Summer Reading – The Best Football Books

Now that summer is finally upon us I thought I’d share my reviews of the best football books for reading on the beach or by the pool. Kick off the summer with one of these great reads.

Black Boots and Football Pinks. 50 Lost Wonders of the Beautiful Game by Daniel Gray.

Daniel Gray celebrates 50 lost wonders of the beautiful game such as goalkeepers in trousers and hats, proper division names, turf patterns, pixelated scoreboards, and, of course Saturday evening pink newspapers… “They were gritty stardust that made football special.”

Done Deal – An Insider’s Guide to Football Contracts, Multi-Million Pound Transfers and Premier League Big Business by Daniel Geey.

If you are interested in the inner workings of the football industry this could be the book for you. Sports lawyer Geey provides insights into what goes on behind the scenes with high stakes transfers, television rights negotiations, player negotiations, player misconduct or multi-million pound club takeovers.

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

Hamilton’s 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.

How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the FA Cup by J.L.Carr.

The re-published ‘How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the FA Cup’ by J.L.Carr is a classic football tale from a bygone age but it still has a resonance for football fans today. It is a story about a small village team from the back of beyond who challenge for the greatest cup competition in world football.

Book Review: Living on the Volcano – The Secrets of Surviving as a Football Manager by Michael CalvinLiving on the Volcano – The Secrets of Surviving as a Football Manager by Michael Calvin.

At a time when the average tenure of a football manager is getting shorter than ever, Michael Calvin provides an absorbing insight into the mind of the modern-day football manager. Calvin gets into the psyche of managers who are currently at the top of their profession but also those who are struggling at the bottom or who are now out of work.

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.

No Hunger in Paradise. The Players. The Journey. The Dream by Michael Calvin.

Michael Calvin provides a telling critique of what’s wrong with youth development in English football. He journeys through the landscape of youth football interviewing players, parents and coaches from deprived inner city areas; non-league grounds, mega-rich Premier League academies and the English national headquarters.

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

This 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 CalvinState of Play – Under the Skin of the Modern Game by Michael Calvin.

In State of Play Michael Calvin provides 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.

The Club: How the Premier League Became the Richest, Most Disruptive Business in Sport by Jonathan Clegg and Joshua Robinson.

In ‘The Club’ two Wall Street Journal writers Jonathan Clegg and Joshua Robinson provide a telling insight into the excesses of the Premier League (PL) and how it has become a global business with little concern for local communities. This is the story of how the PL broke away from the Football League in 1992 and how it has now become the playground of billionaires with designs on global domination.

The Illustrated History of Football by David Squires.

The Guardian cartoonist David Squires’ first book ‘The Illustrated History of Football’ provides a wonderfully entertaining take on some of football’s big moments. Squires provides a humorous and insightful journey through the evolution of the game commencing with primal man and moving right up to Jamie Vardy. Well maybe not so much of a journey then?

Whatever happened to Billy Parks? By Gareth Roberts

Whatever Happened to Billy Parks? by Gareth R Roberts.

This is a fictional account of wasted talent but with the possibility of a remarkable redemption. Right from the beginning we are emotionally drawn to Billy; he has a difficult upbringing and his football success comes as a welcome relief. We care about him as we follow his developing football career, and relationships with his family and friends. Then his self-destructive tendencies start his degeneration into drinking and womanising. Finally there is an opportunity to make things right.

World in Motion -The Inside Story of Italia ’90, The Tournament That Changed Football by Simon Hart.

Simon Hart revisits Italia ‘90 with an entertaining journey through one of the most culturally significant World Cups. It was a rare tournament with Scotland, Ireland and England all qualifying. It was a time of Gazza’s tears, Pavarotti’s ‘Nessun Dorma’ and New Order’s ‘World In Motion’. Italia ‘90 was to prove groundbreaking in so many different ways.

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Tough opening to Latics’ Championship campaign

Football on the pitch

The Championship fixtures for 2019/2020  have been announced and Wigan Athletic will face Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City at home on the opening day of the season.  This is followed up with an away game at local rivals Preston North End, a home game against Leeds United and another away game at Middlesbrough.

