Book review: The Tale Of Two Great Cities by Chris Jones
The Tale Of Two Great Cities: My Footballing Journey by Chris Jones
Published by Mylesiris Publishing
£14.95 hardback; £10.95 paperback
Chris Jones takes the reader on a fascinating odyssey through his footballing career, starting from his early days as a kid in the park to his becoming a team member of both the 1967-8 Championship winning Manchester City team and the 1973-4 York City promotion winning squad.
This autobiographical journey also revisits all the author’s professional spells at Swindon Town, Oldham, Walsall, Huddersfield Town, Doncaster, Darlington and Rochdale.
However, it is the two cities of Manchester and York that provide the inspiration for the book title and it is the two stadiums of Maine Road (where Manchester City played before the Etihad Stadium was built) and York’s Bootham Crescent that receive the accolade of spiritual homes from the author.
Chris played 95 times for York City between 1973 and 1976, scoring 33 goals, and is now an expert football summariser on BBC Radio York.
The Tale Of Two Great Cities is a very well written autobiography which moves beyond the listing of the results, the players and the managers (although these are not neglected).
Childhood dreams and adult reality
Chris Jones will join Dave Flett (Press football writer), and David Ward and Sharon Shortle (BBC Radio York sports presenters), for a celebration of the life of York City FC at York Literature Festival
Quaker Meeting House, Friargate, York YO1 9RL
Mon Mar 23 @ 7.30pm-9.30pm
£7 (£2 from each ticket goes to York City’s Foundation)
Many readers will identify with the author’s description of the park as being at “the centre of the universe” with coats for goal posts and a 20-a-side game with a duck pond invitingly waiting for any misplaced kicks of the ball.
Similarly they will also recall their childhood dreams of “running out at big grounds and scoring lots of goals”.
This autobiography sets the football seasons Chris played in within the context of the social and political events of the day.
Thus the author describes the occasion when a Manchester City summer tour to the USA led to the team being inadvertently only a mile away from where Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan in Los Angeles in June 1968.
Similarly, events such as the big freeze of the 1962/63 season, the coal strike of 1973 and the 1975 IRA bombings and its attendant threats all form backdrops to the daily life of the football calendar.
Best, Capello and other famous names
The book is full of insightful analysis of the vicissitudes of fortune a footballing career is subject to: ranging from a loss of form or confidence right through to a career ending injury.
Furthermore, a player and his family (such as Chris, his wife Therese and daughter Sheriden) may have to up-sticks and move anywhere at short notice.
The arrival of a new manager can be good, bad or even downright ugly from a player viewpoint and this autobiography navigates the reader through this minefield.
Throughout his footballing journey Chris Jones describes some life-long friendships and name checks some of the most famous players and managers of the 1960s and 1970s that he was privileged to play against or meet.
These include all his team mates from the two cities of Manchester and York, and George Best, Alan Mullery and Malcolm Allison. There’s also Fabio Capello who, as an AS Roma player, scythe tackled Chris in the Anglo-Italian League Cup Winners Cup final of 1969.
My favourite characters in the book have to be Uncle Bill and Auntie Hazel who brought up the young Chris and were always there for him at every stage of his career.
Poetry and pictures
From a literary point of view Bill’s love of poetry and his recitation of it was clearly a major influence on his young charge. Within this autobiography Chris Jones displays a penchant for poetry and for Latin mottoes.
Unusually for a football autobiography most of the chapters include a Latin motto (or translation of the chapter title) as epigrams.
When Chris receives the news that he will be offered professional terms at Manchester City he is desperate to get home to Bill to tell him the news:
Instead in a jolt back to the realities of 1960s Manchester to Altrincham he settles for the bus and train and a final exuberant race home from the station.
This book is multi-layered. I felt the shuddering tackles Chris describes; I laughed at the anecdotes; I wished I could have visited The Twisted Wheel in Manchester; I was glad to have never got on the wrong side of Malcolm Allison; and I enjoyed the poem A Soldier’s Life about Uncle Bill and his brothers set in World War Two that grand-daughter Calista contributed to the afterword.
The 110 colour and black and white photographs are a delight and the lay-out and design of the book is gracefully done.