Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Another delay in the printing of the book. Expected date of publication now Monday 4th September

An irritating delay. Yesterday I received what I hoped would be the final test copy. Unfortunately a printing glitch had kicked in. The major problem with the test copy back from the outsourced printers is that on more than 600 occasions the test copy has replaced a single opening quote (i.e. a ') by a double comma (i.e. ,,) hence we have stuff like

'The Road' becomes ,,The Road'
'The Professor' becomes ,,The Professor'
'Stroller' becomes ,,Stroller'

and so on and so on and so on ... really very irritating - especially as the last-but-one test copy did not have this glitch.




So, we are having to re-submit, I then have to approve another test copy and then production (taking up to three weeks) will begin. Expected date of publication now Monday the 4th September 2017 .... arrgghh!

Monday, 24 July 2017

An unexpected delay in publication ! ... aaarrgghh .... the book will now be available in late August

Hi readers. There has been an unforseen problem with the printing of the book 'The Road to Wembley from Scotland'. I won't bore you with the details but the short story is that copies will not be available this weekend. In fact the book won't be available for purchase until the end of August.



I have decided to take advance orders for the book  So if you want to buy a signed copy of one of the 'first edition' books then email me via chris@donkinitex.co.uk and I will log your interest and I will only send you payment details when I have the copies in my possession. I won't be taking any payments until I am in a position to either deliver or send the book to you but I am happy to reserve copies.

This is all a wee bit frustrating as the print run is 'good to go' and all formatting and proof reading has been completed. I was of course hoping to have copies available for the start of the season but unfortunately this is not going to happen now. If you are intrigued by it all and you want to get a wee preview of what it might look like before you commit to parting with £20 then email me and I will send you a chapter as a taster. If I met up with you at all on 'The Road' there is a very good chance that there is a photo of you in the book!

The football season is starting without my book launch and tomorrow night I will be heading for Peterhead to see my first competitive game of the season when my beloved Hearts visit the 'Blue Toon' for a match in the Betfred League Cup. I popped in to Tynecastle earlier to collect the tickets for me and ma laddie and the new stand at Hearts is taking shape.

New stand at Tynie taking shape - ready for Hearts v Aberdeen on Sept 9? ... maybe!


The only other news I have for readers following this blog as I have revised the Press Release to try to make the whole adventure described in the book sound as exciting as it was ... loads of thrills and spills. The new Press Release is shown below and thanks to Kev Higgins and my brother George for their input. More news on what the actual publication date might be when I have more detail from the printer. Keep reading ....

The Road to Wembley from Scotland by Chris Donkin: Press Release

On the 5th August 2016 I set off to watch Penrith play against Sunderland Ryhope Community Association in the Extra Preliminary (EP) Round of the FA Cup. I chose this match because it was the EP Round match closest to the Scottish border and hence nearest to my home in Midlothian. The idea was a simple one: whoever emerged victorious I would follow them until they got knocked out of the FA Cup and then follow the team that were subsequently successful and so on and so on. Ten months, 9555 miles, 17 matches and 50 goals later I was at the FA Cup Final at Wembley to see Arsenal beat Chelsea. Initially I documented my journey as a blog – now it is available as a book.

At every stop on the Road to Wembley I found and reported on the links between the competing clubs and Scotland and was able to describe the lasting influence of Scots on the beautiful game south of the border. I met some of the great characters from non league football in England from great clubs in Penrith, Dunston, Spennymoor, Skelmersdale, Chorley and Lincoln and their stories are now part of this story. In the later rounds I was able to explore how some of England’s most famous teams were shaped by the contribution of men from Scotland moving south over 100 years ago. As the latest edition of the FA Cup, the most famous competition in world football, neared its conclusion I was helped in this project by fine football people from MK Dons, Charlton Athletic, Brighton and Hove Albion, Lincoln City, Burnley, Arsenal and Manchester City. All had a tale to tell and their tales feature in the book.

The romance of the FA Cup remains alluring. In all rounds there were thrills and spills, hopes realised and dreams dashed, heros and villains. The plucky underdog snapped at the heels of the rich and famous and on more than one occasion the giants were bitten.