It’s a difficult start for Paul Cook’s team against three of the promotion favourites Cardiff, Leeds and Middlesbrough and at PNE where they suffered a 4-0 defeat last season.

The League Cup first round fixtures are scheduled for Wednesday 14 August and the draw will take place tonight.

There’ll be local derbies against Preston North End and Blackburn Rovers but Bolton have been relegated and are now in League One.

The derbies are scheduled as follows:

Saturday 10 August 2019 – Preston North End (A)

Saturday 21 December 2019 – Blackburn Rovers (A)

Saturday 8 February 2020 – Preston North End (H)

Wednesday 18 March 2020 – Blackburn Rovers (H)

Christmas and New Year fixtures have Latics at home against Derby County on Boxing Day, away at Nottingham Forest on 29th December and away at Birmingham City on New Year’s Day.

Latics will round off the campaign at home to Fulham on Saturday 2nd May 2019.

The full fixture schedule is available on the Wigan Athletic official website at

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End of season run offers promise of better things to come – Wigan Athletic 1 Millwall 0

Nick Powell

Nick Powell may decide to stay with Latics

Latics ended their Championship season on a high with a 1-0 victory against Millwall at the DW Stadium.

Joe Garner scored the only goal when he finished smartly after Nick Powell’s strike was parried by Millwall keeper David Martin.

The Lions had a goal disallowed when Ryan Leonard’s effort was ruled out for a foul on Jonas Olsson and Powell was later on hand to clear off the line from Jake Cooper’s goalbound strike.

But Latics enjoyed the greater possession and had more shots than the Lions and just about deserved to take the three points to continue their fine end of season form.

With important wins against Leeds, PNE and Millwall and draws against Norwich and Birmingham they have climbed to 18th in the final Championship table.

Paul Cook made four changes for the last match of the season with Christian Walton returning as keeper, Anthony Pilkington and Kal Naismith and Reece James coming in for Jamie Jones, Josh Windass, Nathan Byrne and Darron Gibson.

Latics started brightly and forced an early corner which Chey Dunkley headed just over the crossbar.

Millwall responded and former Latics loanee Ryan Tunnicliffe crossed for Lee Gregory but the striker’s effort was off target.

Latics then took control of the game creating several good goal scoring opportunities before taking the lead after 15 minutes.

Garner forced a good save from keeper Martin with a strike from 25-yards and Antonee Robinson crossed too powerfully for Pilkington, with Powell also well-placed for a cut back.

Soon afterwards a neat back heel by Naismith set up Powell who saw his powerful shot pushed out by Martin only for Garner to smash home the rebound.

Millwall had a chance to draw level as Steve Morison headed Shane Ferguson’s cross just over at the back post.

The Lions had a goal disallowed when Leonard’s effort was correctly ruled out for a foul on Jonas Olsson in the penalty area.

Latics then struggled to clear a Millwall corner but Powell was on hand to deny Cooper with a goal-line clearance.

The hosts went into the interval with a 1-0 advantage but the visitors should’ve drawn level early in the second-half after Gregory’s initial strike was well saved by Walton, Tunnicliffe blazed the follow up high and wide.

Prolific youth striker Charlie Jolley was handed his Latics debut on the hour mark replacing Pilkington, and he quickly showed he wasn’t afraid of the step up as he met Robinson’s cross but fired wide of the target.

Captain for the day Reece James was substituted with three minutes remaining and received a rapturous standing ovation from the home fans.

The almost impossible task to replace the Chelsea loanee will now commence but the impressive 19-year-old will surely become a Premier League and England star in the near future.

Neither side had been able to create any clear cut chances in the closing stages and Latics were able to hold on for the victory and maintain their good end of season form.

It’s been pleasing to see so many promising young players coming through from the Academy recently with Charlie Jolley, Joe Geldhardt and Jensen Weir all getting their Championship debuts.

On another positive note, rumours have been circulating that Nick Powell may decide to stay with Latics after he was offered an improved financial package.

The club will still need some significant additions if they are to challenge in the top half of the table next season but the prospects are now looking much better than they did just two months ago.

