Professor Plum’s Book Review
John Charles Gentle Giant
Mario Risoli has covered the life & career of John Charles in some detail for this biography, what will be of interest to Merthyr fans though will be the chapter dedicated to the great man’s tenure at Penydarren Park in the early 70s. The fact that Mario has taken the time to cover this chapter of his life is to Mario’s credit as usually his time at Merthyr is often mentioned as a mere afterthought at the end of his Cardiff era. The book is well written and charters John’s rise from Cwmbwrla Park to be the greatest players ever produced by Wales. The book details his early days at Swansea Town, his transfer to Leeds United and his subsequent move to Turin where he is still regarded as a god by the tifosi. His tussles to be released for Wales matches are uncovered, the reluctance of Juventus to allow their star man to travel back to Wales only enabled John to gain 38 caps despite a 13 year career. But for me, it was the chapter on the Martyrs that brought the greatest satisfaction. Mario Risoli has interviewed Ken Tucker, then Secretary, Terry Collins, then a club Director, Nick Deacy, then a young aspiring striker, and Ieuan Evans, then a member of the backroom staff. The away trip when John Charles forgets to collect Nick Deacy, the story of the stolen brussel sprouts, the disappointment of the Hendon 2nd round FA Cup tie are all covered. Some of the press cuttings from the early 70s are probably still relevant today, Phil Howells then covering the Martyrs for the Merthyr Express at one stage bemoans the fact that the Merthyr public don’t seem to be getting behind the club despite being unbeaten at home and only conceding two goals in nine matches. Ken Tucker confirming that at Merthyr you had to be top as 2nd, 3rd or 4th didn’t attract the fans through the gates. No change there then. In closing, the book is well worth a look. It’s currently in hardback and costs £14.99, it’ll be available in the Sports Library in the Club Shop from the New Year if you can’t wait for the paperback version. Happy Reading.