Supersub by David Fairclough

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David Fairclough's autography is brand new - and I can't wait to read it. I will get a copy tonight at an event with players from the 1965 team who won us the FA cup final for the first time, and David will be there signing his brand new book about his life. I highly recommend it already, because a man I trust, Liverpool FC oracle Christopher Wood does so - here is his review of David Fairclough's book written together with LFC TV journalist Mark Platt:

Book review by Christopher Wood

Superb By David Fairclough with Mark Platt

Published by deCoubertin Books Limited

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David Fairclough was a member (and an important member) of the Liverpool squad which dominated the domestic and European game in the late-1970s and early-1980s. Although the title of this most interesting autobiography is perhaps not surprising, it is quite misleading to suggest that David was only influential when he appeared as a substitute. He started in far more matches for Liverpool (92) than he did when coming on as a substitute (62).

Yes, he did have a happy knack of being able to score when he came off the bench but his overall statistics tell a different story there too. Fifty-five goals from one hundred and fifty-four first-team matches for Liverpool gives an average of roughly one goal every three matches. But when you divide the number of goals he scored into the number of minutes he was actually on the pitch his goals-per-game ratio comes down to just under one in every two matches. So these statistics prove that here was a man who could influence the outcome of a football match whether he was in the starting eleven or not.

Calling the opening chapter Twelfth Man is both an admission and an acknowledgment that the author recognises the public’s perception about the Liverpool segment of his playing career. But for the player who was sitting on the bench at a time when only one substitute was allowed in domestic matches it could be a lonely and frustrating time. You can be pleased for your team-mates if the team wins but it is hard to share in their happiness if you haven’t been any part of that win.

David did not get completely focused on a match from the bench, not until he got the nod to get warmed up as a prelude to coming on. This explains why he might have given supporters the impression that he looked a little “distant”. But he was as desperate to play as any other Number Twelve would have been. Whilst not actually wanting a team-mate to be injured in an incident that might give him his chance, he found it very hard to enjoy a victory gained without his input because “if I had played no part, it meant nothing to me”. Even three decades and more later there is still a kind of simmering resentment, bitterness if you like, that Bob Paisley did not use him “in the best possible way”.

One occasion when his manager did most definitely use him in the right way came on a Spring evening at Anfield in 1977; and it led to the incident which has possibly become as much of a curse as a blessing in that no day goes by without the subject being brought up in his presence. With a quarter of an hour remaining in a match in which the home team needed another goal to advance to the semi-final of the European Cup, Bob Paisley took off a John Toshack who was struggling with an Achilles injury and replaced him with a David Fairclough who was “as fit as a flea”.

Ten minutes after his introduction David brushed off the attentions of Saint-Etienne defender Christian Lopez and placed the ball calmly into the Kop goal. Anfield was shaken to its very foundations in a frenzy of celebratory noise and a young man who had left his teenage days behind only weeks before secured in that moment his place in the club’s annals of history and the legendary status that such a dramatic and iconic goal would inevitably bring.

Yet David can wonder if that would still be the case if Liverpool had not gone on to reach the final and win it. That they did brought him one of the biggest disappointments of his professional career, that he would not play any part in the final and nor had he done in a different final at Wembley four days earlier. Much of that disappointment was eradicated when he played in nearly 70% of his club’s league and cup matches the following season which including starting and finishing the match on the evening at Wembley when Liverpool became the first English club to retain the European Champions’ trophy.

It wasn’t the last time David would be a Wembley winner with Liverpool. One of his final appearances came on the day Liverpool won the Football League Cup for the third year running although this time Fairclough had to be content with a place on the bench, from where he replaced Craig Johnston a few minutes from the end of regulation time. So he had another cup winners’ medal to add to a collection which already included three for winning the First Division championship plus the rare achievement of picking up a hat-trick of European winners’ medals in three successive seasons (1976, 1977 and 1978).

Although David will be most remembered for what he achieved as a Liverpool player he was a bit of a footballing nomad in that he represented eight different clubs in four different countries. As the man himself admits this wanderlust meant that he had “been placed in many testing situations, faced numerous challenges and had to overcome countless obstacles”. 

Although he experienced “the highest of highs and the lowest of lows” some of his greatest challenges came years after he had ceased to have an active role in the game. But even in its darkest moments the human spirit can find strength and courage it did not know it possessed as it tries to cope with the present and plan the future. David Fairclough found that strength and courage. He is a better man for having done so and readers of this book will be better people too for having been allowed the privilege of reading how he did it.

All human beings have hopes and dreams. Some come true and some do not. But, as David tells us, “it is only when bad things happen in life that we fully appreciate just how precious it really is”.

This is a mostly happy book in that it records concisely and accurately a fine playing-career and also lifts the lid on some things that were not previously widely known. But there is sadness here too which the reader will understand and empathise with as the facts become known.

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David Fairclough and Christopher Wood. 

Thank you Christopher Wood for your book review.