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Days Like These



In local publications – from the matchday programme to fans’ forums and a leading journalist’s blog:

Such are the lengths that the collective at Hagiology Publishing have gone to in covering the history of Southampton Football Club that it is sometimes hard to believe there are many more stones left for them to turn over.

Once again, however, they do not disappoint, managing to unearth another new trove of gems in their latest publication, DAYS LIKE THESE.

This book, from Duncan Holley, sets out to detail “untold, unusual, sometimes bizarre and sometimes funny tales” from the inception of the club through to the modern day. It hits each of its marks, with a fascinating and entertaining collection of stories and vignettes having been assembled – all smartly laid out in a chronological, day-by-day order.

The depth of research is evident from the off, featuring a host of previously unseen images and never-before-heard stories, but it is one of the book’s great delights that it remains such a bright and breezy read, suitable either for a quick pick-up and flick through, or for relaxing and investing some significant time in… Whether you are an ardent Saints supporter or simply a casual fan, you would be hard pressed not to come away entertained and better educated on the club by reading it.

Stories range from the bizarre – the Saints player who got his foot caught in a drainpipe during an FA Cup tie, for example – to the intriguing – the Saint who “saved Real Madrid” is a tale few will be aware of. In between, there are also plenty of funny tales, curiosities, landmark moments and record-breaking feats, making this another fine way of bringing the club’s rich history to life.

It is one of the strengths of those at Hagiology that they so adeptly turn their hands to such different subject matters, whether serious, weighty and in-depth, or light-hearted and bite-sized.

Cleverly and colourfully designed, the book is as easy on the eye as it is to read.

Saints Matchday Programme

As ever, the early reviews of DAYS LIKE THESE. are to be found on the Saints Fans’ Forums:

What a gem! I’m somebody who can sit down and be lost in a book for hours and hours, but I also lead a fairly busy and hectic life. The real beauty of this book is in the layout and format to suit multiple audiences. The book is separated into the months of the year and, within each month, you will find stories and anecdotes from different dates within that month…

… The editor and author have made a wise decision in the format in which it has been written and edited. A good move to pick the highlights from each month, I’d suggest… For me, this works beautifully; I sat and read it for an hour or two, but a little while later I’d think “I just wonder if anything interesting happened on… my birthday, wedding anniversary, etc.”

I found myself picking it up and putting it down… It pulled me in and the ability to pick it up and put it down whilst not “missing out” on key sections was a real treat… There are too many interesting stories to be able to share in my review. However, to pick a few around dates with a significant meaning to myself, what did I learn?

17th August 1968: Saints Reserves rock the joint. After playing against Arsenal, three of the team had a quick change as they were the house band at the After Eight night club, off Shirley High Street! (nearest date to my wedding anniversary).

22nd October 1988: The three Wallace brothers make history, as being the first twins and a brother to play top-flight football, at home to Sheffield Wednesday (the date closest to my brother’s birthday).

The back cover gives highlights of other stories featured: Hitler Youth guard coffins for ex-Saint; Ex-Saint cuts wife’s throat in miner’s cottage; prisoner-of-war Saint escapes to join Czech Partisans; Ex-Saint is reunited with former music-hall partner, Charlie Chaplin; Aly Dia humiliates Graeme Souness; and Rickie Lambert walks on hot coals, to name a few.

I won’t spoil the above and give all the details, but… the stories and accompanying images are something special. There really is something for everyone in Days Like These… Reading it was a journey of discovery, with everything from laughing to “did that really happen?” For the enjoyment that reading this book gave me, I would actually have happily paid more than the cover price and am grateful to now have a copy sat on my bookshelf.

Days Like These is a must for any football fan and most definitely for Saints fans.

Suze Endean, SaintsList

Duncan Holley was the co-author of perhaps the first great book on Saints history, back in 1987 along with Gary Chalk. Their Complete Record of Southampton Football Club 1885-87… set the bar for everything that would follow.

[Yet, as] Duncan Holley himself said to me, “during our research for our previous books, many stories came to light that didn't fit in to our more conventional books: that gave me the idea for Days Like These, something that was a little quirkier."

… By reading this book, you can find out which ex-Saint had his coffin guarded by the Hitler Youth; who cut their own finger off to escape from a Second World War POW camp; and where Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin fit into the Saints story… This is not just a football book, but one that charts social history throughout the club's 132-year history and turns up a plethora of stories about those connected with the club over the years that would make you laugh and grimace in equal measure.

