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3.9 out of 5 stars
The Black Flash: The Albert Johanneson Story
Format: Hardcover|Change
Price:£15.99+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

on 15 January 2013
This book, on the surface, looks beautifully produced, with its classy, understated front cover suitably reverential for Harrison's ultimately tragic subject. And yes, there are some interesting insights concerning Johanneson's initiation into the early 60s Leeds team: for example, one is left seeing Don Revie as a man seemingly without compassion or empathy. One regrets, however, that there seems to have been little in the way of editing considered. Tens of grammatical errors have jinked by the writer, proof reader or publisher like so many Johanneson runs down the left wing. There are mis-placed punctuation marks of all kinds (scattergun commas apparently randomly inserted in places, speech marks around reported rather than direct speech), and comma splices abound. There's no kind of craft to the writing, and the narrator's voice is cumbersome and clunky to read in places; Johanneson's testimony is considerably more articulate, but its transcription is still beset by the aforementioned errors. These things matter; if you shell out for a book of this sort, you do not expect D grade GCSE errors to be strewn across its pages. In fact, the errors and the style of the prose end up detracting from the sympathetic hearing that Harrison is desperate to give his subject, and that Johanesson clearly deserves. The Black Flash is a great subject for a book; his elegance on the pitch needs reflecting in how that book's produced.
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on 9 March 2013
On 22nd August 1961 my father took me to my first ever football match. My local team, Brighton, were playing Leeds. I can remember very little about the game. Jack Charlton sat on the ball during a stoppage, there was a great midfield display by a youngster called Bremner, but the real stand-out performance was by the Leeds left winger. Someone behind me in the crowd told his neighbour thart this was the danger man, and I then overheard their conversation about the latest "Danger Man" episode on the telly! The subjecty of their concern for the Brighton defence was Albert Johanneson, and it was an apt description. I knew very little about him. I knew he was South African and I saw the 1965 Cup Final on the TV, but he slightly faded from the scene as Leeds went into their glory years. This book does much more than reveal the true story of this most remarkable man as it touches on issues that we should all be aware of. For the reaction that Albert Johanneson received from people in England was often quite disimilar to what I witnessed at Brighton and the racial torment he endured really needed to be documented. I therefore applaud Paul Harrison for doing just this in his well researched book.
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on 2 June 2013
This is much more than a football book, it is a review of all things Albert and many others suffered in this era of British Football. The book is a fascinating, and revealing how things were done then, unbelievable in todays standards. The lid is slightly lifted on the Revie era, although there is very little comment from players who were there to confirm what must have been a tremendous struggle, but the author does bring home certain facts which were sure to have happened. The book ends sadly with Alberts final days and the trauma which even then he was still going through. The book has faults, not with the contents but with poor punctuation and type set, that apart this is a very good book on a very sad affair in English football.
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on 14 July 2012
Being a diehard Leeds fan from the Revie era, I was looking forward to reading this biography of a forgotten man of the early super Leeds. It is something of a curate's egg - good in parts. Albert's memories of his formative years in South Africa are fascinating as are his recounting of the racist abuse and violence endured on an everyday nature. Coming from comfortable England, we cannot begin to grasp the Nazi nature of apartheid in those days. As late as the 80's, white South Africans were telling me that "it was for their own good as, without it, they would only be fighting amongst themselves." Years later, a more enlightened white South African ensured that this mindset was far from unique. Albert's luck takes a turn for the better when he moved to Leeds Utd for trials, only to encounter bigotry at the airport - an ominous indication of things to come. Luckily, Syd Owen is more welcoming and a clearly nervous Albert settles into this alien environment. Albert is still shocked at the first time a white woman - his landlady - serves him a meal - unheard of in his country.
There was already one black South African at Elland Road - Gerry Francis. He comes across as a more self-confident person and greatly assists Albert in settling in. We get a fascinating insight into the state of Leeds Utd in the dog days of Jack Taylor prior to the Revie revolution. Revie himself comes across as a bit cold and standoffish towards Albert, though others like Les Cocker are willing to fight the bewildered South African's corner. It is cheering to know that Albert is mostly accepted by his team mates - especially once they grasp his skills on the ball. Billy Bremner is always willing to defend Albert and pick a fight with anyone indulging in racist comments, and others like John Charles (a big man in every sense of the word) and Grenville Hair are supportive in every way. But the casual prejudice of the era is barely credible to modern eyes. Cafe and restaurant owners refuse to serve Albert for fear his appearance will put off other customers - even after he becomes a major star at the fast-rising Leeds Utd. Albert's impressions of his early matches for Leeds remain vivid, but as the years progress, details are skirted over. He does reveal the state of his nerves prior to the 1965 FA cup final and the crude manhandling by the Liverpool players, and even requested Revie not to play him. Sadly, this seems to be the turning point. Although still a cult figure among the Elland Road faithful, and a few on-field triumphs remain, injuries and loss of form conspire to reduce him to a marginal figure at Leeds. Revie seemed to have little faith in him, and no comprehension of the abuse Albert has to endure (a failing of his generation) and the writing is on the wall with the signing of Mike O'Grady, although his playing colleagues still treat him as one of the family. Once Leeds have ascended to being league champions and are on their way to becoming recognised as the finest team in England, Albert is virtually forgotten and given away to York City on a free. His 2 years at York are passed over in less than a paragraph where I could have done with more from this time. After that, it's downhill all the way to alcoholism and homelessness in one of the most heartbreaking stories in football.
With monuments erected to Revie and Bremner at Elland Road, some tribute to Albert seems long overdue. He paved the way for black footballers in the modern game, and, like most pioneers, paid a heavy price for it. This book should go some way to seeing his memory his honoured.
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on 25 August 2014
Shocking what this obviously supremely gifted footballer witnessed in his early days and then what he had to contend with later on in life due to ignorance.Unbelievable how cruel people can be.
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on 17 March 2016
a excellent book on the story of albert johanneson and the issues he had to put up with not only in is own country but in england also in that era.
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on 26 December 2013
Another well received book for my son, this time. He will enjoy reading it, as he didn't live through the Albert Johannson era, like I did.
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on 17 October 2013
Another for my collection. Product very good but delivery took a week or so and only just on time but delighted with the purchase overall
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on 21 May 2013
This not only had the makings of a great football book (and it is great in Albert Johanneson's recollections), it also had the makings of one of the best sports books of our time. And yet it ultimately fails. At the end the reader is left feeling let down, wanting more, certainly from a footballing perspective.

