Inside stories of football told by Britain’s foremost commentator – A brief guide to Kenneth Wolstenholme’s Book of World Soccer

Posted: 16th May 2017

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Kenneth Wolstenholme’s Book of World Soccer was launched in 1961.

There were 12 editions of the annual with the last one published in 1972.

The books each looked back at the season before the publishing year with the first one for 1961, for example, looking back at 1960/61, the season in which Tottenham Hotspur did the double and Benfica won the European Cup.

The annuals didn’t have numbers on them and neither did they have any season noted or any year, until the last 2 editions, where slightly confusingly, the 1972 edition (#11) actually covered 1970/71 and the 1973 edition (#12) covered 1971/72.

So the 12 annuals covered the period 1960/61 to 1971/72 inclusive.

Like some other boy’s football annual titles, the content of the Kenneth Wolstenholme Book of World Soccer annuals was a mixture of themed articles about aspects of the game in addition to features on specific clubs and players of the time.

The annuals were a bit different to others in that the publishers were changed after the first two editions.

For editions #1 and #2, the annual was published by Daily Mirror Newspapers and it was noted on the title page underneath a photo of Kenneth Wolstenholme looking like the old-style image of a local bank manager off to work with raincoat and briefcase, that the annual was A Daily Mirror Book;

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From edition #3 onwards, the annual appears to have been taken over by World Distributors Limited, also the publishers for the All Stars Football Book (see Football Annuals section for The World’s best right back becomes football annual editor – A brief guide to the All Stars Football Book).

Under the ownership of World Distributors Limited’s Pemberton brothers, there were 3 other annuals published on the topic of the World Cup (one for 1966 and 2 for 1970) which had different titles but were edited by Kenneth Wolstenholme.

The strapline used in the title of the post, Inside stories of football told by Britain’s foremost commentator, was one which appeared on the front cover of the 4th edition and remained there for all future editions.

Indeed, during the life of the annuals, Kenneth Wolstenholme was a very well known name in TV sport. He introduced the first and early editions of Match of the Day from 1963 and his phrase used at the end of his commentary on England’s 1966 World Cup victory over West Germany as Geoff Hurst charged towards the West Germany goal and fired his shot past Hans Tilkowski, ‘There are people on the pitch. They think it’s all over: it is now!’ has become iconic.

Leading up to the launch of the annuals under his name and that famous World Cup commentary, Wolstenholme had an interesting journey to the upper echelons of Sports broadcasting.

Born in Greater Manchester, Wolstenholme’s early football experiences were going to see Bolton Wanderers with his dad.

After school, he entered journalism but with the War dominating life, Wolstenholme became a pilot in the RAF flying many dangerous missions for Bomber Command winning the DFC in the process whilst in his early 20’s.

After the War, he rejoined the world of journalism and BBC Radio. His first television commentary was a Southern v. Northern Counties match at Romford. Warming to his task, he was the commentator for the 1949 F.A. Cup Final and would be in that role for 23 finals up to and including Arsenal’s double winning success against Liverpool in 1971.

Through the 1960’s, Wolstenholme not only commentated famously on the 1966 World Cup Final but also the iconic Real Madrid destruction of Eintracht Frankfurt in the 1960 European Cup Final, Celtic’s win over Inter Milan in 1967 and a year later Manchester United’s defeat of Benfica also in the European Cup.

He was supplanted in 1971 by David Coleman as the BBC’s lead commentator and although unhappy about that situation and how it was handled, he was quoted as saying that he bore no grudges in moving on with his life.

Later on, he would commentate on Italian football and died in 1998 at the age of 81.

The annual was a reflection of Wolstenholme’s love of the game and as a trained journalists and broadcaster, the quality of the writing is as good as in any of the boy’s football annuals of the period.

As already noted, the content of the annuals was a mixture of themed articles in addition to club / player features and all of this was in black and white.

