How true a story is it?
It is as true as it was possible to make it. Rab was illiterate so there are no letters or writings as there are for some historical figures. What we have is his football: match reports from the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent and the Sheffield Telegraph mostly. These are a great source: football was reported more closely in Sheffield at the time than in any other city. The match reports in The Evergreen are all accurate.
Some things such as the stabbing of Ada's brother really happened too, though I had to invent the motive. The Jubilee events are close to real, as are the fair, the bonfire, the cafes, and the Henry irving/Ellen Terry visit to the Lyceum. Of course I can't prove that Rab and Ada ever went to these places - but neither can anyone can prove they didn't! Most of the shop names and other places are accurate. In fact where I could check and verify I did. Only when I reached an impasse did I make it up.
Rab gave an interview in a football programme in 1897, below. His humour comes through strong. He was a kidder, and the interviewer was well and truly strung along. What an "awful blow" he was! It is from this that the foklore that he lived in a caravan probably arose. It is of course nonsense: he lived in Brightside, in Sheffield's East End - but why would he tell a foolish gorgio otherwise. This interview is just about the only glimpse into Rab the man as opposed to Rab the footballer. Readers will note I have drawn heavily on it.