Review: Beautiful Bridesmaids Dressed in Oranje – The Unfulfilled Glory of Dutch Football by Gary Thacker

Gary Thacker’s ‘Beautiful Bridesmaids Dressed in Oranje’ provides an illuminating and in-depth analysis of the Dutch national team and their dramatic failure to win a World Cup.

This is an extensive history of Dutch football, but the narrative really gathers pace with the 1970s when they reached the World Cup finals in 1974 and 1978.

Despite creating Total Football and dominating the European scene in the 1970s, the Dutch’s inability to conquer the greatest prize is often seen as a mystery. Thacker does his best to explain the reasons while also revelling in the joys of Total Football and the Dutch counterculture.

Interestingly the Dutch had only qualified for the 74 World Cup when a wrongly awarded offside decision against Belgium allowed them into the finals.

Rob Smyth wrote in The Guardian,

“….it was Total Football that had got the Dutch to that point and, had they not progressed, the world would have been denied the opportunity of seeing one of the greatest sides never to win the World Cup fail so magnificently.”

Johan Cruyff and manager Rinus Michels were central to the development of the revolutionary Total Football which captured the imagination of fans everywhere.

It was a time when Art and Music became experimental, and a new footballing counterculture rose to prominence. At club level Ajax symbolised the style and swagger of the new Total Football and the Dutch national team were its international exponents.

Thacker quotes Jack Kerouac from ‘On the Road’ and makes comparisons with the Beat Generation to the passion and exhilaration exhibited by the Dutch team.

‘The only people for me are the mad ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.’

The Dutch certainly were a magnificent team with players like Cruyff, Johan Neeskens, Ruud Krol, Arie Haan, Johnny Rep, Rob Rensenbrink etc and were extremely attractive to watch.  

Thacker explains in detail the Netherlands route to the 74 and 78 World Cup finals and the various reasons for their ultimate failure. It’s fair to say that the Dutch didn’t enjoy much luck in the finals and circumstances always seemed to conspire against them.

Although the Dutch have yet to win the World Cup, they did win the European Championships in 1988 defeating the Soviet Union in the final. The great irony was that in the two World Cup finals they had been the better team, but in 1988 many would say that the Soviet Union were superior. 

The Dutch reached the World Cup final again in 2010 in South Africa when they lost to Spain in the final. But by then the Dutch had become a more physical and unattractive team to watch and a far cry from the heady days of Total Football. 

In losing in 2010 they had become the only team in the history of the tournament to lose three World Cup finals. Whether the Dutch will ever win a final is open to debate, but Thacker provides a very strong case that they are the greatest football nation never to win a World Cup.

Beautiful Bridesmaids Dressed in Oranje – The Unfulfilled Glory of Dutch Football by Gary Thacker, published by Pitch Publishing, Price £16.99.

A version of this review first appeared in the September/October 2021 edition of Late Tackle magazine.

Posted in Book Reviews, Football Book Reviews, Gary Thacker, Holland, Johan Cruyff, Late Tackle magazine, Netherlands, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Latics getting better all the time – Wigan Athletic 2 Doncaster Rovers 1

Will Keane's double clinched the points for Latics

Will Keane’s double clinched the points for Latics

  • Wigan Athletic’s new team have started the season with surprising success and they are improving game by game.
  • Doncaster went ahead on 22 minutes when Tommy Rowe converted former Latic Joe Dodoo’s pass.
  • Latics weren’t ruffled by the setback and quickly responded when Will Keane headed home Max Power’s well-executed free-kick.
  • Early in the second half Keane added a second when he converted following Power’s cross and Callum Lang’s knock down.
  • The hosts controlled the remaining minutes and could have added to their lead but Lang blazed over from a good position.
  • Latics move up to second place in League One while Doncaster remain rooted to the bottom of the table.

Leam Richardson made two changes to his side from the 1-0 victory over Portsmouth,  with Max Power and James McClean coming back into the starting XI to replace Tom Pearce and Jordan Jones.

Former Latics players Joe Dodoo, Jordy Hiwula and Kyle Knoyle started for the Doncaster while Dan Gardner was on the bench.

The hosts started strongly and Lang fired over the crossbar.