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Cook’s experiment offers pointers for next season – Birmingham City 1 Wigan Athletic 1

St Andrews

The teams come out at St Andrew’s

Latics made seven changes against Birmingham City and they should have come away with all three points after creating the better chances in this 1-1 draw at St Andrew’s.

The hosts went ahead after only two minutes when acting Latics’ captain Jonas Olsson was slow to react and Lukas Jutkiewicz scored through the legs of keeper Jamie Jones.

But despite the setback Latics went on to be the better team with Joe Garner’s glancing header hitting the post and later seeing a great chance blocked on the line by Wes Harding.

The Blues rode their luck but were eventually undone when Nick Powell’s strike from 25-yards was deflected past Lee Camp for the equaliser.

The second half produced few clear cut chances but Garner might have done better from a good position when he turned the ball narrowly wide and 16-year-old substitute Joe Gelhardt produced an incisive run but shot tamely at Camp.

Latics are currently in 18th place in the table and could finish as high as 17th if they win their last game against Millwall and other results go their way. Birmingham hold 17th spot and are two points above Latics.

Cook had made seven changes from the 2-0 victory over Preston North End with keeper Jamie Jones replacing Christian Walton, and Cedric Kipre coming back into defence alongside Jonas Olsson, with Darron Gibson in midfield, and an upfront three of Josh Windass, Powell and Joe Garner.

Danny Fox, Samy Morsy, Reece James, Gavin Massey, and Leon Clarke were all rested on the day.

Latics made the worst possible start and went behind after only two minutes when Olsson’s hesitation in defence allowed Jutkiewicz to finish past Jones.

The signs looked ominous when Che Adams had a chance to double Birmingham’s lead after intercepting a poor Windass back-pass but he fired straight at Jones.

But Latics worked themselves into the game and went close on 13 minutes when Nathan Byrne crossed from the right for Garner who headed against the post from close range. From the rebound he looked to be in a good position to equalise and was brought down, but referee Stephen Martin turned down Latics’ appeals.

Soon afterwards Powell forced a good save from Camp from 25-yards as the visitors asserted their dominance.

Moments later Powell was played in by Garner and should have done better with only the keeper to beat but Camp spread himself to deny the equaliser.

Latics were in control now and Antonee Robinson’s cross from the left was fired wide of the target by Garner.

Olsson had a chance from Evans’ free-kick at the back post but he couldn’t finish although he appeared to be fouled by Camp when jumping for the ball.

Garner then wasted a glorious opportunity for the leveller when a loose ball fell to him in the area. After good composure to dummy the keeper he shot tamely and was denied by Harding on the Birmingham goal line.

But Latics did manage to deservedly draw level on the stroke of half time when Robinson cut the ball back for Powell to strike from 25-yards and the ball went in via a deflection.

All level at half time but Latics were in the ascendancy and the prospect of another away three points looked likely.

The manager made a double change at the interval with Kal Naismith and Gelhardt replacing Kipre and Windass.

Gelhardt burst onto the scene with the first effort of the half, beating several players but unfortunately shooting tamely at Camp.

Powell and Robinson once again linked up well to find Garner in the area, and it looked as if the striker would grab the winner but he saw his effort go narrowly wide of Camp’s left-hand post.

Latics continued to look the more likely to score but couldn’t make the breakthrough and the hosts looked relatively content to play out a draw with the season coming to end next week.

Cook had used the match to take a look at his squad players and youngsters and it had provided a few pointers for next season.

The positives had been a pleasing away performance and second half Championship debuts for England U17 youth internationals Gelhardt and Jensen Weir plus solid displays by Robinson and substitute Naismith. Robinson would certainly be an asset next season if Latics can retain his services from Everton.

Some other players might be playing their last games for Latics. Olsson was at fault for the Birmingham goal and I see little point in retaining the 36-year-old for next season. Gibson was ineffective in midfield and Windass had another poor game before being substituted at half time.

Nick Powell now looks likely to leave in the summer and the club must recruit a striker who can hit 15 plus goals in the Championship if they are to make progress next season.

