TEB Interview – Richard Foster
In our latest interview we had a chat with Palace fan and author of The Agony & The Ecstasy, The A-Z Of Football Hates and Talking Balls, Richard Foster.
Q. Let us start with the easiest question, why Palace?
I grew up in Whyteleafe (where by coincidence Alan Pardew played during his non-league days) and Palace were the nearest professional club. My elder brother was mad keen on Palace and so it seemed the natural choice and indeed the only choice.
Q. Who is your favourite player to have worn the famous red and blue?
That is an extremely tough question as I always have problems comparing players from different teams and in different circumstances. In the end I would have to go for the most loyal rather than the best and the choice is between Jim Cannon and Julian Speroni because both committed to the club and stayed with us even when things got a little bumpy. In the end I will go with Cannon as he was so important in my formative years as a fan.
Q. It has often been a bumpy ride following Palace but the last few years have been kind. How do you see the future for the club?
It has been an incredible five years since the dark days of administration and being on the brink of losing the club to top half in Premier League and signing somebody like Cabaye. It almost seems as though this is not the Palace I grew up with and Steve Parish has talked about changing the attitude where pessimism is the natural default position. The current owners deserve a great deal of credit for turning things around and if we can keep the momentum of the last few years, build sensibly in terms of squad strength and infrastructure then we could see a rosy future as an established and improving Premier League outfit.
Q. If you played for Palace what position would you be and which squad number would you choose?
Well it would have to be at centre back (which was another reason for choosing Cannon as my favourite player) as I played most of my latter days as a footballer there and would want the number five shirt.
Q. How long have you been writing and how did it all start?
I have always enjoyed writing ever since I was a boy. I still have a short story I wrote when I was about seven and it won a prize, inevitably, it was about football. Professionally I started around 2006 when I was made redundant and wanted to branch out to do something I loved rather than something I had to do to earn a living. I started writing freelance pieces on various subjects and more recently have focused on football. In the last year I have had a couple of books published.
Q. Tell us a little about your book ‘The Agony & The Ecstasy’?
This is my second book, after The A-Z of Football Hates came out last year, and it is a history of the Play-Offs. I have always been fascinated by the Play-Offs and have been researching the book off and on for the last ten years. As Palace fans, we are fortunate to have a pretty good record and are the only team to have been promoted to the top division four times at four different venues across four different decades. But the most vivid memory for me is that Steve Claridge winner in the 1996 final and the sheer desolation of that moment has haunted me ever since. In fact the idea for the title of the book is linked to the difference between the 1996 and 1997 finals and Hopkin’s last minute winner. Having been to over a dozen Play-Off finals as fan and neutral the contrast between winning and losing is the most extreme I have witnessed and this is reflected in the book. I also make the point in the book that there is a huge gap between football in mid-1980s when the Play-Offs were first suggested and today, as reflected in the Championship Final being the most lucrative match in world sport. In many ways the Play-Offs were a catalyst for the renaissance of English football.
Q. Where can fans purchase the book?
At the moment there is a limited hardback edition that is available via the publishers – www.ockleybooks.co.uk and an eBook through normal channels such as Amazon. I am pleased to announce that there will be a general release paperback edition (with 2015 revisions) coming out in the next month or so which will be available in all main bookshops and online and also hoping the club shop will be stocking it very soon as well. So there is no excuse for not getting a copy!
Q. Are there any other football books that you would recommend?
I have to say that my publishers Ockley Books do have a fantastic catalogue so well worth checking out. My favourite football book is The Miracle of Castel di Sangro by Joe McGinniss as it is an extraordinary story of a small club suddenly reaching the big time and with lots of interesting stuff going on in the background, politically and socially.
Q. What do you find the most rewarding about writing and do you have any tips for budding authors?
The most rewarding aspect is finding out little undiscovered gems when you are researching a subject and then writing about them. It makes one feel like an explorer who is bringing up long-lost treasure to show to the public. Alongside that feeling, receiving positive feedback and comments are the most satisfying elements of writing a book. As for tips for budding authors, you must find a topic that really fascinates you because this is a long and often laborious process and you have to be 100% committed otherwise it will not work. Also do your research thoroughly, you must not compromise on that. And finally, when assessing if an idea has potential to be a book you should draw up a list of a hundred nuggets, stories and/or facts that distinguish the book and if you cannot find a hundred then think again.
Q. And finally, please share with us any projects that you are currently working on.
I have a sports quote book coming out in September called Talking Balls, which has been fun to compile and am hopefully doing another quotes book soon. I am working on a couple of other book ideas including a possible second edition of The A-Z of Football Hates and there is a Palace related idea that is swirling around my head. I have also just started editing a new Ockley book, which will be an interesting experience. As a writer and author, I am always looking for opportunities to write so if anyone has any ideas they want to share with me please feel free to contact me and give me a follow on twitter @rcfoster.