Doncaster created an opportunity when former Latic Knoyle looked to find Dodoo at the back post, but the striker couldn’t quite make contact and Ben Amos was able to collect.

The visitors were ahead after 20 minutes when a throw-in was hooked into the area by Dodoo with Latics’ defence static and Rowe was free to volley into the net from 12-yards-out.

But Latics were unruffled and responded quickly. Power delivered a superb free-kick into the six-yard box and the unmarked Keane headed home.

Latics’ set-pieces were causing the visitors plenty of problems and from a McClean corner Kell Watts’ header forced an excellent fingertip save from Pontus Dahlberg after Jack Whatmough had headed back across the goal.

From Power’s next corner Tom Naylor headed narrowly over the crossbar at the near post.

Just before the interval Charlie Wyke was brought down just outside of the area by Ro-Shaun Williams. McClean’s subsequent free-kick was fired wide of Dahlberg’s left-hand post.

The second half started with Latics dominating possession and they went close again when Power’s set-piece found Watts and the Newcastle loanee’s header forced another superb one handed save from the Rovers keeper.

Latics went ahead on 52 minutes when Keane added his second of the game and his third of the season.

Power’s inviting cross found Lang, who headed into the path of Keane, who turned smartly and slotted past Dahlberg. Rovers appealed for offside but the referee and linesman were in agreement and the goal stood.

Latics looked like they would increase their lead and Lang forced another good save from Dahlberg from distance.

The game continued to be dominated by Latics, and in the 70th minute Lang had an opportunity to seal the points but he fired wide of the angle of post and crossbar from about nine yards out.

Late pressure from Doncaster never really materialised and Latics ran out comfortable winners.

This had been another strong team performance against a hardworking Doncaster team.  Defensively Latics had been very solid with Whatmough and Watts outstanding. They now have strength in depth all over the pitch and the competition for a starting place can only be healthy for the team’s progress.

Leam Richardson was pleased with how his team responded to going behind and although he would liked to have added to the lead he was happy with the overall performance.

Max Power was rightly proud on his 150th appearance for the club and he produced an accomplished performance on the day.

“It’s something I’m really proud of,” he said.

“It’s no secret how much I enjoy playing for the club. It’s a fantastic club and you see how many ex-players come back and I’m sure I won’t be the last to do it.

“I’m glad that I’m back, and I now want to show the Wigan fans that I have come back a better player.

“It’s a proud day for me to hit that milestone with my family here. Hopefully, I can stay fit now and reach more milestones.”

Player ratings courtesy of

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Latics show composure and organisation to overcome Pompey – Wigan Athletic 1 Portsmouth 0

Callum Lang was on target for Latics

  • Latics were the victors in this closely contested encounter between two teams who will be hoping to challenge for promotion at the end of the League One season.
  • Callum Lang’s composed finish in the 78th minute made the difference in a game of very few chances at the DW Stadium.
  • Danny Cowley’s Pompey adopted a high press to put Latics under pressure but the home team showed good organisation and composure and as the game progressed the hosts posed a greater threat.
  • The result moves Latics up to fourth place in the League One table and Portsmouth are now in fifth spot.

Leam Richardson made one change to his line-up that had won 2-0 at Charlton Athletic with Tom Pearce replacing Max Power, new loanee Tom Bayliss from Preston North End was on the bench.

Right from the kick off the visitors pressed high and tried to impose themselves on the home team.

Portsmouth’s Clark Robertson had a header comfortably tipped over the crossbar by Latics’ keeper Ben Amos early on.

When Latics did break out of defence in the 19th minute Referee Christopher Sarginson wasn’t doing them any favours as Jordan Jones went down under a risky challenge in the Pompey box.

Soon afterwards Ronan Curtis’ had a header easily saved by Amos and in the 24th minute the unmarked Curtis had a goal-bound effort blocked by a Latics defender.

At the other end Tendayi Darikwa had a chance but his shot was saved low-down by Gavin Bazunu in the 37th minute.

The teams cancelled each other out at the beginning of the second half.

But Curtis had another chance on 57 minutes when from Kieron Freeman’s cross he headed over the crossbar.

As the half progressed the visitors lost their momentum and energy, and Latics started to find more space in their opponents half.

