Monday, January 14, 2013

It's hard not to think of East Fife's past in this season of anniversaries.

When you want to do some research or enjoy some reading about yesteryear, your number one stop should always be Jim Corstorphine's excellent history of the first hundred years of East Fife Football Club, "On That Windswept Plain", which was brought out for the Club's centenary in 2003.

That book was not the first to document the Fife's long and distinguished history though. That honour belongs to a 48 page book that was published in 1948 and which covers the wonderful, and sometimes testing, early years of the Club.

"Through The Years With East Fife FC" was written by William Phenix Junior and "issued under the auspices of East Fife Football Club" to tell the story of the Fife "in word and picture".

I don't know how many were originally published but it has been a long sought after collector's piece for the avid East Fife fan and one which doesn't appear all that often for fans to buy on ebay or elsewhere. It should be a must have for all Fife collectors though.

You're probably not going to uncover too many new or unknown snippets of information in the book, as a lot is also covered in Jim's book and elsewhere, that's not what makes it a magical must have.

Simply flicking through it and looking at the photos and adverts, and reading the style of writing, is what does it. You realise that you are holding in your hand a segment of history from a time when East Fife were amongst the best in Scotland and a force to fear.

You can pretend you're a Fife fan from the time, reliving the glories you've just seen with your own eyes, that now seem so long ago to us and we can only dream of ever repeating. It's hard not to get misty-eyed and nostalgic.

The tale of East Fife's early history is documented in short snippets under headings such as "The Kick Off", "All-Conquering East Fife", "Nearer - and Nearer - and Nearer", "Excelsior!", "Nightmare Interlude", "A-Dreaming, Promotion, A-Dreaming Of Thee", and many more.

The brevity of it all sees so many things quickly covered or just glossed over, but inside you find tales from the days in the Northern League, the Central League and of course the Scottish Cup win in 1938 and the first League Cup win in 1947.

We learn of the history and early days and how in season 1911-12 East Fife "shed their funereal garb of almost all black and donned the present-day famous strip of black and gold". The writer then pondered whether "the injection of a gold streak into the black was a symbolic expression of the hopes for a golden era in both playing and paying sense". The current Board should take note.

I love looking through old football books, programmes and magazines in general, but especially for the photos. There's 12 of them in "Through The Years", most, if not all of them, will be familiar to the faithful, but even so, looking at them so crystal clear just makes them seem anew.

For example, the first ever (?) team photo of East Fife from 1903 is well known, but in this book, for the first time that I recall, you can actually see people sitting on the hill behind them. The original Bayview mound! It's the little things in life!

Pride of place in the centre pages is reserved for a photo of "The Men Behind The Scenes" - the then Board, including the legendary Chairman John McArthur, who tragically died a year later at the League Cup semi final win over Rangers.

Nearly half of the book is taken up by adverts, but even these capture the times. There's a great on the inside back cover for Manfield-Hotspurs boots with the tagline "1948 Cup Finalists - Once again the Cup was won in Manfield-Hotspurs".

And of course we all know who won Cups wearing them.

In the acknowledgements section near the end, William Phenix noted that he expected "criticism of what is NOT in these pages may well turn out to be a more potential goal-scoring attack than criticism of what IS there".

We'll leave you with the introductory paragraph from this final section of the book to sum it all up:

"Sclimmin' ower and scramblin' a'low the fence at Bayview Park to see East Fife when my 'Saturday penny' had been already spent, I have ripped holes in my breeks. In later days I have ripped along many a road and rail to a far-off away game. I am, unashamedly, a dyed-in-the-black-and-gold football fan. Collecting material for and writing this history of East Fife, therefore, has been a fascinating ploy for me".

And it's also a fascinating, if all too short, read.

If you ever get the chance to add it to your collection, then you really should.

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