As the title suggests, the concept of this book is relatively straightforward. The author chooses fifty of the most memorable and important Featherstone games, and relates the story of the game itself and its context within the club’s season and overall history. It’s a winning formula with plenty of interest for fans of all ages. For the reader, this type of book is always divided into two distinct parts; firstly, the games that we remember through having been there, and secondly those from earlier times which can be interesting and informative.
The beauty of a book like this is the inevitable debate that is provoked by the author’s choices of what to include and what to leave out. With more than 3,000 Featherstone matches to choose from, Bailey faced an unenviable task if he wanted to please everybody. Some of the selections are inarguable, and of course all our major finals are covered in detail, the Yorkshire Cup triumphs, the Challenge Cup finals and semi-finals, the Premiership finals, etc. Big games against Australia are also obvious inclusions. There are also a sprinkling of regular league fixtures too.
So, from which eras are the 50 greatest games of Featherstone Rovers? There are five games from the 1920s, just three from the 1930s and two from the 1940s. Given the paucity of information available to write match reports and provide illustrations on those eras, the lack of games from that age is not surprising. Rovers also generally had a very poor team from the period 1932 to 1950. From the fifties there are eleven matches and the sixties is the most popular decade with 14 games. Just eight games from the seventies is surprising, given that in terms of silverware and league positions it was our most successful decade. From the eighties there are just four matches and from the 1990s three games which reflects the author’s lack of contact with the club during recent decades, because having supported the club during those twenty years, I would certainly say there were a lot more than seven ‘great’ matches!
For an afternoon wallowing nostalgically in the rich history of our club this book is perfect, and some of the old black and white photographs provide the ideal compliment to the well researched and well written text. My favourite is a wonderful snap of jubilant fans invading the snow bound pitch after the final whistle of an epic victory over St. Helens in 1958.