The author, Paul Harrison, professes to be a Leeds United diehard and yet there is no social commentary on the rise of Leeds United in the 60s under the managership of Don Revie. We are given a vivid snapshot of the club at the point when Albert Johanneson joined, the second-division doledrums and the social attitudes which conspired at the time to make life in England very difficult for the South African player.

But for the life of me, I just can't understand why Harrison decided to bypass the spectacular rise of Leeds as a part of his story, a rise that saw Leeds go from promotion to the old first division to challenging and beating the great club sides of the day in just a few short years. We are not given any real insight into how Revie achieved this and the role that Johanneson had in contributing to Leeds' phenomenal success and ultimate disappointment in the 1964/65 season in particular when they came so close to winning the Double of league championship and F.A. Cup. How did the team and Johanneson deal with that disappointment? Harrison doesn't tell us although, in Johanneson's words, we are given an uncompromising account of the unpleasantness he experienced on cup-final day. Did Bill Shankly authorise the barracking treatment of Johanneson in the tunnel? These are serious issues which deserved further investigation. These men, players and managers, wouldn't have treated Pele and Eusebio as they did Albert Johanneson, so why did they do it?

Johnny Giles said that he left Manchester United to join Leeds because Revie offered a more professional and forward-looking approach to professional football. What an indictment of Matt Busby! Therein, I think, lies the key to Leeds' progress during the 60s and Manchester United's decline under Busby after 1968. This is just one aspect of the Leeds story of which Albert Johanneson was a part - a football factor which this book should have addressed for a wider, contextual appraisal of Johanneson's role in a pivotal decade for British football. I would like to have seen more in-depth football analysis dove-tailing Johanneson's story but the author has preferred to bombard the reader with historical and sociological information that only serves to waylay the story.

(Harrison's lack of detail pertaining to footballing matters can be seen in one of the picture captions. In one photo, an acrobatic Johanneson is described thus: 'Hat-trick hero Albert nets against Spora Luxembourg'. Yet anyone familiar with the teams of the decade could see straight away that the other team in the picture is Tottenham Hotspur.)

Albert Johanneson's story is compelling and sad and I have to say I was enthralled from beginning to end in reading his words. Maybe Paul Harrison felt this was the best approach to take - Albert Johanneson in his own words. But Harrison, I feel, needed to confront the actions and reputation of Don Revie and other icons of the era with a bit more objective scrutiny. I think he has backed away from that which is a pity.
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on 9 February 2013
Great read, not your usual football book. A must read by anyone who calls themself a serious reader. Best biography ive ever read
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