Hard Case: The Autobiography of Jimmy Case - Review

Here at The Football History Boys we like to give special mention to many of football's 'unsung heroes'. One of these is Jimmy Case. Now, to many Liverpool fans this name is rightly held among the greats of the club, but is often forgotten in wider British football culture, - so why is this? With the release of his autobiography, published by John Blake, we can look deeper into the career of one Merseyside's greatest talents. From the opening page, Case offers us an intriguing look at his playing days from Liverpool and Brighton to Southampton and Halifax. 

When people think of the great Liverpool sides of the 1970s and 1980s it is easy to get lost in a wave of nostalgia surrounding the likes of Keegan, Rush and Dalglish. But what Jimmy Case offers for Liverpool fans is a homegrown academy product who rose to very pinnacle of European Football. Growing up in Allerton - the same neighbourhood of Paul McCartney and my Dad - Case can be seen as a true representative of not just Liverpool Football Club but the wider city in general. Case notes that when growing up he was 'football mad' from as early as he can remember, in a house which was 'red from top to bottom'. Unlike, Liverpool legends like Carragher, Rush and Fowler, Case remembers that he, 'never had any inclination to go over to the blue side.'
"Coming from Liverpool, I knew everytime I went out on the pitch I had to give 100 per cent. I knew I could never pull out of a tackle, even if it was 60-40 against and I was likely to get hurt because I was representing them and they were my people."
It is something which every Liverpool fan would like to read, and as the autobiography continues we are opened up to his early career at the club. Starting under Bill Shankly it took Case a few years to really make an impact on the wider squad. He notes that in 1973 he was beginning to make positive impressions on the Liverpool coaching staff, with his aggressive style of football catching the eye. Case writes that his playing style was based more on the 'Anfield Iron' Tommy Smith rather than his initial role model Ian Callaghan, a player who despite playing in the same position was too 'nice'.

Upon signing full-time for The Reds, Case writes that his earliest days at the club were centered around embedding young players and himself into the first team squad. This included travelling with the players to Bill Shankly's swansong - The 1974 FA Cup Final which Liverpool duly won 3-0 against Newcastle at Wembley. As the book continues, it is clear that during his early days at Anfield, Case was a frustrated figure. He mentions that on numerous occasions he was the 'thirteenth man' in the squad - the back-up to the substitute (only one sub was allowed back then). However, eventually Case got his chance in the first team in the last game of the 1974/5 season against QPR. He notes that when hearing he was selected in the first team he jaw-dropped and his heart stopped - his dream was about to come true. Two assists on his debut in a 3-0 win later, Case never looked back.
"They say you should be careful what you wish for, but for me that was the start of an eight-year magic carpet ride when all my dreams would come true."
It may all read a little sentimental, but it is refreshing to see just how much it means to some players. His place in the Liverpool first XI was a clear example of hard-work and determination coming to fruition. So what of his earliest seasons at the club? Andrew Smart (Case's ghost writer), in his review of the 1970s notes that Case was an invaluable member of Bob Paisley's side, helping to form the basis of an all-conquering Liverpool machine.

Perhaps the pinnacle of Case's career comes with continental triumph. In 1976, he had helped Liverpool to a UEFA Cup victory, as well as the league title but the real height of glory came the following season with the European Cup making its first of many appearances in the Anfield trophy cabinet. Case was an integral part in the '77 success, scoring in the semi-final against Zurich. Paisley had set The Reds one mission in '77 season: To win the European Cup. Winning the League title was an added bonus and a FA Cup final defeat to Man United was the only downside of a glorious season. Case actually scored Liverpool's goal in the final.

FA Cup defeat was a bitter blow for the Reds' number 8, describing his feeling at losing totally gutting. Liverpool needed to respond, and respond they did - meeting Borussia Monchengladbach in Rome. Once more, Case gives an amazing retelling of his own personal story amongst the noise and the fever of the final. Liverpool won 3-1. Following the triumph, he writes that the reaction was the 'mother of all celebrations', a night on the booze followed by a homecoming reminiscent of Beatlemania in Liverpool. The following season Case won the European Cup again and once more he scored in the semi-final. It was a similar side which triumphed a year previous with one difference, Kenny Dalglish in for Kevin Keegan.
"Kenny was different. He would  get the ball, look across the pitch towards Steve Heighway on the left and at the same time clip a reverse pass with his left foot without looking, just inside and beyond the full-back, where, in his mind, I should be - oh, and by the way, that is precisely where I was...such vision and awareness."
The end of Case's Anfield career was one of mixed fortunes. Despite domestic success and another European triumph in 1981, off-the-pitch antics were to take centre stage as his spell on Merseyside came to an end. For Case, any drinking with the rest of the players was never at the wrong times and he never let it interfere with his performances, but after being arrested for driving after a few beers his punishment was 'to be eased out of the club'. The final nail in his Anfield coffin was after admitting to the assault of a hotel owner and his son whilst in Llangollen along with Ray Kennedy. Case, in the book puts forward his side of the story, not heard in the courts. It is insightful to read, as is his eventual exit, one which he says even now he is not bitter about, rather it is all part and parcel of the game. One thing he was certain of though - he was not going to Howard Kendall's Everton!
1977 European Triumph

Despite his remarkable career and trophy cabinet, perhaps what is most remarkable is that Jimmy Case never earned a senior international cap. When lists come out today of players who should have earned more, Case's name is frequently involved. In the autobiography he writes that he played his part in one English club football's most successful periods ever winning three European Cups, 4 League titles and a European Young Player of the Year in the process. Case, notes that he never gave up hope, especially after seeing a 35-year-old Callaghan earn only his fourth cap. It is no secret that the 1970s, for all the joy at club level the national game was hardly making any inroads internationally. It is hard to say any England international in the 1970s really deserved a cap over Case and maybe with him in the squad, fortunes could have been different. He mentions a quote from Bob Paisley when the manager was asked why England don't play like Liverpool...His answer? 'Because they don't play Jimmy Case!'
"I've lost count of the number of people who have asked how many caps I won and they cannot believe it when I tell them I didn't get a single one. I'm still not sure why I never got the chance. It wasn't as if England were pulling up any trees at the time."  
Typically bruising tackle from Case
It is hard to not get swept away in Liverpool's success and the part Case played without forgetting the other teams across Britain he played for. His first stop after life at Anfield was with Brighton, a club chosen by Liverpool more than Case himself. Why? To be part of deal to bring Mark Lawrenson to the club. He writes that he enjoyed every minute of his time at Brighton, he didn't mind not playing in Europe, for Case just playing at a competitive level was enough. On the south-coast he enjoyed a successful spell reaching the FA Cup Final in 1983, albeit ending once more in defeat at Wembley.

After Brighton, Case moved along the coast to Southampton where he would spend 6 years, a spell which is amazing to read about. At the Saints he would play with the likes of Alan Shearer and Matt Le Tissier,two players in keeping with talents Case had played with at Liverpool. He mentions his three regrets in football, one of which was never winning a trophy with Southampton despite being involved in such a quality side. As the book continues, we are opened up to a world outside of Liverpool and Merseyside which further highlights the quality player he was. More and more fascinating anecdotes from the south-coast are revealed and Case keeps a fine sense of humour and realism throughout, refreshing to read in a modern football world often described as fake and immoral.

In terms of Case's legacy, it is clear to see at the end of the book. An entire chapter is devoted to "What Others Say" with ex-managers and players all having their say on Case's influence and impact on Liverpool and British football. Kevin Keegan, Liam Brady and even Alan Shearer all have their opinions heard, all with their own unique tales. What do they say? Buy the book and find out! For me, the book was intriguing, being a Liverpool fan myself, it has been a real eye-opener to read such an in-depth, first-hand account of one of the Reds' most successful periods. He is a player who my Dad has always spoke to me about and one whose influence should long be remembered.

Rating: *****

Hard Case: The Autobiography by Jimmy Case is out now from John Blake Publishing at £18.99
You can purchase your copy of 'Hard Case: The Autobiography of Jimmy Case' here

By Ben Jones - TFHB  (Follow me on Twitter @Benny_J or @TFHBs) 


Popular Posts