Manchester City’s official illustrated history has been published to celebrate the club’s 125th anniversary but they seem to have missed out someone very important. Review by ERIC BROWN
Alf Ramsey’s England were basking in world cup glory when Manchester City pulled off one of the most significant transfers in their history.
Expectant fans awaited big signings to reinforce their promoted side for First Division action and in summer 1966 they got – Tony Book!
Acquiring the gangly fullback from Plymouth was not exactly what supporters anticipated. Most of his working life had been spent as a bricklayer and he had never played in the top flight.
Then there was his age. Manager Joe Mercer needed persuading by assistant Malcolm Allison that Book was worth a £17,000 gamble at the age of 32. Allison instructed Book to tell the club he was 29 in case his real age scuppered the deal.
Book and Allison had been colleagues at non-League Bath City and in Canada as well as Plymouth.
That £17,000 fee clinched one of the most romantic transfers in football history and probably City’s best value deal. Book became their most decorated captain with four major trophies including the League title, FA Cup and League Cup.
He made 242 League appearances, was elected the club’s inaugural player of the year and journalists voted him Footballer of the Year in 1969, jointly with Dave Mackay. Book, still known as “skip” by ex-teammates, captained City as they became the first English team to win a European and domestic trophy in the 1969-70 season.
But Book’s City service didn’t end on the pitch. He went on to become coach, assistant manager, caretaker manager three times and permanent manager between 1974 and 1979. Inducted into the City Hall of Fame in 2004 he became the club’s Honorary President while fans elected him Life President of the Supporters club.
A genuine legend then? Well no, according to Manchester City’s official illustrated history published to celebrate the club’s 125th anniversary. David Clayton, matchday programme editor since 2009, has produced a fine publication tracing the switchback history of a club that rose from the depths of third tier football to overtake rivals United as the leading club in Manchester – and the land.
It includes special features on club legends from Billy Meredith and Tommy Johnson to Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany through Lee, Bell and Summerbee. But not Tony Book.
Book became their most decorated captain with four major trophies including the League title, FA Cup and League Cup
This club colossus isn’t even mentioned in the index. There’s plenty in the text about Book and several pictures including a superb shot of him perched on teammates shoulders waving the FA Cup aloft in 1969. But search for his name in the index and it’s mysteriously missing. The index jumps from Kevin Bond to Tommy Booth. Tom Maley, Tony Towers and Fred Hale all get a mention. Not Book.
This is a serious slight on the club’s greatest servant. How can Book not be a City legend with a record like his? Unworthy even of a mention in the index?
Surely I’m not biased after a personal encounter with the great man? Delayed by post-match interviews after covering a Maine Road contest many years ago I discovered my car had been locked into the club’s practice ball court where it was parked.
I trudged back to the ground, reported my problem to the nearest blue blazer I could find and she promised to find someone who could solve it. A groundsman’s apprentice, perhaps? An office junior?
No, who should appear with the keys but Tony Book who happily chatted away about the game and City in general on the walk of nearly a mile to our destination. Finally liberating my car, he even rejected my offer of a lift back to the ground. What a man. What a star. What a legend.
Perhaps David Clayton and publishers Carlton Books can restore Book’s status among City legends and correct the index omission in any future reprint of this otherwise excellent history with Pep Guardiola foreword. It would be no more than he deserves.
Manchester City The Official Illustrated History by David Clayton is published by Carlton Books price £25.
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