Book of the Week

Chocolate, Blue And Gold - 50 years of Whitehaven Rugby League Club by Harry Edgar Open Rugby Nostalgia, pounds 14.99, hardback
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The Independent Online
Chocolate, Blue And Gold - 50 years of Whitehaven Rugby League Club

by Harry Edgar Open Rugby Nostalgia, pounds 14.99, hardback

BEFORE ONE match in the mid-1960s, Whitehaven foreshadowed much that has happened elsewhere since by embracing the radical idea of pre-match entertainment by the locally legendary beat-group Rue and the Rockets. It was rated such a success that the club discussed a fully fledged festival, featuring another combo of some note, the Rolling Stones. It never happened.

Rue and the Rockets remain the musical high-water mark at the Recreation Ground and you could say that has been Whitehaven's life story. Although not averse to innovation - they were, for instance, the first club to carry a sponsor's name on their shirts - Whitehaven have never quite broken though into the big time.

If you want one individual to symbolise that, look no further than Vince Gribbin. In 1985, he made his Great Britain debut in a Test against France, a match that also marked the first full international appearance of one Shaun Edwards, and scored a spectacular try. But unlike Edwards and Ellery Hanley, who also played in that match, Gribbin did not go on to become rich and famous. He dropped out of the game for five years and was never the same player afterwards because it could not provide him with a secure enough living.

Given their relative isolation and almost permanent lack of funds, Whitehaven have done well to get to 50. They have had their highlights, of course, and were within a few minutes of going to Wembley in 1957, but they have always had to struggle. Their strength, as this admirable history clearly shows, comes from the depth of their roots in a community that still has a passion for the game and still produces more than its share of fine players.

Gathering enough of those players together in one place at one time to bring sustained success has always been frustratingly beyond the club, but the story of how they have survived and sometimes thrived remains an inspiring one. Harry Edgar, as a Whitehaven lad, has done an exemplary job in telling that story.

I look forward now to similarly colourful volumes; how about "Myrtle, White and Flame" on Hunslet? Or "Tangerine, Black and White" on Blackpool Borough?

Dave Hadfield Top Ten Books: 1 Football Memories, Brian Glanville (Virgin, hardback, pounds 16.99). 2 Playing for Keeps - Michael Jordan And The World He Made, David Halberstam, (Random House USA, hardback, pounds 21.50). 3 Twelve Grand: The Gambler As Hero, Jonathan Rendall (Yellow Jersey, paperback, pounds 10). 4 Made in Leeds: `Square Ball' since 1989, (Square Ball, paperback, pounds 5.95). 5 The Development of West Indies Cricket, Volume 2: The Age of Globalization, Hilary Beckles (Pluto Press, paperback, pounds 5.99). 6 Mick Fitzgerald: A Jump-Jockey's Life, Mick Fitzgerald and Carl Evans (Mainstream, hardback, pounds 15.99). 7 Angry White Pyjamas, Robert Twigger (Indigo, paperback, pounds 6.99). 8 Baseball America's 1999 Almanac, edited by Alan Simpson (Baseball America, paperback, pounds 11.50). 9 The Davis Cup - Celebrating 100 Years of International Tennis, Richard Evans (Ebury Press, hardback, pounds 14.99). 10 Best American Sports Writing 1998 edited by Bill Littlefield (Houghton Mifflin, paperback, pounds 6.99). Compiled by Sportspages, 94-96 Charing Cross Road, London (0171 240 9604) and St Ann's Square, Manchester (01612 832 8530) and www.