New novel tells how Leeds United legend John Charles conquered Italy

John Charles in action for Leeds United.
John Charles in action for Leeds United.

A new novel has been published telling the trailblazing story of Leeds United legend John Charles as he tackled his very own Italian job.

Penned by Leeds writer and lifelong United fan Robert Endeacott, The Gigante is a fictionalised account of King John’s time in Italy after he moved to Turin side Juventus in 1957.

Robert Endeacott.

Robert Endeacott.

The book follows the Welshman’s exploits on the pitch as he wrote himself into Juventus folklore, earning the nickname Il Gigante Buono, or the Gentle Giant.

It also provides a fascinating insight into his life away from football, as he and first wife Peggy tried to come to terms with the culture shock of Turin in an era when British players rarely moved abroad.

And 53-year-old Robert hopes his 10th book – which was originally announced at the start of the year only for its publication to be delayed – will prove a champion read for Leeds fans everywhere.

He said: “I’m delighted The Gigante is finally out, it has been something of a journey for myself and the publisher but we got there in the end.

John Charles.

John Charles.

“I loved writing about the great man John Charles and I’m honoured to have been able to do so.

“I’m immensely grateful to his friends and family, especially Peggy who has been wonderful throughout and a great interviewee. She makes a fine cuppa too.

“The Gigante is a fiction using factual information, it is ostensibly a tribute to the Charles family, John mainly of course, and I hope I’ve done them justice.

“I feel I have, simply because I had nothing negative to write, it is not that sort of story.

“Proud Welshman John, one of the world’s greatest footballers of all time, was also an honorary Yorkshireman, and whilst he left Leeds for a time, Leeds never left John Charles.”

Beeston-based Robert’s previous novels include One Northern Soul, Dirty Leeds and After Extra Time. He also had a foray into music writing in 2014 with Peaches, a book about punk rock band The Stranglers.

The Gigante has been published by Ockley Books and can be purchased from the website.

It is also available from United’s Elland Road superstore and will be on sale shortly in all good bookshops.

A launch event is being planned at Beeston’s John Charles Centre for Sport, which was renamed after the United great following his death in 2004.

John made more than 300 appearances for the Whites and scored 157 goals, the vast majority between 1949 and 1957, although he had a brief second spell at Elland Road in 1962.

Equally adept at centre-forward and centre-half, his move to Juventus for £65,000 broke the British transfer record.

He was named the best foreign player to appear in Juventus’s black and white stripes when the Italian side celebrated its centenary in 1997.

John also helped Wales reach the quarter-finals of the 1958 World Cup.