Substitute James McClean had replaced Jordan Jones on 54 minutes and along with Tom Pearce they were causing Pompey problems down the left hand side.

McClean and Pearce combined well in the 78th minute and from Pearce’s cross the ball fell to Lang at the far post, and the striker composed himself before finishing into the bottom corner. 

Portsmouth tried to respond but despite pushing numbers forward they didn’t manage to force a notable save from Amos.

Former Portsmouth players Jack Whatmough and Tom Naylor gave exemplary defensive performances for Latics.

It had been a game of few chances, Charlie Wyke tried his luck from 25-yards in the 87th minute but his shot was high and wide, and Latics saw out five minutes of added time.

For a newly assembled team Latics have exceeded expectations in the first five league games of the season. 

It’s been a very difficult set of opening fixtures but the team are already looking a very capable outfit.

Richardson was rightly upbeat about Latics’ start to the season after the game.

“We’re still making small steps and we’re absolutely made up with the start that we’ve had. From when they’ve come in pre-season, the lads have done everything that we’ve asked, and again they’ve responded after a bitty first half into a second half where I thought we were worthy of something.”

With two centre backs and a full back incoming Latics now look to have the strength in depth to mount a promotion challenge. 

With the backing of Phoenix 2021, Leam Richardson has done well to assemble such a strong squad in such a short space of time and the prospects for this season are now so much higher.

Player ratings courtesy of


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Latics special away day in the capital – Charlton Athletic 0 Wigan Athletic 2

Captain Tendayi Darikwa broke the deadlock

Captain Tendayi Darikwa broke the deadlock

  • Latics produced a masterful away performance with a 2-0 victory at Charlton Athletic.
  • The visitors created numerous chances and were denied by at least five quality saves by home keeper Craig MacGillivray until captain Tendayi Darikwa broke the deadlock and headed his first goal for the club in the 88th minute.
  • In the 95th minute substitute James McClean making his second debut for Latics added a second goal and sealed the three points.

Leam Richardson named the same team that had drawn with Wycombe Wanderers on Tuesday night. Gwion Edwards and new signing McClean were on the bench. 

The Addicks had FA Cup hero Ben Watson in their starting line-up and former Latic Jason Pearce on the bench alongside recent trialist Corey Blackett-Taylor.

The hosts exerted some early pressure from long throw-ins but Latics held firm and soon started to assert their authority.

In the 11th minute Callum Lang’s cross found Jordan Jones on the left side of the box but the winger could only steer his header against the crossbar.

Two minutes later Jones produced an excellent delivery and Will Keane forced a save from MacGillivray.

Latics continued to force the pace and from a Max Power free-kick Newcastle loanee Kell Watts had a header well saved by the Addicks keeper.

Around the half hour mark the hosts started to gain a foothold in the game and enjoyed more possession.

But it was the visitors who ended the half more strongly and from another Jones quality delivery Tom Naylor’s header was well parried away by MacGillivray.

In the second half the hosts threatened when Charlie Kirk’s shot was turned around the post by Ben Amos and Jayden Stockley set up an another opportunity for Kirk who should have finished at close range.

Richardson replaced Lang and Jones with McClean and Gavin Massey on 63 minutes and McClean was soon in the action firing his right footed shot just wide of the post.

MacGillivray came to the Addicks rescue again soon afterwards when Charlie Wyke’s header from Power’s cross was heading for the corner but the keeper managed to push it away.

Adam Matthews had a strike from the edge of the box which went wide of the target on 87 minutes, but a minute later Latics deservedly took the lead when Power’s excellent deep cross found Darikwa who had stolen in at the back post to head home past MacGillivray.

Stephen Humphrys replaced Keane on 92 minutes and three minutes later his defence splitting through ball set up McClean who took the ball around MacGillivray before finishing with ease and putting the seal on a brilliant away performance.

Manager Richardson was rightly delighted with the performance.

“First and foremost, I am made up with the result; I think the result comes on reflection of Tuesday’s performance.

“The 711 fans who came today, the way they sang, kept behind the team and helped the momentum shift towards the end of the game so to score two goals in front of them right in front of them at the end made for a fantastic afternoon.

“I thought we started the game ever so well and their keeper made three big saves and they possibly took control towards the end of the first half.

