When Tony Book lifted the FA Cup in 1969, it was perhaps one of the competition’s most magical moments.
A fairytale ending to a journey that had begun just a few years before when Book, a bricklayer by trade, had accepted he would never progress beyond the boundaries of non-league football where he’d earned a solid reputation as captain of Bath City.
But Malcolm Allison had other ideas.
Allison cut his teeth with Bath between 1960 and 1962 during which time Book was his captain. When the young coach took on the position of coach for Toronto City, he took Book along with him for the summer.
Allison was offered the Plymouth Argyle job towards the end of the Canadian season and he made Book his first signing at a cost of £1,500 – convincing him to doctor his birth certificate to claim he was 28 as he believed the board would never sanction the fee for a 30 year-old!
Book continued to flourish at Home Park, as did Allison, who was the first man Joe Mercer wanted as his assistant after accepting the Manchester City job
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Again, Allison turned to his trusted skipper and convinced the City board to pay £17,500 for his services, this despite the fact he would be 32 in a matter of days. Mercer trusted Big Mal’s judgement and Book joined City in July 1966.
A year later he was named as captain following Johnny Crossan’s departure and led the Blues to the Division One title, playing in every league game during a fantastic season for the Club.
For Book, it must have been hard to absorb but he clearly relished every minute of the Indian summer end to his career – but there was much more to come.
Though he suffered a snapped Achilles and missed the first five months of the 1968/69 campaign, he returned in time for the FA Cup fourth round tie with Newcastle United and for every round including the final itself against Leicester City.
Book, by now nicknamed ‘Skip’, led from the front in the final with his work-rate and dedication infectious – if a man nearly 35 years of age could put the effort in from start to finish, everyone else had to follow suit and City were good value for the 1-0 win over the Foxes.
Book followed in the illustrious footsteps of Sam Cowan and Roy Paul when he held the FA Cup aloft and completed a boyhood dream when he could have just as easily been building a garden wall back in Bath!
Skip was crowned joint Footballer of the Year to crown an amazing year of his life and would later lift the League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup before becoming the Blues’ manager in 1974.
He remains, with four major trophies, the most successful City skipper to date.