Lost In France – Spencer Vignes

Lost In France chronicles the life of enigmatic Welsh goalkeeper Leigh Richmond Roose before it was cruelly cut short on a WWI battlefield.

On the football field, Roose was a maverick goalkeeper who set the gold standard for goalkeeping in the early 20th century English leagues. He played with passion, abandon, and inspired a generation of goalkeepers to be as daring as him. Off the field he was a playboy that moved in and out of London social circles, living off the suspect living payments his clubs provided him with in return for his goalkeeping expertise. As such, controversy followed him around in his prime and during the twilight of his career. He burned bridges with some clubs, while others glorified him. He was erudite, athletic, confident–a genuine football philosopher who would regularly wax lyrical on the fine art of goalkeeping in newspapers. This daring-do led him to the WWI battlefield, and after serving England with great pride he, like many of his generation, was cut down in a foreign field.

Lost In France author Vignes delicately and authoritatively picks apart Roose’s life from the scant anecdotal evidence, and his investigation on where Roose’s finally resting place lies is a particular highlight. Overall, Lost In France is not just an insight on the life of the maverick goalkeeper, but an insight into the English football league in its formative years. As such, the writing takes on a historical bent and lacks a certain poetic feel. Nevertheless, Lost In France is an informative and short read that outlays the fascinating English foundations of the game we so love through the prism of one of its forgotten heroes.

It is interesting to note that Vignes has provided a chapter at the end in which Roose’s goalkeeping ‘philosophy’ is laid out in detail, taken from articles Roose had written for newspapers/magazines in his prime. Though Roose’s thoughts are often unintelligible and confusing, there is an undoubted genius behind his words. One can only speculate as to what he could have achieved in his life after football, had he come through WWI.

STARS: 4/5

FULL TIME SCORE: An inspired and heroic display by the goalkeeper leads to a 3-1 win for the away side.

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