Lockdown – The Best Football Books To Read Now

 

With most people stuck at home and looking for something to occupy their time. Now is a good time to catch up on the best football books of recent times. Here’s my recommended lockdown reading list.

Can we have our football back? How the Premier League is ruining Football and what you can do about it …by John Nicholson

In ‘Can We Have Our Football Back?’ Football365 writer John Nicholson produces a coruscating attack on the excesses of the Premier League and provides an optimistic blueprint for a football revolution.

Nicholson wants to put an end to the Premier League, an end to the financial model upon which it is founded, an end to paywall TV, and an end to the astronomical wages, transfer fees and agents fees.

Going to the Match – The Passion for Football by Duncan Hamilton

Duncan Hamilton’s latest book is inspired by L.S. Lowry’s famously evocative painting ‘Going to the Match’. The artist painted the supporters approaching Bolton Wanderers’ Burnden Park in 1953 and Hamilton uses the painting as his starting point.

It is an enjoyable read as Hamilton travels as a fan to games throughout the 2017/18 season taking in matches from all levels of the football hierarchy across England, Scotland and Europe.

Masters of Modern Soccer – How the World’s Best Play the Twenty-First-Century Game by Grant Wahl

Masters of Modern Soccer coverIt may be something of a grandiose title but in Masters of Modern Soccer American journalist Grant Wahl expertly gets to grips with how the global game is developing.

Wahl interviews some of the most interesting figures in the modern game and explains how those individuals have mastered their craft. His impressive line-up is Manuel Neuer, Vincent Kompany, Xabi Alonso, Christian Pulisic, Javier “Chicarito” Hernandez as well as managers Juan Carlos Osorio and Roberto Martinez and a director of football Michael Zorc.

Moving the Goalposts – A Yorkshire Tragedy by Anthony Clavane

Anthony Clavane’s remarkable insight into the demise of Yorkshire’s sporting institutions in the context of a post-industrial world is now available in paperback.

Clavane believes that ‘sport has gone wrong’ in the sense that it has been increasingly infected by greed, rampant individualism and amorality. Huge sections of society have been disenfranchised by a new sporting order in which money, rather than collective endeavour, determines success.

Saturday, 3pm – 50 Eternal Delights of Modern Football by Daniel Gray

Daniel Gray’s ‘Saturday, 3pm. 50 Eternal Delights of Modern Football’ is a celebration of what makes football so special. Those golden moments that illuminates a football supporter’s life.

These short vignettes of prose-poetry capture the essence of what is still good in the game. What may seem mundane to non-football lovers such as: ‘Seeing a ground from the train’; ‘Getting the fixture list’; ‘Listening to the results in a car’; ‘The first day of the season’ and so on are all rightly identified as a significant part of the football experience.

State of Play – Under the Skin of the Modern Game by Michael Calvin

State of Play - Under the skin of the modern game by Michael Calvin

Award-winning sports writer Michael Calvin’s latest football book is an ambitious, in-depth and wide-ranging examination of the current game. Calvin takes as his inspiration Arthur Hopcrafts’s ‘The Football Man,’ which was written two years after England won the World Cup and is regarded as one of the best football books ever written.

Hopcraft’s book was divided into nine sections but Calvin has gone for four broad headings: The Player; The Manager; The Club, The People.

What You Think You Know About Football is Wrong – The Game’s Greatest Myths and Untruths by Kevin Moore

What You Think You Know About Footballi is Wrong

The former director of the National Football Museum Kevin Moore has produced a challenging and revelatory new book which debunks many of the myths and assumptions about football.

In 50 short chapters Moore shatters many of the strongly held beliefs of football fans. His entertaining commentary is generally supported with hard facts and statistics although occasionally he does stray onto more subjective ground.

Posted in Anthony Clavane, Book Reviews, Daniel Gray, Duncan Hamilton, Grant Wahl, John Nicholson, Kevin Moore, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coronavirus outbreak suspends all English football

Football on the pitch

Given the potential risk to life, the Premier League and the English Football League have rightly suspended English football for the first time since the Second World War.

Football in England will be suspended until at least 3 April as a result of the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

The EFL has said clubs were also advised to suspend “non-essential activities” such as “player appearances, training ground visits and fan meetings”.

Several Premier League players and managers have tested positive to the coronavirus and it was likely that the virus would be spread further if the fixtures continued as normal.

It is reassuring to know that the Premier League and EFL acted in the best interests of the fans, players and staff.

It is also significant to note that the Prime Minister and his scientific advisers did not act to suspend large public gatherings such as sporting events even though the risk of infection is high.

