I’m delighted to announce that contracts have been signed, and my first book, The Red Dragons, will be published by Y Lolfa Press in October 2012.
I started the project in February 2011 because I thought this was a book that needed to be written. There has never been a comprehensive history of the game in Wales, and the last attempt of a history of any sort was Peter Corrigan’s 1976 booklet published for the FAW Centenary. I had no idea of the scope of the book when I started, but it has finished up as an incredible 135,000-word tome. It is massive, much much bigger than I’d anticipated, and some distance away from the book I’d envisaged. I’ve tried to tell the story of the game, rather than the history if that makes sense. The story of Welsh football is a story of struggle and survival, peppered with occasional glory.
This isn’t a book for the statistician. I’ve avoided match reports, and concentrated on the stories that interested me. I discovered international players with one arm, I found out that one player turned out against England in his Sunday best suit, and that 150 Aberystwyth fans travelled to Aberdare for a Welsh Cup match in 1898 and used their bus as a Grandstand at the side of the pitch. There are riots, scandals, characters and tears. Lots and lots of tears. I think I cried seventeen times just reading the various cruel ways that Wales were denied qualification so many times. I could cope with the disappointment – I knew about that. But I’d forgotten how optimistic we all were in the weeks leading up to those terrible nights in 1977,1985,1993 and 2003.
I’m sure there are people more qualified than I am to write a full history of the game. This isn’t that - this is a book as much about the culture of football more than it is about the action on the pitch. You won’t find a description of the equaliser against England in one wartime match, but you may be glad to know that the English captain Stan Cullis, complained that Welsh fans were throwing leeks at the goalie (The ref told him to make a stew). We start before the foundation of the FAW in 1876, and discover how the chapel tried to ban the sport, introducing plain clothes police officers to arrest children who played football on a Sunday. We cover the foundation of the clubs in Wales and see how they developed. There are the squabbles between rugby and football, between north and south, between the FAW and English clubs. Every period is covered, and for once we look at players’ careers in the red shirt of Wales, and not their clubs.
The book will soon be available to pre-order as a limited edition hardback edition. As an advanced subscriber, your name will be included in the book, along with a short message. This limited-edition, signed, hardback will be priced at £25 (tbc), and details on how to pre-order will be announced on this site. A softback edition will be in the shops in October priced at £15 (tbc).
I’ve finished the first draft and I’m now looking for images for the book. I’m particularly interested in any photos from the 1970s or 1980s following Wales. If you have any images that you think may be of interest, please get in touch.
Many thanks for your support, Phil Stead