In the early 1970s, Marshall Cavendish brought out a magnificent partwork called ‘Book of Football’. Covering all aspects of the game, such as club histories, the development of tactics and strategy, and profiles of many players at different levels of the game, writers such as Martin Tyler, Brian Glanville and Phil Soar created an authoritative snapshot of how the game was back then. Accompanied by photo captions, the widespread use of colour photography and diagrams was revolutionary at the time when most magazines were in dull monochrome. This was a point that Phil Shelley, of oldfootballshirts.com was keen to emphasise when he kindly leant me all five volumes a couple of months ago.
The idea with ‘Book of Football’ was that each week, you’d buy one part of a 75-part set of journals that formed a football encyclopaedia, housed in five stylish black binders. Much of the text and photos were later repurposed for the book ‘The Story of Football’ by Soar and Tyler, published in 1986.
Albion fans didn’t have to wait long to see their club featured in ‘Book of Football’. In the second issue, ‘Football star, football satellite’ compared and contrasted the careers of Arsenal striker Ray Kennedy and Brighton’s Norman Gall. There were also this photo of Gall heading away a Bristol Rovers attack at the tail end of the 1970/71 campaign.
Of the central defender, it says:
In March 1962, when he was 19, he was approached by Brighton and Hove Albion, then also in the Second Division. He went south this time, liked what he saw of the resort town, and signed. “They offered me good money and I just jumped at it,” he explains. He joined a club then on the slide to Division Three. He was not able to do much to help. Gall did not get out of the reserves in his first season nor for much of his second. But on his twentieth birthday he made his League debut. Gall played in three consecutive games in place of Roy Jennings, a ten-year veteran with the club. All the games were lost and Brighton were in trouble at the foot of the table. His memories of his first home game are not happy: “As soon as I went on the pitch they booed and during the kick-about they were on my back. They chanted, ‘We want Jennings.’ I played quite well, but it affected my play a bit and I think it ruined me for the rest of the season. Anyway, I was dropped right after that.”
However, Gall did establish himself and a local newspaper is quoted as singing his praises:
“The complete footballer, quiet on the ground and decisive in the air. Few people get past him. Gall’s strength is in his marvellous timing and crispness of tackling. Mobility is another strong point and he has the legs of most attackers. An intelligent fellow, he reads the game with uncanny precision and is invariably in the right place at the right time. His coolness infuses confidence among his fellow defenders and he seldom wastes the ball in distribution.”
One of the things I didn’t know before reading the article was the fact he was cleared of assault in court after a scuffle with a spectator during a promotion battle at Rochdale in 1968 when he was ‘dragged over the barrier and into the crowd.’
Gall is portrayed as married to Jackie, a local girl, with a baby daughter Sarah, and living in a modern house in the village of Upper Beeding in the South Downs. He worries a bit about what he will do for a job once he reaches 33 or 34. ‘Still, there’s always non-League football.’ he adds.
In this highly candid interview, Gall also shares the fact he would not recommend the life of professional football to any son of his, and says he only really enjoyed about 15 of the 40 games he played in the previous year. He also openly describes what it is like being a lower league player:
“A lot of times you feel you want a move because of the attitude of the club, or the manager. If you don’t get the money you ask for, again you want to get out. Then if the club’s not doing too well, you think you can do better and you want to move. Then you get stuck in a rut and you decide to get away to get your game going again. Or, simply, you might get bored. Then one day, a new manager comes and the place is different overnight, so you stay.”
When he said that, I’m pretty sure he must have had Pat Saward in mind.