Unlike many other countries the Government’s approach is currently to allow public gatherings for as long as possible as they believe that the peak of the outbreak could be in several weeks’ time.

However, this a risky strategy which could put many lives at risk in the meantime. This strategy has been challenged by some scientists who suggest that a more proactive approach to public gatherings could restrict the spread.

The Government may have to review their recommendations now that the Premier League and EFL have decided to go against their advice.

Given the situation in many other countries, the risk of a longer postponement beyond the 3rd April is also quite likely given the severity of the outbreak.

If the postponement continues for any length of time many clubs outside the Premier League are likely to suffer financial hardship.

Without regular match day income many clubs will struggle to pay the wages of staff and could ultimately go out of business.

The football authorities and the Government have a key role to play in ensuring that this does not happen.

The wealthy Premier League clubs should set up a hardship fund for lower league teams who may struggle without the regular income.

It is now time for the big rich clubs to show if they care about the good of the game, or whether self-interest rules.

Posted in Championship, Coronavirus, English Football League, Premier League, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Lacklustre Latics held by Luton – Wigan Athletic 0 Luton Town 0

Michael Jacobs Micheal Jacobs was denied by Simon Sluga late on

Wigan Athletic and Luton Town fought out a dull 0-0 draw at DW Stadium.

With both teams battling against relegation, the fear of defeat seemed uppermost in the players’ minds and contributed to an uneventful spectacle.

Latics had the greater possession and had more shots than their opponents but real chances were at a premium.

Late in the game substitute Joe Garner had a good chance but headed straight at keeper Simon Sluga.

Then in added time Sluga denied Latics all three points with a superb save from substitute Michael Jacobs.

The draw meant that 20th placed Latics maintained the six point gap above 23rd placed Luton in the Championship table with nine games remaining.

Paul Cook made one change to the starting line up from last Saturday’s 1-0 win at West Bromwich Albion, with Kal Naismith replacing the injured Tom Pearce.

Latics pressed early on as they attempted to maintain their excellent recent form.

The hosts first real chance came on the half hour mark when Gary Roberts’ corner found Leon Balogun and the Brighton loanee headed just over the crossbar from close range.

A neat set-piece routine created Latics’ next chance as Roberts and Samy Morsy combined before setting up Williams, who saw his shot from the edge of the area well blocked.

The visitors rarely threatened in the opening half as Balogun and Cedric Kipre swept up any attacks.

But Graeme Jones’ team has a strong shout for a penalty when Joe Williams appeared to pull back Matty Pearson in the area.

The Hatters started the second-half strongly but couldn’t create any clear cut openings.

Substitute Anthony Pilkington and Kieffer Moore then tried their luck for Latics.

With time running out Latics had their two best opportunities of the game.

First Naismith’s cross was met by substitute Garner but the striker’s diving header was straight at Sluga.

Then substitute Jacobs had an even better chance when his low drive was superbly turned away by Sluga.

The points were shared and Latics had been prevented from extending their three game winning sequence.

Credit should be given to Luton, who have been on a good run of form recently, and produced a battling away performance but Latics were definitely not at their best.

Did they just have an off day, or did Cook’s fear of defeat affect his tactics and contribute to the poor showing?

There was certainly an edginess about Latics’ play and the fluency of recent weeks was noticeably absent.

Latics struggled to create many chances and they must show a marked improvement against Huddersfield next week if they are to get a good result.

Let’s hope this was just a blip and Cook’s team will get back to the type of high energy pressing football that has been so impressive in recent weeks.

Championship Form Guide Championship Form Guide
Posted in Championship, Graeme Jones, Luton Town, Michael Jacobs, Paul Cook, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why have Wigan Athletic suddenly clicked?

Samy Morsy Captain Samy Morsy. Photo courtesy of Wigan Athletic

Latics moved out of the relegation zone on Saturday for the first time in three months with an impressive 1-0 victory at Championship leaders West Brom. They are the in-form team in the division with 17 points from a possible 24 in the last eight games.

It’s been a remarkable turnaround from early December when Latics couldn’t buy a win and were defeated by Reading and Saturday’s opponents Luton Town. Many people including myself were calling for a change in manager as Paul Cook seemed out of ideas and incapable of finding a winning formula.

So why have Latics suddenly clicked?

A number of factors have contributed to the remarkable transformation.

Is it that time in the season when they need to step up their performances to preserve their Championship status? Last season the team looked like being sucked into the relegation zone and it was only a late sequence of positive results starting at Leeds United in April that enabled them to avoid the drop.

