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Archive for ‘Wales’

Tappy: From Barry Town to Arsenal, Cardiff City and Beyond 0

Posted on August 29, 2011 by samh

Tappy: From Barry Town to Arsenal, Cardiff City and Beyond, by Derek Tapscott and Terry Grandin (2004)

In April 1954, Derek “Tappy” Tapscott pulled on his Arsenal shirt, made his first-team debut against Liverpool, scored two goals and signalled the start of an extraordinary career.

He tells his life story in an engaging style – growing up in Barry with 15 brothers and sisters, his early days as a forward with Barry Town, then a fateful journey to London, unaware that the Arsenal were keen to sign him and finally returning to Cardiff City.

Tappy relates the many highs and lows in his career, including being signed to play for Wales 48 hours after his Arsenal debut, playing against the “Busby Babes” in their last league game before the Munich air crash, lining up with John Charles against an England side sporting Stanley Matthews and Len Shackleton, and being chased down the pitch by Real Zaragoza defenders for shoulder-charging their keeper when Cardiff City faced them in the Fairs Cup.

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The South Wales Derbies: A History of Cardiff City Versus Swansea City 0

Posted on August 29, 2011 by samh

The South Wales Derbies: A History of Cardiff City Versus Swansea City, by Dean Hayes (2003)

This book was the first written account of the intense rivalry between Cardiff City and Swansea – the Bluebirds and the Swans – two great Welsh clubs that first met in the Southern League in 1912.

The author traces the 90-year history of derby games against a backdrop of local and national events of the past century. Each game has been carefully researched, with a full report on each of the 149 first-team meetings of the clubs – in the League, FA Cup, League Cup, Associate Members Cup, Welsh Cup and Southern League games – plus the lesser-known wartime and friendly encounters. The book also includes details about the clubs’ grounds, player profiles and a statistical section.

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When Pele Broke Our Hearts: Wales and the 1958 World Cup 0

Posted on August 29, 2011 by samh

When Pele Broke Our Hearts: Wales and the 1958 World Cup, by Mario Risoli (1998)

This is the story of Wales’ only appearance in the World Cup Finals; it was later reprinted with a new preface by Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers, who loved the book.

Wales managed to get to Sweden in 1958 through the back door, after hostilities in the Middle East meant that Arab teams refused to play Israel. Wales were picked to play them instead, beat them 4-0 over two legs and were on their way to their first and only World Cup – and what is surprising is that this remarkable story had not been fully told before.

Cardiff journalist Risoli’s book reads like an extended newspaper article, which is not a bad thing: the many interviews with the surviving members of the Welsh team make the book more than just a dry history. Their comments and humorous anecdotes make the book come alive, as do appropriate quotes from newspaper reports of the time.

Risoli also includes a lot about the background surrounding the 1958 World Cup, not least the air disaster in Munich shortly before the finals began, which tragically wiped out most of Busby’s Babes. This had a direct effect on the Welsh team, as their manager Jimmy Murphy was also Matt Busby’s assistant at Manchester United; he had to act as United manager too, and instead of celebrating Wales’ achievement he was mourning United’s loss: “He was doing the job of four men…As a result he was not as well prepared for the World Cup as he could have been”.

The backgrounds of each of the players is also interesting; the point is made that they were worlds apart from the stars of the Brazilian team. They still are: in their retirement, many of them still live in Wales, a good number of them in Swansea. All of this crystallises the strong sense of identity in the Welsh team, due to their close-knit roots and the fact nobody gave them a prayer in the tournament.

But they ground out good results again Sweden, Mexico and Hungary in a punishing schedule, and reached the quarter-finals, where they were to play Brazil. The rest is history, as they say, and the title of the book gives you some clue as to the outcome. But Wales were resilient, and were only just edged out by a team of legends. This meticulously researched book makes this story seem not all that long ago, even when some of the players are long gone and the black and white photographs have faded.

Review by Sam Hawcroft

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John Charles: Gentle Giant 0

Posted on August 28, 2011 by samh

John Charles: Gentle Giant, by Mario Risoli (2003)

In Italy, where John Charles played for Juventus and Roma, he was known as Il Gigante Buono – the Gentle Giant – because of his placid temperament.

In a playing career of 21 years, he was never booked. One of the greatest footballers Britain has ever produced, Charles left his native Swansea at 16 to join Leeds United, where he was switched from defence to attack. The Yorkshire club reached the First Division for the first time in its history thanks to Charles’s phenomenal strike ratio of a goal every other game. Read more…

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