Ah’m Tellin’ Thee - The biography of Tommy Banks
By Ian Seddon
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of footballing ‘autobiographies’, the vast majority of which are ghost-written.
There are some very rare examples of footballers writing their own autobiographies, one of the best being Phil Stant’s “Oh Ah Stantona”, but to your reviewer’s knowledge, no ex-footballer’s biography has ever been written by another former professional footballer. Until now.
Ian Seddon, who played for Bolton between 1969-73, eventually moving onto Chester and Cambridge before playing in Australia and Hong Kong, has written a particularly accomplished biography of former Bolton and England left back, Tommy Banks.
The author himself hails from just outside of Bolton and instinctively understands the tough conditions into which Banks was born (in a Bolton suburb) in 1929. The youngest of seven children, Tommy was raised during a time not just of permanent austerity, but of genuine poverty, the degree of which is incomprehensible today.
Seddon paints an evocative picture of the industrial north west where, for most working class men, a 55-hour week toiling down the pit or in a factory were life’s only two options. For Tommy Banks, football offered a classic escape route.
A tough, versatile full back, he signed for Bolton in 1946 and would eventually establish a feared partnership with Roy Hartle, the team’s right back. But that was following the intervention of National Service, where he was fortunate to become a PT instructor, which meant his most productive years at Burnden Park came between 1953-58.
Britons in the fifties were said to have ‘never had it so good’, although there wasn’t much evidence of this in Bolton and certainly not amongst footballers. In 1953, Bolton’s first team players earned an average of £14 a week at a time when average wages were £9 a week. It’s not difficult to understand why players had greater affinity with the people who came to watch them play.
Yet aside from enjoying a fruitful professional career, winning the FA Cup in 1958 and playing half a dozen times for England, Tommy Banks, together with Jimmy Hill and Cliff Lloyd, played a pivotal role in the abolition of football’s maximum wage.
This is a fascinating, well told story, occasional chunks of which are written in Bolton’s strong dialect, although for those unfamiliar with this regional variation on the language, the author helpfully ‘translates’ into English.
We’ve teamed up with Sports Book of the Month & have a copy of Ah’m Tellin’ The to give away.
To win this week’s sports book, go to their website (www.sportsbookofthemonth.com) and answer the following question:
Who did Bolton beat in the 1958 FA Cup final?