Writings Of A Different Era

Evocative Book Shows How Times Have Altered

A lot of memories for one cover.

Hand in hand with the huge changes the game has witnessed over the decades, it seems the reporting of it has undergone quite a revolution, too.

Time was when the Charlie Buchan Football Monthly was one of sport’s foremost publications – it must have been to run from 1951 to 1974 and, for the most part, with massive success.

Sales peaked at 200,000 a month when England won the World Cup in 1966 and it seemed the magazine would last forever.

Now we have the chance to relive the essence of what was vital reading for supporters – and the experience might prove surprising.

A new book written and edited by Andrew S Dalloway captures much of the Wolves content in the publication dating back almost 70 years and demonstrates that the players at Molineux and presumably elsewhere were very much on side with it.

In the first 50-odd pages alone, we are treated to substantial articles about Johnny Hancocks, Billy Wright, Jimmy Mullen, Bill Slater, Peter Broadbent, Eddie Stuart, Ron Flowers, Roy Swinbourne and Dennis Wilshaw.

On and on they come……Bert Williams, Joe Gardiner, Bill Shorthouse, Eddie Clamp, Jimmy Murray, Colin Booth, Bobby Mason, Norman Deeley, Malcolm Finlayson, Gerry Harris, even physio George Palmer and Express & Star reporter Phil ‘Commentator’ Morgan. Correction: they are pieces BY them rather than merely ABOUT them. No doubt they were written with professional help but all are presented in the first person.

Wow, what scoops! A chance to read where that post-war Wolves greatness came from and what really made Stan Cullis and his staff tick. A precious insight…..or at least it should have been.

This is not a criticism of the ‘Wolves 1951-72’ version in this new series of books from Max Media Publishing. It is an excellent keepsake, also packed with evocative photos and, surprisingly for the era, many of them in colour.

But the men of my chosen profession who helped with these articles – there appear to have been no women football reporters during Molineux’s halcyon period – were either too easily satisfied in their interviews or didn’t ask the right questions.

Too often, I found the players’ comments bland. “Leadership is not dictatorship,” said Billy. “A captain should, above all else, try to set the team a personal example.”

Jimmy Mullen spoke of his debut and how sporting the Leeds full-back Gadsby (sic) was throughout, adding: “I have been with a good club and had a happy career.” There is even a skimmed-over reference to how he had feared a disaster when flying home from a wartime match in Belgium on a Dakota that suffered a failure in one of its engines. Really? Why didn’t the ghost-writer eke out the full dramatic story?

There are useful revelations or reminders, such as the fact Wilshaw was a Bevin Boy, Broadbent followed other members of his family down the pit in Kent before a totally different career opened up and Flowers trained for two years in Doncaster’s loco sheds as a fitter and turner.

There are good pieces, too – Stuart’s account of his life-threatening illness must have been dramatic at the time and the ‘Wounded on D-Day’ headline to the one by Shorthouse is eye-catching, although the subsequent references to his trauma are very scant.

Readers were clearly less curious satisfied then. Articles were safe and without any edge. Occasionally cheesy, too……Swinbourne signed off his piece with the line: “Can you wonder why I think football is a grand business?” The headline to Gardiner’s work was the rather obvious ‘There’s No Easy Way To The Top’.

Great to see so much colour from that time.

Enough of the gripes. This large 168-page soft-back merely reflected the time and is still a wonderful souvenir that I am glad to have in my collection.

And as if to show that writing did become less staid as the years passed, the 1960s and 1970s articles did much more for me.