Monday, 12 June 2017
THE ITALIAN JOB
a Chelsea thriller starring Antonio Conte
The Italian Job (a Chelsea thriller starring Antonio Conte: Part One) chronicles Conte’s dramatic first campaign as Blues manager. Forging a remarkable emotional bond with players and supporters alike via a unique blend of charisma, passion, philosophy and humility, Antonio Conte transformed the London club into silverware contenders once more... but football's roller coaster ride had some terrifying surprises in store.
Glorious unpredictability is an expression that Chelsea author and season ticket holder Mark Worrall coined some time ago to describe the nerve-shredding drama that regularly envelops Stamford Bridge... be that snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, or turning adversity into triumph.
Italian Job recounts exactly how Conte took glorious unpredictability to another level. With more outrageous plot twists than a Hitchcock thriller, week-by-week, game-by-game the tension mounts as the 2016/17 season heads towards a suspenseful conclusion.
"Every game, every goal and everything in-between. The Italian Job is the definitive account of Antonio Conte's first season as Chelsea manager."
PAPERBACK & eBOOK
Thursday, 18 May 2017
EDDIE MAC EDDIE MAC
life and times at Chelsea under Eddie McCreadie
Published by Gate 17, 20 May 2017, to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Eddie McCreadie's promotion-completing season as Chelsea manager in 1977, and also a very special tribute event in honour of the great man himself held at Under the Bridge, Stamford Bridge, Eddie Mac Eddie Mac is the definitive account of Eddie's time as Blues boss.
Below is an article I wrote for the commemorative programme associated with the tribute evening.
There are a limited number of copies of the special collectors edition of the Eddie Mac book available to buy via the cfcuk stall or the Gate 17 website.
FOR THE LOVE OF NOSTALGIA
Nostalgia: A sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past. As far as dictionary definitions of words go, this one pretty much hits the nail squarely on the head. The older we get, the stronger that yearning for by-gone days and the personalities and events that shaped them becomes. Places, people, music, films… books… all of these things and more are capable of evoking what has become for many of us a powerful emotion.
The feel good factor that comes with wallowing in nostalgia has a medicinal quality to it that cannot be underestimated. No surprise then to find out that the word was coined by a 17th Century student doctor by the name of Johannes Hofer who amalgamated the Greek words nostos and algos (homecoming and pain) and used it to describe the anxiety and homesickness felt by mercenaries from his Swiss homeland who were fighting in foreign lowlands… which in a round-about half-random way brings us very nicely to another army… Eddie McCreadie’s Blue and White Army… and the Eddie Mac Eddie Mac book which spawned tonight’s event at Stamford Bridge.
The idea had been floating around for a while. cfcuk fanzine editor David Johnstone first suggested to me that we should consider writing a book about Eddie McCreadie’s time as Chelsea manager four or five years ago on a rainy Autumn afternoon at the stall as we sheltered from the elements and watched the world go by at Fulham Broadway. The idea resonated with me deeply. I looked along the Fulham Road and shut my eyes.
18 September 1976 The unique mid ‘70s football fragrance of horseshit, hamburgers, Carling Black Label and Players No.6 pervades my nostrils. I’m clambering up the weed-encroached steps at the back of The Shed terrace. 2.55pm. Can’t miss kick-off. I go two steps at a time. Everyone has the same idea. Feral-looking kids with straggly hair, flares and blue and white scarves tied around their wrists jockey for position with Harrington and Sta Prest-swathed older youths who are viciously keen not to get their highly-polished cherry reds smudged just yet. A group of men in their 20s and 30s who don’t dress to get respect push past. Nobody says anything. The anticipation builds… and suddenly there it is… the Stamford Bridge pitch. The rain is beating down hard, large puddles forming on the asphalt track that surround it. Momentarily, I think about the well-being of the disabled people who drive the pale-blue, three-wheeled, AC Invacars which are allowed to park on the track in front of the terrace. I’m distracted. A copy of Bulldog, the teenage orientated newspaper of the Young National Front, the youth wing of the far right NF whose leaders John Tyndall and Martin Webster see football terraces as prime recruitment territory, is thrust at me by a persistent skinhead who glares at me when I ignore him. I make my way along the top concourse of The Shed and then down the terrace… white wall to my right, tea bar over to my left. I’ll head for the middle today. The dry bit! I look at the pitch again and pick out the Subbuteo-sized players. Chelsea’s team are young, well most of them. Lads I identify with. The Wilkins brothers; Graham and the prodigious Ray. Marauding centre forward Steve ‘Jock’ Finnieston. Dynamic midfield carrot-top Ray Lewington. Kenny Swain. Swashbuckling centre-half Stevie Wicks. Garry Stanley… he’s the one all the girls seem to like. Gary Locke. Wizard of dribble Ian Britton. Record signing Davie Hay, and the one concession to youth illustrious custodian of the Blues goal, ‘The Cat’, Peter Bonetti, making his 650th appearance, still as agile as ever. The team are managed by Eddie McCreadie. I know I love the bones of the gaffer. Along with Bonetti, he’s a link to the fabulous kings of the King’s Road Chelsea side of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. The team that snared my interest… CHEEE-ELSEA! One voice. Loud, rasping, cuts through the chitter chatter. CHELSEA! clap, clap, clap… I join in. Everyone does. CHELSEA! clap, clap, clap.
