading scorer if all the amateur internationals against the continents full selections were taken into account, Great Britain swept all before them.
The book uncovers some fascinating personal stories including Roy Brebner of London Caledonians, Chelsea, Q.P.R. who died of injuries sustained on the football field whilst playing for Leicester City. Harold Hardman and K.R.G. Hunt who were two of only three amateurs to win the F.A. Cup in the 20th Century and Harry Walden who following his football career which finished at Arsenal went on to enjoy a 40 year career on the stage as a singer and comedian.
Post World War One the intricacies of the infamous selection committee are exposed, not to mention the politics which affected the choice of opposition and shamateurism which lead to a British boycott from 1924 until re-entering in 1936. The story did not end during this hiatus as Menary brings to life the Argonauts who attempted to become the first amateur side to be elected to the Football League and the colourful life of Norman Ackland - the champion of the amateur in the national press.
Great Britain re-entered in time for the propaganda fuelled Berlin games of 1936 and continued to do so following the cessation of hostilities, this time led by Matt Busby who inspired the team to fourth place in 1948.
Walter Winterbottom took over the mantle in time for the 1952 when the team was humbled by Luxembourg. The great Corinthian, Norman Creek faired little better and the team were eliminated by Bulgaria in the qualifiers, before being re-instated and being knocked out by the same opposition again in the finals. The team included Seamus O'Connell who was the only player to win Division One and the F.A. Amateur Cup in the same season.
The 1960 Rome Olympics were the last finals the team would appear in and only bad luck stopped them emerging from a group containing Brazil, Italy and Taiwan against all expectations.
The Eastern Block countries began to dominate and the new manager Charles Hughes who is famed for championing Charles Reep's `Position Of Maximum Opportunity' theories which when adopted stifled English football throughout the 1970's and 1980's could do little to breath life into the amateur game which could not compete with such blatant abuse of the rules.
GB United is a unique and fascinating insight into the workings, mindset and background of this forgotten team which. It brings the personalities to life and with humour and reminiscences of the surviving players and is worthy record of a team who were the first world champions.
on 2 July 2012
This is a fascinating story, analysed from every angle, and it is beautifully told, especially as it includes many personal accounts of the individuals involved in the story. There can't be too many football books around that include first-hand accounts of meeting Muhammad Ali, Emil Zatopek and Adolf Hitler!
It is a very complex history, which has had to face a number of emotive political issues every step of the way. These include the sensitivity of conceding individual national identity to a combined Team GB, the subsequent lack of enthusiasm from the Scottish, Irish and Welsh associations, the often futile attempts to compete as an amateur team against obviously professional opponents and the perceived internal bias towards the selection of southern-based amateurs, all set against the slow, but inevitable decline of the amateur game in the UK.
The book also includes all of the squad listings and team line-ups from all of the Olympic qualifiers and finals that Great Britain has previously competed in, plus a list of all of the friendly fixtures played in the lead-up to each Olympiad.
It's an ideal companion to whet the appetite for the forthcoming revival of TeamGB.
on 19 February 2012
Following on from the excellent Outcasts! chronicling the troubles and travails of football in lesser-known corners of the (non-FIFA) world, Steve Menary has come up trumps yet again with his work on the GB Olympic football team, it's origins, history, the implications for London 2012 and beyond. The book delves into the always troublesome issue of amateurism v professionalism in the game and also provides possibly the only complete record of every game played by "Team GB" throughout Olympic history. As with Outcasts! this is one for the history, politics and football buff and a very worthy addition to the Menary collection.
on 13 February 2011
An excellent and well-researched book. Menary's previous book, Outcasts (about non-FIFA football nations), proved him to be a writer who can seek out the stories ignored by the mainstream media - and he does it again in GB United.
It's a fascinating history of British Olympic football (and thus, in the late 19th C, of all British football) that comes vividly to life in his interviews with players who appeared in 50s, 60s and 70s.
With London 2012 just around the corner - and a British Olympic football due to appear for the first time since the qualifying rounds for Munich 1972 - this is essential reading for anyone interested in either football or the Olympics.