The book is entitled My Back Pages and is a look back at some of what I consider to be some of the greatest, most emotive moments in sport. Obviously it’s all very subjective, but the point isn’t whether or not you agree with my selections [mini spoiler... you won’t!], but that you enjoy reading about the event in question, and getting a flavour of the background and the impact of what took place....
The book salutes the achievements of some wonderful athletes, covering eight different sports and spanning over one hundred years (1908-2012). On a personal level, three of the main protagonists have been interviewed—namely Ann Packer (Olympic 800m gold medallist in Tokyo 1964), Imran Sherwani (scorer of two goals in the 1988 Olympic Hockey Final in Seoul), and John Byrne (QPR, Sunderland and Republic of Ireland footballer, and part of the York City side which became the first club to amass one hundred points in a season in 1984).
It was fantastic to be given the chance to speak to Ann, Imran and John. Their collective contribution has given the book added interest and a credibility I could not have achieved on my own. A brief excerpt of each interview is reproduced below, and maybe when the time comes you may consider purchasing a copy of My Back Pages?
The profits will be donated to sport-related charity, but as yet I am undecided as to who to support. Any suggestions would be welcome....
Anyway, back to the interviews; firstly Ann Packer (now Brightwell): “I shared a room with Mary Peters, Mary Rand and a hurdler called Pat Pryce, There were only twelve women’s events that year, but between the four of us, we managed two golds, two silvers, one bronze and one fourth place. It’s quite an achievement for the occupants of one small room to have accumulated that many medals. Mary Peters was fourth in the pentathlon, as it was then, but of course she went on to win the gold medal in Munich eight years later We all got on very well because we travelled and competed more as a team than they probably do now. Sometimes it would only be a small team and we’d go to places like Russia, Hungary, Italy, or if we were lucky the States; and we also had these big international meetings at White City, so we definitely met up more often as a team rather than as individuals, Mary [Peters] of course came from Northern Ireland, but every time we competed as Great Britain she would be considered.
“As far as Mary Rand is concerned, in my opinion she is the greatest woman athlete that we’ve ever seen, she was such a natural talent. I know that we can now look at people like Kelly Holmes and Jessica Ennis-Hill, but Mary could do anything, whether it was athletics, swimming or team games, she was very very gifted. She lives in the States now, in California, but we’re still in touch.”
Next, Imran Sherwani: “We were quietly confident before the tournament. We were ranked second; we’d been playing well, prepared in a really professional manner, and spent time in Hong Kong getting acclimatised to the sort of conditions we’d face out in Seoul. I remember when we were told that Ian [Taylor] had been chosen to carry the British flag at the Opening Ceremony. We were having a training session on the pitch where we actually played our first game. It wasn’t the main arena; it was sort of the second pitch just outside the village. We had gathered in a huddle and it was announced that Ian would be carrying the flag and leading the GB team into the stadium. It was great news and a real honour for Ian. The following day however, Roger Self, who was such a stickler for discipline and for giving us the best chance to win, said to us all, ‘Guys unfortunately I’m not going to be able to let you go to the Opening Ceremony, because it’s the day before our first game, and it means you’re going to be standing out in the heat in ninety degree temperatures and a little bit of humidity. We’ve got to play [South] Korea the day after, and so me and the coach have decided that you’re not going!’”
And finally, John Byrne remembers his strike partner, the late, great Keith Walwyn: “Obviously Keith and I built up a great partnership. We were completely different players, but a good foil for each other. Keith was seen as a big battering-ram sort of player, which to a certain extent he was. Defenders were scared of him, but he had far more technical ability than people gave him credit for, and he was an amazing finisher. In those days you were playing against defenders who would try and knock you about a bit, so Keith took a bit of pressure off me and gave me the chance to flourish. But you’ve get to remember that me and Keith only hit it off because we were getting the service from the likes of Brian Pollard and Gary Ford out on the wing, and Sean Haselgrave in midfield; so it was never just about me and Keith; it was the whole team really. They provided the ammunition, which we readily accepted....”
The other nine stories feature (in no particular order): Muhammad Ali (or Cassius Clay as he was at the time), Bob Beamon, Ray Ewry, David Hughes, Nadia Comăneci, Mike Eruzione, Ian Botham, Danny Lee, and Kate Richardson-Walsh.
160 pages, and 40,000+ words of sheer sporting indulgence... perfect for those glorious idyllic summer afternoons, lazing in the garden, with a chilled glass of vino... Or curled up in the warm, whilst the rain pounds off the windows... either way, I’m sure you’ll love the book.
As always, please form an orderly queue.