The annuals stopped around the time that Kenneth Wolstenholme left the BBC after the rise of David Coleman had seen him crowned as the lead football commentator for the organisation.

The annuals were all printed with laminated hard covers without dust wrappers.

In length, the annuals began at 124 pages, went up to 126 pages and by the final edition were down at 110 pages.

The first 3 annuals used spot colour on the covers. From edition #4, the front cover was in colour with usually, an action photo from a top match including one from the 1966 World Cup Final on edition #7 . From edition #4 , the back cover was a different image to the front cover, usually, some sort of line drawing on a colour background.

There were 3 World Cup books covering the 1966 and 1970 tournaments which Wolstenholme edited all published by World Ditsributors but not in the Book of World Soccer series.

Let’s have a look at Wolstenholme’s 12 annuals year by year followed by a review of the 3 World Cup annuals;

 

1.1961

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The front cover showed an action photo from a match at Arsenal including Tommy Docherty.

The back cover showed an action photo from a league game;

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This edition looked back at the 1960/61 season.

Editions #1-#3 were published by Daily Mirror Newspapers.

There were features on the build up to the 1962 World Cup Finals in Chile and the 1960/61 European Cup won by Benfica.

There was good Tottenham Hotspur content after the double success with a feature called ‘Those Super Spurs’ and another called ‘Spurs See Double…on Television’.

Other club / player features included;

Benfica – Feature on newly crowned European Champions

Birmingham City – Coach Emilio Aldecoa

Ghana – The state of the game in the country

Hungary – A ‘where are they now’ look at the 1953 team

Real Madrid – Club feature

South America – Review of football across the Continent

Other themed features included; Stadiums Like Palaces showing panoramic views of top grounds; The Football-Crazy City which looked at football in Glasgow; Meet the Managers including photos of many top coaches; and Ace Goal Grabbers on some of the world’s top strikers.

The photos included this action shot of Jimmy Greaves, at that point in his career, a Chelsea player;

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2. 1962

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The front and back covers showed an action photo of a top game.

This edition looked back at the 1961/62 season.

There was good coverage of the 1962 World Cup in Chile.

Other club / player features included;

Burnley – Chairman, Bob Lord

France – National team’s prospects

Hungary – Lazlo Kubala

Leyton Orient – Club feature

Poland – National team’s prospects

Rangers – Club feature

Scotland – National team manager, Ian McColl,

Other features included; Sir Football on the President of F.I.F.A, Sir Stanley Rous; A Hundred Years Old on the Centenary of the F.A;  The Television Commentary on the role of the T.V. commentator; The F.A.’s New Secretary on Denis Follows; They Have The Most Caps on international players with the most caps; Could Great Britain Do It? on the question of a team to represent Great Britain; All Goal-Keepers Are Mad on the nature of keepers; European Cup, the European Nations Cup and the European Inter Cities Fairs Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup were all reviewed.

The photos included this action shot of Real Madrid’s Raymond Kopa;

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3. 1963

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The front and back covers showed an action scene from a top league match which looks like a Newcastle United game at St. James’ Park.

The first of the annuals published by World Distributors Ltd.

This edition looked back at the 1962/63 season.

There was good Everton content with a club feature including 2 full page b/w photos of Brian Labone and Jimmy Gabriel as well as another one elsewhere in the annual of Alex Young.

Other club / player features included;

Aston Villa – Derek Dougan

Benfica – Club feature

Dukla Prague – Josef Masopust

Dundee – Club feature

England – Feature on Walter Winterbottom 

France – Raymond Kopa and Juste Fontaine

Middlesex Wanderers – Club feature

Rangers – Club feature

Santos – Club feature including Pele

Shrewsbury Town – Arthur Rowley 

Stoke City – Club feature 

Other features included; The Big Money Men on the top players commanding the highest value; Know Those Tactical Plans on the various tactical formations; Watch For The Stars on the Show Business interest in football; Do You Boo The Ref?, a quiz to test readers knowledge of the Laws of the Game; an update on the European Nations Cup; Meet The Writers on football scribes; and The World Cup 1966 looked at the preparations for the upcoming finals to be held in England.

