Category Archives: Review


In 2019 when Matt Tiller and I started the Jack Leslie Campaign, neither of us realised what a journey we were embarking on, or where it would end, and neither of us thought at that point of writing the book that Matt has recently completed, and published this week (available here)

It was in 2019 that we both first heard a sketchy outline of Jack’s story- a Plymouth Argyle legend (ok that bit we did know, the stats were easy to find- 137 goals in 400 games) but who also had been the first black footballer selected to play for England, but then denied his opportunity because he was black. 

We were outraged- both at the injustice, but also that the story had been forgotten about.

Our original aim was a simple one: to raise enough money to build a statue of Jack Leslie at Plymouth Argyle’s football stadium, Home Park.

To do that, we had to start telling Jack’s story, to generate interest and support.

We started with a website, and some social media

We wrote about Jack, and we talked about him a lot, including in schools where we realised that we could use jack’s story in a positive way, to challenge discrimination and prejudice. 

Eventually telling Jack’s story became as important a goal as the statue.

After we launched the Crowdfunder publicly in 2020, we soon learned to tell the story to media outlets -newspapers, radio interviews, TV. 

In each case, in order to tell Jack’s story effectively, we had to be confident in it’s accuracy. We had to research it, learn it, challenge it. But information was scant, and fragmented. A bit on PASOTI here, a hint on Wikipedia there.

Emy Onuora’s otherwise excellent book on black footballers (“Pitch Black, 2015) had no mention of Jack. 

2020’s publication of the excellent  “football’s black pioneers” by David Gleave and Bill Hern, had a chapter on the first black footballer to play at each league club, so Jack (Argyle 1921-1934) featured in the “Plymouth chapter”. 

But researching chapter AND verse on the detail of Jack’s story wasn’t easy- it wasn’t as if there was a book.

if only there was a definitive biography, setting out his incredible story with supporting evidence, verifiable quotes, a clear narrative and a comprehensive index.

There is now!

Matt and I worked hand-in-hand on the Campaign. Together we raised the money, together (with the help of an amazing campaign team) we commissioned a statue, together we persuaded the FA to award Jack’s family an honorary, posthumous England cap.

Neither of us could have done any of that alone. Matt is kind enough to acknowledge the same in his introduction and credits.

But I can take no credit for the creation of the beautifully written Masterpiece that is ‘THE LION WHO NEVER ROARED-JACK LESLIE, THE STAR ROBBED OF ENGLAND GLORY” for that labour of love is entirely the result of Matt’s industry. 

Matt’s degree was in history, he works in journalism and creative arts, he writes and performs with consummate ease, but whilst those talents may make the writing of a book easier for him than for us lesser mortals, those skills alone would not suffice. What was needed -and what Matt undertook as I witnessed from a comfortably safe distance – was graft-the hard slog of research.

Days spent in the British library, poring over microfiche, perusing newspaper archives, tracking down and interviewing people, examining the family photographs and memorabilia, and then writing, re-writing, editing and perfecting. 

The result is a masterpiece.

It may be thought that as his friend and campaign co-founder, I am biased in Matt’s favour to write a positive review. In truth, I was as likely to be his harshest critic, knowing the story so well, wanting it to be given justice. I cannot find fault with this book, I read the first draft in a single sitting, and have re-read the final version with equal admiration and enjoyment. 

Matt has delivered the facts, but more importantly he has written it as a page-turner. This is a living, breathing biography, brilliantly told so that the reader can follow the narrative, understand the issues, the contemporary context, identify with Jack, and I believe inevitably come to like him.

Football biographies are often dull, but not this one, and importantly there is no need to be a football fan or have any interest or knowledge in soccer to find this a cracking read.

Born in 1901 in Canning Town, East London, of mixed race and with the shadow and trauma  of WW1 over-shadowing his teenage years, Jack excelled at all sports.

Playing football for non-league Barking Town, Jack played in Paris before moving  to Plymouth where he lived for 14 years carving out a professional career.

Whilst at Argyle he played against (and beat) Argentina and Uruguay during a historic tour of South America.

He was selected to play for England on merit despite playing for a team in the third division, and  then denied his England cap.

Years later he ended up in the West Ham boot room with England World Cup winners.

This book answers all those stories and many more in a way that is moving (some readers have been moved to tears), but also thanks to the light-touch prose style and humour that is Matt’s trademark, it has just as many laugh-out-loud moments.

It is a serious book, but without ever taking itself too seriously. 

Like Jack’s football, the book zips along, is forceful, effective and ultimately delivers firmly into the back of the net. 

I don’t know what the literary equivalent of a footballer’s cap is, but whatever that may be, Matt deserves one. The Jack Leslie story was a life well-lived, it deserved to be well told. Now, thanks to Matt, it finally has been.


