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Harry Potts - Margaret's Story by Dave Thomas

Release date: 02nd January, 2007
Publisher: Sports Books Ltd

List Price: £17.99
Our Price: £11.87
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One of the more bizarre sideshows of last year's World Cup finals was the performance in Baden Baden of the self-styled "Wags". The antics of the wives and girlfriends of the England football team became a major talking point and many commentators believed they contributed significantly to the paucity of England's performance in the finals.

Fortunately for us all, neither Colleen McCullough, Alex Curran or Cheryl Cole decided to follow the examples of their other halves and put their stories into print. Victoria Beckham did follow up her autobiography, 'Learning to Fly', which, curiously, she admitted to never having read, with a fashion book. But, thankfully, there wasn't the assault on the literary senses that their partners performed.

Altogether in a different league, as both a "Wag" and an autobiographer, is Margaret Potts. As a nurse in the freezing winter of 1947 Margaret Hollinrake was offered a lift on the Burnley football team coach whilst waiting for a bus in Manchester. She caught the eye of the star player of that Burnley team, Harry Potts, and within a year they were married. Margaret Hollinrake had become a footballer's wife.

Harry Potts had not long been demobbed from the army when he met Margaret. Born in the North East, he joined Burnley just before the outbreak of hostilities and was tipped to make a major impact in the football world. However, like many of his generation, he lost six years of his prime and, although he performed with distinction for Burnley then Everton after the war, his career never reached the heights that longevity would have given it.

But Harry Potts would make his name in football in other ways than on the pitch itself. He was a shrewd and clever footballer, marked out from early on as management material, particularly by the young Bob Lord, then gradually moving towards control of Burnley FC.

Potts eventually became Burnley's most successful manager, performing the almost impossible feat of leading the club to the First Division championship in 1960 and, two years later, coming within a whisker of following Tottenham Hotspur to the Double. His efficient and entertaining team dazzled during the 1960s and by the end of the decade he had built another team. All this in a town with a population of just 70,000.

All the time, at his side, supporting, cajoling, home-making, meeting and greeting was the charming and effervescent Margaret and it is her side of the story that makes this a truly remarkable book. Her astute observations on football and footballers and post-war England, on the ups and downs of life, make for an engaging and triumphant book.

Margaret's relationship with Harry's mother, all too reminiscent of the famous quotation that there were "three people in the marriage", makes for stunning background. Her family doctor describes Mam Potts's condition as "motherinlawitis" and that she would soon get over it. "She never did," laments Margaret. Mam Potts lived until she was 95 and much of her sniping at Margaret that she wasn't good enough for Harry is at the heart of this enthralling read.

Sadly, Harry Potts died of Parkinson's Disease in 1996 after a long illness, graphically described by Margaret. He had made Burnley and its football club a household name. Margaret is now a sprightly octogenarian still with the same zest for life that she showed as a new footballer's wife in those immediate post war years. Today's Wags could learn a lot from her.

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