The photos included this action shot of Brian Clough, at that point in his career, noted as a Sunderland player, although it looks like he is in Middlesbrough kit;

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4. 1964

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The front and back covers showed an action photo from an England international at Wembley Stadium before the roof had been extended across both ends.

This edition looked back at the 1963/64 season.

There was good England content with a feature on Bobby Charlton and Jimmy Greaves as well as a preview of the 1966 World Cup.

There were team photos as part of a feature called Know All The Clubs (all b/w);
– Arsenal
– Leeds United
– Morton
– Rangers
– Sunderland
– West Germany

Other club / player features included;

AC Milan – Football in Milan

Anderlecht – Paul Van Himst

Arsenal – Club feature

Blackburn Rovers – Bryan Douglas

Bristol Rovers – Geoff Bradford

Coventry City – Club feature

Everton – Club feature

Inter Milan – Football in Milan

Portsmouth – Jimmy Dickenson

Russia – Lev Yashin

Scotland – National feature

Southampton – Terry Paine

Swindon Town – Club feature

West Germany – Sepp Herberger

Other features included; Your Cup Final Tickets Answered with an interview with the F.A.’s Denis Follows; They Love Soccer …In All Languages on football in South America; Referees…Under-paid and Over-criticised on the role of the officials; Great Clubs in the World on some of the best clubs; Does One Man Make A Team? on the importance of individual players; How To Outsmart Your Wingman with some coaching tips by Wally Barnes; and Wing Halves Are Tough These Days on the physical strength of midfield players.

On the subject of tough midfield players, the photos included this action shot of Tottenham Hotspur’s Dave Mackay;

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5. 1965

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The front and back covers showed an action photo from a Manchester United match with Bobby Charlton passing the ball away with his left foot.

This edition looked back at the 1964/65 season.

There was good Stoke City content with an article about Stanley Matthews called We Are Going To Miss You, Sir Stanley.

Other club / player features included;

Blackpool – Alan Ball

Brazil – World Cup prospects

Chelsea – Tommy Docherty

Czechoslovakia – National feature

England – Alf Ramsey

Leeds United – The Revie Plan

Manchester United – Denis Law

Nottingham Forest – Frank Wignall and Peter Grummitt

Other features included; From Youth To Fame on player development; a review of the top stars in Europe’s Top Five Players; It Helps If You Are Adaptable on flexibility in playing style; The Second Viking Invasion on the impact of overseas players from Scandinavia; Is Amalgamation The Answer on the issue of financial stability for clubs in; Were They Better In The Old Days with a comparison of eras; How To See The Big Games on getting to see top matches; and Facts You Should Know About The World Cup was another preview of the 1966 Finals to be held in England.

The photos included this action shot of Blackpool’s Alan Ball the England 1966 World Cup star to be;

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6. 1966

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The front and back covers showed an action photo from a Scotland v. England international at Hampden Park.

This edition looked back at the 1965/66 season.

There was good Manchester United with a feature on Matt Busby and his achievements with the team, one on George Best and photo content with various players shown.

Other club / player features included;

Australia – Review of football down under

Benfica – Eusebio

Brazil – The new Maracana Stadium

Brazil – Botofago and Flamengo

Chelsea – Peter Osgood

Huddersfield Town – Club feature

Hull City – Feature with Portsmouth

Liverpool – Bill Shankly

Millwall – Club feature

Portsmouth – Feature with Hull City

Real Madrid – Interview with manager, Miguel Munoz

Sheffield United – Gil Reece

Other features included;

Those Track-suited Managers on top English coaches; From WM To 4-3-3 on the changing nature of tactical formations; Whatever Happened To The Centre Forward? on the changes in type of striker in the game; Why Can’t We Have Real Clubs? on the financial state of football; Singing Their Way To Success looking at how fans support their teams through songs; and Famous Boots For Famous Players on the story of Adidas.

