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April 18, 2010

This is Ian Callaghan

Ian Callaghan with John Keith (2010) Cally On The Ball Liverpool, Trinity Mirror Sport and Media

A recent Tuesday lunchtime chat was made a little bit more interesting when a Liverpool supporting friend arrived in my very hot and airless office to chew the fat over the issues facing the Liverpool FC as this season staggers to a close. We were shooting the breeze on a range of topics such as the Europa League campaign or whether Torres’ knee could ever be the same again. I know that my friend is always interested in the books that I am reading, especially if the subject is Liverpool FC. I showed this new book from Ian Callaghan and wondered whether he was familiar with a player that had such a long period of service with one club

His face went blank with a tinge of embarrassment. He was unsure about who Callaghan was. It was obvious that he was out of his comfort zone and I did have some sympathy for him. No one likes to be found out with a slight tinge of ignorance about a key player in the club’s history. If I am totally honest, it was only after reading this book when I realised the importance of Ian Callaghan in Anfield for fifty years. This book is celebrating this half century but I would tentatively suggest that this player does not have quite the same public profile outside of Merseyside as a Keegan, St John, Dalglish or Rush figure for anyone under thirty years of age.

This book is not a full-scale biography of Ian Callaghan, and this book is all the better for adopting this different approach. You do not start off with the childhood years and nostalgia and finish off with the retirement and the regret. You will be reading a series of short tales and considered points of view, allowing this long serving figurehead to talk about anything and everything about the game, and his beloved Liverpool Football Club. A whole variety of subjects are up for discussion and although there are some tales of reminiscence, it is not another book that argues how everything was great ‘back in the day’ while modern football has ‘gone to the dogs.’

It is obvious that Callaghan has great respect for current Liverpool players. The first chapter is a discussion between Callaghan and Jamie Carragher about life as a Liverpool player, and it is obvious that both figures have the utmost respect for each other. There is no attempt to outdo each other in what can often be a tedious debate about which period was best. Fans of all ages would be interested in what is discussed. There is also much talk about Steven Gerrard who makes Callaghan’s all time Liverpool XI. The author acknowledges that “Stevie’s up there with the world’s best” but he wonders what will happen at the end of Gerrard’s career at Anfield. Callaghan hopes that new local talent is able to have their ultimate dream in the Liverpool first team like so many players from the great teams of the past.

There is a chapter on that memorable 2005 European Cup Final. Callaghan is comparing a corporate dinner at Anfield and the account talks about that well known dramatic change of mood from the utter despair at half time, to wild joy at full time. I will never get bored when I read stories from Liverpool fans or players, or think about where I was, on that May night nearly five years ago. Callaghan talks about Fernando Torres too, praising the Spaniard as a “sensational striker,” and name checking some of Torres’ fabulous goals such as the strike against Blackburn in April 2009. Torres does not make Callaghan’s top Liverpool XI due to his currently short Anfield career, but the author argues that Liverpool’s number nine could “become a legend among legends, a Kop hero to rival any of the past” if he stays on Merseyside.

Callaghan also passionately talks about the current problems facing the game in the twenty first century. The author’s solutions to these issues involve giving an automatic red card to the guilty player and installing off-pitch technology so a quick look at the camera can determine whether ‘simulation’ took place. There is a reference to David Ngog’s alleged dive during the November 2009 home fixture against Birmingham City; another example of the “win at all costs” trend that “sickens” Callaghan. It is probable that the author is not the only person who shares these views. Callaghan also talks about the decline of the FA Cup as a premier competition part of the national football heritage, and suggests that the FA Cup winners gain a place in the Champion’s League qualifiers instead of the fourth- placed team in the league. In an age when rants can be easily made about aspects of English football, this book is providing considered pieces with reasonable solutions.

Alongside the reflections on current issues, Callaghan does talk about the past, and shows utmost respect, pride and affection to those Liverpool figures that managed him during his long Anfield career. There are many references to Shankly and his iconic management at the club as well as Bob Paisley. Callaghan also talks about his frustratingly long wait to receive a World Cup medal after being part of the 1966 team. You are left wondering how such a proud footballing nation, such as the UK, allowed this delay to happen.

Alongside the football stories and debate, Callaghan talks about his career for the Littlewoods ‘Spot the Ball’ competition, which would be a job that I would have no problem in undertaking. This work included a chance meeting with Nelson Mandela who professed his support for Liverpool FC. Callaghan also talks about his discovery of the music of Tony Bennett, and many chapters talk about living in Liverpool during the sixties when the city had a Merseybeat voice in the cultural and musical life of the nation.

This book is a very accessible account to read and would appeal to Liverpool fans of all ages. You can dip in and out of the various stories, which are told in a very vivid manner, as if you had a pitch side seat to enjoy the action. It is obvious that Ian Callaghan’s love for the game and Liverpool FC has not diminished over the last fifty years. It is to be hoped that some of the current players continue to have a productive relationship with the club, because these links are what makes Liverpool Football Club so special.