Dear England -theatre review

DEAR ENGLAND- a review (guest blog by Adam Smith)

Gareth Southgate’s turbulent timeline as England manager is dramatically chronicled in ‘Dear England’, the new play which premiered in the National Theatre this summer, and shortly to transfer to the West End. Reaching a semi-final and final in his first two competitive tournaments as manager, Southgate’s England team give the country something it had seemingly lost when it came to international football- belief. His journey through football is recounted beginning with the agony of his playing days, to England manager, to a respected and revered waistcoat-wearing role model. Still suffering from the heartbreak of Euro 96’ where he played and lost against West Germany, Gareth Southgate is determined to galvanise a despondent England side and transform them in every sense of the word, both on and off the pitch. While the old guard amongst the England camp squabble over tactics and personnel, the play covers Southgate’s forward thinking initiatives which focus on the mental side of the game, notably addressing England’s dire penalty shootout record. This represented a challenge not just for England but a personal issue for Southgate, who openly admits that he had never forgiven himself for missing his fateful spot kick almost 30 years ago. 

There is a distinct emphasis on the significance of mental health in the men’s game, which is related to the audience through common experiences and feelings, including fear of failure, self-acceptance and mental resilience. The sports psychologist featured in the play offers ideas on how to combat these issues, an approach which was entirely new to the players although largely de-stigmatised in conversations taking place today; the England team had clearly lacked this type of support prior to Southgate’s arrival. 

The mental struggles of the players are depicted as heightened by the rise of social media, despite Southgate’s best efforts to shield them from criticism and instead promote ideas of togetherness. Again, this is linked to the personal scars he bears from his penalty miss where he suffered from feelings of extreme loneliness and isolation. The play shows the brutal side of the game, the ruthless agenda-setting role of tabloid media, and the taboo nature of many big issues in football, which persist in the modern day yet are still not talked about often enough. These ongoing struggles make for some very sorrowful moments in a play which is also punctuated with light humour to keep audience members from bursting into tears or perhaps losing interest. Ironically, humour is likely one of the few coping mechanisms which some footballers are armed with to deal with the more mentally taxing parts of the professional game, and the adversity and pressure which comes with it.

The play paralleled with the most prominent political stories which have taken place thus far during Southgate’s tenure as manager, in particular the Black Lives Matter movement was a focus. Given the inextricable link between England’s battle against racism and the fallout following England’s Euro 2021 heartache, it was fitting that the play give insight into how Southgate and the squad attempted to deal with online hate, abuse with little support from the establishment. Southgate in the real world is an outspoken individual with a strong moral compass, which the actor and script captured well in ‘Dear England’. 

Overall, I was impressed with the accuracy of the performance. The play is advertised as having included a great deal of data and research, and I am inclined to agree. The core message of the performance is simple but irrefutable- to be kinder, and beyond that the story is still well layered with underlying themes of what it means to compete, what it means to win, and most importantly of all, what it means to be English.

Adam Smith, July 2023

The innovative set design, captured just prior to commencement of play

Arsenal Women 1-0 Man City Women 08/02/23 Match Report by Adam Smith

Arsenal Women have booked their ticket to the Conti Cup final courtesy of a strike from late substitute Stina Blackstenius, sealing victory for the gunners in the semi-final and sinking holders Manchester City who battled valiantly for 120 minutes as the game was forced to extra time. The goal and the win will be seen as well earned by Arsenal who had a larger share of the big chances but failed to make them count after 90 minutes, whilst City were frustrated in the attack and only managed to take control of the game after conceding.

The tie was fiercely fought, with nothing to separate the two teams after a first half of high intensity but precious few chances- star striker Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw failed to spring into action and on numerous occasions Arsenal looked as if they sorely missed the threat of attacking talents Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema (both currently injured).
The second half saw Arsenal begin to gain momentum, receiving constant encouragement from the buoyant North Bank at Boreham Wood. The tide of the game certainly felt as if it was turning in Arsenal’s favour, though statistically there was little to separate the elite WSL sides who shared possession equally and both registered 7 shots on target. Manchester City increasingly relied on counter attacks in their search for a goal, and at the other end Arsenal were left wondering how they had failed to break the deadlock as attacking substitutes squandered chances, in particular a header from Lina Hurtig glanced narrowly wide.
Player of the Match Katie McCabe looked like Arsenal’s best hope of finding the back of the net in normal time, creating chances with dangerous crosses from the left flank and keeping City forward Chloe Kelly quiet all night. McCabe catalysed the crowd whenever enthusiasm dwindled, encapsulating all of the determination and desire required in a cup tie of such high stakes.

