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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 November, 2003, 14:19 GMT
History in the making
By John May

'In That Number' chronicles Saints' history
A big book in every sense

When a book has been a total of 20 man-years in the making it had better be impressive.

'In That Number', a post-war chronicle of Southampton, has occupied the last decade in the lives of co-authors Duncan Holley and Gary Chalk.

During that time, it was not so much a labour of love, as more of an obsession for the official historians of the Saints.

The pair have produced several previous meticulously and patiently researched histories.

But 'In That Number' transports the mere club history to a new dimension.

Its 640 pages features thumb-nail match reports of each of the 2,376 League games played by Saints from 1946 to the end of the 2002-03 season.

In a separate section every one of the 178 FA Cup ties played since the war has a more comprehensive match report, while the club's League Cup matches, European exploits and other cup competitions are not forgotten.

Saints fans at the 2003 FA Cup final
Saints big day out at Cardiff is the book's climax

Every player who has played for Saints since the war is faithfully recorded.

Strictly for the anoraks, another section records every reserve team line-up, with the sort of research that would unearth the Holy Grail and Blackbeard the Pirate's treasure if put to other use.

"The hardest thing was finding all the pictures and I've built up a fairly extensive collection of my own," said Holley.

"A lot of the older ones are on photographic glass or metal plates and you realise that you are responsible for some quite priceless pieces of football history and culture."

Holley has spent the last decade juggling his job as an airline steward, the demands of a young family, and producing his magnus opus with Chalk.

"I'm lucky in having a job that gives me a fair amount of spare time - and a very understanding wife," he said.

While it is a weighty tome, 'In That Number' is not weighed down by gravitas.

It is a big book in every sense of the word, not just full of facts but enlivened and illuminated with anecdote.

It is written with a lively passion you would expect from one person whose father moved the family so they could live in the same road as the old Dell, and another who bought a turnstile from the old ground at an auction.

Of course, it is a must-have for Southampton fans, but it is also a significant work of football reference in its own right.

The danger for other chroniclers is that 'In That Number' sets the yardstick by which every other club history will now be judged.

'In That Number' A post-war chronicle of Southampton FC, by Duncan Holley and Gary Chalk, price 35, published by Hagiology publishing.

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