The photos included this action shot of Manchester United’s George Best;

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7. 1967

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The front cover showed an action photo from the 1966 World Cup Final with England’s Alan Ball in between West Germany’s goalkeeper Hans Tilkowski and defender Wolfgang Weber.

The back cover showed showed a line drawing of players against a blue background;

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This edition looked back at the 1965/66 season.

There was good Leeds United content with features on Johnny Giles and Eddie Gray.

Other club / player features included;

Athletic Bilbao – Club feature with Barcelona

Barcelona – Club feature with Athletic Bilbao

Egypt – Feature on football in Sporting Club Zamalek, Cairo

Manchester United – Nobby Stiles

Millwall – Club feature

Norway – National feature

Oldham Athletic – Club feature

Penarol – Club feature

Queens Park Rangers – Jim Langley

Sheffield Wednesday – Club feature

South Africa – National feature

Tottenham Hotspur – Mike England

West Bromwich Albion – Club feature

United States – National feature

Other features included;

Europe’s No. 1 Player on the top stars; The New Leaders on the new heads of English football at the F.A and the Football League; Mexico 1970 previewed of the upcoming World Cup Finals finals; The Numbers Game looked at tactical formations in the game; The True Supporters reviewed crowd behaviour; there was a look at The European Championships; and a historical review of British clubs in How We’ve Done In Europe.

The photos included this action shot West Bromwich Albion’s Jeff Astle;

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8. 1968

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The front cover showed an action photo from an England v. Scotland international at Wembley.

The back cover showed showed a line drawing of players against a green background;

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This edition looked back at the 1967/68 season.

There was good Manchester United content with photos of various players and a feature on David Sadler.

There was also good Everton content with various player action photos from matches at Goodison Park (all b/w);

Other club / player features included;

Blackpool – Club feature

Burnley – Club feature

Derby County – Brian Clough

England – New forwards

Leeds United – Paul Madeley

Manchester City – Club feature

Nottingham Forest – Ian Storey-Moore

Portsmouth – Club feature

Queens Park Rangers – Club feature

Racing Buenos Aires – Club feature

Real Madrid – Club feature

Slovan Bratislava – Club feature

Southampton – Ron Davies

Wolves – Peter Knowles

Other features included; Europe’s No. 1 Player on the top stars; The Professionals on dependable but not flashy players; Following England to Mexico on supporting England in the upcoming World Cup Finals.

The photos included this action shot of Manchester City’s Francis Lee;

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9. 1969

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The front cover showed Wales v. England international probably at Ninian Park

The back cover showed showed a line drawing of players against a blue background;

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This edition looked back at the 1968/69 season.

There was good Manchester United content with photos of various players and a feature on Nobby Stiles.

Other club / player features included;

Arsenal – Club feature

Burnley – Club feature

Coventry City – Ernie Hunt with Liverpool’s Roger Hunt

England – Sir Alf Ramsey and preparations for 1970 World Cup Finals

Everton – Club feature

Estudiantes – World Club Champions

Fulham – Malcolm Macdonald

Japan – National feature

Liverpool – Roger Hunt with Coventry City’s Ernie Hunt

Tranmere Rovers – Jim Cumbes and a club feature

Other features included; If You Were The Referee on the Laws of the Game; Is The Championship Now A Closed Shop? on the competitiveness of the First Division; Kitting Out A Team on the details of how clubs supply boots and strips to their players; Behind The Scenes In Just About Anywhere on how clubs are run; This Is The Football League on what went on at the Head office of English football; Goals We All Love on some top goals and goalscorers; and The Numbers Game on the history of how the numbering system developed for players. 

The photos included this action shot of West Ham United’s Martin Peters the England 1966 World Cup star;

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10. 1970

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The front cover showed an action photo from a Leeds United match with Billy Bremner attempting to obtain the ball.

