Cox Bank Publishing’s mission is very much to get people who don’t think of themselves as writers to write; and people who don’t think of themselves as active or sporty to change their perception, and try out a new activity or exercise more (and then write about it!). For most of our authors, this means a short story or poem about their experiences, with the occasional longer contribution – two of our favourites are Nicola Lingley-Heath’s account of her epic Potters ‘Arf, and Matt Wilcox’s tale of an equally testing but very different challenge on a bike: see them both here.
But every so often we come across an individual who has a bigger story to tell – either a really substantial piece of writing about a big challenge they’ve undertaken, or something more autobiographical about their life in sport. Fitting very much into this latter category is Roger Horwood, a seventy-five-year-old life-long Stoke City fan who we met at the start of this year at the Sir Stanley Matthews Coaching Foundation gala dinner.
Roger is a mine of stories about his memories and experiences of supporting Stoke across seven decades, and over the course of the spring and early summer he emailed us dozens of short accounts of the matches he had attended and the personalities he had watched on the pitch. Not only football, but cricket too, since Roger is a great supporter of that game across the Three Counties (local parlance for North Staffordshire, South Cheshire and North Shropshire). We selected our favourite football memories from Roger and the result is our first single author book: Just a Face in the Crowd.
Roger’s book – as with all our books – is graced with cover artwork courtesy of Foley Creative – and as you might be able to see from the cover image below, we’ve tried to capture the essence of a football stand. But a crowd sprinkled with some of Roger’s heroes: Sir Stan, Denis Smith, Terry Conroy, Gordon Banks, George Best, Tony Waddington and more.
With Just a Face in the Crowd being Roger’s first book – and our first single-author book – we put on a special book launch in September to celebrate the event. The 25th September was the official publication date and so, as befits a book celebrating Stoke City, we hired the Gordon Banks Suite at the bet365 stadium and invited a small but select group including Roger’s friends and family; representatives of the Sir Stanley Matthews Coaching Foundation (for whom Roger is an ambassador); and through the good services of Angela Smith (chair of the Stoke City Supporters Council), any Stoke old boys who wanted to share memories of matches with Roger.
And what a turn out. Along with Roger’s friends and family, guests included Jean and Bob Gough (Sir Stan’s daughter and son-in-law); Angela Smith; stadium announcer and BBC Radio Stoke presenter Nigel Johnson; and local legends Denis Smith (Stoke City 1968-1982); Terry Conroy (Stoke City 1967-1979)) and John Ruggerio (1974-1977). Plus Gaz Williams and Keith Martin of Foley Pottery, good friends of Cox Bank Publishing and suppliers of our cover artwork. Roger was over the moon to meet his heroes and gave a very moving speech about the background to the book, overcome at times by some of the memories.
Just a Face in the Crowd can be ordered at any good bookshop and is available at local outlets including Waterstones in Hanley, Stoke City FC’s main store, the News Kiosk in Trentham Shopping Village, Nantwich Bookshop and H&H Spalding Books in Barton-under-Needwood. It’s also available on Amazon or order direct from us here.