Book speaks to The Sky Blue View about his glittering City career
By Aaron Leggott(Interview from Archie Barnett)
With a career spanning over 19 years, Tony Book has definitely seen it all as a footballer. To say his career was remarkable would be an understatement, going from playing non-league football until he was 28 years old to winning some of Europe's most prestigious trophies. Here is the story of a remarkable man after he took the time to generously speak to us.
Book’s professional career is largely thanks to Malcolm Allison, who saw the talent that the right back possessed after becoming the manager of Bath City. This created a long lasting friendship between the two, and Book is very grateful to have been given the chance by Allison.
“Yes, he was a big factor in my career because I don’t think anyone else would’ve given me a chance at that age and he was the one who saw something in me and thought I was a decent player and gave me the chance.”
Before being given his chance in the English football league, Book spent three months in Canada playing for Toronto City, and he believes that whilst the quality was lacking, it was the break that he needed to help push himself into a professional career:
“Yes, it was a little bit of a lower level but at the same time there were some good players there. There were a lot of nationalities, the likes of the Italians, Argentineans and the Brazilians, there were some good players around. And that’s when Malcolm made up his mind that I could play because I had done well against them and that’s when he decided I could get a living out of football.”
As much as Allison rated Book, his age seemed to be a deterrence to many managers, including Joe Mercer, who had to be convinced to bring Book to Maine Road in 1966. And it took Allison to remind Mercer of his playing days, where he was given a chance to prove himself at Arsenal at such a late stage in his career.
Of course, the management of a team is a crucial factor. The team of the late 1960s and early 1970s had great backroom staff, and it is fair to say that there are stark comparisons between Roberto Mancini and Joe Mercer, something which Tony Book also sees in Mancini.
“He has been brilliant. The owners have been a great help to him by giving him the cash to go out and get the players he needs. He did it the right way, by making sure his defensive priorities were right to start with and he got that right he’s gone for quality going forward. Once you get that quality into your side you’re not going to be far away because you know you’re capable of scoring goals and I honestly feel this season that they will go on and win the Premiership.”
So, in the summer of 1966, a 32 year old Tony Book made the move from Plymouth to the North West for a fee of £17,000. But it wasn’t the only story worth celebrating, after an impressive summer for the country as a whole. Book vividly remembers the scenes after England beat West Germany at Wembley to put ‘football back on the map again.’
“Yeah, it was great, the lads did it for England and the country was alive, football was put back on the map again and it was a wonderful time for English football at that particular time. With teams such as United, Liverpool, City, Tottenham and Arsenal, there were some great sides and great players around at that time.”
After making his debut against Southampton in a 1-1 draw, his opening season for City was unbelievably successful, as the man from Bath went on to prosper under the management of Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison. Missing just one game in the 1966-67 season, Book was named Player of the Year in his opening season as a Blue.
It was about to get even better though. After Johnny Crossan moved to Middlesbrough, Book was given the captain’s armband by Joe Mercer and he went from strength to strength, becoming our most successful captain in our history after making a total of 242 appearances for the Blues.
He was at the heart of four different successes, which included a league championship, a European Cup Winners Cup, an FA Cup and a League Cup, and was also given the honour of being awarded the 1969 Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the year award. Just to be part of the team during this period must have been something special, never mind captaining the team, and Book was honoured to have been given the opportunity to captain such a great club.
|"It was a great honour"|
“It was a great honour to captain the club during that period of picking up a few trophies. I came up in 1966 and when Johnny Crossan left to go to Middlesbrough they made me captain, and it was great to captain the likes of Francis Lee, Colin Bell and Mike Summerbee.”
And it must be a great feeling for Book that we have another great role model for our players both on and off the pitch in Vincent Kompany. Book describes Kompany as a ‘great leader’ when he was asked about the comparison between both himself and the Belgian.
“I’ve been lucky that I’ve been with the team when they’ve gone to Europe this season and I’ve seen the way that Vincent conducts himself, he’s a great leader. When you’re captain one of the main things you’ve got to have in your game is to play consistently well because the other players see that and think they can do the same thing. Vincent knows the ones that you’ve got to put your arm around and the ones you can have a little shout at and wake them up. Like I say, I’ve been lucky enough to watch Vincent and he’s certainly a great skipper.”
After retiring in 1974, Book decided to take a managerial role at the club, something which he felt was extremely difficult.
“It was a difficult time for me because I had been playing with all those players and then all of a sudden I was made manager and it was at a time when there were some changes having to be made because we had grown up together and we were getting a little bit older. I went out and signed some very good players, the likes of David Watson and Brian Kidd and we were a decent side and we were unlucky. We lost the championship by a point to Liverpool and we won the league cup. We finished in the top 8 as I was manager and we got into Europe four out of the five seasons that I was in charge.”
It is clear that he proved himself to be as good in the dugout as on the pitch. Tony was a professional both on and off the pitch and a role model for everyone. He wanted success whenever he was involved, and he feels that our current team will be capable of even better, claiming that we have ‘every chance of winning the Premiership this time around.’
(c) The Sky Blue View 2012
Once again, we would like to thank Tony for taking the time out to answer our questions. We hope you enjoyed the article. Remember to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.