Played in Liverpool

Ray Physick
English Heritage, softback, £14.99

Reviewed by Amanda DeAngeles

This is the seventh book in a series published by English Heritage with the aid of creative consultants Malavan Media.

The book launch at Radio Merseyside was an entertainment in itself: a well-attended evening, superbly hosted by Played in Britain. A slide show and refreshments were constantly rolled-out as several speakers took the microphone.

Louise O’Brien (host), Jackie Spreckley (PR and production) and Henry Owen John (regional director) all showered their interest and congratulations on author Ray Physick.

It soon became apparent that members of the audience were comprised of local sporting stalwarts, past and present, and that the players actually assisted in the fruition of this wonderful read by providing snippets of history and some photographs used by Ray and his fellow researcher, Simon Inglis (who has written or co-written four other books in the Played in Britain series).

Played in Liverpool is a nostalgic meander with invaluable photographs, not just of swimmers diving into the River Mersey as shown on the front cover, but also the many photographs of local people, places and sporting memorabilia. One of my favourite shots shows a vast population of female workers at Vernons Pools.

Ray and his fellow adventurer, Simon, wore out their shoe leather in collating endless facts and tributes, and I think you should buy the book to get a full flavour of what he had to say.

City Council leader Warren Bradley spoke about the £45 million of investment into parks sport in this city and told us of eleven green flag parks – soon to be at least fifteen (no further clarification given) – of which we should be very proud. He announced Picton Pools in Wavertree is due to open in 2008, housing Liverpool’s first 50-metre pool plus seating for 400 people. I prefer the more ornate design of older public baths (some were used as ballrooms in the winter) but I’m glad to see £15 million of the city budget has been lavished in Wavertree. On a more personal note, Mr Bradley was rightly pleased as punch that Ray paid tribute to a boxer named Ike Bradley: the councillor’s own grandfather - showing just one example of how family history and local sport intertwine.

You may be lucky enough to find a mention or see a photograph of your own great or doubly great grandparents, either larking about or taking their favourite sport seriously. You will see where the children went to bathe once a week, before every household had the luxury of a bathtub – yes, the local swimming baths!

I like that Ray has included all local sports in this book not just football and horse racing. He tells us about swimming, cricket, bowls, baseball, golf, gymnastics, boxing, tennis, billiards and snooker. He recalls sporting venues, parks and events that took place on the River Mersey and gives great detail about buildings, pavilions, pitches, pools and lidos.

Ray reveals fascinating facts about sporting heroes past and present. He, perhaps most importantly divulges enthusiasts’ memories of all games PLAYED IN LIVERPOOL with this marvellous book.

The research is thorough and the website invites you to add your own family snippets of sporting history. I’d like to see some information about the ice-skating rink in Kensington, now closed. Maybe the city council will consider what an asset a new ice-skating rink would be in Liverpool?

It was great pleasure to meet those who are or were long-time members of various (in some cases elitist) clubs, which have over time embraced all classes of Liverpool society, and for that and for the wonderful photographs therein, this book is a relevant and vital reference to our city’s sporting heritage.

Played in Liverpool is a must read for local historians, and for anyone who wants to reminisce and recount stories of passion they had for their game – inclusive of victories or disappointments. Remember with fondness your fellow teammates, trim waistlines and the places you went to have fun, and notice how many are still around!

Thanks to Ray Physick for being such a good sport.

See the Played In Britain website.

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Comment left by Ed Barrett on 21st November, 2007 at 16:46
I have to agree, this is a 'must read' book. I picked a copy up whilst researching a local history project, and, instead of leafing through it as I intended, I ended up reading it for a couple of hours. It really is that good, whether you're interested in Liverpool's sporting history ir not.

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