CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT
By Andy Hampson
With an introduction by the Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP
Mr Rugby Leigh is the autobiography of￼ Tommy Sale, a rugby league hero, who devoted more than 80 years of his life to the sport – as a player, coach, administrator and fan. Beautifully written by Press Association journalist and lifelong Leigh fan Andy Hampson, this is nevertheless a story about much more than rugby. Paperback, 256 pages.
Mr Rugby Leigh is the autobiography of￼ Tommy Sale, a rugby league hero, who has devoted more than 80 years of his life to the sport – as a player, coach, administrator and fan. Since his initial involvement as a scoreboard operator for his beloved Leigh at the age of 10, Tommy’s enthusiasm for the 13-a-side code has rarely wavered. He broke into Leigh’s first team as a 20-year-old and became their first post-War captain. Away from the playing action, he spent month after back-breaking month overseeing the construction of the club’s former stadium, Hilton Park. And that dedication continued after retirement when, among a string of other roles, he triggered an audacious bid for all-time great Alex Murphy. Tommy Sale has remained at the heart of the Leigh club into his nineties. He still serves diligently as timekeeper and president. Only the Second World War interrupted Tommy’s love affair with rugby league, and his time at Leigh is punctuated only by a brief stint at Warrington and one glorious, career-defining spell at Widnes. Yet this is a story about much more than rugby. It tells of how one man can go from humble beginnings to being a pillar of society. Tommy Sale overcame an abusive father, survived the horrors of war and suffered intense personal tragedy. He has been a shopkeeper, council official, teacher and headmaster. Told with characteristic warmth and modesty, Mr Rugby Leigh celebrates the life of a rugby league legend.
By G. Norman Davison
When Gunner George Norman Davison returned to his hometown of Sheffield, England, upon the conclusion of the Second World War, he used the diary he had carried with him to write a vivid first-hand account of his experiences. Here, published for the very first time, that story is finally given the public attention it deserves. In The Prison of his Days is a singular tale of extraordinary times that is by turns moving, amusing, informative and thrilling. Paperback, 352 pages.
When Gunner George Norman Davison returned to his hometown of Sheffield, England, upon the conclusion of the Second World War, he used the diary he had carried with him to write a vivid first-hand account of his experiences. ￼These included the former insurance clerk’s initial training in the UK and posting to North Africa; his immediate separation from Irene, his newlywed wife; his subsequent capture and imprisonment in the desert camps of Libya; the seemingly endless, lonely and hungry minutes dreaming of food and home; his re-transportation to Italy; the cruelty and kindness of his captors there; and – finally – his escape with the aid of the Italian resistance across the border on Lake Como into Switzerland. Job done, Davison then put his remarkable story to one side before typing it up in manuscript form shortly before his death in 1986, whereupon it was rediscovered in a dusty attic by his only son, John. Alongside it was a battered old suitcase which contained yet more fascinating items, including each and every letter that Norman and Irene Davison had written to one another in those dark days from 1939 to 1946. Here, published for the very first time, Norman Davison’s story is finally given the public attention that it deserves. The result – In The Prison of his Days – is a singular tale of extraordinary times, that is by turns moving, amusing, informative and thrilling.
By Dave Hadfield
With an introduction by Adrian Morley
Despite England’s disappointment, the 2008 Rugby League World Cup in Australia wasn’t all bad. Far from it. For one thing it allowed best-selling sportswriter & broadcaster Dave Hadfield to gather material for Down & Under, his long-awaited follow-up to Up & Over – in which a journey through England’s rugby league land was chronicled. This time, the glamorous world of Australian rugby league comes under the microscope as Hadfield unleashes his wit, wisdom and wanderlust on the land of Ned Kelly and Wally Lewis. A great read? You betcha! Paperback, 216 pages.
