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Everton Books - The Complete Centre-Forward

Marko Poutiainen reviews this new book on one of Everton's greatest No 9s:
Tommy Lawton




Tommy Lawton was somewhat of a mystery as a player as well as a person.  He was the man who,  as the England centre-forward, decided to move down two divisions to Notts County.  Something unheard of before or after.  Born and raised in poor conditions, he became a national celebrity during and especially after World War II.  After his footballing career, including a short spell as a manager, he fell into rough times even appearing in court before reclaiming some of his fame as a writer.

So there is definitely enough material to fill one book about Tommy Lawton.  This book definitely is thorough, a bit too much so in parts.  Lawton's life is well covered from his birth and childhood in Bolton to his death in 1996. 

The authorised biography of Tommy Lawton
David McVay & Andy Smith, 2000.  
Sportsbooks Limited  (232 pages)  ISBN: 1899807098

The first impression wasn't very good: the cover is mostly red and the back page talks about Michael Owen!  Considering that Evertonians are surely a big audience for this book, this isn't exactly the best promotion.

Getting past this shock, the first chapters of the book covering Lawton's youth are interesting.  As an  Evertonian, reading about his time at Goodison Park was also interesting.  The problems start  when the book gets to war-time.  At times it felt like I was reading a record book.  Chapter after chapter about scores and how many Lawton scored in that particular match.  At times this was a bit boring.  The book improves again when it covers Lawton's later career and life after football.

The majority of the book consists of chapters that describe one year each.  Some chapters are more or less a list of brief summaries of matches with the odd story or "match of the day" describing a noteworthy match in which Lawton took part.  These stories are the spice of the book and make interesting reading:

Anyway, this corporal came in and said some unit or other were playing on the field that afternoon and they were short. They wanted a winger.  

"Who plays on the right wing?" he asked and Tommy stood up. This corporal took one look at Tommy and said 

"Don't be stupid, Lawton. Everyone knows you're not a winger!" 

And next to Tommy was a lad from Bradford called Jack Greenwood. He was a thin, wiry type and though he could play football, he was like me, he hadn't played professionally or anything.  This corporal said 

"Greenwood! Can you play in the wing?" And Jack just nodded. "Get your bots then and come with me." 

And off the went.  I mean it was just ridiculous, the army all over.  I used to  laugh when I thought about this corporal turning up at the ground with Jack and saying 

"That Tommy Lawton tried to fool me into thinking he was a right winger, but I know better!  I've got this chap instead.  And the team saying - "Bloody hell, we could have had Tommy Lawton!"

These stories were for me the best parts in the book.  The authors did a remarkable job finding and interviewing a large number of people who knew Lawton.  They could have even been given a larger part in the book than they were, even though even now there are quite a few comments from them.

As a book about Tommy Lawton the Player, this book is good and thorough.  As a book about Tommy Lawton the Person, the picture isn't lacking, but could have been better.  As a book that  characterises the times that it tells about, it could have done a better job.  The sets of pictures are about as good as you would hope, a whopping 48 photos.  The index and bibliography are well done and the statistics part is complete, although I would have liked to see Lawton's birthday in it, too.

As a biography, this is definitely one of the better ones and in no way one of those books designed to get the quick bob out of an interesting subject.  A few stories more here and there and maybe a few "match of the days" more would have spiced up the contents especially in the middle parts.

This book is definitely worth the money if you are interested in the subject or about football back when England still had a decent team.  As a biography, I give it 9 out of 10; as a book, 7 out of 10.  For a perfect ten, a biography, in my opinion, needs not only to describe the person but also the times and society, remembering that any person is in part a byproduct of them.

Price: 14.99   Published: September 2000


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