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Saints' historians publishing new book profiling every player to have featured for the club
Behind every Saint is a story. From allegations of spying during the war, bravery on the battlefield, and even naming their pet rabbit after Kerry Dixon, there are countless tales to be told from those who have worn the club’s shirt over the years.
Now, all of them have been brought together in a single, stunning collection, which profiles every one of the thousand-plus players to have featured for Saints in a competitive first-team match, from their inaugural Hampshire Junior Cup fixture in 1887 through to the present day.
The book, titled All the Saints, will hit the shelves at the end of November.
It represents the latest in a long line of remarkable efforts from Hagiology Publishing, a collective made up of the club’s esteemed and official historians, and is the product of decades of intense and diligent research.
It builds upon the 1992 publication, The Alphabet of the Saints – A Complete Who’s Who, and the more recent In That Number – A post-war chronicle of Southampton FC, which came out ten years ago.
“This is the biggest we’ve done,” said Duncan Holley, one of the three authors of the book, alongside his colleagues Gary Chalk and David Bull.
(The All the Saints team. Back row, left to right: Gary Chalk, David Bull, Duncan Holley. Front row: Elaine Chadwick, Rob Culley)
“Why we’ve done it, why 1992 has been built upon, is there is so much more information to find out.
“I think the good thing about this, and what I like about this personally, is that this is not just a book about footballers and their footballing career.
“We’ve also turned it into a bit of a social history, in so much as we’ve looked into what they’ve done afterwards, which I think always interests people, and that’s taken quite a lot of research.”
It certainly has. Holley, Chalk and Bull have travelled the length and breadth of the country and spent years tracking down former players and their relatives, in a bid to secure the necessary information to produce the book.
They have traced players’ wills, visited the Imperial War Museum archives and extracted information from the Commonwealth Graves Commission – and those are just some of the examples of the lengths they have gone to.
What their work has resulted in is a kaleidoscope of fascinating sto ries, featuring tales of bravery, tragedy, scandal and comedy.
All the famous names – Bates, Paine, Le Tissier, Channon et al – have their careers and lives covered in depth, but some of the most incredible tales often emanate from the more obscure characters to have worn the Saints shirt.
Bull explained: “If somebody played only one game, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re uninteresting and they get one paragraph.
“One of the most interesting guys, who played seven games and gets a whole page, is a guy called Reynolds, who was the only person to play for England and Ireland at full international level.
“He played for Ireland under the name of William Reynolds, but when he was in England he was John Reynolds and managed to play for England.
“He also managed to get hospitalised three times for his sexual diseases and had a very interesting paternity case in Birmingham, so he was an amazing character.”
As Holley notes: “Some of the more interesting stories are actually found in the players who didn’t play very much. They’ve got a story to them, whereas everyone knows the stories of the stars.”
One of the best has to be the case of Leonard Sydney Dawe, who made 11 appearances for Saints, from 1911 to 1913.
Dawe went on to compile cryptic crosswords for the Daily Telegraph – a role that would, bizarrely, lead to him being investigated by MI5 during the Second World War, when code names relating to the Normandy landings began appearing in his puzzles.
Needless to say, Dawe was a Saint in more than one way, and was not betraying his country, but the full story of how he came to be under suspicion is a wonderful tale.
(Ted Bates is one of more than one thousand players to be featured in All the Saints)
Then there is Sandy Davie, a little-known goalkeeper who played just once for the club, letting in five goals at Manchester United.
“He actually became quite famous in New Zealand and went on to be a coach for the national side and play 30-odd games for them,” said Holley.
“Four years ago he was playing golf at his local club somewhere near Auckland and he got a load of texts on his phone from his wife and everyone else saying it had suddenly been reported on the national news that he’d been murdered in Queensland.
“He was quite taken aback, obviously.
“What had happened is someone else called Sandy Davie had been murdered in Australia, and for a while the New Zealand press thought it was their Sandy Davie.”
Other tales are similarly amusing, such as Ted Bates breaking up a Saints rock ‘n’ roll band, or Denis Hollywood being on the receiving end of a tremendous Harry Redknapp put-down.
The book’s designer, Rob Culley, who has read every profile, said: “In the post-war section I’ve learnt that Peter Crouch named his rabbit after Kerry Dixon, which we laugh at quite often.”
Other profiles reveal more serious aspects of the players’ lives.
“It’s interesting. Particularly in the pre-war section, there’s lots of great stories and lots of tragic stories,” said Culley.
One of those is undoubtedly Captain Edward Bell. As his profile notes, “his achievements, during the First World War, with the 17th Middlesex, aka the Footballers’ Battalion, considerably outshone his few seasons in the Southern League”.
Indeed, All the Saints details the two Military Cross awards, for “conspicuous gallantry”, made to Bell, who was killed in 1918 by an enemy shell, in Albert, in the Somme.
Bull said: “You will find in the book that we pretty much know where everybody killed in the First World War was buried, and we have photos of some of the graves and memorials, which may sound macabre, but Rob has done this superb page, which is a roll of honour of the 25 players who were killed in the First or Second World War.”
That gives an indication of the level of detail that the authors have gone into. Such research, though, is not exactly simple.
“The older eras were difficult,” said Holley. “The First World War was tough, because it was such a long time ago, the players were so obscure, and records weren’t kept so well then. Players sometimes played under assumed names as well.”
Ah yes, the players. In theory, no information should be as solid as that which comes from the horse’s mouth, but, as many in the game know, footballers are not always the most reliable.