McCabe in action

The deciding goal finally arrived in the 93rd minute following a ruthless Arsenal press which won them the ball high up the pitch and kick-started a sweeping move, culminating in a low cross from Hurtig and the decisive strike by Blackstenius. The finish took an obvious deflection on the way in but made no difference to the roaring home fans now certain of victory. The goal finally forced City’s hand, they chased the game for the remainder of extra-time after a fairly conservative period of play perhaps with thoughts of a penalty shootout already playing on minds.
Arsenal Captain Kim Litthe will be very happy with the result having hinted at City’s quality pre-match. She had also touched upon regrets from their most recent WSL fixture away to West Ham, a goalless draw which she felt merited more points after a dominant performance, but went on to add ‘ultimately we didn’t score, that’s what football is’. Today’s game represented a more difficult contest which arguably presented similar problems for the Gunners, except on this occasion they found an eventual solution. Arsenal will search for similar solutions on Saturday morning when the two teams face off again in the WSL, whilst hosts City no doubt have ideas of their own- both teams have ground to make on current leaders Chelsea, who are also likely to face Arsenal in the Conti Cup final assuming they can overpower underdogs West Ham in the remaining semi-final.

Match Report by Adam Smith, trainee journalist and sports writer @adamsmith29uk

Photos by @groundhopperGr1

BOOK REVIEW: Charged -how the police try to suppress protest (Foot/Livingstone)

Title: CHARGED – how the police try to suppress protest

Authors:  Matt foot and Morag Livingstone

Publisher: Verso 

Oppressive States, whether totalitarian or democratic, often resort to oppressive means and draconian laws to stifle dissent and outlaw protest. Draconian laws need police to enforce them, and to suppress those engaged even in peaceful protest.

Historically it is not difficult to find examples of regimes cracking down on protest by deploying police, militia or even the army to arrest, charge and imprison, and we can also see contemporary examples today in Hong Kong, China, or Putin’s Russia. 

All of these recent examples have been criticised (and rightly so) by the U.K. government.

And yet at the same time, this Government has been enacting it’s own latest set of illiberal measures to deter protest by criminalising those that participate via The Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021.

This Act contains a number of core proposals that “pose a significant threat to the UK’s adherence to its domestic and international human rights obligations, while also lacking an evidential basis to justify their introduction” (Justice, ) and has attracted serious criticism from Liberty and Amnesty amongst others.

The Bill is only the latest in a perpetual and evolving battle between Government authority, and those who wish to exercise what even this Government purports to recognise as the “democratic right to protest”. 

The Government makes laws- those are political decisions.

The Courts interpret the laws- those are judicial decisions.

And the police enforce the law. But is the policing of protest an operational or policing decision, or itself political? 

Superficially it seems that sometimes the police can’t win-at least so far as the tabloid media and some MPs are concerned.Within a short space of time the Met police were being criticised for being too  “hands-off” in policing XR or Black Lives Matter protests, and then too “heavy-handed” at the Sarah Everard protest.

But anyone who has been fooled into thinking that the Police are just helpless pawns doing their best in impossible circumstances, needs to take a read of ”Charged” by Foot/Livingstone, a well researched, impressive and above all readable account of the relationship between the police and those that they police. 

As the full title suggests , this book does not hold it’s punches in setting out and taking to task the role that the police have carved for themselves in actively suppressing protest. Much of this has been done in secret, and therefore without political accountability as the book’s introduction makes clear, highlighting the secret deals conducted by the Home Office and ACPO. The authors have examined recently de-classified documents that catalogue the deliberate, planned but secret shift in policing tactics in the early 80s, and in stark hypocritical contrast to the recommendations of Lord Scarman’s report for better Community policing. It was also an extension of the secretive and equally unaccountable surveillance techniques, some of the implications of which are only now coming to light in the Undercover Policing Inquiry (aka the  “spy cops scandal”)

The book is divided into 4 parts, dealing sequentially with the Thatcher era (industrial unrest and the “poll-tax riot”) , the 1990s, the “New Labour (tough on crime!)” years and a shorter final section (“Austerity Justice”)

These are book-ended by a foreword by Michael Mansfield QC (“the real agenda….is to ensure that any effective public expression is circumscribed…” and the concluding chapter (‘State of Play”)

I have attended protests as a legal observer, as well as acting for those who have been accused of offences arising from participation in public protest, and I know this book will appeal to those with similar experiences because this book shows there is much to learn even for seasoned protest veterans. 

Equally, I recognise that there are those who have never been on a “demo”, and whose views may be formed either from having experienced some inconvenience from a protest, or what they have read or seen on media reports. Such media coverage is heavily influenced by police accounts, and often wholly inaccurately (many examples of which are cited here, particularly e.g. the misreporting of police officers assaulting striking miners at Orgreave, 1984).  This book therfore is an invaluable corrective to such misconceptions, and should appeal to social historians as much as lawyers or criminologists. 