“We came out second half, imposed ourselves a little bit and then with the goals towards the end of the game, I thought we finished the game strongly.

“I felt we came away with our just rewards.”

It was a rare victory for Latics in London and the result was especially pleasing given that the team has only been together for a few weeks. If they can continue improving and if they can add a few more players they will surely be challenging at the top of the table.

Charlton v Wigan

Player ratings courtesy of

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Impressive Latics denied by late equaliser – Wigan Athletic 1 Wycombe Wanderers 1

Callum Lang2

Callum Lang gave Latics the lead

  • Latics produced an impressive attacking display against unbeaten Wycombe Wanderers at the DW Stadium.
  • The hosts went ahead on 47 minutes through Callum Lang’s strike.
  • It looked as though Latics would secure the three points but the Chairboys struck a 90th minute equaliser through Anthony Stewart and the points were shared.
  • Latics are in 14th place and Wycombe are in third after three games.
  • New signing James McClean was presented to the fans prior to kick off.

Leam Richardson made two changes to his starting line up from the victory against Rotherham with Jordan Cousins and Jordan Jones replacing Stephen Humphrys and Luke Robinson.

Latics started confidently with Callum Lang setting up Will Keane but the striker fired his effort over the crossbar.

Latics continued to press forward and should’ve been ahead on five minutes when Lang’s shot was deflected into the path of captain Tendayi Darikwa, but his effort from the edge of the six-yard box went narrowly wide of the post.

Wycombe’s first opportunity came in the 15th minute when the ball fell to Garath McCleary in the box, but the forward fired straight at Ben Amos. 

The visitors started to cause more problems with Anis Mehmeti being denied by an excellent block from Tom Naylor.

Mehmeti had then their best chance to open the scoring when after a neat one-two he volleyed straight at Amos from the corner of the six-yard box.

At the other end Charlie Wyke had an opportunity to open the scoring for Latics in the 34th minute after Jones whipped in an inviting cross but Wyke could only guide his header over. 

Latics had another big chance to break the deadlock just moments later after a poor back-pass allowed Jones to try his luck but his shot was easily saved by David Stockdale. Jones would surely have done better to square the ball with Wyke unmarked in a central position.

The hosts were unlucky in the 41st minute when Keane had the ball in the back of the net but he was adjudged as offside after he headed Jones’ cross into the net.

But Latics did go ahead early in the second half after Lang found space in the penalty area following Jones’ free kick, and fired his shot superbly into the top right corner.

Jones almost doubled the lead in the 54th minute when his left-footed strike from 25-yards forced a full-length save from Stockdale.

Latics nearly sealed the points in the 69th minute when Keane headed against the crossbar from Whatmough’s flick on from Max Power’s free-kick.

But despite creating numerous chances Latics succumbed to late pressure and Wycombe equalised in the 90th minute. 

From Sully Kaikai’s corner Anthony Stewart rose above Kel Watts at the back post and headed home to maintain Wycombe’s unbeaten start to the season.

It was a frustrating end for Latics, who had been impressive for most of the game. 

Afterwards Leam Richardson emphasised that it is important that his side keep making small steps forward during the infancy stages of their bonding.

“I think now we’re into our third league game and fourth [competitive game] with Hull City, with all the fundamentals that we’re trying to work on around the pitch, you’ve got to be careful as these lads have only been together competitively for four games, but there are some really good positives in there.

“There are some real good lads with the work ethic. I think the question that you’ve always got to ask yourself is could the group have given anymore for the shirt, themselves and each other, and I don’t think they could tonight.”

Latics’ new team have performed well in the difficult opening games against teams who are expected to be challenging at the top end of the table. 

It is still early days but Richardson is building a strong squad, with the signing of James McClean and with four or five more additions, they are capable of mounting a promotion campaign.

Latics face another tough game against Nigel Adkins’ Charlton on Saturday but the spirit in the camp is good and the competition for starting places is heating up.


Player ratings courtesy of

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Latics late show stuns Rotherham – Wigan Athletic 1 Rotherham United 0

Will Keane's header drew Latics level

Will Keane’s headed a last gasp winner

  • In the first competitive match at the DW Stadium for nearly 18 months there was an emotional atmosphere amongst the fans.
  • Phoenix 2021 Ltd Chairman Talal Al Hammad was able greet the fans for the first time and the kick off had to be delayed by 10 minutes.
  • Rotherham thought they had earned a point but in the fifth minute of added time Will Keane headed home Max Power’s free-kick to secure Latics’ first three points of the season.
  • The Millers manager Paul Warne referred to Latics as a ‘Harlem Globetrotter’ team in his post match comments. 