The back cover showed showed a line drawing of players against a green background;

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This edition looked back at the 1969/70 season.

There was good Leeds United content with photos of various players including the front cover photo above;

Other club / player features included;

A.C. Milan – World Club Champions

Birmingham City – Tony Hateley

Burnley – Michael Docherty

Chelsea – Ian Hutchinson

Everton – Merseyside feature

Liverpool – Merseyside feature

Manchester United – Joe Armstrong

Manchester United – Fan Dympna Holland

Stoke City – Gordon Banks

West Bromwich Albion –

Wolves – Derek Dougan

Other features included;  Europe’s Top Five on the top stars;  The Goal Getters on the top scorersFrom 2-3-5 To 4-4-2 on tactical formations; The Grounds Of Tomorrow on how the future might see more astroturf pitches; The Rewards Are Rich For The Talent on the level of player wages; When Will The North East Blaze Again? on the level of football in the North East; Youngsters? We’ve Got Dozens Of Them shown in photos and pen pictures on some of the top young players; A Businessman On and Off The Field on the off field activities of top players; The Economies Of Transfers on the cost of players; and Will The Common Market Make A Difference? on the impact of Britain’s involvement in Europe.

The photos included this action shot of Chelsea’s Alan Hudson;

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11. 1972

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The front cover showed an action photo from an Everton v. Manchester United match where it looks like the Toffees’ Alan Ball has just scored.

The back cover showed showed a line drawing of a player against a red background;

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This edition looked back at the 1970/71 season.

There was good Liverpool content in a feature called Liverpool Rejuvenated.

Other club / player features included;

Arnhem – City feature

Brazil – National feature

Burnley – Club feature

Cambridge United – Newcomers to the Football League

Cardiff City – Brian Clark

Celtic – Club feature

Hull City – Bill Baxter

Leeds United – Don Revie

Luton Town – Malcolm MacDonald

Middlesbrough – John Hicton

Tottenham Hotspur – Steve Perryman

Other features included; Europe’s Top Five on the top stars; European Championship 1970-2 on coverage of the tournament;  Uphill For The Little Clubs on how clubs below the top tier survive; Sir Football on F.I.F.A. President Sir Stanley Rous; and The World Cup 1974 on the upcoming finals in West Germany.

The photos included this shot of West Ham United’s Bobby Moore, at that time, the England captain and 1966 World Cup winner;

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12. 1973

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The front cover showed an action photo with Manchester United’s Denis Law attempting a header.

The back cover showed showed a line drawing of players against a blue background;

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This edition looked back at the 1971/72 season.

There was good Liverpool content again with a 7 page feature ‘Liverpool rejuvenated’ and a feature on Bob Paisley.

Other club / player features included;

Arsenal – Alan Ball

Chelsea – Peter Houseman

Coventry City – Club feature

Derby County – Alan Hinton

Manchester City – Colin Bell

Manchester United – Frank O’Farrell 

Sheffield United – Club feature

Stoke City – 1972 League Cup winners

Other features included; Discipline 1971 Style on the changes in the Laws of the Game in the 1971/72 season;  The End Of The Fairs Cup on the changes in one of the European club competitions;  Tacklers They All Fear on what used to be called the hard men of the game;  A Blueprint For The Future on suggestions for possible changes in the divisions of the football league; What It’s Like To Be Injured on the impact of time out for players; European Championship 1970-2 on coverage of the tournament; The World Cup 1974 on the upcoming finals; The San Francisco Scots on successful club in the United States; and Your Boots And Your Kit…Take Care Of Them some advice on how to look after your football equipment.

The photos included this action shot of Liverpool’s Tommy Smith;

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World Cup annuals

Kenneth Wolstenholme also edited 3 other books published by World Distributors Limited, all about the World Cup.

The 1966  and 1970 editions of these books used the title Boys’ Book although it was Evans Brothers and not World Distributors Limited who published the series of annuals, The Boys’ Book of Soccer (see elsewhere in the football annuals section of the site for The first of its kind ever published and still the best – A brief guide to The Boys Book of Soccer).

