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Last Updated: Friday, 12 November, 2004, 15:10 GMT
Gosh, it's Tosh, manager and poet
Tom Bourton
Tom Bourton
BBC Wales news website

Gosh it's Tosh (Duckworth)
The book, with foreword by Kevin Keegan, was published in 1976
Every Welsh football fan wants to see the national team play with poetic style under new manager John Toshack.

But will the players ever match the lyrical majesty of their new boss on the printed page?

Toshack was a great player for Liverpool and Wales and has managed some of Europe's leading clubs.

But he also forged an unusual reputation as a sporting poet, climaxing in a book revelling in the classic title Gosh it's Tosh.

But Tony Curtis, a professor of poetry, recommended that Toshack should not give up the day job.

"I hope he is a better manager than poet," he said.

"But you have got to applaud him - in a very macho lifestyle, he has taken the time to write something."

The players will be apprehensive,
But Liverpool! We won't play defensive

Barcelona, Here We Come

As a player, Cardiff-born Toshack made his name alongside Kevin Keegan during Liverpool's golden era.

As a manager, his reputation was made first at Swansea, who he took from the old Fourth Division to the First, followed by spells at European giants Real Madrid, Besiktas, and Deportivo La Coruna.

But as a poet, the pinnacle came in 1976.

It was a mighty season for Toshack, with Liverpool scooping domestic and European titles, and the Welsh national side reaching the last eight of the European Nations Cup.

He was on such a high that making the leap from sportsman to artist clearly held no fears for him.

Partly inspired by Muhammed Ali, and with a foreword by Kevin Keegan, Gosh it's Tosh is not the easiest book to find - Cardiff's central library has just one reference copy, tucked away on the third floor in its local studies section.

John Toshack as Real Madrid manager in 1999
John Toshack as Real Madrid manager in 1999

In the introduction, Toshack writes that the poems are "in the main, meant to be light hearted".

It starts with a Wales-England clash, which he starts...

"Wales come out in brand new kit
But I don't play cos' I'm not fit."

Mixed up with a page-turning blend of pictures and prose, the verses wax lyrical on several key games, including the pre-match nerves of an away tie in Spain, in "Barcelona Here we Come".

"The players will be apprehensive,
But Liverpool! We won't play defensive"

This is followed by the triumphant mid-air jottings of "Return from Spain".

"We're coming in to land at Speke,
My legs are feeling very weak.
We've just returned from Barcelona,
And now I'm going for a sauna."

Other poems include one in honour of his hero, John Charles, which he read at the legendary's striker's funeral earlier this year.

And Welsh fixtures in the European Nations Cup feature in the works "Hungary v Wales" and "Nightmare at Ninian".

Gosh It's Tosh t-shirts are still worn with pride

But Toshack does not just restrict himself to footballing matters - the success of Wales' Grand Slam winning side also inspired him to write two poems, including a tribute to Mervyn Davies.

"Pick of the Lions, that was Merv,
I've even seen him jink and swerve."

Entertaining they may be, but Prof Curtis, from the University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd, classed Toshack as "an enthusiastic amateur rhymester" rather than a serious bard.

Mr Curtis was also interested to know if Toshack was still writing now, and even offered his professional assistance if the new manager wanted a break from international duty.

"If he wanted to develop poetry rather than verse, we would be happy to see him at the university," he said.

Print run?

But although Gosh it's Tosh may be difficult to find now, Toshack's return to football's front-line might have an unlikely side-effect.

Terry Venables (wrote a novel, TV drama)
Dean Holdsworth (children's drama)
Pele (novel)
Jimmy Greaves (novels)
Steve Bruce (novels)

Publisher Duckworth said it might consider reprinting the volume if there were commercial possibilities.

And with Christmas just around the corner, which football fan wouldn't want to find that in their stocking?

But while the worlds of football and poetry do not oft collide, despite Eric Cantona's best efforts, Toshack is not the only example kicking around Welsh football.

On Saturday, Wrexham are facing Hayes in the first round of the FA Cup.

Nothing poetic there, you might think, until you realise that Hayes' manager Willy Wordsworth is a direct descendant of his namesake, the former poet laureate William Wordsworth.

You couldn't make it up!

Toshack's tribute to Charles
01 Mar 04 |  Football
In their own write
16 Apr 03 |  SOL
Football's first Chant Laureate
11 May 04 |  London


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