The competition is now closed but you can still order Richard’s book by following the link in this article.
Two years ago, I met writer Richard Foster (virtually) who, at that time, was working on his definitive history of the English League play-offs which began in 1987. Richard’s book The Agony and the Ecstasy was published around the time of the play-offs in 2015 and I devoured its contents during my summer holiday that year. As someone who was present at the very first play-off final to be held at Wembley Stadium (Cambridge United v Chesterfield, 1990), the play-offs mean a lot to me and this book brings all of that to life.
People who didn’t experience football in the 1980s would find it very difficult to understand if they time travelled back to the 1986/1987 season when the play-offs were introduced. The game was suffering from hooliganism, dilapidated stadiums, falling attendances and declining TV figures if the sport was on TV at all. The British government and much of the establishment was actively anti-football with prime minister Margaret Thatcher and conservative MP and Luton chairman David Evans trying to set up a national ID scheme just to attend football matches. Chelsea chairman Ken Bates wanted to install electric fencing at Stamford Bridge to keep fans off the pitch in the most obscene fashion and this idea was amazingly not immediately rejected.
The first half of the 1985/1986 season had no TV coverage at all as the Football League rejected the BBC and ITV bod of 19 million pounds for highlights rights. West Ham began that season spectacularly and blonde haired striker Frank McAvennie topped the scorers list but as he was not on TV, few outside of those going to the stadium knew what McAvennie looked like. This led to a TV crew showing his photo to people in the street and asking who they thought he was.
Richard’s book explains this rich history in order to put the introduction of the play-offs by the Football League into context and then revisits some of the great moments of the last 30 years. Having been to a number of play-off finals with both Cambridge United and Crystal Palace, I can tell you that the title The Agony and the Ecstasy is very apt. As someone once said, “it’s the hope that kills you”.
There are all sorts of gems in Richard’s book including a comprehensive statistics section which includes facts on every club. As the paperback version of The Agony and the Ecstasy is published this week, I’d recommend any football fan to pick up a copy of this marvellous history by clicking on the link below. However, as Richard is a friend, he has also kindly provided me with copies to give away.
Order a copy of The Agony and the Ecstasy for a special price by clicking below:
In order to win a copy of The Agony and the Ecstasy, a book which I heartily recommend, I’d like people (everyone is eligible as the publisher will mail to anywhere in the world) to show me their prediction skills by tweeting me their answers to the following question:
Which 6 clubs will win this season’s League One play-offs, Europa League, FA Cup, League Two play-offs, Championship play-offs, and Champions League, how many goals will be scored in these six finals and how many goals will be scored in the remaining 11 English play-off matches?
Please tweet your entry to me BEFORE the first Championship play-off semi-final kicks off on Saturday, 13 May (6:30pm CET) like this:
@simongleave Millwall, Man Utd, Chelsea, Carlisle, Reading, Real Madrid, 15, 28
Note: No entries will be accepted after 6:30pm CET on Saturday, 13 May.
The competition will be judged as follows:
- You will be eliminated as soon as you get one of the winners wrong (the order of the finals (see below) should be the order of your entry and wrong predictions are counted from the moment the final has finished).
- If that does not provide a winner, I will go back with those who can’t be separated and repeat the process from the last elimination.
- If that still does not provide a winner, I will count the number (out of 6) that those who can’t be separated have correct.
- If that still does not provide a winner, the number of goals in the finals will be used as a first tiebreaker between those who can’t be separated. This total will include goals scored in extra-time but NOT those scored in penalty shoot-outs.
- If that still does not provide a winner, the number of goals in the 11 English play-off matches currently still to be played will be used as a final tiebreaker between those who can’t be separated. This total will include goals scored in extra-time but NOT those scored in penalty shoot-outs.
So, get predicting and good luck.
To help you, here are the six competitions in the order that the final will be played and which teams are currently still remaining in them. By the deadline date of Saturday 13 May at 6:30pm CET you will know the identities of the Europa League and Champions League finalists.
League One play-off final (Saturday 20 May, Bradford City v Millwall)
Europa League final (Wednesday 24 May, Ajax v Manchester United)
FA Cup Final (Saturday 27 May, Arsenal v Chelsea)
League Two play-off final (Sunday 28 May, Blackpool, Carlisle, Exeter, Luton)
Championship play-off final (Monday 29 May, Fulham, Huddersfield, Reading, Sheff Wed)
Champions League final (Saturday 3 June, Juventus v Real Madrid)