Leam Richardson made three changes to the starting line-up from the previous game league at Sunderland, with Luke Robinson, Stephen Humphrys, and Kell Watts replacing Tom Pearce, Gwion Edwards, and Adam Long.

Latics started brightly in an electric atmosphere, Charlie Wyke broke down the left wing and crossed for the unmarked Keane, but the striker fired his volley wide of the target.

Rotherham responded and Joshua Kayode’s strike from the edge of the penalty area took a deflection and went narrowly wide.

The Millers were well organised and their strong physicality made it difficult for Latics to get a grip in midfield.

The visitors went close again when Jamie Lindsay’s strike from the edge of the area forced a good save from Ben Amos.

Chiedozie Ogebene was causing problems down the right hand side and his deflected shot forced another save from Amos low down to his left.

Probably the best opportunity of the half fell to Rotherham when Amos’ punch only found Lindsay on the edge of the six yard box, but the midfielder blazed his effort over the crossbar.

Wyke then had a chance for Latics just before half-time when he dispossessed Dan Barlaser on the right and hit a low shot from a tight angle, which Viktor Johansson did well to save.

Rotherham started the second half confidently and Tendayi Darikwa did well to divert Ogbene’s dangerous cross behind with attackers lurking. 

Latics rejigged the defence on 56 minutes, with Jordan Cousins coming into midfield, Power moving to right back and Darikwa to left back as Robinson was withdrawn.

The hosts should’ve been ahead in the 65th minute, Tom Naylor headed across the box and Keane with the goal at his mercy didn’t make a proper contact and the ball was headed wide. 

Soon afterwards the visitors had a great chance to break the deadlock when Barlaser headed Michael Smith’s cross against the crossbar and then the post, much to Latics’ relief.

With five minutes of added time remaining Latics pushed forward for the vital breakthrough. 

In the 95th minute Callum Lang was brought down on the left hand side and from Power’s free-kick Keane ghosted past the Millers back line to head past Johansson and cue ecstatic scenes of celebration. 

In his post match comments Rotherham manager Paul Warne rather amusingly referred to Latics as a ‘Harlem Globetrotter’ team. Suggesting that he thinks Latics are a team of superstars!

Paul Warne

Post match Leam Richardson was rather more circumspect about Latics’ chances of success given the current level of development of the two teams.

“I thought the fans helped us and Rotherham, in my opinion, are going to be in the top three/four. Paul Warne has done a fantastic job and has got them out of the division twice and they’ve been together for five or six years and it shows.”

“We’re at the total opposite end of the spectrum where our lads are totally in the infancy of everything that they are doing and experiencing most things for the first time together.”

This was an important first win on a very emotional day for everyone associated with the club. After the traumas of administration, the arrival of Phoenix 2021 and the likeable Chairman Talal Al Hammad has given everyone a massive boost.

The club is now moving in the right direction but only time will tell how quickly they can achieve the success that everyone craves.

Player ratings courtesy of

Player ratings courtesy of

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Early days for the new-look Latics – Sunderland 2 Wigan Athletic 1

Sunderland v Wigan Athletic

View from the away end

  • Wigan Athletic started brightly at the Stadium of Light and went ahead after 15 minutes when Will Keane’s strike came back off the post and Gwion Edwards scored on his debut.
  • The Black Cats were level two minutes later following the award of a controversial penalty by referee Bobby Madley – Aidan McGeady converting the spot kick.
  • Latics struggled for cohesion in the second half and the hosts edged the three points when Ross Stewart headed home from a corner.
  • It had been a battling performance by Latics but with such a new-look squad it was perhaps inevitable that they would take some time to settle.

It was great to be back watching live football after the Covid restrictions and the club’s administration problems and Latics were backed by 2,000 followers in a crowd of 31,549 at the Stadium of Light.

