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...John Ludden speaks to Pride Of Manchester

John Ludden takes us to the greatest football matches ever played
(17 Feb 2002)
John Ludden

Football author, John Ludden, lives in Chadderton, Manchester, and is an avid Manchester United fan. We caught up with him to discuss his superb new book, "Fields Of Fire - The Greatest Football Matches Ever". [buy the book]

John Ludden - Fields Of Fire

Where did the idea come from for "Fields Of Fire - The Greatest Football Matches Ever"?

"I have always loved reading about the football greats. The matches and players, Puskas, di Stefano, Eusebio, Pele, Maradona. In my possession I probably have God knows how many football books! But I have never seen one that took the reader on a footballing journey through the decades, taking in the matches and the events surrounding them. So I thought 'why not give it a go?' After endless scribblings at work, bus stops, weekends. I sent the finished article off to Harper Collins, Sadly they declined to take it, But after sending it elsewhere Mainstream's managing director, Bill Campbell, rang me at work one day. And said they were prepared to publish it. To say I was ecstatic would be an understatement! Many a Red Stripe was downed in the Ludden household that evening in celebration."


This is your first book. How did it feel when it finally hit the shops and got so many good reviews?
John  Ludden with wife Christine

"Weird to be quite honest, I took the day off work and dragged my wife Christine round Manchester, checking out all the bookshops and seeing it on the shelves. Sad or What? In The Printworks Christine told them I was the author and they insisted I signed a few copies. That was nice. As for the reviews, It's great when people say they have enjoyed the book. It is not an ego thing, its just that I desperately wanted others to read about the games and the characters. And enjoy the stories as much as I enjoyed writing them. Not all the reviews have been favourable. The criticism stemmed wholly from the choice of matches. My original title was "Fields of Fire: A Blazing Journey Through World Football". Mainstream changed that to ''The Greatest Matches Ever.'' thus loading the bullets that flew in my direction. But what helped me was I placed my web site at the beginning of the book. Thus those who risked buying it could write their comments on the Amazon review section, or sign my guest book. Happily 99 percent have been really positive and indeed beyond my expectations. Up until now. [see John's website]

  Fields Of fire  

So how did you choose the 18 matches in "Fields Of Fire"?

"There was originally 36 matches in the finished manuscript. Unfortunately, for me anyway this had to be cut down to 18, and 90,000 words. Therefore literally cutting it in half. That was hard to do, as I had lived and breathed these games for two years. The final choice had to be one which stretched the chapters through the decades. Starting with Kiev in 1942, and finishing with United in Barcelona on a glorious May evening three years ago. However it had to be done, as I was very politely informed by my publishers, ''This is not bloody Harry Potter or War and Peace, it is only a bloody football book ! .Fair point."


Which games would you have liked to include but could not find space for?
John Ludden

"France v West Germany: the 1982 World Cup Semi Final. It finished 3-3 after extra time and is probably the best game I have ever seen. I remember feeling so sorry for the French, as throughout the match they had played the Germans off the park. But as ever they hung on and finally went through on penalties. I had actually written a chapter on this entitled ''Duel in Seville.'' Sadly for me I simply could not fit it in. Another game was the 1968 European Cup Final between United and Benfica. Entitled 'Beyond Munich' this was another put on the back burner. As was the Republic of Ireland v Italy in the 1994 World Cup, called 'Fairytale in New York'.' Both written but left on the sidelines. A bit like Dwight Yorke!"

  Honest John  

How come there are no Scouse games in the book?

"Next question! Seriously Liverpool v Borrussia in 1977 was under consideration, but instead I went with Argentina v Peru in the 1978 World Cup. Next question..."


You've got three Manchester United games listed in the book. Did you feel under any pressure to leave some of these out?
Fields Of fire

"Not really, the three games featured, 'Snowflakes in the Sun': United v Real Madrid 1957, 'A Solid Gold Watch', United v Red Star Belgrade, and 'Dancing With Tears in Red Eyes', United v Bayern, 99, all were integral in the thread which I hoped would link all the games together through the decades. United against Real Madrid introduces Alfredo di Stefano, whereas the match against Red Star is basically the story of the Munich air crash. If told slightly from a different angle. And finally what better way to end than United v Bayern in 1999! Unless of course you happen to be German. Or indeed a scouser. I was never under pressure to leave any games out, actually the last 18 was totally my choice. I am the culprit"


[click here to read the rest of our interview with John Ludden]

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