Callum Lang should be given a chance in pre-season but it would be a big jump for the young striker to move from League 2 to the Championship and the new owners IEC must show their commitment by investing in the squad in the summer.

Posted in Birmingham City, Championship, Lukas Jutkiewicz, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Latics secure safety in style – Wigan Athletic 2 Preston North End 0

Reece James

Reece James was once again outstanding in midfield

Wigan Athletic secured their Championship status moving eight points clear of third bottom Rotherham with a deserved 2-0 victory over local rivals Preston North End on Easter Monday.

Latics went in front after only 11 minutes when Leon Clarke finished from close range after Ben Davies had inadvertently set up Kal Naismith in the penalty box.

The hosts were further boosted just before half time when Ryan Ledson was given a straight red card for dangerous play.

Despite going down to ten-men North End gave Latics a few anxious moments in the second half before Lee Evans’ deflected strike put them further ahead.

Latics should have added further goals but some good goalkeeping by Declan Rudd and some profligate finishing meant the margin of victory was only by two goals.

Latics have had a very successful Easter recording back to back victories against promotion contenders Leeds United and local rivals Preston and they are now mathematically safe from relegation.

They have moved up to a heady 18th in the Championship table while Preston are in 12th place with two games of the season remaining.

Paul Cook was forced into making one change to his starting eleven after Cedric Kipre’s appeal against his sending off at Leeds was surprisingly not rescinded and he was replaced by Danny Fox in defence.

Latics took an early lead when Antonee Robinson’s cross was deflected by Davies into the path of Naismith, who squared the ball to Clarke for an easy finish.

The hosts were now well on top and creating plenty of chances with Chey Dunkley going close with a header and Naismith putting another header wide of the target.

Gavin Massey had a great opportunity when Christian Walton’s route one kick found him clear inside the penalty area but he failed to lift the ball over the advancing keeper Rudd.

But Cook’s team were given a man advantage soon afterwards when Ledson’s high boot caught Naismith in the face and the Preston midfielder was dismissed for dangerous play by referee Andrew Madley.

Despite the dismissal Preston remained keenly competitive and they had a great opportunity to equalise when Callum Robinson was set up by Lukas Nmecha but the forward swung his boot and failed to make contact with the ball.

The visitors had another good opportunity just before half time but Joe Rafferty headed wide of the target from Paul Gallagher’s corner.

At the beginning of the second half Clarke had a chance to double Latics’ lead but the striker’s low effort was pushed away by Rudd. Substitute Nick Powell managed to pick up the loose ball and set up Sam Morsy in a great position but instead of shooting Morsy squared the ball to Naismith, who was ruled offside.

It was end to end stuff now and Clarke blocked Davies’ goal-bound header at close range before Dunkley had to get his body in the way to deny Darnell Fisher.

Latics were struggling to contain Preston down their right hand side with Nathan Byrne being left exposed on several occasions.

From one such attack Byrne gave away a free kick and Walton was forced into making a flying save from Gallagher’s curled free kick.

But Latics got the vital second goal on 68 minutes when Powell crossed for Clarke at the back post and the ball fell to Evans whose driven effort was deflected off a Preston defender and into the net.

The ten-men’s heads visibly dropped and Latics should have added further goals before full time.

Evans fired wide of the target before Clarke might have done better when he met Evans’ cross at the back post but was unable to turn the ball home from a good position.

As the match moved into added time Powell forced another good save from Rudd but by then the points had already been secured and Latics would be playing Championship football again next season.

Posted in Championship, Lee Evans, Leon Clarke, Preston North End, Reece James, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Massey magic seals vital away victory – Leeds United 1 Wigan Athletic 2

Gavin Massey

Gavin Massey grabbed a brace 

Ten-man Wigan Athletic produced the Championship result of the day with 2-1 victory at Elland Road to ease their relegation worries and dent Leeds United’s automatic promotion prospects.

Latics went down to 10 men after only 14 minutes when Cedric Kipre was harshly adjudged to have handled on the goal line, although Pablo Hernandez missed the resulting spot kick.

