"Golden Past, Red Future" - officially released: news and extracts

Posted by Paul Tomkins on June 19, 2005, 08:07:50 PM

Or rather: "How to write a book on LFC and hope for the best, and in return receive a gift from the Gods (and players) beyond your wildest dreams"

   Today (Monday June 20th) sees the release of "Golden Past, Red Future", my book on Liverpool's recent history and, specifically, the events of last season (and it is 'last' season 末 'this' season is only weeks away!). If people aren't sick of hearing about it, I thought I'd give a little insight into the process of getting the book produced, as well as giving some brief extracts, part of which is the book's Introduction.


Serendipity

Choosing last season to write a book on Liverpool FC has proven one of my more inspired decisions 末 almost assuredly above telling my parents that Betamax was the future of VCR in the early 80s; claiming that Sigue Sigue Sputnik would go on to sell more records than U2; or betting on Sean Dundee to become World Footballer of the Year in 1998. (Admittedly, this last one was a close call 末 didn't Dundee finish as runner-up to Zinedine Zidane?)

   Was the timing amazingly serendipitous, or was a season like this always on the cards?

   Funnily enough, the only two seasons I've chosen to write unstinting, regular internet articles on the club have been the Treble season of 2001 (I first began publishing pieces in December 2000, before anything 'special' was apparent about that team), and the Champions League-winning season of 2005. If I was superstitious, I'd feel honour-bound to keep going next season.

   As I say in the Preface to "Golden Past, Red Future":

My intention was to write a book about a legendary club in transition, fighting to claw its way back to the very top of the game, as, behind the scenes, all manner of changes were taking place. And while that is still ostensibly the case 末 no one can pretend that the transformation is complete 末 it also rather unexpectedly turned into a document detailing the Reds belief-defying charge to the quarter-final, the semi-final, the final, and then 末 following six crazy minutes and a penalty shoot-out 末 onto Cloud Nine.

From February onwards, more and more pages were happily dedicated not to what might one day be, but to what was becoming a reality in the here and now. The 然afalution is only just beginning: the rebuilding and restructuring remains necessary. There was just an unexpected early bonus. And some bonus at that . . .


   Although I didn't start work on the book until the winter of 2004, the catalyst was the combination of events in the summer of 2004, which are detailed at the end of this piece, in an extract from the Introduction. It just seemed there was plenty to write about, even before a ball had been kicked.

   While stability was always going to be impossible in his first season at Anfield, given the unstable situation he inherited, and the mixed bag of players, there was always an outside chance that Bentez would achieve something notable. To my mind, that would only possibly be a domestic cup win (close, but no cigar in Cardiff) or finishing higher than one of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United in getting 3rd spot (nothing of note transpired there).

   First seasons for a manager at any club which has been falling well below expected levels are rarely successful.

   As a result, winning the Champions League was several notches above 'notable'.

 
Why now?

I'd been considering the book for a few months, but a road accident in September 2004 (thankfully nothing too serious) left me unable to get started in earnest until just before Christmas. It was around this time that I had an email from Jonathan Swain, a friend from the battery-powered interweb, offering to help out in whatever way possible. That turned out to be in pretty much every way: an idea here, an edit there, and a frequent question as to why I wanted to dedicate half of the book's 180 pages to Igor Biscan. (More appropriately, it's down to just one page now. However, look out for my next book, the cut-price "Igor Biscan: the Ruffled Hairstyle Years".)

   Being half-Spanish and another dedicated Red, Jonathan was perfect for the task, and is deserving of his writing credit on the cover, even if the book stems mostly from my keyboard. If it is largely seen as 'my' book, it's fair to say it wouldn't have seen the light of day without my co-conspirator's help.

   By writing a book I'm only too aware that I am setting myself up for a fall 末 or rather, to be shot at. That's cool, it goes with the territory. Fair and constructive criticism has never worried me. No one likes mindless abuse, of course, and I accept a small amount of that, too. That only tends to bother me if it's from someone I respect.

   The weirdest thing is being made aware of people I don't know who have an opinion on 'me', or my motives, or my right to call myself a 'true' fan, and so on. Contrary to what some people clearly think I believe, I don't feel I am anything special for having done this. After all, I've not done anything anyone else could not have. I possess no formal English qualifications (playing football always interested me more than reading or writing at school), and have no professional writing experience. I am not a journalist, nor have any desire to be. I'm just a user of the internet.

   If I can do it, I'm sure almost anyone can. (The criminally insane may be less inclined to dedicate the time to doing so 末 choosing instead to gouge out their own eyeballs.) The internet gave me a voice, and the interactive, instantaneous nature of the feedback has always enabled me to know when I'm on the right track, as has reading the views of people I've come to know and respect. It's now up to people to either take the book, or leave it. Or to follow my process and produce their own tome, if they feel they can do better.