The kick off was delayed by 15 minutes due to traffic problems and Latics had the better of the opening period. They went close on three occasions, first when Callum Lang set up Tendayi Darikwa whose shot was blocked in front of keeper Lee Burge and then the follow up from Edwards was also cleared before Power’s goal-bound 25-yard strike was headed away.

The visitors deservedly went ahead on 15 minutes with a well worked move down the right-hand side. Captain Tendayi Darikwa pushed forward and set up Will Keane on the edge of the box. His right footed volley struck the post before Edwards followed up and curled the ball into the top corner.

But the Black Cats were level two minutes later following a harsh penalty award against Darikwa by controversial referee Bobby Madley whose dubious decision-making was evident throughout.

Darikwa was shoulder to shoulder with Stewart and the forward went down easily under the challenge.

The decision was to be the turning point in the game and Latics never managed to recover.

Madley did Latics no favours last season when he failed to give a penalty for a foul on Callum Lang against Hull City and has previously been criticised for his refereeing for making too many dubious decisions by former Premier League referees Keith Hackett, Graham Poll and Mark Halsey in the 2017/18 season.

The hosts went close to taking the lead four minutes later when Tom Flanagan’s header was well saved by Ben Amos from Aidan McGeady’s corner.

Tom Pearce then kept the scores level when threw his body in front of Elliot Embleton’s volley after a sustained period of Sunderland pressure.

But Latics responded and went close as Wyke linked up well with Lang who cut the ball back for Power on the edge of the area only to see his effort deflected over.

Ten minutes before the break the hosts should have gone in front as McGeady chipped the ball towards the edge of the six-yard box, where Embleton headed over when he looked odds on to score.

Latics started the second half slowly and the hosts were ahead following a corner on 54 minutes. From Embleton’s corner Stewart was allowed to glance a header past Amos.

As the second half progressed Sunderland grew in confidence and Latics struggled for cohesion. Instead of building through midfield Latics resorted to the long straight ball up to striker Charlie Wyke and they were unable to get down the flanks and get crosses in from wide positions.

Just after the hour mark, Stewart had a great chance to double the lead, but his header at the back post was wide of Amos’ left-hand post.

Sunderland continued to threaten and on 66 minutes Lynden Gooch curled an effort against the crossbar.

At the other end, Latics broke forward and with options left and right the welsh winger Edwards fired a powerful effort at Burge from 25-yards, the keeper was only able to parry the shot but the danger was eventually cleared.

Jordan Jones, Stephen Humphrys and Jordan Cousins replaced Tom Naylor, Keane and Edwards as Latics went in search of the equaliser but they were unable to carve out any clear-cut chances and Sunderland secured the three points.

A disappointing opening day result but it was perhaps inevitable with eight debutants that Latics didn’t always gel together. It’s very early days for the new squad and Leam Richardson will want more time on the training ground and with so many new recruits it will take awhile before everyone gains a real understanding.

Player ratings courtesy of

Player ratings courtesy of

Posted in Aidan McGeady, Bobby Madley, Gwion Edwards, League One, Ross Stewart, Sunderland, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wigan Athletic season preview – the big push for promotion

Leam Richardson Wigan Athletic
Leam Richardson building a strong team – photo courtesy of Wigan Athletic

After a traumatic period of administration and a relegation battle Latics go into the new season with renewed optimism.

Manager Leam Richardson has had to do a major rebuild of the squad with only six players under contract, but he has recruited very well during a hectic close season and they look likely to make a big impact in League One.

The new Bahraini owners Phoenix 2021 have backed Richardson in the transfer market bringing in eight new players so far, with probably six or seven more required.

Pre-season has been excellent with five wins out of five. Positive vibes are emanating from the training ground and the team spirit appears to be very good.

With a multitude of new signings the club has reinvigorated the fanbase and expectations for the new season are high.

Latics’ Chairman Talal Al Hammad tweeted about the commitment required to build a new team in such a short space of time.

Talal tweet

Latics pulled off something of a transfer coup when they managed to recruit Sunderland’s top scorer Charlie Wyke on a free transfer. Wyke was League One’s second highest goalscorer last season but Sunderland just couldn’t match Latics’ contract offer.

Latics have also recruited one of the top goalkeepers in League One. Former Manchester United reserve goalkeeper Ben Amos has been brought in from Charlton Athletic and will provide stiff competition for club captain Jamie Jones for the number one spot.