It has been an incredible journey. It has taken 470 pages with more than 600 colour pictures to recount ‘The Road to Wembley from Scotland’. The cost of the book is £20 plus £3 postage if needed. All surpluses from this ‘not for profit’ book will be donated to Multiple Sclerosis Society. To be sent details of how you can get a copy, email me via chris@donkinitex.co.uk

Chris Donkin (Author of ‘The Road to Wembley from Scotland’)


July 2017  

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Update on book publication ... two more weeks ... meanwhile ... the Press Release!

The book is almost ready. The test copy has been proof read and (slightly) re-formatted. I am expecting a second test copy tomorrow. I am not anticipating a major re-write so I am hopeful that copies will be available for purchase from Monday the 31st July.

The 'back cover' of the book
The price and the purchase arrangements will be detailed (hopefully) on this blog next weekend. In the meantime ... here is the Press Release! (below)

The Road to Wembley from Scotland by Chris Donkin: Press Release

On the 5th August 2016 I set off to watch Penrith play against Sunderland Ryhope Community Association in the Extra Preliminary (EP) Round of the FA Cup. I chose this match because it was the EP Round match closest to the Scottish border and hence nearest to my home in Midlothian. The idea was a simple one: whoever emerged victorious I would follow them until they got knocked out of the FA Cup and then follow the team that were subsequently successful and so on and so on. Ten months, 9555 miles, 17 matches and 50 goals later I was at the FA Cup Final at Wembley to see Arsenal beat Chelsea. Initially I documented my journey as a blog – now it is available as a book.

At every stop on the Road to Wembley I found and reported on the links between the competing clubs and Scotland and was able to describe the lasting influence of Scots on the beautiful game south of the border. I met some of the great characters from non league football in England from great clubs in Penrith, Dunston, Spennymoor, Skelmersdale, Chorley and Lincoln and their stories are now part of this story. In the later rounds I was able to explore the how some of England’s most famous teams were shaped by the contribution of men from Scotland moving south over 100 years ago. As the latest edition of the FA Cup, the most famous competition in world football, neared the conclusion I was helped in this project by fine football people from MK Dons, Charlton Athletic, Brighton and Hove Albion, Lincoln City, Burnley, Arsenal and Manchester City. All had a tale to tell and their tales feature in the book.

It has been an incredible journey. It has taken 470 pages with more than 600 pictures to recount ‘The Road to Wembley from Scotland’. To be sent details of how you can get a copy of the book, email me via chris@donkinitex.co.uk

Chris Donkin (Author of ‘The Road to Wembley from Scotland’)


July 2017  

Sunday, 2 July 2017

A forward thinking manager writes the foreword ! Thanks Robbie

There has been a  slight delay in the production of the book 'The Road to Wembley from Scotland'. The test copies for Kev Panther and I to proof read have not arrived yet but should be with us in the next couple of days. I am still on course to have copies of the book available for the 5th August. However, some fantastic news over the weekend. Robbie Neilson, manager of MK Dons, ex manager of Hearts and a key Scot on the 'Road to Wembley from Scotland' has produced the foreword for the book. Thanks Robbie!

A foreword thinking gaffer! Robbie before the MK Dons v Charlton replay
As the anticipation towards the publication date increases here is wee taster. Below is Robbie Neilson's foreword in full.

When I joined Milton Keynes Dons at the beginning of December 2016 I was unaware that my move south was to prove to be a major event on Chris Donkin’s Road to Wembley from Scotland. I was to learn that Chris was also heading for MK and our paths crossed for the first time when Chris attended the FA Cup replay against Charlton Athletic on the 14th December at Stadium MK. After he enjoyed pre-match hospitality provided by the club I met Chris briefly and we bumped in to each other again at Gatwick airport immediately after the round three tie at Brighton. We had a good chat and it was here I learned that Chris was following the FA Cup from the Extra Preliminary Round through to the FA Cup Final.

