Book review: The Pride of Manchester

By: Ashely Birch

TITLE: The Pride of Manchester: A History of the Manchester Derby Matches
AUTHORS: Steve Cawley & Gary James
PUBLISHER: ACL & Polar Publishing (UK) Ltd. 2 Uxbridge Rd, Leicester LE4 7ST, England (UK)-533-610800
ISBN: No 0 9514862 1 7
PRICE: £21.95

book-prideofmanchesterA hefty price but entirely justifiable for a large format book containing a staggering 352 sides, innumerable black & white photos as well as approximately 50 in colour, many of them full page. The book is the joint work of Steve Cawley and Gary James, the former a Red and the latter a Blue so it neatly avoids the pitfall of bias, a criticism which could have easily been levelled at any author whose allegiance lay with only one club. As for total impartiality, I doubt very much whether any outsider would have taken on this task, what has been produced is surely a labour of love and not profit motivated.

The authors have scored the notable coup of a double foreword by none other than (Sir) Joe Mercer and Sir Matt Busby and I think it fair to say that they wouldn’t have given their combined blessing to an inferior work. The book is broadly divided into three parts, namely the league derbies, followed by cup (& other) derbies and finally an extensive statistical section. The first two are chronological and are split into somewhat arbitrary chapters e.g ‘The Sixties, 1966-71’, probably more for the sake of format and presentation than for any real historical requirement. Each game is presented with a blue or red numbered header (game number) according to the home team. The score and scorers are given together with a programme-like teamsheet and the standing of the teams before the game. The background to the game is succinctly explored which helps set the teams in context, both historically and in terms of their form leading up to the fixture. An impartial match verdict is then given and this is followed up by a contemporary report to show what the reporters of the time thought of it all. Many of the pictures are delightful cartoons of the time or photos of newspaper headlines/cuttings which give a nice period feel to the game, making each match an interesting read. The authors are to be congratulated in finding such a neat way of presenting the matches without falling into the trap of producing a dry catelogue.

The last section gives answers to just about every possible question concerning the derby games, from ‘Top Scorers’, ‘Most Appearances’, ‘Débuts’, ‘Played For Both Clubs’ etc. The most contentious section (recognised by the authors themselves) appears towards the end (probably because you’d get stuck there otherwise!) and is guaranteed to get everyone arguing till well into the next millenium, ‘All-Time Best Derby Elevens’. The teams are almost entirely post-war, which is unavoidable really as it’s just too difficult to assess the ability of a player you never saw. Would you choose Swift, Trautmann or Corrigan as goalie, and where is one of my personal favourites Dave Watson? Go to the pub and continue the discussion indefinitely! One rather telling fact is that the most recent player in the City side is none other than Tommy Booth! To finish off, there is a chapter where the ‘greats’ recall their favourite derby memories, a nice personal touch.

These type of books have one major enemy and that is time; the next match after publication and they’re out of date. Having said that, it’s an unmissable book for any Manchester fan, great history, great photos, great memories and laid out in a very readable way. It’s expensive but it’s the book about the derby! And just why are they called derbies? Well, you’ll have to buy it to find out and then it’s only speculation.

All the above views are my own personal opinions.

As it appeared in MCIVTA 19

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