April 14, 2010

The Legacy of Shankley

Writing about web page http://www.thisisanfield.com/2010/04/13/the-legacy-of-shankly/

Reading, reviewing and writing about any book about Bill Shankly for a Liverpool FC website is never going to be an easy task. You want to be objective in your review but you feel that if there are any criticisms to be made about this book, some people will feel that you are criticising the man, and subsequently disrespecting Liverpool Football Club’s proud history. This particular book is made up of Shankly’s own words, which makes any criticism seem even more personal in nature. I also wondered whether any complaints about Shankly’s autobiography would mean that I was at risk of being thrown out of the red half of Merseyside without as much as a goodbye!


April 11, 2010

Jason Cowley The Last Game Simon and Schuster UK (2009: Paperback 2010)

I appreciate that football may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I would still recommend The Last Game because this book is a heartfelt reminiscence about 1980’s life.

Take a father and son enduring a strained relationship as a result of the traditional adolescent chaos of understanding another person’s point of view. Mix it with a society that was undergoing a dramatic socio economic transition and sprinkle with a national game that was crashing on the rocks.

Cowley has written an unpretentious tale avoiding the pointless trivia t6hat frequently defines traditional eighties reminiscence. This book is a deeper personal reflection about the decade.


March 25, 2010

The Kop: Not just any old stand and not just any football history book

Writing about web page http://www.thisisanfield.com/2010/03/24/the-kop-not-just-any-old-stand/

I love visiting Anfield. You probably know this already but whether on or off the pitch, it is a stadium that has a real atmosphere. That fact is especially obvious when you visit other concrete bowls across the UK that like to call themselves Britain’s top football ground. When you walk around the edge of Anfield and take in the various staging posts beside the pitch, within the stands or outside the ground, you realise that this is a venue for people who love their football. Anfield is one of the world’s finest football cathedrals. It is a stadium where you come to worship the game of football rather than gorging yourself on the burgers and chips throughout the game and leave before the end “to beat the traffic.”


February 25, 2010

The Spirit of Crouchy

Writing about web page http://www.thisisanfield.com/2010/02/23/book-review-peter-crouch-walking-tall/

I’ve always needed a book to pass the time on the daily bus journey. I have also needed something to take myself away and block out my mind on train trips when my carriage is bouncing to the sound of people’s mobile phone chats, passengers are rowing about their seat reservations, or heading for the loo as the train passes every signal box.


November 14, 2009

Read All About Torres

Writing about web page http://www.thisisanfield.com/2009/11/13/read-all-about-torres-a-review-of-three-fernando-torres-books/

The clocks have changed, the leaves are falling, and daylight starts to give up around 10am each morning. The fireworks have shot into the sky so some people are starting to turn their minds to Christmas shopping and I am always slightly jealous about the people who have already brought the presents for this year. They can kick back in their armchairs with a glass of something special and the smug knowledge that they have been sufficiently organised this year. They do not need to venture into the drizzly rain where the angry shoppers are crashing around the aisles with little idea about what to wrap up for the sake of the 25th December.


October 06, 2009

Finding out about Fernando

Writing about web page http://www.thefirst90minutes.com/20091005293/football-culture/finding-out-about-fernando.html

How do you get someone interested in football? It is virtually impossible. You try to introduce a team, a player or a game and you are met with a stony stare, a sarcastic comment or merely fear.  I have to accept that football is not for everyone, regardless how much I try to convince him or her otherwise. If I manage to get these people in front of the television or into a ground to catch a game, I have to make sure that they are watching a game where goals are probable and when ninety minutes of continuous exciting action is a certainty.  


September 11, 2009

The 17 Million Pound Question

Writing about web page http://www.thisisanfield.com/2009/09/10/the-seventeen-million-pound-question/

I do not know whether it is my complex personality, but I have always tried to stick up for the underdogs throughout my life. I guess that I have been an underdog too on some occasions but when everyone is picking on a helpless victim, I will usually try to offer some support. This act will often cause me to become the new target of the abuse, but I can cope. After all, you have to remember that “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me” and all of those other corny sayings that you were told when a kid?


August 12, 2009

Will Xabi be missed

Writing about web page http://www.thefirst90minutes.com/20090810270/football-culture/will-xabi-be-missed.html

Not for the first time in recent years, I had to find myself providing therapy to Liverpool-supporting friends who believe that the Anfield roof had fallen in as Xabi Alonso boarded the plane to Spain. It felt as if the season had been written off before the first ball had been played. One fan threatened to walk away from football, which I thought was a bit strong, but it was a small snapshot of what Alonso meant a lot to Liverpool fans. Other fans seemed to be genuinely sad that the midfielder was returning back to Spain for his league football. It felt as if Alonso was a cult hero amongst reds


July 28, 2009

Steven Gerrard: A Whole Lot of Mither

Writing about web page http://www.thefirst90minutes.com/20090727263/football-culture/steven-gerrard-a-whole-lot-of-mither.html

I have taken some interest in the Steven Gerrard trial. There has been little option, but I have been really wishing for the real football to start. Apart from Fernando Torres signing a new contract during the early months of the summer, I have struggled to think of much that has been positive for Liverpool since that closing game against Tottenham. I am wishing that the opening game of this season at White Hart Lane could be brought forward by a couple of weeks.


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