“So what do you think then Marco?” Back to life, back to reality. David tapped me on the shoulder. I pulled the collar of my jacket up and looked up at the leaden sky which was still throwing down skin-soaking stair-rods of rain. “Definitely mate,” I replied. “It’s the greatest Chelsea story never told… a worthwhile project.”
To be honest, I don’t like the use of the word project when it comes to football-related matters… mainly because it reminds me of the way A*dre Vill*s-Bo*s continually used to refer to managing Chelsea. A project! Behave! Mind you, if V*llas-Bo*s hadn’t made a pigs ear out of his ‘project’ and got sacked, the Blues might never have won the Champions League!
So yeah, anyway… about the Eddie Mac Eddie Mac book project. David and me along with Kelvin Barker had co-authored a book called Chelsea here, Chelsea there which focussed itself on a Blues away game with Arsenal in August 1984. At that time we were Johnny Neal’s Blue and White Army. As many as 20,000 of us packed in the Clock End and dotted all a round the Gunners fabled old ground Highbury. We tracked down the players and interviewed them. We wrote about the life and times of the day, about a world with no mobile phones, no internet and therefore no social media. Nostalgia wrapped around us like a warm comforting cloak. It seemed like a good idea to use the same structure for Eddie Mac Eddie Mac and see if we could get the same sort vibe going.
Kelv got a phone call. Around the same time, Mark Meehan had been thinking along the same lines as David… he was in. Mark’s sleuth-like powers and persistence proved invaluable in tracking down and interviewing not only the players but the man himself… Eddie McCreadie. We decided it would be great to publish the book on 20 May 1977, the 40th anniversary of Chelsea’s promotion back to the old First Division under Eddie. The date was four years away. Plenty of time! We invited Neil Smith, whom I would back against any contender in a Chelsea Mastermind competition, to join the party and cracked on. The time flew by. And guess what? We only just made the deadline!
Eddie Mac Eddie Mac is the 22nd title to be published by Gate 17, and already it has a special place in my heart simply because it recalls a time when I was growing up. Football, music and fashion coloured a dreary world that was quite often fraught with danger. It’s often said that a picture paints a thousand words… but maybe that’s because the words don’t convey enough detail. I hope we’ve managed to that for you with Eddie Mac Eddie Mac because we didn’t have a budget for any pictures!
Finally, the book would not have been the same without Mr McCreadie’s willingness to participate and provide what I personally believe is the most insightful and honest account of a life in and out of football I’ve ever read. So thank you Eddie, I hope that tonight’s special event is filled happiness for you… and for everyone attending, enjoy the trip down memory lane and reliving the days when Eddie McCreadie’s Blue and White Army was the glue that bound so many lives together.
London May 2017
Sunday, 4 December 2016
PATRIOTISM, COURAGE, FRIENDSHIP, LOVE, HATE, OBSESSION, MURDER, REVENGE
looking for a Christmas stocking filler?
Last few first edition paperback copies of THIS DAMNATION available for open sale.
From the backstreets of Battersea and the terraces of Stamford Bridge, to battlefields serving Crown and Country and beyond... follow Kennedy Jones' life as it spirals violently out of control during the quest to unravel the truth about his father's murder.
signed copies available:
UK £10 inclusive of postage CLICK HERE
EUROPE £18.50 inclusive of postage CLICK HERE
OUTSIDE EUROPE £22.50 inclusive of postage CLICK HERE
"With its deep roots and deeper obsessions, this fine novel digs into notions of love and loss and longing in powerful fashion. Open THIS DAMNATION and you won't be putting it down anytime soon."
