Originally published across two volumes in 1987-1988, “Those We Have Loved” is the story of the thirty Football League sides voted, or otherwise removed, from the competition in the years before automatic promotion and relegation were introduced..
Colourful contemporary match reports, in-depth background detail and modern analysis combine to tell a thoroughly alternate history of English football; the story of lives lived for the most part at the lower end of the League, but every one tinged with glory and triumph alongside the final tragedies.
Fully revised and updated to note the rebirth of at least a few of the clubs featured, it is a reminder that many of those we have loved are still beloved today.
Featuring full Football League histories of Aberdare Athletic, Accrington, Accrington Stanley, Ashington, Barrow, Bootle, Bradford Park Avenue, Burton Swifts, Burton United, Burton Wanderers, Darwen, Durham City, Gainsborough Trinity, Gateshead, Glossop North End, Leeds City, Loughborough, Merthyr Town, Middlesbrough Ironopolis, Nelson, New Brighton, New Brighton Tower, Newport County, Northwich Victoria, South Shields, Southport, Stalybridge Celtic, Thames, Wigan Borough, Workington, plus wartime guests Aberaman, Bath City, Croydon Common and Lovell’s Athletic.
My first venture into the murky waters of self-publication came after an agreement with one of the 1980s’ most prominent specialist soccer publishers foundered over the length of the proposed book. I ventured a word count in the region of 250,000 would just about suffice. The publisher wanted 25,000.
Those We Have Loved was a monstrous undertaking, an as-long-as-it-takes attempt to tell the story of every football club to have played in the English football league, only to lose their place at some point.
Some have returned… Accrington Stanley, the luckless successors to the original Accrington Reds; Wigan Athletic, heirs apparent to Wigan Borough; Newport County; and Burton Albion, formed from the memory of no less than three previous clubs, are all League members today. Others – Bradford Park Avenue, Workington, Southport and Northwich Victoria – live in hope. But others still, Middlesbrough Ironopolis, Ashington, South Shields, New brighton Tower, Leeds City, Lovell’s Athletic and Croydon Common (members of sundry shortlived wartime league competitions), Thames… actually, there’s a funny story about Thames. A couple of years ago, my friend Chrissie Bentley called me, asking for the name of an East London soccer team that she could write into an erotic novel she was working on. I suggested Thames FC and I really don’t think there’s many other teams of their ilk to have made a similar starring role.
Back to the book. The centenary of the League’s birth was approaching (1988), and automatic promotion /relegation from the non- league world had just been instituted. It seemed the perfect time to look back over the luckless legions of the past, and so it proved… despite being researched, written, published and distributed in days when the Internet had scarcely even been imagined, the two volumes of Those We Have Loved sold more copies than many of my “real” books had, and attracted some of the best reviews of my career (before and after).
I have never stopped receiving requests for a reprint either, but for a long time, there was a snag. Like I said, this was pre-Internet. The book was written on a typewriter, printed on an off set press, stapled together with big chunks of metal, and the very thought of having to rewrite the whole thing on a computer was daunting, to say the least.
But it was done. Rewritten, re-edited, re-everythinged, and now, spread across 700 pages and a quarter of a million words, a 3lb paperback is born.
A third volume of Those We Have Loved was never a possibility… I’d run out of clubs! But two appendices did appear between 1988-1989; the first a full statistical digest of all the sides featured in the first two volumes, the second a booklet mourning the demise of Newport County FC, who fell out of both the League and existence shortly after Volume Two was published. This latter has now been incorporated into the 2017 edition.