I was interested to find out that for each game on the journey Chris was looking for a Scottish slant, so in many ways he had struck gold when Stevie Crawford and I moved to Milton Keynes at precisely the same time as he was following the Dons FA Cup run. I became aware that Chris had been to many qualifying round games before linking up with our lads. I have also noted that since we unfortunately got knocked out of the cup Chris’ journey has taken him to Lincoln, Burnley, Arsenal and then Wembley for the semi final and the final. What a journey!

Hearts fan Chris and I have one other thing in common. Heart of Midlothian FC have had a huge influence on our lives. I enjoyed playing for and managing Hearts and I know this book will be of interest to Hearts fans as many of the Scottish links are connections with Tynecastle. In fact The Road to Wembley from Scotland will be of interest to all football fans as the magic of the FA Cup continues to appeal to supporters and the Scots influence on the competition is fascinating.

Enjoy the book.


Robbie Neilson

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The last post - blow the bugle or should it be a fanfare!

So, after blogging for over a year now I reach the last post. Blow the bugle for the last post or maybe it should be a fanfare.

Before rounding things up, I want to thank my youngest daughter Morag and her dog Dougal for helping me to promote this project. From the first time I saw it I have loved the ‘crazy baldheads’ logo that she designed. Special thanks also to Mo for designing the cover for this book.

The Road to Wembley from Scotland t-shirt worn by the designer

Barking Mad! Dougal shows off the crazy baldheads

It is in this post I will try to make sense of what it was all about. There were so many reasons for doing this project and the experience ticked every box. I met some wonderful people, I saw some great football matches and I have now completed one of my lifetime ambitions and written a book.

Football is essentially a silly game. As my father in law John ‘Johnny Boy’ Phillips is wont to say ‘22 grown men kicking a bit of leather around a field and people getting excited about that. Ridiculous’. And of course in many ways he is right. When he was a working man in the Post Office he used to often say to me ‘imagine if every time I sold a stamp all my colleagues descended on me kissing and cuddling me. If a footballer scores a goal he is only doing his job’. His dislike of the sport is, in my opinion, borne out of a lack of understanding of what makes football tick. So what makes the beautiful game so compelling and enables it to dominate the lives of so many people? I offer three possible answers: (i) the sport itself is both beautiful and magnificently simplistic; (ii) football clubs are at the heart of communities and provide a focus and a sense of identity for many and (iii) being a team sport football brings people together and promotes friendship. This is what makes a silly game wonderful. I have seen all of these three things in trumps on the Road to Wembley from Scotland.

When I was growing up in Teesside and then later in Midlothian, football was everywhere. My peers and I played it all the time. In the street and in the fields - in two a side bounce games or in organised matches. All you needed to play football was any old ball and any expanse of land. The game is simple. You do not need expensive equipment or a costly subscription to a sports club to play it or excel in it. Most of the superstar players come from very humble backgrounds. The scorer of the winning goal in the FA Cup Final, Aaron Ramsey, emerged from a very ordinary upbringing in Caerphilly in Wales. Although his Arsenal team mates are now highly paid international footballers from across the globe most of them come from working class backgrounds as do most Premier League players. As everyone (everyone I know at least) has played football at some stage of their life, everyone can appreciate the beauty and athletic skill when the game is played well. Football is art. To reach a stage where you become a semi professional footballer you must be pretty good at the game and even if you are playing in the lower echelons, you will be on occasions capable of great play. Hence when you see Oli Leedham of Dunston UTS flying down the wing with trickery and pace it can be as exhilarating as seeing Manchester City’s Sergio Aguerro strutting his stuff. I have seen some truly beautiful artistic performances by talented players at every stage on the Road to Wembley from Scotland.

