The Sporting Broads: A Family’s Journey from Pedestrianism to Football

By the time professional football came to prominence as the leading working class sporting activity in the late nineteenth century the sport of pedestrianism was in decline. Pedestrians and trainers had to find alternative means of income and, for some, football provided a new focus for their skills, crafted through experience and passed on through familial and community links. This paper considers the life of Jimmy Broad, a competitor in pedestrian challenges, who went on to establish a career as a successful football trainer, and highlights how his career adapted. It also provides commentary on the training techniques utilized by Broad and goes on to outline the careers of his sons, one of whom also became a football trainer. The story of the Broads is of importance to those studying sport’s development during the late 1800s and early 1900s, and provides an understanding of one of the influential figures behind Manchester’s first footballing success. It adds to the research into athletic entrepreneurs which has seen the construction of individual biographies to aid understanding of sport’s development. 

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MCFC V LFC: A Few Items From History

On this day (16th September) in 1893 Manchester City played Liverpool FC for the first time competitively. To mark this anniversary, here are a few items from history on games between the clubs.

Game One

The first meeting of these two clubs came when Liverpool visited Hyde Road on 16th September 1893 in the Football League.  Liverpool, playing their first season in the League (City had first joined the League as Ardwick in 1892), won the Division Two match 1-0 with an 80th minute goal from James Stott.  


Former captains Sam Barkas and Jimmy McMullan both made their debuts in matches with Liverpool.  Barkas first appeared in the 3-2 defeat on 2nd May 1934 at Anfield, while McMullan’s debut came in a 1-1 draw on 27th February 1926 at Maine Road.

Another man to make his debut was the popular Roy Little, who helped City achieve a 1-0 win in January 1953.  Fifties cup hero Little is still a regular Maine Road attender.

Joe Royle made both his first and last league appearance for City against Liverpool.  His first match was on Boxing Day 1974, and his last came in October 1977.  Following that game he played a League Cup tie against Luton, and then moved to Bristol City where he scored 4 goals on his debut against Middlesbrough in Division One. You can read about the October 1977 game here:

You can read the remarkable story of a Blue who scored four on his debut for City against Liverpool here:

There’s also the story of another City player scoring 4 v Liverpool here:


The first meeting of the sides to be shown on the BBC’s Match of the Day was on 12th August 1972.  Liverpool won 2-0 with a goal from Hall in the 3rd minute and one from Callaghan six minutes from time.  An Anfield crowd of 55,383 watched the opening day match.

The first match to be broadcast live was the March 1988 FA Cup sixth round tie.  44,047 witnessed a 4-0 home defeat for the Blues. Here’s film of that game:


Some of the more recent players to have appeared for both clubs include Raheem Sterling, James Milner, Craig Bellamy, Mario Balotelli, Nicolas Anelka, Albert Riera, Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman, David James, Kolo Toure, Didi Hamann, Daniel Sturridge, Peter Beardsley, Mark Kennedy, Steve McMahon, Michael Robinson, Mark Seagraves, and Paul Stewart.  Others to have played for both clubs include Matt Busby, Joe Fagan, George Livingstone and Jimmy Ross.

Inside-forward Livingstone joined City from Liverpool in May 1903 and was an important member of the 1904 Cup winning side.  Incredibly, during a career that spanned 3 decades Livingstone played for both Manchester clubs and both Celtic and Rangers.  Somehow he never made it to Everton to complete a unique treble.

Jimmy Ross was one of football’s first stars and joined the Blues in 1898 after highly successful spells at Preston and Anfield.  Although he’s relatively unknown these days, Ross deserves a major place in football’s hall of fame for his achievements during the first 15 years of League football.  Incidentally, he also netted 7 (sometimes reported as 8) in Preston’s record 26-0 demolition of Hyde at Ewen Fields in the FA Cup.

Highest Attendance

The highest attendance for a match between the two sides is 70,640 at Maine Road for the fifth round FA Cup tie on 18th February 1956.  Here’s film of that game played in snowy conditions:

The match ended goalless and four days later the highest attendance for a City-Liverpool match at Anfield (57,528) watched the Blues defeat the Reds 2-1.  City’s victory brought a crowd of 76,129 to Maine Road for the visit of Everton in the quarter-final.  

