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Book Review - Saints and Sinners - Southampton's Hard Men

Monday 13th February 2017
Every team has one and fans love them, the player that intimidates the opposition with full-blooded tackles and a ferocious will to win. The player is a leader, a warrior, and above all a true hard man. Over the years Southampton Football club have had more than their fair share of character's that meets these criteria. In Saints and Sinners - Southampton's Hard Men, Graham Hiley tells their stories.

Title: Saints and Sinners - Southampton's Hard Men

Author: Graham Hiley

Publisher: Pitch Publishing

Date Published: 2016

Price: £16.99 from Amazon
Twenty-five of some of the toughest players to ever have played the game are interviewed and their tales make for fascinating reading. Open, honest and candid nothing is off the agenda as these Saint's heroes reflect on their time at Southampton sharing stories and opinions on their teammates, opponents and managers. They reminisce about football in the old days and what they could get away with both on and off the pitch.  Above all, though they talk of crunching tackles, red cards, and fighting (even amongst themselves). They consider what makes a hard man and answer the question, just who is the hardest of them all.

Throughout the book, there is a number of common themes that emerge. The sense of a team spirit and a ‘band of brothers' unity that was shaped in the pubs and displayed on the pitch. The tough tackles and confrontation evident in the heat of battle are likewise matched by politeness, respect and calmness off the pitch. Many talked of intimidating their opponent by getting in an early ‘hit' but they also all had ability backed by winner's medals and their role in a Southampton team with skill and flair.

There is a warmth and feel good factor to each chapter with a real love for Southampton, their teammates and the experiences they shared. The stories told (often alcohol fuelled) are amusing to read while deeper topics such as depression and addiction are more thought provoking and poignant. Stories that will make you laugh, cry and cringe in equal measure.

Many of the players covered in ‘Saints and Sinners' represented the club during the 1970's, 80's and 90's and therefore provides the older reader with a nostalgic trip down memory lane and the younger reader with an absorbing insight into an era of the English game which is  alien to today's Premier League. The trends prominent in the modern game are discussed with strong opinions on topics such diving, the decline in the numbers of British players in top flight squads and the impact of changes in the laws as the game becomes more and more a non-contact support. They ponder how they would have survived today and how they would have had to adapt their game.

So who is the ultimate Saints, hard man? It's hard to imagine men like Neil ‘Razor' Ruddock, local icon Francis Benali and future England captain Alan Shearer fearing anybody but the same name appears time after time, that man is Jimmy Case! The team's minder, organiser and enforcer Case spread fear among opponents and teammates alike with his cool, calculated approach. He would always get you, you just never knew when.

Every club, through their history, will have their own hard men that fans will recall with fondness and this book will prompt many a list and ‘top 10' from supporters of all teams across the country. Each will have their own stories and memories but I bet none will rival those ‘sinners' of Southampton.
Allan Kemp

Born in Suffolk but a Norwich City supporter who is currently trying to swap a career in finance with one in football writing. I am an FA level 2 coach and also a published author, my book of Hall of fame - Norwich City's - All-Time Greats is available from all good bookshops. I currently have a weekly column on Norwich City website - 'My Football Writer' as well as writing book reviews on 'Its Round and Its White'.

Total articles: 55

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