Ken is such a gentle, amenable guy yet when he told me the title I had to suggest changing it. But he would not budge at all, in fact he became positively stubborn - I had to insist on the subtitle A Book of Liverpool Football so that it makes some sort of sense.
In a former life in publishing I always stressed the importance of getting the title right. And yet I still have to look up the exact wording of Peter Mitchell’s Some Thing means Everything to Somebody, the first photobook we published last year, if I need to write it down. So how have I ended up with this too?
For those not old enough, A Topical Times refers to football yearbooks from the 1960’s and 1970’s and appears at first sight to be a nostalgic reference, a trip down memory lane. However, I have come around to the idea that maybe what Ken is trying to hint is that there is something very topical here to take note of, something about passion, about communities and stuff that matters, stuff that is the antidote to Blatter, Fifa, Sky and all the modern manifestations of corrupt power structures and crap which have engulfed football over the last 30 years or so.
The book starts off with Shankly’s advice to Ian St. John when he signed him from Motherwell in 1961: “Son, you will do well here as long as you remember two things, don’t over-eat and don’t lose your accent”. Well, good advice. I certainly never lost my German accent which also makes me an outsider to what constitutes the very fabric of British Life; the class system, the inherent inequalities this entails, and the regional unbalance and divisions we still have.
Ken is far too polite to articulate that in his essay which follows his 170 images but, for me they do just this, and furthermore they portray the sense of community which is there, underpinning everything, to get you through it all.
Luckily Ken never felt the urge to move on and possibly document the middle-classes in colour and for that I am grateful. Even if what comes across can be a little bit raw and bloke-ish at times.
I always wanted to publish a book about football and this is it. There won't be another one - it is more than just a book about football: Ken’s pictures blur the neatly defined categories in which those who have corrupted and controlled the game want us to experience football. Ken’s book is not just about football in Liverpool either, it is about the wider context of football that is not owned by the Blatters and Murdochs of this world.
It is our game and our communities which really matter.