   Although I tend to have strong opinions, one thing I try to do is avoid definitive statements. I don't like to sit on the fence, or hedge my bets, but at the same time I am conscious of how an opinion can look right one day and wrong the next. The only time I really spoke out against Rafa's ideas was regarding zonal marking. I just didn't see it working in English football. But once it bedded in, we ended up conceding very few goals from set pieces.

   Football changes, as do footballers. Nothing is set in stone. I try to remember how it felt starting out as a semi-pro, moving up a level from being a good player in the top division of the local Sunday league 末 and how my new teammates looked at me dismissively, thinking 'this guy can't play'. Hell, even I wouldn't have passed to me. My 'first touch' was always remarkably like a 40-yard pass. But once I found some confidence, my game clicked into place, and I did okay. I've been both the rubbish player and the fairly good player.

   While author and co-author remain proud of the quality of the book, inevitably 'GPRF' won't be to everyone's taste. We will inevitably be reminded of things that should have been included, and receive comments disagreeing with our stance on certain issues. While it hasn't been rushed in any way, if we spent until 2009 working on the book, I'm sure we could have honed it further, but by then people would only want to read about 'number six' from 2007, and 'number seven' from 2008...

   To answer one question I've been asked a lot of times, the book is not a review of the season on a game-by-game basis: it is a look at key games (especially in the Champions League), key players, and key issues (including a detailed look at departed figures like G駻ard Houllier and Michael Owen). Oh, and of course, a longer than expected final chapter, on Istanbul. (It wasn't an occasion, or a match, that you could gloss over in a few hundred words, after all.) The overall tone is not too dissimilar to my internet pieces, but hopefully the quality is a little higher, given the extra attention to detail.

   The book includes a small percentage of my internet writings 末 on the occasions where I felt I'd said something sufficiently well, that there was no point reinventing the wheel. The book starts with the re-use of the concept of Bill Shankly being sacked in 1961 末 I just liked the idea of impatient fans hounding out the great man before he had a chance to go on to build a dynasty. (Of course, I mean I like the irony, not the idea that Shankly might actually have been dismissed!)

   While we shouldn't be blindly patient, patience is clearly essential in the early years of a manager's reign. If we don't give a manager the time and space to put his plan into action, it won't benefit anybody. What Liverpool must never be is a club which changes its manager every six months, and lurches from one playing philosophy to another, with mass exoduses and influxes of players every summer as the new man looks to make radical changes. Knee-jerks never helped anyone.

   The book also includes a reworking of the piece on Liverpool's critics in January 2005, when, amongst other things, the team was described by one Sunday broadsheet journalist as "the worst Liverpool side in recent memory". I said at the time how ludicrous it was, and on that score I was thankfully proven correct come May 25th.


From computer screen to printed paper

In February, Jonathan and I thought about approaching publishers. I sent out all of one single email, to the only contact name I'd been given, but received no reply (I think I sent it to the wrong address, although of course it could just have been a cold-blooded rejection). In the meantime, we came to the conclusion that we could do this ourselves, especially once a Liverpool fan from a print and publishing company got in touch to offer his company's services.

   One bonus of self-publishing was that it would give us full editorial control. For good or bad, I am used to saying precisely what I want to say on the internet. I didn't fancy the idea of having to bow to outsider's views, unless, of course, I respected that particular editor. Finding the right editor, and therefore the right publisher, might have taken time.

   As I could design and typeset the book myself, and market it via a dedicated website, it seemed pointless to hand over control to a publisher, even when demand started to go a little ballistic following victory over AC Milan. As it was, Jonathan's most significant contribution was as the book's editor: telling me where to cut back, or where I'd omitted a key fact or overlooked an essential aspect.

   (As an aside, after Istanbul we did consider an image from the Champions League final for the cover, but having already purchased the rights to the photo of Rafa, we decided to stick with it 末 the book isn't just a look at the Champions League, after all. A great image of Stevie G lifting the cup or Carra running around with it might have helped us sell more books, with its emotive pull, but it wouldn't have felt right, whereas the stately portrait of El Jefe does. In the end we plumped for adding a laminated star with the numeral '5' inside, which only appears when you hold the book up to the light.)

   The downside of doing it yourself is that you take full financial responsibility 末 you stump up the cash up front to get it produced. Hence my eagerness to plug GPRF before release. (I apologise if it was a case of over-plugging, but I always tried to only mention the book at the end of new articles, which people received for free 末 taking the view that people might like to be made aware of a book about the club they love; those who don't can always stop reading. I think I stopped short of outright begging for people to buy it!).