JOHN KING author of THE FOOTBALL FACTORY and HUMAN PUNK
Friday, 21 October 2016
THE MAN WHO LOVED LIFE
TRIBUTE TO MATTHEW HARDING
My alarm clock-radio clicked on at 5.55am, the same as it always did. A couple of hours sleep hadn’t done me too many favours, I rubbed my eyes and lay in the darkness waiting for the 6am news bulletin whilst questioning the sanity of my trip to Burnden Park the previous evening to watch Premier League Chelsea play Bolton Wanderers of what was then referred to as the First Division in a League Cup tie.
The Blues had lost the match 2-1 in a pulsating encounter, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory after Scott Minto had given travelling fans some early cheer with a fabulous 2nd minute goal. Player-manager Ruud Gullit, making his first appearance of the season, had been Chelsea’s best player, but the enterprising Trotters had dispatched their illustrious visitors with a gung-ho performance which had left those who’d bothered making the trip from London cursing the same-old-same-old. As maddening as mercury, that was Chelsea for you.
‘Where were you when you were shit?’ is a popular taunt levied at 21st Century Blues fans. ‘How much time have you got?’ I am prone to reply. The League Cup ha ha ha. Any Chelsea masochist of a certain age will regale you with tales of woe involving calamitous defeats at footballing outposts such as Crewe, Scunthorpe, Scarborough and Wigan … losing a days wages and a nights sleep following the Blues on the road to nowhere was a character-forming part of my life.
6am, I’m bolt upright, turning up the volume on the radio … shocked by the lead item on the news which is confirming an earlier report that Chelsea Football Club vice-chairman, Matthew Harding had been killed in a helicopter crash. Multi-millionaire Mr Harding, 42, pilot Michael Goss, 38, businessmen Tony Burridge, 39, and Raymond Deane, 43, and magazine journalist John Bauldie, 47, died instantly when the Twin Squirrel aircraft crashed into farmland near Middlewich, Cheshire, and burst into flames as it was carrying the party home from a Chelsea v Bolton cup tie.
I was stunned.
It wasn’t as if Matthew was a personal friend or anything like that. I’d met him several times, but this had been well before he’d answered Ken Bates’ plea for financial assistance. An ex-girlfriend had been in charge of the directors’ dining room at Benfield’s, the city-based re-insurance group of which Matthew was chairman and as such I used to get to go to various company knees-ups. As we all know a shared love of Chelsea transcends traditional barriers of class, not that Matthew had any airs and graces. Office-boy made good, rags to riches and all that … good luck to him. Matthew welcomed a chin-wag with a like minded Chelsea individual, and here was a man who’d first stood on the Shed as an eight-year old boy and followed them ever since … home and away.
When the phone calls started as word got around that Matthew Harding had been tragically killed, I couldn’t help thinking that if he hadn’t been the millionaire businessman that he was, then he would still have been alive having journeyed to and from Burnden Park by more conventional means than helicopter. Come the end of the day, flowers, scarves, and notes of condolence festooned the Stamford Bridge gates as supporters gathered to share in their grief. The uninformed passerby might have thought a famous Chelsea footballer from yesteryear had died as opposed to the Club vice-chairman. But then the uninformed passerby could never have known just what Matthew Harding had come to mean to the supporters of Chelsea Football Club … and that was the reason I’d been stunned by the news at my waking hour.
Ken Bates famously bought Chelsea for £1, and some fans are of the opinion that by the time he sold out to Roman Abramovich he’d transformed the club into one of the biggest names in European football. Others have suggested that old Greybeard took over a club with debts of £600,000 and increased them so spectacularly that it became a case of selling Chelsea to the Russian billionaire or watching them go to the wall in cataclysmic fashion. Bates’ obsession with creating Chelsea Village almost bankrupted the club long before Mr A came on the scene and this precipitated Matthew Harding’s formal involvement during the 1993-94 season. Ken Bates later recalled the telephone conversation which launched their unlikely and some might say unholy alliance. “Ken Bates here,” he said. “I understand you’re richer than I am, so we’d better get together.”
Harding, immediately weighed Chelsea in with £5million to fund the construction of a new North Stand, and also lent the club more than twice that amount to purchase players. But there was no question of the younger man adopting the traditional boardroom values so beloved of Mr Bates. To the best of my knowledge I never saw Ken Bates wearing a Chelsea replica kit, or drinking with supporters in The Imperial public house on the Kings Road before a game. Who can forget Matthew turning up at the unveiling of Gianluca Vialli as a Blues player clutching a brand new home shirt already emblazoned with his name and number? “I’m just a fan who’s done rather well,” he once said, and the Chelsea massive took him to their hearts.
