Over 134 FA Cup campaigns squeezed into one book. What more could the football fanatic want?
Quite simply, this is a toilet book. Before Messrs Lloyd and Holt invoke legal action against me for slating their efforts, let me explain. Without meaning to go all M&S on you, this is not just a toilet book. This is a perfect toilet book. And Guy, Nick, that is not a bad thing at all.
It’s a term to describe a book which – surprise surprise – is kept in the immediate vicinity of the toilet, meaning its reader or readers have the perfect place and time to dip in and out of it. The book I mean, not the toilet, I cannot stress that enough.
Usually restricted to comic strip compilations or famous – and infamous – witticisms and quotes, it’s really any book which doesn’t require regular, sustained attention.
If Lloyd and Holt set out to do this then I take my hat off to them. It’s ideal.
Clocking in at a mighty 414 pages, with each season providing natural breaks, it is a book which is best to read in small bites.
The level of research and the detail each season is afforded is staggering to say the least, and the bibliography and list of acknowledgements at the back gives an insight into the amount of work which was put into compiling the book.
Historical photographs also break up the text, and help to provide a visual background to the stories being told. However, that is not to say that the style of writing does not invoke enough mental images as it is. Every season’s synopsis is written in a readable and sometimes light-hearted manner, helping to avoid a dull encyclopaedic feel whilst still maintaining an air of authority on the subject.
It is therefore a sublime piece of work, and also an accurate and dedicated historical resource. With football gradually losing its roots in this post-formation of the Premier League era, those who miss the tales of old can indulge themselves with this book. Who won the FA Cup in 1877 you ask? Well it wasn’t Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal. It was Wanderers, who recorded a 2-1 win over Oxford United despite an own goal from the former’s goalkeeper Arthur Kinnaird, who ‘caught a hopeful punt only to be carried over the goal-line by his own momentum.’
1927? Cardiff City, who beat Arsenal 1-0 with the only goal coming after an error from the Londoners’ stopper Dan Lewis, who claimed his error was due to ‘the non-adhesive quality of his shiny new jersey.’
1964? Liverpool beat Leeds United for their first ever FA Cup title.
I could go on. And on. And on. Such is the wealth of information provided by this book. Along with the rundown of each season’s tournament are handy trivia notes and quotes, which help to provide not only welcome footnotes to the earlier rounds and quirky incidents, but also at times evidence of the social history of Britain and how football has changed dramatically over time.
The only criticism I can think of is a rather worthless one. It gets repetitive in its structure and content, however this is only due to the nature of the book. As I said earlier, it is best read in several sittings – or toilet trips as the case may be – to avoid the slight sense of monotony.
However, as it is entertaining in its style, informative at its core, and such a brilliant resource, it is a useful read for any football fan who wants to see how the FA Cup grew up into the competition it is today.
Reviewed by Rowan Farnham-LongTags: Book Review, F.A. Cup, Guy Lloyd, Nick Holt, The F.A. Cup: The Complete Story