Halifax author gets a kick out of football

A HALIFAX man has turned his passion for football into a full-time occupation.

Freelance author Mark Metcalf, who lives with his wife Ruth and four-year-old son Charlie at Rye Lane, Halifax, has written a host of books covering aspects of his favourite sport. And he has ideas for many more which will keep him busy for the forseeable future.

Metcalf specialises in pre-first world war histories and biographies - a field where he believes he is the most published author of football books in the world.

To call him prolific is an understatement. Metcalf already has nine books to his name with another three due to hit the shelves this year.

His latest work, ‘The Golden Boot - Football’s Top Scorer Year by Year’ is written with well-known football writer and historian Tony Matthews. It profiles those players who have topped the scoring charts in the old First Division and now the Premier League since John Goodall of Preston North End notched 20 in 1888, to the most recent in Manchester rivals Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov, who scored 21 each last season.

The pages are littered with some of the game’s top names and how they created and scored the goals that made their reputations.

“Tony and myself analysed the goals and came up with the different types of goalscorers,” said Metcalf. “You had people like Nat Lofthouse and Dixie Dean who were good in the air and then others like Gary Lineker who were more opportunists - having that ability to move off a defender and create space.

“George Best was quite obviously a superstar, he had everything, and we have seen more recently the overseas players making a big impact.

“But for me the top goalscorer of them all has to be Jimmy Greaves. He was a brilliant goalscorer who topped the charts six times.”

The book follows a long line of titles as diverse as “Stan Anderson - Captain of the North” about the only player to have skippered Sunderland, Newcastle and Middlesbrough, to a detailed account of Bury FC’s most successful years between 1900-03.

“It all started with a book about Charlie Hurley who was voted both Sunderland’s and, more recently Millwall’s Player of the Century,” said Metcalf.

“I am a massive fan of Sunderland and I used to go to matches with my dad and the love of the game grew from there.

“I have a passion for the history of football and I try to concentrate on writing books that reflect that.”

A former industrial, and later community and youth, worker Metcalf also writes for a number of magazines, particularly The Big Issue in the North and the various publications of the trade union, Unite.

However, he is never happier than when researching his next football project. A profile of legendary Manchester City keeper Frank Swift is well underway, again in partnership with Matthews.

“I am not a professional writer so I have had to learn as I have gone along,” he added.

“The subject has to interest me as the research can be extremely time-consuming.

“I am quite lucky now because as you get to work on these books you get to know people in various libraries and football clubs who can assist you.

“The difficulties in research can often be getting access to players. That can be a long process and is often very frustrating.”

Having said that Metcalf is determined to maintain his output and it seems he is never short of subject matter.

“The books are a real labour of love,” he added. “There are always anniverseries connected with the game coming up so I have ideas going on into 2015-16 and 17.”

When he is not writing about the game, Metcalf can be found at all manner of different football locations, although he admitted to not spending too much time at The Shay.

“I will probably get down to Halifax Town three or four times a season,” he said. “I have watched football since 1965 and average over 80 games a season.

“But I always go to the game to enjoy it and not to think about the next book. Like many others I like to have a drink with my mates, sing and shout and watch the match as keenly as possible.”

The Golden Boot: Football’s Top Scorer Year By Year is published by Amberley Publishing and priced at £20.