Following the non league clubs in the qualifying rounds of the FA Cup, I was struck by how closely linked the clubs are to their local communities. Penrith, Dunston UTS, Skelmersdale United, Chorley and Spennymoor Town all provide the local residents with a sporting event to watch every week and also give a focus to the community. As the Moors from the Brewery Field progressed in the FA Cup, they helped put their town on the map by attracting national media coverage. As I have observed very recently in the case of Skelmersdale United when the local football club are failing the local community rally round to provide support. As the rounds progressed I suspected that this sense of community my not be as obvious but I was pleasantly surprised to note that bigger teams such as Lincoln City, Milton Keynes Dons, Burnley and Manchester City all serve their community and give their locale a sense of identity. MK Dons were perhaps the biggest shock in this respect as they are a new club who have been dismissed as the ‘franchise club’ but they are proud of where they play and the town that they represent. In an era where social isolation is a real issue it is genuinely heart warming that football can help to bring people together to support a local team representing the local community.

I have always enjoyed the team aspect of football. When playing I loved the fact that your pals would do their best for you to achieve a common aim and in turn you would reciprocate. Playing for the same team promotes friendship and some of my best and longest lasting friendships have been forged through football. The football ‘team’ mentality goes beyond the game. What I have found on the ‘Road to Wembley from Scotland’ is that there is a wider football fraternity. A promotion of friendship stemming from a shared interest. I have acquired some new pals along the way over the last 11 months on the road. Fellow Road to Wembley-ers Peter Tissington and Andy Phillips will no doubt be long lasting friendships. On most days since November I have been in touch with Nick Hedges and Colin Butler from MK via the internet and I am looking forward to catching up with these pals at a MK Dons match next season. In the last few weeks the friendship shown to me by Kev Panther of Skelmersdale has been astonishing. Many many thanks for helping me to put the book together Kev and I will forever be in your debt. The Road to Wembley from Scotland has also given me the opportunity to renew some old friendships and it has been great to see the likes of Howard ‘Howie Baby’ Nimmo, Jim Morrison, Derek Poots, Joe Black, Kevin Oliver and John Rees along the journey. The football fraternity also helped me out when I have struggled for tickets. The fraternity can also be a real focus for good in the world. The ‘Fists up for Frankie’ campaign for the Geordie toddler Frankie Sherwood stricken with a life limiting disease was both touching and poignant in the way that the football community in the far north of England supported the cause.

In the opening pages of this book I advised that I hoped to also learn how the game is evolving in England and find out about the Scots influence on the game south of the border.

The game is in rude health at grass roots / non league level in England. The football pyramid is now well established and the ambitious community based teams can aspire to move through the tiers and eventually, through success on the field, progress to the upper echelons of the game. The FA Cup provides a unique opportunity for football clubs at all levels to have a one-off crack at performing beyond their ranking. The true romance of the cup is that on any given day a non league club could knock out a Premier League club. David can defeat Goliath given the right circumstances. I feel truly honoured to have been at Turf Moor in February when Lincoln City knocked Burnley out of the cup. The evolution of the non league scene in England is being driven by the enthusiasm and dedication of the officers and volunteers of the clubs. I have seen many of them in action and met many of them on ‘The Road’ and I salute them all. The pyramid system here in Scotland has been imposed on the clubs and many (the ‘junior’ teams in particular) are not keen to embrace the opportunities that a hierarchical system provides. As a result the non league scene up here seems a bit more stale. Maybe if I live long enough I will see the Scottish pyramid embed and develop, become more inclusive and promote the sort of vibrancy that I witnessed in Penrith, Dunston, Skelmersdale, Spennymoor and Lincoln.

Investigating the Scottish influence on the beautiful game in England has been fascinating. It was such fun unearthing the massive influence that Scots had on the game about 100 years ago. The Scots came down and helped to develop football south of the border. I am indebted to Clifford Vagnolini for the information about his hard-as-nails grandfather Joe McGhie who helped Brighton achieve success in 1910 and it was with teary-eyed fascination that I reported on ‘the wee Scots lad’ Hughie Gallacher who starred for Newcastle and Chelsea in the 1920s and thirties. The Scottish influence continued to be prominent and when I was growing up Scots ruled English football with icons like Billy Bremner, Denis Law, Kenny Dalglish and Joe Jordan all starring in the English league. It was clear also that the Scots influence had helped to establish clubs like Skelmersdale, Sunderland RCA and even latterly MK Dons. It is sad to report that this project notes that the Caledonian influence on English football is waning. In the last few chapters it was hard to identify a current Scottish influence on the teams reaching the later stages of the FA Cup. The 2017-18 season will kick off in a month and for the first time in many years none of the managers of the 20 competing teams is a Scot.