Defensively Latics are strong at left-back with Luke Robinson and Tom Pearce competing for the starting place and at right-back Zimbabwean Tendayi Darikwa has signed permanently after impressing during last season’s greatest of great escapes.

In the centre of defence 24-year-old Jack Whatmough has been secured after Portsmouth were unable to match Latics’ contract terms.

There’s plenty of competition for places in midfield with former Latic Max Power returning from Sunderland, 27-year-old Jordan Cousins signed from Stoke, defensive midfielder and former Pompey captain Tom Naylor and talented young Norwegian Thelo Aasgaard.

Up front striker Stephen Humphrys is one of the few players to have been recruited for a fee from Rochdale. The 23-year-old scored 12 times for Dale last season and will be challenging for a starting place alongside last season’s top scorer Will Keane, Callum Lang, Gavin Massey, Charlie Wyke and former Wales U21 international winger Gwion Edwards who has been recruited from Ipswich.

Off the field the club has strengthened the coaching staff with the addition of experienced Assistant Managers Rob Kelly and James Beattie plus goalkeeping coach Darryl Flahavan.

It may take awhile for the new team to fully settle and to absorb Richardson’s playing instructions but given the calibre of players I’m expecting a top six finish.

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Review: The Accidental Footballer by Pat Nevin

Accidental Footballer cover

Pat Nevin’s memoir is a tremendously entertaining read. The former Chelsea, Everton and Tranmere Rovers footballer, writer and broadcaster wasn’t the typical professional footballer – he loved playing the game – but wanted a career as a teacher and had many outside interests. His win bonuses went on records, attending gigs, theatre, movies, galleries and travelling.

The memoir is focussed primarily in the 1980s and 90s before the advent of the Premier League. Nevin’s working class background in Glasgow and his Socialist principles and concern for others are evident throughout.

Nevin is an outsider, unorthodox and obsessed with alternative music. He forms a close friendship with the DJ John Peel and like Peel, he closely follows the careers of bands like Joy Division, Simple Minds, Orange Juice and the Cocteau Twins. Nevin is more likely to do an interview with the New Musical Express than a football magazine. 

There are many illuminating stories and humorous anecdotes, for example when he moves to Everton and buys a house in Chester, he is offered opera tickets for a Pavarotti concert by an Everton fan who turns out to be a burglar. Later he is asked,

“How are you enjoying 23 Elizabeth Crescent in Chester? I have told all the lads not to visit and, by the way, your alarm systemis rubbish.” ‘Welcome to Liverpool!’

Nevin doesn’t conform to the typical drinking culture of the period and at Everton he was often at loggerheads with the manager Howard Kendall.

‘ …I felt it was incumbent on every player to be in the best condition he could be in, to provide the best performances for people who had paid good money and invested so much time, effort and emotion. Surely if a professional sportsperson you should be able to hold back from abusing alcohol, at least during the week?’ 

Nevin’s working class work ethic and commitment to his sport/craft mean that he is sometimes at odds with some of his colleagues. He acknowledges his tirelessly worthy side when he is voluntarily working for the PFA.

When he leaves Everton, he has the option of a lucrative move to Galatasaray but in typical Nevin fashion he takes a step down to enjoy his football at Tranmere Rovers.

This is a refreshing and joyful story of someone who didn’t want to be a professional footballer but just wanted to play football. Nevin successfully managed to enjoy the benefits of the profession without suffering the pitfalls. Despite all the money and attention in the modern game he still believes that it is possible to do this and cites Juan Mata as a great example.

The Accidental Footballer by Pat Nevin. Published by Monoray. Price £20.

This review first appeared in the August/September 2021 edition of Late Tackle magazine.

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Summer Reading 2021 – The Best Football Books


Here’s my recommendations of the best football books of recent months for reading on the beach or by the pool. Kick off the summer with one of these great reads.

All Crazee Now – English Football and Footballers in the 1970s by David Tossell

David Tossell’s story of English football in the 1970s, ‘All Crazee Now’ is a special treat for nostalgists and football connoisseurs. This tour de force of 512 pages including Index, Endnotes, Acknowledgements and Roll of Honour is an engrossing account of football and footballers set against the backdrop of the political, cultural and economic events of the time.