Bates’ priority was to build a futuristic stadium, Harding wanted a swashbuckling team to match the heroes of his youth. The two men were on a collision course which eventually resulted in Bates banning Harding from the directors’ box, citing “behaviour related to your heavy drinking both home and away”. The letter sent to Harding contained a P.S. which read: “Please ensure that your `Bates Out’ banner in the Main Stand does not obscure the valuable advertisement panels”. “Never mind,” replied Matthew, “I’ll go and sit in the North Stand. I presume that’s alright with you. After all, I did pay for it.”
The ban galvanised popular support for Harding and by now a large majority of fans wanted him to take over. A well-known spokesman for the Chelsea Independent Supporters’ Association crystalised opinion at the time saying, “Bates appears to think it is his club, while Harding’s attitude is that it is our club.” (The current market-leading Chelsea fanzine, cfcuk whose origins can be traced back to the CISA, originally came to life as Matthew Harding’s Blue and White Army and to this very day it still carries the strap-line published in memory of Matthew Harding on every single page.)
The bitter public feud rumbled on with Harding pledging that Chelsea fans would be given a vote in the future of the club if he won his power battle with Bates. “If I become chairman I intend to break some moulds, and one plan I have is to give club members the right to re-elect me as chairman. Chelsea have more than 25,000 members and they are the emotional shareholders of the club. I would go to them every summer and I’ll promise you this now. If there was a majority voting against me I would stand down instantly.” Harding’s words stirred the True Blue soul … ‘Matthew Harding’s Blue and White Army’, the chant would echo around the Bridge on match-days a testament to the faith supporters had in him.
In December 1995, the club announced after a board meeting that the pair would lunch and sit together at the home Premiership match against Newcastle. That implied Bates had agreed to lift the ban on Harding taking his seat in the directors’ box and using the boardroom facilities, though at the time both men refused to comment. By October 1996, Matthew Harding had committed £26.5 million to Chelsea Football Club and the irony was that both he and Bates were on the way to realising their own idealistic dreams. Had he lived, Matthew would have seen the Blues win the FA Cup at the end of the season and his journey to glory would have been complete.
Saturday October 26th 1996 Chelsea are at home to arch-rivals Spurs. The game itself was destined to be a sideshow from the minute Ken Bates took the decision was taken not to postpone it and, as wakes go, it turned into quite a knees-up-mother-Brown party. Wreaths from both clubs were laid in the centre circle before the match, with a pint of Guinness for Harding standing on the centre spot; Dennis Wise and Steve Clarke, team captain and club captain respectively, carried out a floral message reading “Matthew RIP” and presented it in front of the newly-named Matthew Harding Stand.
As the Chelsea players linked hands and stood, like the rest of us in the ground, waiting for referee Roger Dilkes to blow his whistle to signal the start of a minutes silence I wondered if this moment of reflection would be tarnished by ignorant morons as they usually were. Chelsea v Tottenham? It’s never been a marriage made in heaven now has it? From the first second to the last, you could have heard a pin drop. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. That Chelsea fans stood silent was not unexpected, that Spurs fans followed suite only added to Matthew Harding’s legend. Every supporter inside Stamford Bridge no matter what their allegiance recognised a part of themselves in Matthew … a supporter first and foremost … one of us.
Matthew Harding’s favourite expression was “Enjoy the game!” and boy would he have enjoyed this one. Chelsea took Spurs apart with a 3-1 victory, the goals coming from Ruud Gullit, David Lee and Roberto Di Matteo. “Everyone in the stadium today participated in a special way,” Gullit said in his post-match interview, “including the Tottenham supporters, and on behalf of the team and the staff I want to thank them. Everybody’s just happy about the way they played, and it was a perfect tribute to Matthew.”
Matthew Harding was only involved in the running of Chelsea Football Club for three years or so which makes it all the more remarkable that he could have made such an impression on Blues fans in such a short space of time. That he did is a testimony to the man and his principals. Chelsea supporter first and foremost, businessman second … a true man of the people, born on the Shed.
Matthew Charles Harding
born Haywards Heath, Sussex 26 December 1953
Vice-Chairman, Chelsea Football Club 1995- 96
died 22 October 1996
WE SALUTE YOU
Friday, 25 March 2016
Friday, 26 February 2016
Sunday, 27 December 2015
This Damnation - offer - buy This Damnation get Making History Not Reliving It Free
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Patriotism. Courage. Friendship. Love. Hate. Obsession. Murder. Incarceration. Revenge. From the backstreets of Battersea and the Stamford Bridge terraces, to battlefields serving Crown and Country and beyond… This Damnation is a white-knuckle, page-turning ride into the abyss of madness.
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