Interestingly, Liverpool have played in higher attendances at Maine Road.  Their semi-finals against Burnley (1947) and Everton (1950) both attracted crowds of 72,000.

The highest League crowd at Maine Road was 50,439 in April 1976 (of course games at the Etihad have attracted higher figures), while the highest at Anfield is 55,383 for the televised match in August 1972.

Did You Know?

The first recorded rendition by City fans of Blue Moon occurred following the 3-1 defeat at Anfield on the opening day of the 1989-90 season.  Despite the scoreline the Blues had played well with Clive Allen and Ian Bishop impressing on their debuts.  As the City fans left the stadium a couple of supporters started to sing the song that was later to become a Blue anthem.  The song seemed to dovetail neatly with the events of the day and over the course of the next few weeks it became popular.


Don’t get me started on this but the 1981 League Cup semi-final still rankles with many of us! The story can be read here:

Well I Never!

During City’s 1936-7 Championship season the Blues defeated Liverpool 10-1 on aggregate in the space of four days.  On 26th March an Eric Brook hat-trick, plus goals from Alec Herd and Peter Doherty brought a 5-0 Anfield win.  Then on 29th City achieved a 5-1 Maine Road victory despite being a goal down in the fifth minute.

In between those matches City had managed a 2-2 draw at home to Bolton on 27th while Liverpool had defeated Manchester United 2-0 on the same day.

Sadly, in 1995 Liverpool defeated the Blues 4-0 in the League Cup and 6-0 in the League over a similar time frame.  The League performance ended with Uwe Rosler throwing his boots into the crowd, while Alan Ball amazed all Blues by saying he enjoyed the game.

Own Goal

Dave Watson headed an 89th minute own goal in this fixture on 29th December 1976 to help League leaders Liverpool achieve a 1-1 draw.  Third placed City had taken a first half lead from Joe Royle, before 50,020 at Maine Road.  The result proved costly as that season City finished second – a mere point behind Liverpool. 

1996 – Timewasting

A deflection from Lomas (off a McManaman effort) gave Liverpool a 6th minute lead in a last day of the season match the Blues needed to win to stay up.   Rush scored Liverpool’s second in the 41st minute as City looked dead and buried.  Rosler (71st minute penalty) and Symons (78th minute) gave the Blues hope, but City decided to timewaste in the mistaken belief they were safe.  Quinn, on the touchline after being substituted, urged the players to attack, while Liverpool seemed determined to open up play, but the game ended with Ball’s side relegated.

2000- Weah’s Only Goal

Former World Player of the Year George Weah scored his first and only League goal for City in the 3-2 defeat at Anfield in September.

2003- Anelka Double

A 74th minute penalty and a stoppage-time volley gives Anelka two goals against his former club.  The Blues win 2-1 at Anfield in the penultimate match of the season. 

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Stan Gibson Obituary (former MCFC groundsman)

Born on this day (10th September) in 1925, Stan Gibson was one of the unsung heroes of Manchester football.  He was City’s groundsman for forty years and created a playing surface worthy of the club’s stature, particularly during the sixties and seventies when the pitch was possibly in its best ever state.  

Stan worked as a stoker during the war for the Navy.  Always a keen sportsman – he was a Naval boxing champion and had football trials with Burnley – but by his 30s was becoming well known as a groundsman.  He arrived at Maine Road from Chorlton Cricket Club in 1959 after a recommendation by City ‘keeper Steve Fleet, and in the years that followed he worked hard to create a perfect pitch.  

By the time of City’s promotion in 1966 Stan had made the surface one the club could be proud of.  Both Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison were keen to use Stan’s expertise to develop the pitch further, and thereby increase City’s chance of success.  Working with Allison, Stan made the pitch the biggest  – and many would say the best – in the League.  

Both Mercer and Allison recognised his contribution to City’s success.  It’s a little known fact that Stan was trusted with the job of looking after the FA Cup following City’s homecoming in 1969.  He chose to put the prized possession in the safest place he could think of, and the trophy spent its first night in Manchester locked in his toilet!

Stan loved City – he was even on the club’s books for a while in his youth – and felt the pitch was his own.  He could never relax during a match though:  “I watch the pitch rather than the game!  I shouldn’t really, because I get very upset if I see a divot, especially if it is the opposing side who have churned it up.”

Inevitably, the pop concerts in the 80s and 90s brought him a few headaches, but he welcomed other innovations, such as the undersoil heating implemented in 1979.

Stan was always an important influence and others often sought his views.  At one stage Rod Stewart tried to lure him away to tend his own turf, while Ken Bates was desperate for him to join Chelsea.  Stan would have none of it:  “I know I’m biased, but to me there’s nowhere better than Maine Road, and there’s nothing nicer than someone coming up to me on a Saturday and saying how great the pitch looks.  Makes all the toil worthwhile.”

His love for the club and Maine Road was never in doubt, and was perfectly summed up in 1994:  “City is my life.  That pitch out there is my baby.  I can’t keep away from it, and I couldn’t imagine my life without it.”

He leaves his Australian-based son Stuart and his daughter Janice – another popular face around Maine Road.

Stan passed away on Christmas Eve 2001 and this written by me as an obituary for him at the time. It was first published shortly after his death.

While you’re here I’d like to thank you for taking the time and trouble to visit my website. I have been researching and writing about Manchester football for a long time (no wonder I’m going grey!) with my first book published in 1989. I am not employed by anyone and I do not have sponsorship either and so I’ve set up this website to help share my 32 years plus writing and research. The intention is to develop the archive and to provide access to as much of my material as possible over the coming weeks, months & years. Subscribers can already access hundreds of articles/posts including the entire Manchester A Football History book and audio interviews with several people, including former City bosses John Bond and Malcolm Allison.  

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Soccer Aid for UNICEF 2021

I was present at the Etihad on Saturday night for the latest Soccer Aid fundraiser. It was my first experience of attending Soccer Aid, although I have watched it each year on television of course. It was also the first time it was staged at the Etihad after previously being held at Old Trafford, Wembley and Stamford Bridge.

It was a great event and it was wonderful to see some highly successful former Premier League players like Pablo Zabaleta and Wayne Rooney on the same pitch as entertainers, musicians and reality stars. 

Inevitably the crowd was also mixed with many regular football attendees present together with others who came to perhaps their first match as they were fans of one of the celebrities, or maybe they simply wanted to support the charity appeal. It actually created a good atmosphere with certain stars getting great support. The Manchester rapper Aitch was certainly popular, as was singer YUNGBLUD, YouTuber Chunkz and singer Olly Murs.


Due to chance I ended up in a great place to see the Rest of the World players as they arrived at the stadium and you could see the delight on the faces of many of the players as they arrived at the Etihad. Line of Duty’s Martin Compston seemed to be taking in every moment – as he did during the game.

Ore Oduba & Martin Compton

Obviously, the quality of football varied but it was great entertainment. I thought singer James Bay played well. Chelcee Grimes seemed to set up Lee Mack for significant attempts on three occasions – a couple of which Mack fluffed – and she did some of the work before Mack finally scored. The other goals were both scored by Love Island’s Kem Cetinay and the Rest of the World won 3-0.

There are videos and match reports out there so I won’t go through any of that but I do want to say that it was a somewhat surreal experience at times. Most will know that ITV did a Masked Singer like reveal for the Soccer Aid mascot. Before the second half started his head was removed to chants from the crowd of ‘Take it off’ and it turned out it was entertainer Stephen Mulhern. He then played a few minutes in costume (without costme head) and it did seem odd seeing footballers like Paul Scholes in the same team as a costumed sidekick to Ant & Dec. However the majority of children – and many adults – in the stadium loved the pantomime of it all and his name was chanted at times.

For me the whole night was about raising funds and providing some entertainment. It wasn’t meant to be a major clash between two of the world’s strongest footballing teams and, for those reasons, I think anything that adds to the entertainment value of those in the stadium is fine. 

When we watch these things we want to see if the former footballers have still got it; whether that reality star or the people who talk about the game really can play; whether the comedian is doing it for laughs and so on. 

At the end of the game the players did a lap of honour and by the end of it YUNGBLUD and Olly Murs had given away their shorts to fans. Earlier, during the match, there was a great moment when Aitch was substituted for Max Whitlock. Aitch took off his shirt and handed it to a boy in the stands. He then signed it for the lad and the boy was delighted. He put on the shirt and Aitch took his place on the bench. Within only a few minutes Mo Farrar had to come off through injury and they decided to send Aitch back on. He shouted across to the lad to give him back his shirt but fortunately another shirt appeared and Aitch could get on the pitch. It was one of those typical testimonial style moments.

Soccer Aid is of course a worthy charity and can be supported via donations here:

Congratulations and thanks to everyone involved. This was a nice, positive and well supported event. Important work too!

On a personal level I thought the Etihad stadium looked fantastic on the night and it certainly added to the occasion. Hopefully, Soccer Aid will return there next year. As well as the entertainers on the pitch there were also several ‘faces’ in the stands including, a few rows behind me, Shaun Ryder. It was great to see the event supported in this way.

40 Years Ago Today: Trevor Francis Debut

I feel old today as 40 Years ago today (September 5, 1981) I attended my first away game. That day my parents told me we were going to Stoke v Manchester City. The reason why? It was to be the debut of new City striker Trevor Francis. This was perceived as a huge transfer at the time (don’t be fooled into thinking major transfers have only come in recent years!) and part of manager John Bond’s plan to challenge for the League title – and for a while it looked as if they would!

Here for subscribers is a piece on that day and what followed with quotes from interviews I’ve performed with Trevor Francis and Peter Swales who tell the story of that time. There are also contemporary match reports too:

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Johnny Williamson

Last week I heard the news that the former Manchester City player Johnny Williamson had died at the age of 92 (this photo shows Johnny, far right, with his two great friends Ken Barnes and Don Revie). Since then I’ve not really seen many tributes to Johnny, who has been a dedicated Blue attending Maine Road as a regular since the 1940s as well as being a striker. So, I’ve decided to put that right a little with this. Instead of writing the usual sort of tribute I’ve posted below an interview I did with Johnny about 18 years ago. His words tell his story much better than I can. Here goes…

Today I’m considering the life and career of a player from the 1950s: Johnny Williamson was a Manchester born City player during the period 1949 to 1956.  This was a golden age for football and, as was usually the case, when I met up with Johnny we had a very enjoyable chat. We met up at the original Manchester City museum, the Manchester City Experience.

Before we consider your playing career can you tell me a bit about your involvement with the Club today?  I know you’re still a regular attender.

Well I’m a member of the City Former Players’ Association which, to be honest, is probably the best ex-players association in the Country.  Everyone involved with the organisation puts in a lot of hard work and the Club really support us, so that’s good.  

I come to the game because I still love football and it’s a great way to meet up with your old team mates as well.

So who are the key men behind the Association?

Everyone plays a part, and I think it’d be unfair to single out too many.  The Association started a few years ago when Roy Clarke, Roy Little, Paddy Fagan, Peter Robinson – probably a few more – got it going, and then it grew and nowadays the main men are John Riley, Roy Cheetham, Franny Lee, Fred Eyre, and Ian Mellor, but as I say everyone plays a part so I don’t  want to single anyone out.  What I do want to say though is that it’s a great organisation.

Between the end of your playing career and your retirement, what other jobs did you have?

I worked for the Co-op for a while and then managed an off-licence in Ashton.  It was long hours of course and not always the best place to be, but it was a living and it kept me close to Manchester and to City.

Going right back to the start of your career then, can you tell me how you progressed?

I was born just up the road, and as a kid I’d been playing in Oldham.  Then I had to do my National Service in the Army – I know it’s difficult for people to follow these days but when you were that age your life went on hold for two years.  You had no choice.  It was something everyone had to do, and you went along with it.  

As I was about to come out of the Army I had a trial at Maine Road, then played at Droylsden for City’s A team, and then on the Monday I played for the Reserves.  It was a quick elevation.  I’d gone from nothing to playing at Old Trafford within a few days.  In those days the reserves played at United because their first team were using Maine Road, so we couldn’t play at our ground.  

In April 1950 you made your League debut against Arsenal, how did that feel?

Well first of all it was April Fool’s Day.  I get reminded about this every so often!  There was a fella only the other week reminding me.  It was no wonder we got beat.  But I will say that the first team had some really great players – and I mean great – so making your debut alongside some of these men was a honour.  Trautmann was playing of course, but the side also had Eric Westwood – a brilliant player at the time.   The Arsenal team was special as well.  I remember Denis Compton and his brother Leslie were playing.  Joe Mercer was missing for Arsenal that day, but what an exceptional player he was as well.

Do you think it was the golden age of football? 

I know it was a period when every side – and I mean every side – had great players.  You could go through the First Division sides and list the brilliant players each one possessed.  Tom Finney at Preston, Nat Lofthouse at Bolton, Joe Mercer at Arsenal, Stanley Matthews… I won’t go on, but I could.  There were so many and as a player, or as a fan, you’d pick up the fixture list of the newspaper and look to see when the teams would be coming.  You had to see these men in the flesh.  There was no television coverage of course, so your only chance of seeing the great players would be to go to the games, and when you did, you were never let down.

Don’t forget though that our side was a major draw at the time.  We had some brilliant players and whenever City went away the local fans would come out to see George Smith, Andy Black, and later Don Revie, Roy Paul, Ken Barnes and so on.  

As the side contained such quality it must have been hard for you to break into that team?

We all knew our place.  I knew the side had great forwards so I knew my chances would be limited.  The reserves also attracted great crowds in those days – which also demonstrates the strength and quality in the side – and I always hoped I’d get in to the first team, but just being around some of those men was tremendous.

What coaching influence did you have in the reserves?

Frank Swift was looking after the reserves and, again, being in the same room as someone like that was enough in some ways.  I think it was actually Swifty who changed me from being an inside-forward to being a centre-forward.  That helped my career, but Swifty was a great influence in that dressing room.  He had great humour and there are many stories of pranks played by him – and once in a while on him!

Coaching though didn’t really exist.  You were encouraged to play football naturally.  It’s one of those things that you’ve either got or you haven’t.  The two most important things to know are when to give and when to go.  That can’t be coached.  You need a footballer’s brain.

One of your key moments came with the development of the deep-lying centre-forward approach known as the Revie Plan.  Whose idea was that?

Well, it evolved really.  It was developed in the reserves but it wasn’t one of those ideas that can be pinpointed to one particularly day.  In the reserves it was working with me and Ken Barnes, but then it was tried in the first team with Don Revie and we got beat 5-0 at Preston.  Then they played Ken in the first team with Don and it clicked.  You see it needed the two players, and Ken was the difference.  Then there was no stopping it.

It’s hard to imagine now any new tactical plan revolutionising the game, but this one did.  How did the other teams adjust?

They couldn’t at first.  They had no idea how to counteract the plan.  It surprised everyone and some of the other teams just could not work it out.  Don’t forget though that the quality of the players had a lot to do with it.  Don and Ken were two exceptional players.  Everyone knew that.

What was Don Revie like as a man?

A great guy.  Me and my wife and Don and Elsie were very close.  We always went on holiday together and he was a good friend.  He’s had a bad press at times, but as a player he was brilliant…  as a manager he revitalised Leeds… and as a man he was great.  People used to go on about the ‘Revie Plan’ but he used to tell them it wasn’t ‘his’ it was the team’s.  In particularly he used to tell them how vital Ken was.  It wouldn’t have worked without Ken, and Don made sure they all knew that.

When I was in the reserves and Don was in the first team I was very happy.  I knew he was a great player and being reserve to Don was better than most men could ever dream of.  I still had the hunger to play, and still wanted to be in the first team, but I knew my chance would be limited while Don was there.

So what was the biggest moment of your career?

It’s difficult thinking about biggest moments, it’s so long ago, but coming into the side for Don when we played at Sheffield Wednesday in November 1954 was great.  Not only did I replace Don, but I also scored two goals and we won 4-2.  A very good memory that one.

What were the facilities for players like in those days?

It was a different world!  There was always a race on to get into the drying room first because the kit was so old and worn that it really was a case of first up best dressed.  The socks were enormous with the heel flapping around near your foot.  They’d been washed so many times  they’d lost their shape.  

We wore thick woolly jumpers – with holes in – for training and I’m certain some of this kit had been worn by the likes of Swifty and Doherty ten years earlier.  I’m not saying City were bad because every club was like this.  This was normal.

What was your worst moment at City?

It’s got to be leaving.  Nobody ever wanted to leave City.  I loved it here, but I had to move on, so I went to Blackburn.  I didn’t stay there long, and then came back to Manchester and played at Hyde United.  I was a Mancunian and a City fan.

Had you been a City fan since boyhood?

Definitely!  I used to get to Maine Road for three-quarter time – when they used to open the gates to let people out but every week hundreds more ran in – and loved watching the players I eventually shared a dressing room with as a reserve.  My Dad had actually been a player with United and I’ve got his Central League medal from 1921.  He always came to watch me play.

NOTE: John Williamson senior was with United between September 1919 and May 1921, making two League appearances both, coincidentally against Blackburn Rovers (the team his son was later to play for).

Finally, you have clearly loved your involvement with City what is the key memory from your time as a player?

Being at the Club when so many truly great players were there.  People often ask things like ‘who was better Swift or Trautmann?’ and I always say whichever you pick I’ll have the other because both men were better than the rest.  If either ‘keeper was playing today supporters would never go out on a Saturday night, they’d stay in to watch the highlights.  That’s how good these men were.  People watched football because they knew they would be entertained by natural players.  It was a great time to play, and it was a fantastic time to be a supporter.  I wouldn’t swap that period of football for any other.

The Keeper: Bert Trautmann

On Sunday (September 5, 2021) evening at 10pm BBC 2 will be showing ‘The Keeper’. I was a consultant to this film. If you’ve not seen it then you certainly should. Trautmann was an incredible man. It’s a dramatisation of a life not always factually exactly what happened but I hope it inspires everyone to find out more about a perceived enemy who became a hero. To mark this event here’s a chapter I wrote for my MCFC Hall of Fame book a few years back…

“Unfortunately, Bert is ill at the moment and cannot be here, however when he can make it we will ensure he receives this award.  On his behalf, I’d like to thank you for this wonderful award and recognition for a truly great City player.” Chairman John Wardle collecting the Hall of Fame award in January 2004)

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You can read about a significant moment from Trautmann’s City career here:

City’s record appearances

Now that Sergio Aguero has left Manchester City it seems an appropriate time to review where he fits in the all-time appearance list for the club.  City’s appearance holder is Alan Oakes and it may be some time before another player comes close to his total of 676 (plus 4 as substitute) appearances.

Here for subscribers is a feature on the top 25 appearance holders for Manchester City with some commentary on how the record has changed over the decades.

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WBA v MCFC: The Earliest Film

On this day (25th August) in 1934 West Bromwich Albion played Manchester City. Nothing particularly unusual about that I guess, but that match was filmed and this is now the earliest known surviving film of WBA v MCFC at the Hawthorns.

Here’s film of the game:

It’s a curious little film and it does show one of the goals (Albion’s not City’s) and so you will see Frank Swift making an attempt to save it. Notice at the start the way the two teams enter the field (more like the way teams entered the pitch following the arrival of Covid than what became typical in the 2010s).

WBA’s shirts are interesting with their extra white section on the front.

This game is from 25 August 1934 and ended 1-1 with Sam Barkas scoring for MCFC.

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Bidding War Between MCFC And Villa!

On this day (25 August) in 1981 Manchester City and Aston Villa were in a bidding war to sign Trevor Francis.

I know recently City have been criticised by some in the media for both high spending and for not spending more than they deem a player is worth (what a crazy world it is when a potential purchasing team is criticised for not wanting to spend what a selling club want when there are no other clubs interested in buying that player at that price!) but in 1981 the desire to sign Francis meant they were prepared to spend big if necessary.

A bidding war is always in the best interests of the selling club and occasionally a friendly word with a journalist or another club can create a bidding war even if there really isn’t much interest from a club. Thinking back I can’t remember Villa seriously going after Francis but this Daily Mirror report suggests they were interested.

It wasn’t long of course before City got their man.

Notice the brief mention of Peter Barnes at the bottom of that cutting? If you want to know more then obviously I recommend The Peter Barnes Authorised Biography (use tabs/menu to find out more).