   Committing to thousands of pounds-worth of printing is a risk, so the more pre-orders, the less chance of failing to break even. Thankfully we shouldn't be in danger of losing money on the project, providing orders don't suddenly dry up.

   Now we can just wait to see how it does, now it is officially released. Much will depend on word-of-mouth. FourFourTwo magazine has been in touch, hoping to review the book, and providing they don't call it "The Carlton Palmer of football books", that should help. Unlike a major publisher, we don't have the funds to advertise the book other than by mentioning it online, and receiving reviews, so spreading the word helps.


Important news regarding ordering

With the book now released, it's very important to make it clear that we are going to suspend sales on www.paultomkins.com for the foreseeable future. It may seem an odd time to suspend sales 末 the week of release! 末 but the book can now be purchased from Amazon.co.uk (click here for direct link to GPRF) and a few other online retailers, with more to follow. It may yet take a day or two to get a sufficient amount of books to Amazon, and then a day or two more for them to get the copies out to their customers, but it's all full-steam ahead now.

   We will be extremely busy over the next few days, signing and dispatching boxes and boxes of books, and posting hundreds of copies all over England, Europe and the rest of the world (not to mention filling out 300 customs forms for those to be despatched to countries outside of Europe. All these things you don't think of beforehand).

   All the while, we are still talking with the major bookstores to try and get them to take copies, but it has needed the ISBN number to be seen as 'legitimate', and we only got that belatedly 末 from which point it took a further week to clear on the international book system. Meanwhile, some independent bookshops have been contacting us requesting copies, in response to people asking after the book. All this takes time to sort, as you will surely appreciate.

    We don't want to accept orders that would inevitably take a while to process, as understandably people will want their copy ASAP. So best to leave it up to the professional retailers: we can ship Amazon a big box and let them deal with all the running around! (Incidentally, one of the highlights for me throughout this whole adventure was seeing the book as high as number 8 on the Amazon pre-release chart, ahead of forthcoming books by John Grisham and Iain M. Banks, and just behind Michael Crichton. Surreal...)

   I will make it known when we are selling directly again.


What next?

So, where now? Perhaps another book, if this one proves a success and I am up to the task, but almost certainly a significant break beforehand, to take stock (and to collapse in a dark room for a month or two). Less is apparently 'more', so I think people might be glad of not having me bleat on about how Peter Crouch is the new Maradona (...), or how Harry Kewell will be great, 'if only...'

   On behalf of Jonathan and myself, I'd like to thank everyone for their support of the project 末 from the websites who have hosted my pieces, to the volunteer proof readers, to all the people who ordered the book before it was even ready. Thank you for being so trusting. I have to admit 末 it was very tempting for me to ditch the book and retire to Brazil on the proceeds. (But when I realised it would only get me a week in a caravan on the Isle of Mann, I had no choice but to be as good as my word.)

   And thanks to Rafa and the boys 末 without them, it would have proven a lot less interesting, in every sense.


And finally, to end: the Introduction

As I've given an introduction to the book, here's an extract from the book's Introduction (approximately one quarter of the full intro), which puts into context my thinking from last summer, and sets up the reader for the amazing ten month journey from Graz to Istanbul.


. . . There have been numerous key periods in the illustrious and highly-decorated history of Liverpool Football Club, but perhaps the lead-up to 2004/05 末 and the early months of the season 末 will prove to be as monumental a time as any in its 113-year existence.

   The arrival at Anfield in 1959 of Bill Shankly remains the one single factor 末 the one undeniable turning point 末 that did more to alter the fortunes of the club. However, that was one event, one lone managerial change. The events of the summer of 2004 comprised a combination of far-reaching decisions, the result of which came close to being beyond remarkable, and entering into the realms of the previously unthinkable. Where the future leads English football痴 most successful club 末 and the most successful it still very much is 末 remains to be seen. What is not in question is that a new direction is being sought, both on and off the pitch.

   In June 2004 the club sacked its manager 末 something that had not occurred in the lifetime of many of its fans (and indeed, the lifetime of the new manager). In fact, the previous dismissal even pre-dated the advent of the Beatles, who seem to have been part of Liverpudlian history since the dawn of time. It had been fully 45 years since Don Welsh cleared his desk and made way for the great Bill Shankly.

