Fred Keenor book review

Fred Keenor - The man who never gave up

James Leighton

The Fred Keenor statue campaign is quite rightly high on the agenda at Cardiff City at the moment, the fundraising for an iconic landmark to celebrate one of the city’s favourite sons has started - the latest boost a release of a CD of the song “I’ll be there” by The Stand which no doubt you will all have bought via one avenue or another.

An opportune moment then to release a biography on Keenor but can James Leighton do the story justice? The majority of Cardiff City fans will know the story of the Cup Finals of 1925 and of course 1927, coupled with the loss of the League Title on goal average but what about the man who led the Bluebirds though those amazing times? Will the publication Fred Keenor - the Man Who Never Gave up” provide the content to provide an insight into the man who lifted the FA Cup on 23rd April 1927 at Wembley Stadium?

It’s a difficult task in itself as the story of that era has been debated over the decades by football fans throughout South Wales. For me, the author has managed to provide a much welcomed insight into not just the player but also the times that surrounded the sport of professional football in those fledgling years for Cardiff City FC.

The early years of the Club are covered including the signing of Fred Keenor from local football, the pre-war seasons are a struggle for the young Cardiff man who already shows great determination to succeed at his hometown arena. The outbreak of the Great War arrives and Fred signs up for the Middlesex Regiment alongside many other famous football players of the age, the story of the regiment is told in much more depth in the book When the Whistle Blows but James Leighton skilfully steers the reader through the horrors of the conflict culminating in Fred being wounded at the Battle of the Somme. It’s a story that needs to be read by the modern football supporter. At the end of the war Fred Keenor regains his fitness and succeeds in forging a place in the Cardiff City team.

James Leighton continues the story season by season and the style of writing works for me as the publications of the day are used to bring a more human element to the stark statistics of a football campaign.

The book is complemented by some excellent photographs of Fred Keenor, many of which would be new to the reader and deserve a wider audience.

There is an iconic photograph of Fred Keenor and the FA Cup at Penydarren Park just five days after the Cup Final for a friendly match against Merthyr Town. The result? A 1-0 win for the hosts.

The final chapters of the publication after Fred Keenor’s retirement from Ninian Park, although brief, cover his time at Tunbridge Wells and then return to his home city. It’s a tough end to a sporting life serving both club and country to the highest honours but it’s sympathetically told by the author.

Fred Keenor - The Man Who Never Gave Up should be a must-buy for anyone who truly believes that professional football has provided the sporting heartbeat for generations in South Wales.



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