It's bang up to date and contains pictures from last year’s campaign, so will appeal to those who went on the club's Europa League jaunts last year, as well as those that would like to know a little more about the history.

Packed with photos and information, it’s at a great price, £9.99, for those wanting a present for the Saints fan in their life. As a club and a fan-base, we have neglected our rich history for far too long. This is a great book for those who don't read books but love Southampton FC. It is also a great book for those that love books as well, but I don't need to tell anyone who owns one of Hagiologists’ books that.

Nick Illingsworth, Ugly Inside

John May, Course Leader in Sports Journalism at Southampton Solent University, has committed his thoughts on DAYS LIKE THESE to his blog:


Here is a shortened version of those thoughts:

DAYS LIKE THESE is unlike any other sports book.

Sure, it follows a similar pattern to other “milestone” format books, in which each day of the year marks an event in the club’s history which happened on that particular day and, in fact, there is at least one other similar book on Saints.

But DAYS LIKE THESE is similar to those in the way that Smoky, the Blackpool beach donkey, is similar to a thoroughbred like Frankel because it has four legs. Duncan Holley has delved deeper than the Seven Dwarves’ diamond mine for a collection of tales that any lover of the bizarre, arcane, esoteric and sheer bat-shit loopy will love.

These are stories about the Saints – club, officials and players – you will not have heard before and portray a history as rich, steaming, potent and powerful as a bubbling witch’s cauldron.

Be prepared for a shock, Saints fans, at a cast which resembles the progeny of a bizarre mating experiment involving characters from books by Dostoevsky and Lewis Carroll and some of them should never have been allowed within a country mile of a club nicknamed The Saints after its founding church association.

Scotsman John McCoy played for Saints during the 1896-97 season and married a Southampton woman named Rose Byrne. He moved to Scotland and on October 23 1906, aged 33, he walked into Cumnock police station and calmly told the desk sergeant he had slit his wife’s throat during the previous night. What unfolds is a fascinating tale of troubles with drink and women, a dose of clap and a kicking in the head from a horse.

He used the childhood shoeing from a pony in his defence which helped the jury return a verdict of “culpable homicide”, sparing him the ignominy of being the only Saints player to be hanged for murder. Jimmy Dunne might have come closer to that claim had his previous life come to light. Top scorer for Saints in the 1936-37 season, Dunne was not only a football sharpshooter but a genuine one as a member of the IRA’s notorious D Company in the Republic’s uprising.

Read about Len Noyce, whose one outing for Saints ended after just 50 minutes through a serious knee injury. But with his football career ended, he did not sit around moping but performed a great service to mankind by turning his attentions to inventing... the tea towel holder.

Discover how and why in 1904 Saints walloped the French national side 6-1 at the Parc des Princes in Paris and learn how the hell Leonard Dawe, whose career as a Saints player was hampered by rain falling on his glasses, received a wreath from Adolf Hitler.

The more recent events to be relived include the day Rickie Lambert ran over hot coals, the occasion a referee cheered Matthew Le Tissier on to scoring one of his greatest goals and Sadio Mane’s record-breaking hat-trick.

And, of course, there just had to be a story which resonates personally and brought a groundswell of memories to an emotional surface – thanks Duncan! That is Ernie Pearce’s tale. Ernie – who played five games for Saints Reserves – lived a war-time life straight out of a Boys Own comic. Captured by the Germans, his means of escaping captivity in the POW camp was to slice his little finger off; and then to escape from the hospital. Having done so, he spent 11 months fighting with the Czech Partisans, knowing that if he was again captured by the Germans, he would be put up against a wall.

He was my dad’s best friend and as kids we laughed and squealed with a mixture of horror and delight at Uncle Ernie’s funny little sausage finger. After his amazing war-time exploits it seemed rather empty and pyrrhic that Ernie died in a car crash on the A27. The only time I ever saw my old man cry was when he heard the news. Ernie’s tale takes a rightful place in a book of Odyssean stories which again epitomises the determination, dedication and love that Duncan brings to all his projects about the Saints.

His 13th involvement in a book about Southampton FC is a fascinating and penetrating insight into the club’s dustier and dingier corners. Researched with the diligence of a Vatican archivist and written with wit and humour to bring out the best in the stories, DAYS LIKE THESE will make you laugh, recoil in shock but, crucially, hold you in thrall from first word to last.

Of course, it will make an ideal present for any Saints fan, but it is more than that and should be on the wish list for any sports fan who revels in reading about the fascinating and outlandish menagerie of characters that populate it.



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