It’s perhaps no coincidence that Latics’ revival started around the time they defeated Leeds again at Elland Road. The belief since that result has soared. Is there something in the current team’s mindset that says we only getting going when the going gets tough?

Captain Samy Morsy has been a revelation in recent weeks, his man of the match performances have inspired his teammates. Organising and urging them on to some remarkable performances against Leeds and West Brom.

Not only has the Eqyptian international been extremely combative he has also chipped in with some important goals at home to Middlesbrough and at the Hawthorns.

The addition of Brighton and Hove Albion loanee Leon Balogun has been a masterstroke by Latics. The German-born Nigerian international has quickly slotted into the centre back role alongside Cedric Kipre to form a solid defensive barrier.

Balogun was imperious against West Brom with some unbelievable last-ditch tackles and defensive blocks. Striker Hal Robson-Kanu must be having nightmares after Balogun denied him on at least three occasions with superb goal saving challenges.

Summer signing Kieffer Moore has finally started to find the form that Latics expected when they signed him. Moore has four goals in the last eight games and you can’t help feeling that if the service was a little better he would score even more goals.

Kieffer Moore Kieffer Moore

The Wales international striker leads the line very well and he has a very good touch for such a big man. His two back-heeled flicked finishes against Cardiff and Reading were world class and it will not be long before he becomes a target for Premier League clubs.

The style of play has noticeably improved in recent weeks and the last two performances against Reading and West Brom have been characterised by a high pressing game. Latics have dominated possession, passed the ball to great effect and created plenty of chances.

It is not clear why Cook didn’t adopt this approach earlier in the season. Much of Latics’ early games were characterised by his ineffective long ball tactics. Surely given the current success the manager will continue with the high press for the remaining games.

It’s probably no coincidence that Latics’ resurgence has occurred since forward Josh Windass left the club for a loan at Sheffield Wednesday.

Windass has some talent but his form has been very erratic and his regular outbursts on social media have not endeared him to the fanbase. Cook has reportedly had a disagreement with Windass and its fair to say he has been a disruptive influence in the dressing room.

The team spirit now seems to be sky high with all the players pulling in the right direction. The effort and determination in recent games has been exemplary and we can only hope that this will continue in the remaining ten games.

Latics aren’t safe from relegation yet, but the signs are positive and it’s worth remembering that Joe Gelhardt, Antonee Robinson and Kieran Dowell will all return in the near future to give the squad an extra boost.

Posted in Antonee Robinson, Championship, Joe Gelhardt, Josh Windass, Kieran Dowell, Leon Balogun, Paul Cook, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sensational Latics shock table toppers – West Bromwich Albion 0 Wigan Athletic 1

View from the away end at the Hawthorns

Wigan Athletic’s revival continued with a sensational victory at Championship leaders West Bromwich Albion.

Latics continued were they had left off at Reading with a high press which kept the Baggies pegged back in their own half for long periods.

The visitors dominated possession and had more shots than the league leaders and thoroughly deserved the vital three points in their battle for Championship survival.

Captain Samy Morsy was the match winner with a composed finish following a goalmouth scramble on 73 minutes.

Latics are now the in-form team in the division having taken 17 points from a possible 24 and have risen to 19th in the table. Albion remain top but are now only one point above second placed Leeds United.

Paul Cook named an unchanged team from the 3-0 win at Reading on Wednesday night.

Latics were without Chey Dunkley who had suffered a broken leg in added time against the Royals, and the players wore ‘Dunkley 22’ t-shirts to show their support for the centre back before the game.

Right from the kick off Latics adopted a high press which put the Championship leaders on the back foot.

The first chance came for Latics when a short corner on the right side allowed Morsy to fire in a left foot shot which was turned away by Sam Johnstone and Joe Williams unable to capitalise on the rebound.

The Baggies first chance came when Matheus Pereira broke clear of the Latics defence and David Marshall had to save smartly with his legs to deny the Brazilian forward.

Soon afterwards Latics had a glorious opportunity to go ahead when Kieffer Moore crossed from the right and Gavin Massey’s diving header crashed against the right hand post.

The visitors were bossing possession and causing plenty of problems for the hosts.

But Latics had to stay alert and Brighton loanee Leon Balogun was again in great form alongside Cedric Kipre in the centre of Latics’ defence.

Marshall then pulled out another good save to deny Callum Robinson when the forward cut in from the left hand side.

WBA versus Wigan Athletic

Latics attack at the Hawthorns

All level at the interval but could Latics maintain the same level of intensity in the second half?

