Monday, 14 February 2011

Red faced and nauseous

The greatest fear for any prospective writer is that people don't actually like your work. I'm not talking about undiscovered genius such as Franz Kafka or Sylvia Plath - two greats whose untimely deaths brought their books to a wider audience. No, I'm referring to the audience merely reading one's work and deeming it rubbish. There are those who will say that it should not matter what other people think but, on the contrary, in book writing, it is all that matters.
The second tangible fear - which is, of course, linked to the first - is discovering errors (or rather having them pointed out) in something that has taken many, many late nights and very early mornings to produce. It is, I suppose, an occupational hazard and possibly a by-product of all those unsociable hours. Lame excuses aside, there is nothing quite as gutting as the discovery of a blooper and the pit-of-the-stomach feeling that accompanies the realisation that you've buggered it up. One of the upsides, is that when publishers decide to print further editions, the errant information can be inserted. There are consequences, too. Often, kindly folk are moved enough to write an eloquent letter or email pointing out the error and as an author of a book on a subject whose name, I felt, had been traduced to a certain extent, it was always my intention to maintain extremely rigorous standards of accuracy. One such correspondence appeared in my inbox in the weeks following Christmas and clarified a matter which had nonplussed me during the writing of the book. I'm happy to set the record straight here.

Dear James,

I’ve recently finished reading In Search of Alan Gilzean. It’s good to see a great player of the past receive the accolade of a biography. I think you’ve done him proud. Although not a regular at Tottenham, I did see several games each season during the late sixties and early seventies. Gilzean was a very skilful player and his trademark ability to subtly deflect the ball with a glancing header has never been matched.
A trick of his you mention brought to mind a favourite incident, which happened in the opening match of the 1972/73 season, at home to Coventry. Spurs scored an early goal and, as a result, started to play with a touch of swagger. The ball was played up to Gilzean who, as it came towards him, turned his back on the ball, bent low at the knees and trapped it with his backside. It’s something I hadn’t seen before and have never forgotten.
I was particularly interested, though, in your comments about the goal Jimmy Greaves scored in the 1967 FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest, as the description given to you (and also illustrated in Phil Soar’s club history) is absolutely correct. A long ball downfield was headed by Gilzean to Greaves, who struck it on the half volley from twenty five yards into the net off the left hand post. It was an outstanding strike from Greaves, particularly memorable because he rarely scored from that sort of distance. I was therefore puzzled to read that a Pathe newsreel showed the goal came from a move involving Mackay and Knowles, which I know was not the case. I found the newsreel via Google and can see why you arrived at your conclusion. However, this was due to a misleading piece of editing, as two separate pieces of film were spliced together – the first involving Knowles passing to Greaves, the second showing the ball flashing past a diving Peter Grummitt on it’s way into the net. But these are from completely separate moves – indeed, you can see a jump where the two pieces of film were joined.
Finally, forgive my mentioning, but there are some errors in the text. For example, Franny Lee never played for Preston and so was not involved when they beat Tottenham in the FA Cup in 1966. It was Tony Hateley who scored for Chelsea in their 1967 semi-final against Leeds, not Charlie Cooke. Also, Dave Mackay didn’t win the league championship with Derby under Brian Clough – he played his last match for Derby at the end of the previous season. However, these quibbles aside, I very much enjoyed your book.

John Perry

Author's Edit: Just want to point out that the Francis Lee referred to here was more commonly known as Frank Lee. He is nevertheless referred to as Frank Lee in official Preston North End publications. I hope this clarifies any uncertainty about his identity. These changes will, of course, have been rectified for the third print run which is due imminently.


  1. May as well chuck another in to the mix, although my version is from my dad and I cannot remember the exact details. he says you refered about a Davie White that played left wing for Scotland and Rangers, and he says it was actually Davie wilson, as he knows him well.



  2. Hi Chris, thanks for that.

    We got that one for the second edition reprint. Sounds like you might have a first edition.