Holley said: “I love the story David tells about the player who he told ‘You can’t possibly have scored a 30-yard screamer in that match,’ and he says ‘Why?’ and David says ‘Well, you weren’t playing.’”
Bull added: “Part of the problem is that a lot of them don’t ever go back and look over their career.”
That proved to be a major issue for the profile section of In That Number.
“There was probably something wrong in almost every one,” admitted Bull. “That’s a product of the fact that players don’t tell you the right stuff and you didn’t have the sources. Now we’ve got the sources and you go and check.
“A few of the modern players have been frustrating, because they give you their mobile number and then they never answer and they don’t return calls.
“But we’ve had some very good help from so many players and some good help from club secretaries and media officers.
“I think we should say a special word for Swansea City. One call to them and we got four interviews.”
Holley continued: “Some players won’t even talk about their careers. A lot of them are very happy to talk, but some of them are funny about it.”
Of course, get a bit of information wrong and you run the risk of hearing from the player in question, as Holley relates in this anecdote.
He said: “When the 1992 book came out, I got a phone call from an old bloke who was really angry and he said ‘You haven’t put me in your book, you’ve missed me out.’ “His name was Bill Moore, and he said he had played one game at Aston Villa in 1936.
“I went down to meet him and he brought a photograph of himself in a Saints shirt and he told me the story of what happened.
“He’d gone away as a 12th man, and making his debut on that day was a guy Saints had just signed from Sunderland called (Robert) Whitelaw.
“The local Echo guy had gone up and had never seen Whitelaw and didn’t know what he looked like.
“What had happened was that, about half-an-hour before kick-off, Whitelaw had gone down ill, so they brought Moore in, and the captain of Saints at the time didn’t bother to change the teamsheet, because he couldn’t write.
“He had everything to prove it must have happened. We found a photograph of that game, and there he is, 12th man, in a suit, standing next to Whitelaw.
“Obviously, they took the photograph about two o’clock, when Whitelaw was changed and Bill wasn’t, and it never got recorded that he played a game, so he wasn’t in our book, but he’s in this book now.”
(Saints president Terry Paine, pictured here in his playing days, has written the foreword for the book)
The photograph mentioned above is one of many included in All the Saints. Some of the pictures are quite stunning and it is through them, as much as the words, that the whole thing is brought to life.
Incredibly, the historians have been able to source photos of every post-war player and of all but about a dozen of the 490 pre-war Saints.
“Most of the photographs from post-war come from the Echo and the club,” explained Holley. “The pre-war stuff has been the hardest, because there is no archive.
“Most of the photographs, most of the good photographs, have been found through tracing the relatives of the players. A lot of really nice photographs have been obtained from the relatives. It’s going through the relatives that you get the gem that you’re looking for.
“I’m always left amazed by how this metropolis of Southampton must still hold a lot of photographs and secrets and facts about long-lost players that no one apart from the relatives will know about.”
Putting all of the words and photos together has been Culley, whose partner, Elaine Chadwick, is also part of the design team.
The first pieces of the book were sent to a designer three-and-a-half years ago, while Culley has been on board for the last two-and-a-half.
“It’s going to be a bit odd when this job is finally over, because it’s taken up at least a little bit of each day for two-and-a-half years,” he said.
“The whole thing depends on the quality of the photograph, the length of the profile, the importance of the player.
“It’s a labour of love, but that’s fine with me, because I’ve been a Saints fan since I was knee high.”
One of the biggest challenges facing Culley is when new information, or a better photo, is uncovered, or a player makes his debut, leading to a redesign of various pages.
“I’m dreading one of these youngsters making their debut against Sunderland (in the Capital One Cup later this month),” said Holley, slightly nervously.
Such a huge undertaking has, obviously, proved costly. The book, which will retail at £35, has cost about £55,000 to produce.
“That’s without any labour costs,” revealed Bull. “It means you’ve got to sell over 2,000 just to get that money back, before anything else happens.”
Holley added: “It’s not much of a profit-making exercise. Of eight books, I think we’ve maybe made a profit on two or three. These things do cost a lot of money and it’s a labour of love more than anything else.
"I’m looking forward to this more than any other. It’s interesting; I love the social aspect of it, I love the photographs. It’s the sort of book you can just pick up and read for 20 minutes and then put it down again."
Given some of the stories told within it, many people will undoubtedly find themselves wrapped up in it for far longer than that.
- The launch of All the Saints will take place on Friday, November 29, at the Holiday Inn, in Southampton. Some of the most famous names from throughout the club’s history will be in attendance to answer questions and autograph your copy of the book. Saints legend Terry Paine, who has written the foreword, is hoping to fly over from his home in South Africa for the launch activities. The launch event starts at 7.30pm, with tickets priced at £6. That cost is deductible from any copy of All the Saints purchased on the evening. Demand is expected to be high, so it is recommended to book your place in advance. To do so, please write to Duncan Holley, 1 Park Lane, Otterbourne SO21 2HY, enclosing a stamped addressed envelope and a cheque made payable to ‘All the Saints’ for £6. For further details, or enquiries, email email@example.com.
- Anyone who wishes to order a ‘subscriber copy’, and who will thus have their name printed in the book, must register before Friday, October 25. This can be done by visiting hagiologists.com and clicking on the ‘Forthcoming Publications’ tab. A £5 discount on the price of the book is available to subscribers.
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