In memory (or discovery?) of Stewart Imlach..

If, like me, you are feeling the lack of football already this summer then I may have a short term fix for you.  I’ve just finished reading ‘My Father, and other working class football heroes’ by Gary Imlach, son of former Forest winger Stewart – who played a starring role in our 1959 FA Cup win.  To me being the age I am, Imlach was a familiar name from poring through old programmes and statistical histories as a child, but I must admit to otherwise being utterly ignorant – so this was a voyage of discovery for me.

So too, it seems, was it for Gary whilst writing the book – being a youngster he felt he’d missed out on his father’s career and it wasn’t until after his death tha the realised there was so much to discover, and so much he had wished he had asked.  So for me I felt instant empathy.  I won’t go into loads of details as frankly I’d only get it wrong – but this is detailing an era when footballers were basically slaves beholden to clubs, and whilst I regularly bemoan post-Bosman player power, it does make me realise how badly some of our past legends were treated professionally.

The other thing is that I didn’t really follow the positions.  You see, my generation were brought up on 4-4-2 formations, they were the default but there are all kinds of tantalising things like “an attacking W” mentioned here, Stewart Imlach was an outside left – which was basically a left winger as far as I can tell, but perhaps more advanced – he relied on an inside left to provide him the ball where he’d either cross or cut inside to have a shot.  He was a grafter, a hard worker and won man of the match in the 1959 FA Cup final when we played with 10 men for the majority of the game after Dwight broke his leg.

He was discarded in strange circumstances – and in this I discovered that, not for the last time, a successful side was harshly and crudely dismantled rather than being built upon – this time by Billy Walker.  This is the first documented instance of this I’ve come across, but not the last – that’s for sure!  There are snippets about Jimmy Hill being a campaigner for player’s rights, and there’s me just thinking of him as the buffoonish pundit with a big chin that made me laugh as a child.

All in all, he overcame many examples of poor treatment at the hands of football managers and chairmen, didn’t get paid particularly well even compared to the working class folks spectating, yet carried on through determination and a love of the game – much like many of his contemporaries.  What an appealing era that sounds like – where passion was as fierce on the pitch as in the terraces.  But of course, with the distasteful underpinning of knowing that the players who provided this were being treated harshly.

I thoroughly recommend picking up a copy – I am really tempted to pick up a dozen from Amazon and posting them to Smoulds to give some of our primadonnas to have a read through – it will help them realise how privileged they are to be paid so handsomely for playing the game we all love.  So yes, if you’re suffering from a summer without any meaningful football then why not avail yourself of a copy – there’s plenty of snippets of interest I’ve not mentioned at all to make it well worth your while!

Click here for the paperback from Amazon.

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4 Responses

  1. This book is an excellent read – a well told story of football from a different era. Alan Ball’s recent death reminded me of the story of Stuart Imlach having Alan Ball’s boots in his garage to be painted white.

    It’s a pity we can’t get rid of some of our wasters as easily as when footballers were harshly discarded during the era of this book!

  2. Funnily enough my father gave me a copy of it at the weekend and I have been unable to put it down since. I am just about on the last chapter and it’s been a riveting read. It,s really hard to believe that the majority of the fans on the terraces who worshipped these players were actually earning more money. It really puts the money grabbing, no loyalty players of today to shame

  3. […] an inside left is – but given I surmised an outside left was basically a left winger when discovering about Stewart Imlach – perhaps an inside left is a  left sided central midfielder?  Or more […]

  4. […] to reading Gary Imlach’s book about his dad I had some sketchy background knowledge of that era for Forest – but this book brings it all […]

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