It was soon evident that they could as they pressed high and threatened when Lowe fired wide from a good position.

Balogun then came to Latics’ rescue when he produced an exceptional defensive interception to deny Hal Robson-Kanu when the striker was just about to pull the trigger when through on goal.

The German-born Nigerian international Balogun was at it again soon afterwards denying Robson-Kanu with a superb tackle and striding away with the ball.

At the other end, the 35-year-old Gary Roberts threatened when he got into the Albion area but Johnstone denied his low drive from a tight angle.

Latics continued to play with great confidence and produced some excellent periods of controlled possession.

On 73 minutes they deservedly went ahead following a corner and goalmouth scramble.

Substitute Michael Jacobs’ corner wasn’t cleared by the Baggies defence and Kipre’s volley deflected into the path of Morsy who fired home from 12 yards-out.

Balogun had to be substituted soon afterwards as he was feeling unwell and Kal Naismith slotted into central defence.

The Baggies pushed forward as they attempted to save the game but Latics defended resolutely.

Latics then had a glorious opportunity to make the game safe in added time. Moore brought a high ball under control and produced a defence splitting pass into the path of Lowe but the striker was unable to lift the ball over the diving Johnstone.

Latics held on for a crucial victory extending their unbeaten run to five games and moving them out of the bottom three for the first time in three months.

It is hard to comprehend why Cook’s team who have struggled for so long have now suddenly turned the corner and are producing some magnificent performances including victories against the Championship’s top teams Leeds and West Brom.

The away form which has been abysmal for so long has been transformed with four wins in five and the style of football is a joy to watch.

The high press in the last two games is working to perfection and all the players are fighting for the cause.

Marshall has produced some important saves, Balogun has been imperious alongside the reliable Kipre, full backs Nathan Byrne and Tom Pearce have been getting forward down the flanks, Morsy and Williams have been dominant in midfield and forwards Moore, Lowe, Massey and Roberts have posed a threat and battled tirelessly for every ball.

Long may it continue, the great escape is on and Latics are looking upwards.

Posted in Championship, Sam Morsy, West Bromwich Albion, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Latics looking upwards as they rout Royals – Reading 0 Wigan Athletic 3

Kieffer Moore Kieffer Moore gave Latics the lead with a sublime finish

Wigan Athletic produced their best performance of the season with an emphatic 3-0 victory at Reading.

The visitors dominated the first half and went ahead through a sublime finish from Kieffer Moore on 23 minutes.

The visitors doubled their lead when Jamal Lowe volleyed home from the edge of the box on 63 minutes and substitute Michael Jacobs completed the scoring with a superb chipped finish in added time.

The Royals rarely threatened but when they did keeper David Marshall was in fine form producing an excellent triple save to deny substitute Charlie Adam and Sam Baldock twice at close range.

The only negative for Latics was an injury to centre back Chey Dunkley who was stretchered off in added time.

Latics remain in 22nd spot but moved a step nearer to Championship safety and are now on level points with 21st placed Middlesbrough who lost at home to Leeds. Reading are in 16th spot, only five points from safety and it looks like they will be dragged into the relegation dogfight.

Paul Cook made three changes from Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Millwall, with Gavin Massey, Gary Roberts and Tom Pearce replacing Kal Naismith, Michael Jacobs and Anthony Pilkington.

Latics dominated from the kick off, pressing high and making it difficult for the Royals to play out from the back.

Joe Williams went closest in the opening minutes when he drove forwards from midfield and forced a full length save from Rafael Cabral.

Latics continued to press and in the 23rd minute they went in front through a sublime piece of skill from Moore.

Nathan Byrne crossed from the right for Moore who instinctively flicked the ball past a stunned Cabral.

Leon Balogun made an important block on the half hour mark to deny a rare Reading attack. John Swift found Sam Baldock in the clear but the big Nigerian international defender made a last ditch challenge to avert the danger.

On 38 minutes Morsy lofted a high ball into the Royals box and Cedric Kipre had an opportunity to double Latics’ lead but he headed just over the crossbar.

It had been a dominant display by the visitors in the first half, but the question was could they maintain their dominance in the second half?

They started the second period strongly and Lowe evaded several defenders before driving into the box only to be denied by a last ditch challenge which prevented the final shot.

The former Portsmouth striker has found goals hard to come by in the Championship but he got on the scoresheet on 57 minutes, volleying home from the edge of the box.

Williams nearly added a third for Latics on 70 minutes but once again he saw his effort well tipped around the post by Cabral.

Reading substitute Michael OIise forced a good save from Marshall after Latics’ defence failed to clear.

