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on 3 September 2006
Memoirs of deceased parents can be mawkishly sentimental ponderous affairs drowning in pathos, but Imlach has succeeded in writing a book that is deftly light in tone and entertaining as well as being, by turns, moving, funny and informative.

The contrast between professional footballers' lives half a century ago and today is fascinating - wages were a fraction of what they are now, and not only were players not the superstars they are now but they were often treated with little respect by their clubs, who would occasionally arrange transfers without informing them first.

There are many hilarious moments here, among them the author's foiling an attempt to foul him in a school match by getting in there first, his mum hiding in the pantry when her husband played in professional matches so that she could avoid the radio commentary, and the arch wilfulness of waiters trying to humiliate the wives of players at a posh dinner. This last scene shows off Imlach's flair and wit to the full, with the asparagus laid before the bewildered wives being described as 'straightened question marks to which they had no answer'.

The ease with which Imlach recounts absorbing tales, his ability to draw humour from everyday occurences, and his passion for football will draw obvious comparisons with Nick Hornby or David Baddiel. Hopefully, like them, he will turn his hand to fiction and become a fully fledged writer of best selling laugh-out-loud, blokeish novels.

Leyla Sanai
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VINE VOICEon 27 September 2006
Part social history, part family memoir, this is on one hand a son's moving story of his father's life and the ups and downs of a career largely spent outside the top level of professional football. On the other hand, the author uses football to trace social change over the last fifty years.

Nick Hornby's "Fever Pitch" has prompted pale imitations by writers nowhere near as gifted. This book, however, is exceptional in the sense that a talented writer with a broad world view and the perspective that that provides has taken a sideways glance at the rot, corruption and exploitation at the heart of professional football.

Towards the end of the book, he describes his own loss of interest in a game which has become increasingly detached from its core values and traditional audience. Many will empathise with the sentiments he expresses.

At a time when publishers seem to take every opportunity to save on production costs, it should be stated that this is a beautifully produced paperback, worthy of a place on anyone's bookshelf.
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on 28 August 2006
This book should be a must read for all the modern day poseurs masquerading as professional footballers. They should be made to read it before signing their contract, endorsements and image rights.

It is a excellent, informative read of football in that era of 1950s & 60s but also a social commentary of that era and insight into housing, work and unfortunately class barriers.

As a member of the tartan army it also shows why we've done so poorly at world cups ie for 1958 no manager, Matt Busby lying injured in hospital, so what do we do? Let a committee of selectors, most who have never played the game, pick the team, cream the expenses whilst some players lost money representing their country!

It is also an interesting tale of a father and son relationship, probably told with some regrets after his death.

I highly commend this book to you.
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on 17 November 2006
I heard many good things about this book, and I wasn't disappointed. It is written superbly and manages beautifully to interwine personal memeries with an historical account of the game as it was played pre and post World War 2. The last chapter is just a delight. I would challenge anyone not be moved by it.
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on 1 April 2007
Don't mistake this book for one of the Hornby-esq clones - its not another football supporters memoir. Instead its a engaging account of one player written by his son. Some of the stuff is remembered , some newly-discovered and some , inevitably , perceived now, but not at the time.The main themes are the precariousness of professional sport for the journeyman, the way players were treated in 50s/60s and sons remembering dads. Recommended.
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on 18 March 2007
This is the best football book I've ever read, but it's so much more than that. Beautiful written, this moving account not only recreates a lost world when footballers were part of the community and travelled to the home match by public bus and then walked to the players' entrance ; it also details a man's search for the father he had never really learned about while he was alive. In the first chapter, looking at a photo of the Forest team of 1959, including his father Stewart, lining up to receive the Cup from the Queen, Gary Imach asks "What had that moment been like for him ? Why didn't I know ? Why had I never asked him this simple question ? How had I managed to let him die without properly gathering together the details of his career, his life story ?" Many adults whose fathers are now dead will share these questions and emotions, but few if any will go on to recreate their father's life and times as impressively as Imalach does. A brilliant account of football in the 50s and 60s, when players didn't own flash houses and cars, and were enslaved to clubs by their one-sided contracts ; and a most moving family story. If I could give 6 stars I would !
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on 7 April 2007
This is an excellent book that works at many levels. It's part football history and partly a son writing about his Dad and appreciating him and his life. Makes you appreciate that whilst the wages being earnt now are wildly high, it was not that long ago that there were awful.
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on 12 January 2006
It is normal for me to stay well away from books about footballers but the cover drew me in. Gary Imlachs very personnal account of the career of his father is a must read for any fan of football, however let me at this point infirm you that there is danger that you will feel a rise in the temper because as Imalch points out slavery was alive and kicking in the fifties and sixties, clubs could sell players while they slept with no consultation. Here is a powerful story of one of our greats who was man of the watch for the 1959 cup final and yet 6 years later was found playing for Dover in the southern league, here was a man who played for Scotland in the world cup but was not given a cap. I urge you all read this and pass it on.
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on 21 May 2007
Loved this book. Didn't think I could possibly be this enthralled by a book with this subject and with subject matter from the footballing past. Read the first few pages after being loaned the book and just couldn't put it down. If you love football and love your Dad you'll love this book. I'd defy you not to be touched by an account of what is essentially UK footballing history coupled with the family history of someone who could have been you. Absolutely bloody wonderful.
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on 25 August 2007
If you click on the "Football" category of the Amazon website you'll find there are 9,159 titles (probably more by the time you read this). About 1% of these are actually worth the money and this book is very high up on the list.
You might recognise Gary Imlach as the likeable guy who presents the Tour de France and used to do the American Football (when you didn't have to pay Rupert Murdoch for the privilege).
On one level this is a biography about his dad, Stewart, a professional footballer in the 1950s and early 1960s, who played for Bury, Derby, Forest, Coventry and Crystal Palace, (as well as Scotland) and went on to coach the great Everton side of 1970 (Alan Ball, Joe Royle and all).
On another level it's about the life of any professional footballer at the time - the clubs simply owned the rights to these guys and the choice was to do as you were told or leave the professional game. They even controlled your access to housing!
On a third level it's about the process of Gary Imlach writing the book and his relationship with his father, discovering how much he didn't know and things he wished he had asked.
It is a very, very good book not least because as disillusion spreads with the way football is marketed these days it is an invaluable reminder that all was not perfect in 1950s and 1960s English football. The working class heroes lived life with the sword of Damoclese dangling in the form of a career-ending tackle or the whim of a manager.
The only vaguely negative thing I ahve to say is that this took a little while to grow on me. After the first chapter or two, I was quite disappointed, in fact. The writing style is quite understated and Imlach senior was not involved in many truly dramatic incidents so it might take a little while to tune in. All I can say is: stick with it. It really is worth it!
Clearly this was a very personal book to write, almost therapy for the author; here's hoping he has another book under way!
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