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Formby Man launches new book about LFC - The Tobacco Years

Formby resident of 50 years has launched a book named: “The Red Men of Liverpool Football Club. The Tobacco Years”. George Rowlands researched everything himself and proudly had his book published in Summer this year selling over 800 copies to date.

In the last years of the nineteenth century an American tobacco company, Allen and Ginter, began inserting plain cards called ‘stiffeners’ into packets of cigarettes to protect their products from being crushed. What seemed at the time like an inconsequential product development was swiftly exploited for commercial purposes to advertise other products and then illustrate the cards with popular personalities. These collectables swiftly became a phenomenon and crossed to the other side of the Atlantic. These cards were decorated by many different subjects: politicians, actors, writers, poets and sporrting personalities, most significantly footballers.

A craze that lasted for more than half a century was born. In an era before the widespread use of photography in print media and when the game was seldom captured by motion film, cigarette cards were often the most enduring portrayal of football’s stars in the early twentieth century. Small boys would collect these cards from family and friends. Teams would be formed and, in a forerunner of today’s fantasy football games, the cards would be swapped and traded to see who could assemble the best team. Today they provide a compelling insight into a bygone era.

Now, in The Redmen of Liverpool FC, George Rowlands has shared his passion. Featuring every single Liverpool player featured in this medium, along with biographical details and contextual notes, George tells the story of the cigarette card craze. Presented in full colour, Redmen is a richly illustrated and deeply evocative window into one of football’s bygone eras and an essential reference for every Liverpool fan.

George said: "I first went to Anfield at the end of the war, standing in the “boys pen”; my main memories being the enthusiasm of the crowd as I didn’t see much of the actual games!"

"I first remember collecting the cards that came free in packets of cigarettes, hanging around the tobacconists asking the customers for theirs before they threw them in the bin. Me and my friends would collect the cards, form teams and, what was a forerunner of today’s fantasy football leagues, we would swap and trade them to see who could assemble the best teams. I wish I would have kept hold of those cards!"

"My serious collecting of Liverpool players started once I’d retired over 15 years ago, and after several years, I realised that there was no book or publication that catalogued all of those early cigarette cards that had ever been printed. So, I decided to do it myself!"

"My book spans 50 years and features players from Alex Raisbeck to Billy Liddell, along with biographical details and contextual notes all researched by myself over the last 10 years. The launch of my book took place this summer, and I was supported by the famous Liverpool player Ian Callaghan. Since being published in June, my book has sold over 800 copies and I have had letters and comments from people as far away as New Zealand, who enjoyed the memories that my book triggered."

George Rowlands was born in 1938 in Bootle. He spent his early years playing on World War Two bomb sites and later, sneaking into Anfield after halftime. He worked as a mechanical design draughtsman in California, later returning to Merseyside where he continued in that profession before setting up his own engineering supply business, based on Liverpool’s Dock Road, which he ran for many years. After retiring in 2001, he was able to concentrate on and expand his interest in cigarette cards, specialising in LFC players. The Redmen of Liverpool FC, The Tobacco Years is his first book.

Top Photo:

The first book signing, held in June, in the Liverpool branch of Waterstones. L to R: Ian Gallaghan, Jack Moore and Edward Moore ( George's grandsons) and George Rowlands.

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