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Norman Giller,
Footballing Fifties
(JR Books, 2007)

Reviewed by Chris Goodwin
29 January 2010

Released November 2007

Norman Giller is a highly respected sports historian... and at this point I should write how many books he has to his credit - but to be honest, it will be outdated everytime you read this sentence.  The point being, Norman's ability to pen a book is second nature, and the ability to read and trust in its accuracy has also become second nature to me.

Basically, whatever Norman turns his hand to, it will generally work (I am still awaiting the second series of Petrolheads).  And when he turns his hand to history, it can be nothing but compelling and intriguing.  The statistics in the book were handled by his son, Michael.  The baton can be safely handed on, should the need arise.

This book has England summaries from every match they played in the fifties.  These match reports also appear on this website, gratefully supplied by Uncle Norman numerous years ago.  The very fact that we use Norman's work is testament to how much we value his workmanship, his historical accuracy and his passion for all things English.

One of the most compelling sections of this book is 'The Final Bow'.  A beautiful list of the players that made the fifties decade their own, but better than that - what became of them.

To find a factual book completely dedicated to the fifties is intriguing and refreshing.  For a child of the seventies, it is what history lessons should have been all about.  Now I understand the passion my father drilled into me, now I know where he was coming from.  How i wish this was a CSE textbook.

This book rightfully deserves a place on any nostalgic fan's bookshelf.  This is a sorrowful late review of this book - two years after its release, but Footballing Fifties can never be oudated or updated.  Instead, the further away we leave the fifties behind, the more intrinsically we need this history book.

The Fifties was one of the most dramatic and exciting decades in footballing history, with goals galore and wingers thrilling packed houses with their dazzling touchline runs - but it was also a time when, even if you were Stanley Matthews or Tom Finney, the most you could expect to earn was seventeen pounds a week...and there was hardly a foreign footballer in sight! They even spoke a different football language in the Fifties. There were wing-halves, inside-forwards and wingers, two points for a win, and shoulder charges were allowed against goalkeepers. Red and yellow cards were something associated with magicians, and referees took names only for tackles that caused grievous bodily harm. Spectators definitely got great value for their two bob (10p) entrance fee to grounds that were, generally, eighty per cent terracing; and it cost five shillings (25p) to get your bum on a seat to watch football that was full-blooded and rich with individual skills. In today's transfer market the likes of super-gifted players such as Matthews, Finney, Lawton, Mannion, Shackleton, Lofthouse and Carter would be valued in the zillions. As well as an all-encompassing look at the domestic scene with reports on all the major finals and key matches, "Footballing Fifties" also carries eye-witness accounts of the World Cup finals of 1950, 1954 and 1958, which memorably brought to the world stage players of the stunning calibre of Pele, Puskas, Kopa, Garrincha and Welsh giant John Charles. The World Cup reports include England's darkest hour - defeat by the United States in the 1950 finals in Brazil. "Footballing Fifties" will appeal to those of a certain age who look back on the fifties as the golden age of football, when average First Division attendances were around 50,000 every Saturday. It will also be enlightening reading for the generation that followed who still wonder why their Dads and Granddads are so nostalgic for an era when football was king. It offers a season-by-season breakdown of the highlights, as well as the low spots and scandals. It is introduced by Jimmy Greaves, who scored the first of his all-time record 357 goals for Chelsea at Tottenham in 1957. It includes a report on every major final of the 1950s, including the Matthews Final of 1953 and the 1958 World Cup that produced Pele. It is a moving tribute to the birth and death of the Busby Babes, the team that died in the 1958 Munich air disaster.. -  JR Books synopsis

To buy: Amazon