Book Review: Hard Case: The Autobiography of Jimmy Case
Hard Case by Jimmy Case
Published by by John Blake Publishing
In advance of a salvo posts on the precariousness or otherwise of the managerial hot seat which we shall be running next week, we are pleased to first present to you a review of former Liverpool and Brighton and Hove Albion man Jimmy Case’s new autobiography. One of my earliest footballing memories is of Case lashing in a screamer against Manchester United in the 1977 FA Cup Final. Here, Terry Clague, aka @RoutledgeEditor, provides his thoughts. Terry has also written for The Anfield Wrap, one of our fellow nominees for Best Independent Website in the forthcoming Football Supporters’ Federation Awards. You can vote for these here while Jimmy Case is also part of the twitterati.
I’ve not read many footballer’s autobiographies. Usually ghost-written and released in time for the Christmas period, one wonders about the economics of this genre. The titles that do good business seem to abide by a set of golden rules – controversial character; playing career that includes a long stint for a club with a huge fan-base; national heroic status; mates in the media to help with promotion; genuinely interesting narrative arc.
Jimmy Case doesn’t tick all of these boxes, but those he does are ticked with trademark gusto. Growing up in conservative Fifties Liverpool, Case’s dad seems like a rum ‘un – apparently expelled from the pitch side after a row with Tommy Docherty. His roots left him with an incongruous easy-going hardness. This stood him in good stead when, having been turned down by Liverpool Schoolboys, he turned out for South Liverpool where he was scouted by Liverpool Football Club. Amazingly, Case turned down their contract offer in order to continue his apprenticeship and become their only semi-professional player.
Case’s promotion to the first team had to wait for Bob Paisley, and there wasn’t much of an overlap with the legendary Bill Shankly – just enough to experience his disdain for facial hair – “son, there are no fucking beards in my team, shave it off!” Paisley’s famously sparse man-management had Case waiting for a scoring-debut before being unceremoniously dropped. Once part of the first team dressing room, he slotted in with his fellow Scousers who tended to sit together opposite the “foreigners” (English, Scots and Welsh). Case’s presence coincided with a barely believable record of success. Throughout that red hot period, players were kept grounded by the genius Paisley and his backroom staff – winners medals distributed by post-it note, to the surprise of Case who’d imagined a presentation with the likes of Jimmy Tarbuck or Cilla Black.
With a young Sammy Lee snapping at his heels, and a growing reputation for trouble-making (drinking buddy Ray Kennedy and himself being arrested after a bizarre scrap in a Welsh hotel), Case was swapped for Mark Lawrenson and a new career – at just 28 – on the South coast beckoned. Although league success with Brighton & Hove Albion was predictably unsustainable, an FA Cup run ended only at the final after arrival by helicopter. A further stint at Southampton coincided with the emergence of a new generation of English players (including Alan Shearer and Matt Le Tissier) and although the team didn’t manage to win anything, they played their part in Ron Atkinson’s downfall – memorably described as having the look of a man “who has just discovered a mouse in his pork pie” whilst his side were drummed out of the Cup and he was drummed out of a job in favour of Alex Ferguson.
A common factor in street footballers like Case is an inability to imagine life without football and this was reflected at the dreg-end of his playing career as he turned out for matey managers such as Harry Redknapp for a string of teams including Halifax Town and Darlington. A brief career in management coincided with a period of diabolical governance at Brighton & Hove Albion and Case admits that he was relieved to be given the boot.
A folksy style emerges as the book progresses – a tally of “fella/bloke/chap by the name of” introductions to star players was difficult to keep up. The obligatory totting up of friends (Ray Kennedy, Tommy Smith, Joe Jordan) and enemies (Kenny Sansom, Peter Shilton, Ian Branfoot, and the “London media”) includes good anecdotage. A foreword from Kevin Keegan, apparently channelling Alan Partridge, adds to the effect, whilst the final section indulges in some enjoyable name-dropping as Case appears backstage at a Coldplay gig. We’re left with a picture of Case as a significant reflection of the 70’s/80’s English football scene.