I have travelled nearly 10,000 miles, made many new friends, become re-acquainted with a lot of old friends, seen some fantastic football matches and had the experience of a lifetime. As Sir Alex Ferguson, the most famous Scot to have plied his trade in English football, once said: “Football eh! Bloody Hell!”

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Publication date for the book 'The Road to Wembley from Scotland' could be soon and Dougal the Dog is keen to promote the launch

Just a brief update this weekend – for those who are interested. The publication date for the book was reported last week as Saturday the 5th August (to coincide with the extra preliminary round of the FA Cup season 2017-18). The book will definitely be available on this date. In fact there is a very strong possibility that it will be available for purchase even earlier – maybe even significantly earlier. Putting it all together is a painstaking experience but I am getting a massive amount of help from Kev Panther the programme editor for Skelmersdale United FC. Words can not express how grateful I am to Kev for his assistance and it is proof positive that there is such a thing as the football fraternity and it is a wonderful community to be part of – full of warmth and genuine friendship. Thanks Kev.

Fathers Day today and my youngest daughter Mo who has produced the artwork and branding for the Road to Wembley from Scotland (and who will produce the cover for the book) popped round to don the famous RtWfS T-shirt that she designed. Thanks Mo.


Mo’s dog Dougal also got in on the act and wore the famous T shirt with pride.

Barking Mad! Dougal is on the Road to Wembley from Scotland

 I will pop out a blog post next weekend when I hope to be absolutely precise about the launch date for the book. I also intend to write one last long-ish post where I try to make sense of what this wonderful nonsense was all about … so keep reading.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Some good luck for me in getting the book ready. A large black cat (a Panther) has crossed my path ! Also boozing at Hampden ...

Well dear readers you will have noticed that the posts are becoming more intermittent and it is highly likely that this post will not make it into the book. The posts will continue on a sporadic basis until the book is published. However to bring you all up to speed on the progress towards book publication I offer the following update.

I have sourced a publisher! The book ‘The Road to Wembley from Scotland’ will be published by FlexiPress of Ormskirk in Lancashire. One of the great joys of the ‘Road’ journey has been sharing experiences with fellow football anoraks. In September I first met the magnificent Kev Panther the programme editor of Skelmersdale United.

Skem programme editor and ace wordsmith: Kev Panther 

 We have become great pals and Kev sent me a copy of his excellent book ‘The Boys in Blue from 1882: A brief history of Skelmersdale United FC’ published by FlexiPress. I was so impressed with the book, the layout the content, the pictures that I got in touch with FlexiPress and they have quoted me a reasonable price to publish my tome. By the wonders of email and the internet and I am in regular contact with Kev and he is helping me put together the book. Words can not express how grateful I am for his assistance. Obviously, given the amount of editing and re-editing that will be necessary before the book comes out it is dangerous to nominate a publication date but I am hopeful that the book will be available for purchase on Saturday August 5th 2017 – the date of the Extra Preliminary Round of the FA Cup for season 2017-18!

Meanwhile the world of football rumbles on. Yesterday I attended my first match since the FA Cup final when me, my wife Anne, her sister Carole and my brother in law Dougie were at Hampden Park for the Scotland v England World Cup qualifier. The football for the first 85 minutes was attritional but with so much at stake was compelling. The final 5 minutes though were sensational as Scotland went from 1-0 down to 2-1 ahead only to concede an equaliser in the final minute of stoppage time. A highlight of any big match is the bevvying before the game when the sense of anticipation tastes almost as good as the beer.

Dougie Hunter, Anne Donkin and Carole 'Hollow Legs' Hunter


A pre match libation or 5 with Dougie
Another post next weekend when I hope to be a bit more precise about the actual publication date. I also intend to write (and post) my final chapter of the book trying to make sense of what it was all about and what I have learned from the project about football and about life … so keep reading.