Halifax author’s intriguing story of footballer Fred Spiksley

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When reading Flying Over An Olive Grove (Red Axe Books, £19.99) - the story of Fred Spiksley, it’s difficult not to draw parallels with the subject of another recently-released book - Jamie Vardy.

Both were northern lads made good who, through a combination of electric pace, powerful finishing and a combative character, reached the highest levels in football and won championship medals and England caps.

Spiksley had a long and successful career at Sheffield Wednesday, unlike Vardy, who never got to play for his boyhood heroes.

The book has been co-written by Pellon resident Mark Metcalf, and is the product of more than two decades of research by fellow authors Ralph and Clive Nicholson.

Spiksley’s story retains a charm that football seems to have lost since obtaining all its Premier League airs and graces, set against the backdrop of the sport’s emergence into the national consciousness at the end of the 1800s.

The book is meticulously researched and provides a detailed look at not only Spiksley’s career but also football’s embryonic years.

The occasional pen-pic of Spiksley’s colleagues are illuminating - some of whom went on to die in battle during the First World War - and again demonstrate the depth of research that has gone into the book, which also contains some excellent pictures which illustrate the sport’s early years.

But Spiksley’s off-field activities are often more intriguing than his on-field ones, such as his near-death experience on a railway line travelling back from a game and his money troubles after retiring due to a gambling addiction.

Spiksley’s crowning glory as a player came when he helped Wednesday to the First Division title after recovering from serious injury.

He later coached in several countries and was something of a pioneer of training methods and preparation.

The book is guilty of getting sidetracked on the odd occasion from Spiksley’s fascinating story into superfluous details, and there is the odd typographical error.

But these do not detract from an intriguing tale that has been passionately written about.

If Spiksley was a player today, he would easily garner as many column inches and as much attention as Vardy.

Flying Over An Olive Grove is available through Waterstones at https://www.waterstones.com/book/flying-over-an-olive-grove/clive-nicholson/ralph-nicholson/9781911477303 and is on sale at our site at www.spiksley.com and is available at Book Case in Hebden Bridge and Kershaw Garden Centre in Brighouse. It is also available in digital format at http://www.epubli.co.uk//shop/buch/FLYING-OVER-AN-OLIVE-GROVE-Clive-Nicholson-Ralph-Nicholson-Mark--Metcalf-9783741861451/57226