Player who went from miner to international

A new biography is to tell the rags-to-riches story of one of England's greatest football players, who was born in Cannock.

Gerry HitchensA new biography is to tell the rags-to-riches story of one of England's greatest football players, who was born in Cannock.

Gerry Hitchens and his wife Meriel were said to be the Posh and Becks of their day.

The former miner began his career with Kidderminster Harriers and Cardiff City before starring for Aston Villa and England, scoring within two minutes on his debut in an 8-0 drubbing of Mexico in 1961. He went on to blaze a trail at Internazionale in Milan. It was a move that is thought to have cost him the chance of a World Cup winner's medal in 1966.

He had played for England in the 1962 World Cup in Chile and won a total of seven caps, scoring five goals. But when Alf Ramsey took over as England manager, Hitchens' international career came to a halt, the manager preferring to pick home-based players.

Hitchens stayed in Italy for nine years, also playing for Torino, Atalanta and Cagliari. After retiring, he moved to Wales, where he tragically died, aged just 48, while playing in a charity match in 1983. His story is now being immortalised by Simon Goodyear, son of the late David Goodyear, author of 13 football and cricket books, who decided to fulfil his father's desire to write a biography of his boyhood footballing hero. The work has been produced with help from Gerry's widow and eldest son, Marcus.

The biography, called From Mine to Milan - The Gerry Hitchens Story, includes a touching foreword from England team-mate and friend Jimmy Greaves.

Other contributors include Sir Bobby Charlton, Peter McParland, and Italian legends Luis Suarez, Gigi Riva, Mario Corso plus world renowned journalist Brian Glanville, who directed a film about Hitchens in 1962 called The European Centre Forward, which won a Silver Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival in 1963.

Mr Goodyear, aged 43, from Rugby, Warwickshire, said: "It is fair to say that Gerry and his beautiful wife Meriel were considered to be the Posh and Becks of the day as they were adored by the paparazzi and followed everywhere they went. It is a real life rags-to-riches story, Roy-of-the-Rovers stuff."

The book, published by Breedon Publishing of Derby, will be on sale in October.