Latics substitute Lee Evans then twice forced excellent saves from Cabral, first from a 25-yard free-kick and then later from a 30-yard volley that was destined for the top corner.

The visitors could have made it three soon after as Pearce’s cross from the left found Kipre, but he headed straight at Cabral from close range.

Marshall then came to Latics’ rescue with a superb triple save, first denying Adam’s strike from distance then the two follow ups from Baldock at very close range.

In added time the hosts had an opportunity to pull a goal back but Baldock, under pressure from Latics substitute Chey Dunkley, fired over. As a result of Dunkley’s challenge he was badly injured and had to be stretchered off.

In the dying seconds of nine minutes of added time Jacobs broke clear of the Royals defence and finished superbly chipping the ball over the advancing Cabral to seal a special away day for Latics.

It had been a dominant team performance by Latics against relegation rivals and it will give everyone confidence that they can now go on to pull off another great escape.

Following the midweek results it now appears that more teams are being dragged into the relegation battle. Reading and Hull City are in poor form and look vulnerable. They will have to compete against Luton, Barnsley, Middlesbrough, Stoke, Huddersfield, Charlton and Wigan for Championship survival.

Posted in Championship, Jamal Lowe, Kieffer Moore, Michael Jacobs, Reading, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Latics grind out important win in battle for survival – Wigan Athletic 1 Millwall 0

Leon Balogun Brighton loanee Leon Balogun impressed in defence. Photo courtesy of Wigan Athletic

Wigan Athletic secured a vital three points against Millwall in their battle for Championship survival.

Anthony Pilkington’s cross was turned into his own net by Shaun Hutchinson in the 57th minute and it was enough for Latics to reduce the gap to Championship safety to just two points.

In difficult conditions Latics had the greater possession and more shots but the visitors had several presentable opportunities to gain at least a point.

Latics central defenders Leon Balogun and Cedric Kipre made goal saving blocks and the Lions striker Tom Bradshaw missed a glorious chance when keeper David Marshall dropped Jed Wallace’s cross.

Latics remain in 22nd spot but are now only two points behind 21st placed Huddersfield. Millwall meanwhile drop to 11th in the table.

Paul Cook made two changes from last Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Cardiff with Michael Jacobs and Anthony Pilkington replacing Gavin Massey and Lee Evans.

The Latics manager had been banished to the stands on his birthday after a succession of touchline bookings and had to watch the game from high up in the West Stand gantry.

In difficult conditions neither team really threatened in the early stages as they cancelled each other out.

The first major incident occurred on the half hour mark as Nathan Byrne fouled Ryan Woods on the edge of the area and despite the Millwall players appeals for a penalty referee Jeremy Simpson awarded a free kick.

Jed Wallace’s resulting effort was comfortably saved by keeper Marshall.

Both teams struggled to create chances in an uninspiring first half, all level at the interval.

Millwall had a great opportunity to go ahead early in the second-half when Marshall spilled a cross from the right and Bradshaw was on hand but he somehow failed to hit the target from close range.

At the other end Latics threatened when Pilkington’s shot was deflected narrowly wide of Bartosz Bialkowski’s right-hand post.

This was the catalyst for further Latics pressure and they went ahead on the hour mark after good play by Jamal Lowe down the right hand side, he cut the ball back to Pilkington, who saw his effort deflected into his own net by Hutchinson.

Soon afterwards Pilkington forced an excellent full-length save from Bialkowski with an audacious 35-yard free-kick. From the resulting corner Balogun volleyed just wide of the target.

The Lions tried to respond and Mahlon Romeo’s cross from the right found Bradshaw but the striker headed wide.

Latics then had a great chance to increase their lead as Pilkington found Samy Morsy in the area but the captain’s shot was just over the Millwall crossbar.

As the game moved towards the final whistle Latics retreated into defence under pressure from the visitors. Millwall substitute Mason Bennett had a great chance to level but he fired wide from the edge of the area.

On the counter-attack Moore then had a chance to seal the points but dragged his left foot effort wide of goal.

Bennett missed another opportunity just before the final whistle as Latics held on for an important three points in their battle for survival.

Latics are now showing good form with 11 points from a possible 18 in the last six games.

They look much stronger with Kipre and Balogun in the centre of defence and the midfield is as combative as any in the division.

Nigerian international Balogun has brought a calmness to Latics’ defence which augurs well for the run-in but they are the joint lowest scorers in the division and they will need the strikers to start finding the net if they are to stay up.

Posted in Championship, Leon Balogun, Millwall, Shaun Henderson, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment