England’s Greatest Defender – Alfie Potts Harmer

August 12, 2019

Hull City Supporters Trust are pleased to assist with the book launch on Friday 16th August, 6:30pm at Waterstones in Hull City Centre.

A few words from the author below…..

I first heard about Neil Franklin from my Grandad, who started attending games at Boothferry Park before the start of the Second World War. Franklin joined Hull City in February 1951, upon completion of a four-month ban handed to him by the F.A. He stuck around in East Yorkshire for the next five years, playing in fewer than half of all the club’s games during that period due to a series of chronic knee injuries, but still standing out as the finest centre-half in the country and a total anomaly in the Second Division when fit.

Some time later, after I finished school and began writing about football as a potential career, I founded my own website called A Halftime Report. In the crowded world of football writing and sports journalism, A Halftime Report sought to be a source for all things weird and wonderful from football’s past, focussing and quirky and lesser-known tales from the history of the sport. I was reminded of that centre-half Grandad had told me about years ago, and began taking a closer look at Neil Franklin. The story seemed tailor-made for the site, and in the summer of 2015 I published an article entitled ‘A Career Destroyed in Six Matches’, looking at Neil and his misbegotten move to Bogota in 1950.

Pretty immediately it became one of the most widely-circulated pieces I had written, and a staff member at Stoke City even got in touch to say their chairman Peter Coates had read the article and wondered if the club could share it on their official website. Neil Franklin, it transpired, was Mr Coates’ favourite player when he first started attending games at the Victoria Ground. Although the article got a really warm response, there seemed to be a general thirst for more. You can never fully do a story justice in a 1,500 word article, but on this occasion it felt as though there was an awful lot more there just waiting to be unearthed.

Lots of people remarked that the story would make for an interesting film or book, and whilst I had no idea how to make a film, the idea of writing a book about Neil Franklin began to fascinate me. I spent a couple of months gathering up information and decided there was more than enough there to justify writing a book, but after months of unsuccessfully trying to contact the Franklin family I began to give up on the project. In January 2017, though, thanks to a combination of my girlfriend and Pete Smith at the Stoke Sentinel, I managed to get hold of Neil’s son Gary Franklin.

Two-and-a-half years on, it would be fair to say the process hasn’t exactly been painless, and there has been more than one occasion in which I thought it still wouldn’t happen. I’m delighted that the book is finished now though, and finally arriving on people’s laps ready to be read. The story of Neil Franklin is genuinely one of the most interesting and intriguing that I have ever come across, and it seems bizarre to me that over 20 years on from his death and 70 years on from when Neil was at the peak of his footballing powers, this is the first time his story has fully and comprehensively been told.

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