After Extra Time and Penalties – Memories of a BBC Football Correspondent by Mike Ingham

Former BBC football Correspondent Mike Ingham’s autobiography is a thoughtful homage to the golden age of sports broadcasting. His own broadcasting experiences saw him attend eight World Cups, commentate on twenty-eight FA Cup Finals, work with ten full-time England managers and introduce Sports Report.

British Football’s Greatest Grounds – One Hundred Must-See Football Venues by Mike Bayly

Mike Bayley has put together a splendidly eclectic collection of 100 British football grounds with a rich commentary and high-quality photographs. The book covers a breathtaking range of ground types from the humble homes of the non-league minnows to the mega-stadiums of the Premier League.

Extra Time – 50 Further Delights of Modern Football by Daniel Gray.

Daniel Gray’s ‘Extra Time’ is a particularly welcome follow up to ‘Saturday 3pm’ at a time when many of us are unable to attend football matches in person. Gray follows the format of his previous work with short well-crafted chapters about why football is so uniquely special. He reminds us about the shared joys, habits, eccentricities and peculiarities of the game with chapters such as comebacks, not being able to sleep after a night match, being in an empty ground and songs unique to your club.

Luka Modric My Autobiography

From humble beginnings Luka Modric has achieved incredible things during his football career winning more than 15 trophies with Real Madrid, a FIFA World Cup finalist, Golden Ball winner, UEFA Men’s Player of the Year, FIFA Best Men’s Player and Ballon d’Or Winner.

Out of the Darkness: From Top to Rock Bottom: My Story in Football by Matt Piper

Matt Piper’s autobiography is a tale of the rise, fall and redemption of a professional footballer. Piper was a rising star at Leicester City and Sunderland but his career was prematurely cut short by a succession of injuries and he had to retire at the age of 24. ‘Out of the Darkness’ tells the story of what happens when the dreams of being a top professional footballer turns sour and when deep depression descends post football.

The Mavericks – English Football When Flair Wore Flares by Rob Steen

An updated edition of Rob Steen’s evocative examination of the stars of football in the 1970’s has now been published. The Mavericks are the seven Englishmen who followed the trail-blazing superstar George Best: Stan Bowles, Tony Currie, Charlie George, Alan Hudson, Rodney Marsh, Peter Osgood and Frank Worthington. They were crowd pleasers and entertainers who were worshipped at club level but were sadly under-represented at international level winning only 46 England caps between them.

There’s Only One Danny Garvey by David F. Ross

This fictional account of gritty Scottish working-class life and football in the 1990’s is a deeply immersive experienceThrough a stream of consciousness narrative, the obsessions of a young man are played out in an unforgiving environment. The crazy world of junior football in Ayrshire provides the backdrop but this novel is centred around one man’s struggle for redemption.

Thou Shall Not Pass – The Anatomy of Football’s Centre-Half by Leo Moynihan

Leo Moynihan’s ‘Thou Shall Not Pass’ is a wide-ranging exploration of football’s centre-half position. I have personally always preferred the role of striker and the glory of scoring goals but this story of centre-halves provides a welcome insight into their vital role in any team. Centre-halves are often overlooked and misunderstood and Moynihan’s book explores the mindset of the traditionally bruising hard man, determined on destroying the opposition’s attacks.

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

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.

Who Are Ya? 92 football clubs and why you shouldn’t support them by Kevin Day

Broadcaster, comedian and Crystal Palace fan Kevin Day provides a light-hearted and entertaining tour around the 92 football clubs and a few who have now dropped out. The format for each club is as follows: a couple of quotes from disparate characters such as comedians, broadcasters or famous footballers; a couple of pages about the history of the club in question; some anecdotes; a little about the successes and failures of said club; plus a few bullet points about ‘Why You Shouldn’t Support Them.’

Whose Game Is It Anyway? Football, Life, Love and Loss by Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin’s latest book is part memoir, part a reconnection with football after falling out of love with the game. Written at a time of Covid-19 and when football has never seemed so distant from the fans he looks to the future and links back to the past to reconnect. He recounts his experiences from major sporting events and on meeting the big players from around the world to show us how football can be better. 

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