Down and Under reviewed in the Independent – Sunday 14 February 2010 By Simon Redfern When it comes to World Cups, rugby league has a long way to go before it can compete with the football equivalent in capturing the imagination of the British public. But the 13-a-side version has its charms, especially if you approach it with an open mind and a well-developed thirst, as did Dave Hadfield of this parish when attending the 2008 tournament in Australia. While events on the pitch get due mention, the real charm lies in Hadfield’s Bill Brysonesque take on the people and places he encounters along the way. His mantra is “Don’t let the rugby spoil the trip,” which is just as well given England’s dismal performances, and he clearly loves Oz. Whether discoursing on the fine distinctions between hoons, larrikins and bogans in the pantheon of Australian layabouts or musing on the country’s unique beer measures, he is an amusing companion, the kind of bloke you’d actively seek out in a pub rather than avoid. Cheers for the book, Dave; the next schooner of grog is on me.
By Dave Hadfield
The fourth in Scratching Shed’s Rugby League Classics series and published in a single volume for the very first time, XIII Worlds, XIII Winters represents a high-water mark in the development of quality rugby league literature. The book comes complete with a brand new introduction, penned by its editor, the renowned rugby league writer, journalist and broadcaster Dave Hadfield. Paperback, 496 pages. Free postage & packing.
The idea for XIII Winters, as its editor, Dave Hadfield, freely admitted upon its original publication, was pinched from Nick Hornby’s My Favourite Year – with which it had one contributor in common. Hornby’s tome was a collection of essays by writers and fans about a favourite year following their favourite football team. In XIII Winters, Dave Hadfield set out to do the very same thing with rugby league and succeeded absolutely. Published by Mainstream in association with Open Rugby magazine, XIII Winters boasted chapters by the likes of Harry Edgar, Martin and Simon Kelner, Huw Richards, and the soon-to-be Rugby Football League boss Neil Tunnicliffe, among others. Its writers may not have realised it at the time but, in the mid-1990s, when a switch to summer was just around the corner, rugby league’s long-standing association with the depths of the English winter would soon be lost, presumably forever. Indeed, such was the chord struck by XIII Winters that Hadfield & Co followed it up with XIII Worlds, an equally lively celebration of rugby league’s often maligned international dimension. Although not as big a seller as its predecessor, subsequent events and the passing of the years have rendered this entertaining, witty and often overlooked collection worthy of reappraisal. So here they are – brought together for the first time in a single volume as part of the Rugby League Classics series. Complete with a brand new introduction, penned by Dave Hadfield himself, XIII Worlds, XIII Winters represents a clear high-water mark in the development of quality rugby league literature.
By Eric Ashton
With a new introduction by BBC commentator Ray French
Eric Ashton was the epitome of a rugby league hero. Had he bestridden the American Wild West rather than the mean Lancastrian streets of Wigan and St Helens – those deadly rival towns whom he managed otherwise to unite in mutual respect for his sporting prowess – the lean, tall and taciturn Ashton would have made the ideal gunslinger. Glory In The Centre Spot is his autobiography, first published in 1966 and until now long out of print, rebranded as the third book in Scratching Shed’s Rugby League Classics series. Paperback, 216 pages.
A gentleman to his bootstraps, Eric Ashton was renowned for fighting fair and with flair. Blessed with matinee idol looks, he despatched opponents with consumate and deadly skill; in his case via a perfectly-judged hand-off or bewildering scissor-move pass. In Glory In The Centre Spot, his autobiography, first published in 1966 and until now long out of print, the man himself reveals how, after being turned down by his beloved hometown Saints, he went on to form a devastating threequarter partnership with Welsh wing wizard Billy Boston at Wigan’s Central Park. After arriving in 1955, Ashton would captain Wigan for twelve seasons – and win three Challenge Cups among a host of other domestic honours. He captained Great Britain and earned twenty-six caps in an era when the Lions were a powerful international force. Indeed, he led Great Britain to World Cup victory in 1960 and went on the victorious 1958 and 1962 tours of Australia, latterly as captain. Here, in the third in a series of republished Rugby League Classics, his story is retold, accompanied this time by a brand new introduction from BBC commentator Ray French, Ashton’s long-time friend and colleague. An array of photographs and assorted appendices are also included, along with an afterword in which a successful future coaching career and fifteen subsequent years on the board of St Helens are outlined. Eric Ashton MBE died, aged 73, in March 2008. Glory In The Centre Spot is a fitting monument to a man who brought style and grace to the toughest team sport on the planet.