   G駻ard Houllier bade the club farewell (with a handsome pay-off causing controversy later in the season) and in came Spaniard Rafael Bentez, fresh from winning the Primera Liga title 末 for the second time in three seasons 末 and the Uefa Cup with Valencia. It was hard to think of a young European manager with a better pedigree. Jose Mourinho, who claimed to have rejected Liverpool before joining Chelsea, had an equally impressive CV 末 a better European trophy but an inferior league championship 末 but most Liverpool fans were more than happy with the appointment of Bentez. If looking overseas, either of those two would have placated the fans. (Of course, another debate arose: Why not appoint someone local, with a connection to the club?)

   With G駻ard Houllier went his entire backroom staff, with the exception of Alex Miller, who was promoted from Chief Scout to Head Coach, and the medical professionals. Of the departing local element it was no surprise to see Phil Thompson receive his P45, given he was so closely linked to the failure of recent seasons, and therefore guilty by association. (It was very refreshing to hear his honesty, and praise, when commenting on the new regime, when he returned to work for Sky Sports.)

   More disappointing was the exit of the highly regarded Sammy Lee 末 a promising coach and a great motivator 末 who opted to take up a role with the England team. Lee痴 time as a player in Spain made him an ideal candidate to work with the new Iberian staff, and indeed, he had crossed paths briefly with Bentez in 1986 at Osasuna. His was a great loss to the club, and one which has been largely overlooked. Ian Rush was another highly-qualified coach and ex-Liverpool player to make way.

   To help the club manage its plans to build a new stadium as well as a new side, financial advisers Hawkpoint Partners Limited were appointed. Investment in the club was subsequently discussed over the following months with consortia from the Thai government, Hollywood, Jersey (via Liverpool) and the Middle East. Newspapers were full of proclamations from interested parties, each announcing that their bid would be successful. Suddenly Liverpool fans were highly aware of, and concerned by, the human rights record of the Thai government. If Liverpool had to 都ell its soul, then it should not be to the devil. (Which is not to suggest that the Thai PM, Thaksin Shinawatra, was the devil.) Despite brash statements from the Far East, no deal was forthcoming. The bid of Steve Morgan 末 exiled-scouser, shareholder at LFC, and building magnate 末 was an attempt to take control of the club, following long-running ill-feeling between himself and the Chairman, David Moores; clearly the pair could not share power. Acrimony rumbled on until, following Morgan痴 wife痴 impassioned plea at the AGM, the Morgans took their metaphorical ball and stormed off home. By the end of the season the issue was still not settled.

   In June 2004, planning permission was finally granted for an 」80m, 60,000-seater stadium in Stanley Park 末 four years after the plans were first announced, and nine months after the application was submitted. The club looked all set to vacate Anfield 末 as revered as almost any club stadium in the world, and with a terrace (once containing 末 somehow 末 24,000 swaying fans, and now a 12,400-seater stand) without equal in terms of reputation. Moving such a short distance would essentially help retain the club痴 heritage, and indeed the name Anfield. (Unless the name of the stadium ends up being auctioned to the highest bidder 末 the route Arsenal took for their new ground.) It would also mean things never being quite the same again, making it a transition primed with both excitement and trepidation. (Excitement and trepidation: two words the modern Liverpool fan knows only too well).

   Reports of rising building costs caused more concern for all involved, with the paramount need for the club to not over-stretch its finances; Leicester, Derby and Sunderland stand as examples of Premiership clubs who had built impressive new stadia, only to end up relegated due to a lack of quality in the team. (Sunderland have now returned to the top flight. However, their place in the division below has been taken by Southampton. After 30 years in the top flight, the Saints have been relegated just three seasons after moving to a new stadium.) Investing in both the stadium and the team will no doubt prove to be a fine balancing act. Done correctly it will leave the club with one of the best stadia in the world, filled to capacity every game, as people flock to see a great team winning trophies once more. Done incorrectly, it could result in a half-empty soulless bowl as a team comprised of also-rans and journeymen plod their way to mid-table obscurity.

   So in July 2004, everything was set. Then, with a large oar to insert, the government, at both local and national levels, urged the club to share the new Anfield (or, indeed, an alternative venue) with its bitter rivals and next-door neighbours, Everton. An old adage was brought to mind: the course of true love or building a new stadium will never run smooth.

   Naturally there was an outcry from supporters both Red and Blue, who saw this as a step too far with regards to change. In England, a football club痴 stadium is its castle 末 it痴 own fortress. Inviting the enemy in 末 however much sense it makes, on a purely financial level 末 is just unheard of, and the majority of fans voiced the opinion that football is more about identity than fiscal concerns. Everton痴 need to share was perhaps greater, given their financial impoverishment, and far inferior 途evenue streams (two words not heard during Shanks time). The plans to share a new stadium were officially pronounced dead in the water in January, 2005 末 but still the issue rumbles on.

   In amongst all of this, Michael Owen 末 at the time the club痴 most famous player, and top scorer for each of the previous seven seasons (in other words, every season he spent in the first team, including those blighted by serious injury) 末 left for Real Madrid in a cut-price deal (reported at between 」8-10m), forced about once he entered the final year of his contract. Rick Parry needed to avoid a repeat of the Steve McManaman fiasco, where a home-grown star with a high market value was permitted to run down his contract and leave the club on a free transfer under the Bosman ruling. (A ruling the club exploited in its favour, with great success, in the summer of 2000, when G駻ard Houllier procured both Gary McAllister and Markus Babbel without paying a fee.)

   July and August 2004 became the summer of the Spanish-English transfer. Rafael Bentez, who until the age of 21 was on the Real Madrid playing staff, without ever making the grade (and who later coached their youth and B teams), was the man who had produced a team to outshine the Estadio Santiago Bernab騏痴 collection of expensively-assembled 組al當ticos (surely the most tiresome term in football) in the previous three seasons. In that time, Valencia won the league twice, sandwiching Real Madrid痴 solitary success. Many in Spain felt Bentez was the man Real Madrid needed to help them return to the summit. He was widely regarded as his country痴 top coach, the no-nonsense kind of man who could tame those gal當tico egos. As it transpired, Bentez moved to Liverpool, and it was Owen who went to Madrid. Where Madrid needed leadership, they instead procured a striker for whom they rarely had room in the team. Just as Bentez left Valencia on the grounds that whenever he asked for one player he was given another instead, someone he often didn稚 need (的 asked for a sofa and they bought me a table lamp), then so too had Madrid given their manager an unnecessary lighting accessory 末 and for that matter, one which would would be given little chance to shine 末 when they didn稚 even have the best possible manager running the team. In reply to Owen leaving for Madrid, Bentez made a bid for Fernando Morientes, but the Spanish international had already given his word to Jose Camacho (the man Madrid appointed as coach) that he would stay and fight for a place. It would only be another six months before Bentez finally received the very sofa he requested, at a very reasonable price.

   The scale of the shock of Owen departing (an unthinkable prospect back in 2002) would have been magnified a thousand-fold had Steven Gerrard 末 the club痴 local icon and its best player 末 followed him out of Anfield by agreeing to join Chelsea in a 」30m deal, as seemed inevitable. Bentez, in his first task as Liverpool manager, dashed to Portugal to meet the player for crisis talks at the England Euro 2004 camp, and it later transpired that only friends and family talked Gerrard out of a move to London. At least Liverpool fans could reconcile the idea of Owen joining the most successful side in European history; just as they had come to terms with losing other greats to the continent when Kevin Keegan joined Hamburg in 1977, and when Ian Rush moved to Juventus a decade later. Losing Gerrard to English rivals who had never won the European Cup and whose last league title success was 50 years earlier would have stuck most gallingly in the craw, however close the west Londoners were to becoming a successful side. Also, Owen had spent two more seasons than Gerrard in the Liverpool first team (and in that sense, had 組iven more), and while not totally 叢ast it, as foolishly portrayed, there remained a widespread belief that Owen was not quite the player he once was. With Gerrard, the improvements to his game were happening apace 末 he was on a steep upward curve 末 and he very much represented the future of the club. Unlike Owen, he was a Liverpudlian born and bred, and a fan from childhood. He was in many ways the heart and soul of the club.

   While the 敵errard To Chelsea saga rumbled on, Milan Baros was becoming the first-ever Liverpool player to finish top scorer at a major international tournament, winning the Golden Boot for his five fine goals for the Czech Republic in Euro 2004. No sooner had the competition ended than his departure for Barcelona was being mooted, and more uncertainty surrounded a major star. For several months Liverpool fans did not know whether they were coming or going; just as they didn稚 know which players were coming or going. The club was in transition in every conceivable area. Was it in meltdown, or the incipient stages of yet another rebirth?

   The summer months were actually bookended 末 in that crazy way the sport has a habit of doing 末 by a few games of football. (I know 末 whatever next?). The 2003/04 season ended with the frantic chase for a Champions League spot in May (achieved, but insufficient to save Houllier from the axe), and 2004/05 kicked off early with the two-leg play-off qualifier against AK Graz in August. Qualification would mean that the club was back in the Big Time, even if hopes of progressing beyond the groups stages were slim to a nascent Bentez side.

   Although hope, as ever, sprang eternal . . .



ゥ Paul Tomkins & Jonathan Swain, 2005

Please email any feedback on the book to tomkins_lfcbook@btinternet.com 末 I welcome all comments. I always try to reply to every email I receive, but it might take a little longer in the next month or two.




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