So these annuals are a small set in their own right not really being part of the Wolstenholme Book of Soccer series nor the Boys’ Book of Soccer series.

 

1.1966

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The front cover showed a colour line drawing of an action scene from a Brazil v. England match.

The back cover showed a repeat of the annual’s title split by a football;

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This edition looked back at the 1966 World Cup finals which famously, England won, beating West Germany 4-2 in the final at Wembley.

Not surprisingly, bearing in mind that the finals were held in England and that England won the tournament, there is good content on the team including a double page team photo of the squad whilst in training printed on both inside front and inside back cover pages.

The annual looks at various aspects of the tournament from the qualifying tournament through to the finals.

There are features on all the participating teams and players with many excellent action photos.

The photos included this shot of West Ham United and England’s Geoff Hurst after scoring in the Quarter-Final against Argentina (with Liverpool’s Roger Hunt in the background);

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2. 1970 Preview

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The front cover showed photo action from the 1966 World Cup Final including the famous image of Bobby Moore held high by his England team mates after beating West Germany 4-2.

The back cover showed a line drawing image of a ball with the name of the finals inside the ball;

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This edition previewed the 1970 World Cup finals to be held in Mexico.

The annual also provided an interesting look back at the history of the World Cup allocating a chapter to each finals in the first part of the book.

In the later chapters, the book looked at the prospects of the participating teams dividing them up into their regions.

The photos included this shot of Benfica and Portugal’s Eusebio;

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3. 1970

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The front cover (above) and back cover (below) showed a colour line drawing of action;

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This edition looked back at the 1970 World Cup finals which West Germany won beating Italy 4-1 in the final in Mexico City.

The annual looks at various aspects of the tournament from the qualifying tournament through to the finals.

There are features on all the participating teams and players with many excellent action photos.

The photos included this shot of Brazil’s Carlos Alberto holding the trophy aloft after Brazil had beaten Italy 4-1 in the final;

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Collecting, values and prices

As with many of the boys’ annuals of the period, most of the Kenneth Wolstenholme Book of World Soccer annuals are reasonably easy to find on the usual sites for a few pounds.

Collectors can watch out for the sort of faults that can be found on the annuals of this era with laminated covers;

  • split spines especially the spine ends
  • scratches, indentations and marks to the covers
  • split front and / or back hinges inside the annual itself
  • annotations from well wishing family members to recipients of the annuals when given as Christmas and / or birthday gifts usually written on the inside front cover pages or the front end pages
  • writing inside the books, often noting player names beneath photos
  • missing pages or photos often cut out to put in separate scrap books or on bedroom walls
  • age fading to the whiteness of the inside pages, especially the borders
  • orange foxing spots and also signs of damp / water damage

As with all annuals, if collectors find ones in very good condition with an absence of the faults listed above, I’d recommend snapping them up, even if that means paying a little bit more.

 

Final word

Kenneth Wolstenholme’s Book of World Soccer had a reasonably long life by the standards of boys’ football annuals and the annuals were a lovely snapshot of their time.

The annuals spanned the period from the 1960’s into the 1970’s as the game adopted lighter balls, more modern kit, low cut boots, floodlit grounds, higher rewards for players and the establishment of the top international competitions at both club and country levels.

Whilst it would have been nice to see an edition which reported on the 1966 World Cup Finals held in England, this was not to be. The date of the finals in July 1966 was in some ways, too late for the annuals covering the season just gone but too early for the annuals of the following year. Nontheless, the annuals which made up the series had plenty of good coverage of the England team, in both features and photos and a number of articles on the planning for the 1966 World Cup Finals as they approached.

The annuals were a nice mix of club / player content combined with analysis of various aspects of the game as it evolved.

Finally, the annuals are a good reminder of a man who helped to craft TV football coverage and will forever be remembered for his role in commentating on England’s finest football hour.

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