The concluding chapter effectively summarises the last 40 years of policing protest, where we are now, and gives a nod to the future (“ the long history of protest confirms that dissent always returns despite efforts of the State to suppress it’) 

Are they right? Or will over-zealous policing make it impossible to demonstrate or protest without frisking getting ”charged“ , criminalised and sanctioned.

Let’s see what the authors have to say in the follow-up book (which I warmly anticipate) in 10 years or so. I applaud the writers for presenting a detailed account of where we are now and why in a way that makes this book a pleasure to read, and recommend it to lawyers and non-lawyers alike.

Book Review: Jeremy Hutchinson’s Case Histories

Title -Jeremy Hutchinson’s Case Histories
Author-Thomas Grant QC
Publisher – Hodder and Stoughton

An earlier version of this review was published in The London Advocate here

As the title suggests , this book summarises some of the many illustrious cases in which Jeremy Hutchinson appeared. It is not a conventional biography, and all the better for it.
Hutchinson was defence counsel of choice in some of the greatest trials in the 1960s and 1970s. His roll-call of cases includes defending both Christine Keeler and Howard Marks, as well as appearing for Penguin Books in the “Lady Chatterly” trial.
He was always well prepared, speaking fearlessly to Judges and clearly to juries.
What is clear is that as much as highly regarded, he was also greatly liked, by colleagues, solicitors and clients alike. He is one of those characters about whom it is hard to find anyone having a bad word to say, and his natural modesty meant he never put pen to paper to set out an auto-biography, despite several invitations to do so.
Thankfully, Thomas Grant QC, who met Hutchinson (now over 100) a few years ago has performed a valuable service in penning this book, telling (thematically rather than chronologically) the stories of some of the best cases from Hutchinson’s career.
Each fascinates, and even those that are already familiar pieces of social history are brought vividly to life. Hutchinson is the “golden thread” that binds together the battles played out in the Old Bailey- defending alleged spies and traitors, peace protesters, art thieves, and battling against reactionary forces- from heavy handed Government to Mary Whitehouse. This is a book that is informative but also a pleasure to read, and should appeal equally to a wide readership, not just (as is often the case in legal biographies) lawyers.
Grant makes the case that Hutchinson represents the finest traditions of the Independent Bar.
He certainly had the right background (son of an eminent QC and Judge, public school education followed by Oxbridge, and an opportunity to be a Judge’s Marshall with a “family friend”). He bought his first home with the proceeds of a Monet painting that he had been gifted. That’s not the start that all of us enjoy.
Hutchinson was nonetheless happy to take on the establishment if that what was justice required, and did so defending without fear or favour.
Hutchinson also had an extraordinary upbringing- the family being connected with the Bloomsbury set. For this reviewer, the introductory chapter that charts the connections with numerous well known luminaries of the era was the least satisfactory. Of more interest are the wonderful portraits in the case histories of some of the legal characters of the day-an array of cantankerous opponents and eccentric Judges.
Reading about the trials is a reminder how much has changed from what was a truly adversarial system to the case managed process of today. Here you will be reminded of the days of contested committals with live witnesses, defences not disclosed until the start of the case, the right to jury challenge, and the absolute right to silence without adverse comment.
In one case, Hutchinson introduces without prior notice a defence witness who would only identify himself as “Agent X”, who purportedly worked for the Mexican Secret Service and gave evidence that the defendant had also done so. No “Notice of Defence Witnesses” required!
The longest case that Hutchinson ever conducted was a multi-handed drug importation which lasted two months. Now similar cases can last much longer, due to the modern tendency to “read” or play long passages of intercept transcripts, and lengthy mobile telephone and cell-site material. But it is not just trial length that has increased- so have the length of sentences, leading to a phenomenal rise in the prison population. Heavy sentencing and overcrowded prisons are matters that Hutchinson deprecates, and in his retirement from the bar he has, amongst many other worthwhile endeavours, supported Penal Reform and campaigned for the abolition of the “dock”.
We need advocates of his calibre and courage just as much today, to challenge the power of the State with it’s increased surveillance powers, and discrimination and prejudice that still exists in the CJS as the Lammy report has revealed.
The book concluded with a postscript from Jeremy Hutchinson himself, then a sprightly almost Centurion. He explains how when called to the bar there was no formal advocacy training, and he learned his trade by countless appearances in the Magistrates Court. This will strike a chord with many solicitor HCAs who trained in the same way, yet are criticised by some at the bar for “lack of training”. He laments Government cuts to Legal Aid, and lambasts a recent incumbent of the office of Lord Chancellor- the odious Chris Grayling. Still forthright, his views remained cogent to the end.
This book is an affectionate tribute to one of the greats of Adversarial Advocacy. Mr Grant clearly grew to like Jeremy Hutchinson very much. After reading this book so will you.