It looked as though it would be a long afternoon for Latics when Patrick Bamford’s sharp finish put Leeds ahead on 17 minutes but the visitors managed to reorganise and drew level just before the interval when Gavin Massey broke clear to finish with some aplomb.

A Massey header then put Latics in front on 64 minutes after good work by Sheffield United loanee Leon Clarke had set him up.

Although Leeds dominated possession and produced 36 attempts at goal the visitors weathered the second half onslaught and hung on for a vital victory in their battle for Championship survival.

Paul Cook’s team are now in 20th place in the table on level points with 19th place Reading and five points above third bottom Rotherham. Leeds meanwhile slip to third in the table on goal difference behind second placed Sheffield United.

Paul Cook made one change to the team which had drawn at home to Championship leaders Norwich City with Cedric Kipre coming in for the injured Danny Fox.

Leeds pressed from the kick off but Latics looked lively on the counter attack and Clarke headed narrowly wide on seven minutes.

But disaster struck on 14 minutes when Bamford’s goal bound effort hit Kipre in the chest but referee Scott Duncan harshly awarded a penalty and gave the big Ivorian defender a red card.

Fortunately for Latics Hernandez’s spot kick hit the post but it was not long before the hosts were ahead as Bamford swept home Luke Ayling’s cross.

Latics might have capitulated at this point but Cook re-jigged the formation and they still looked threatening on the break. They might have equalised on 22 minutes when Leeds keeper Kiko Casilla came too far out of his area and Clarke lifted the ball over the crossbar.

Leeds continued to get men forward in numbers and Latics struggled to contain them but they drew level on 44 minutes when Lee Evans put Massey in the clear and the former Leyton Orient winger smashed the ball past Casilla for the equaliser.

All level at the interval but Latics would have to be at their most committed if they were to get anything against Marcelo Bielsa’s promotion contenders.

Leeds made two changes at half time with Kemar Roofe replacing Tyler Roberts and Adam Forshaw replacing Calvin Phillips.

Roofe had a glorious opportunity to restore Leeds’ lead on 50 minutes but he headed straight at Christian Walton from the centre of the six yard box.

The miss was to prove costly as on 64 minutes the visitors silenced the home crowd with a swift counter attack. Nathan Byrne’s deep cross found Clarke and the seasoned striker rose superbly, cushioning his header to Massey who headed into the corner of the net from six yards out.

Leeds surged forward and Latics defended deeper and deeper seemingly inviting more and more pressure. Walton made some important saves and Leeds wasted good opportunities.

But Latics might have added to their lead when James clipped the crossbar with an audacious free kick and the Chelsea loanee could possibly have had a penalty when he was pushed over in the penalty area.

Latics rode their luck but for once they managed to hold on away from home for a memorable victory that could go a long way towards preserving their Championship status.

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Late decision denies Latics victory – Wigan Athletic 1 Norwich City 1

Man of the match Reece James

Wigan Athletic were unlucky not secure all three points in their fight against relegation when they were held 1-1 by Championship table toppers Norwich City at the DW Stadium.

Man of the match Reece James had given Latics a first half lead from the penalty spot after Ben Godfrey had handled Sam Morsy’s shot.

But the Canaries drew level on 81 minutes when Teemu Pukki scored his 27th Championship goal of the season.

Latics were denied a stoppage time winner when on-loan striker Leon Clarke’s header was controversially ruled out for offside and they had to settle for a point.

Paul Cook made four changes to the starting line up from the midweek defeat to Hull City, with Lee Evans, Gavin Massey, Kal Naismith and Clarke replacing Darron Gibson, Josh Windass, Nick Powell and Joe Garner.

The manager moved Latics’ most influential player James back into midfield after disappointingly selecting him at full back against Hull.

Latics started brightly and had an early opportunity to open the scoring when Massey was put in the clear by Evans but the winger failed to hit the target firing wide of Tim Krul’s right hand post.

Samy Morsy had an effort from 25-yards and Clarke headed over from a James cross as Latics continued to press forward.

An Evans diving header from an Antonee Robinson cross forced a good save from Krul before Latics went in front just before half time.

Morsy’s goal bound shot was blocked by the hand of Ben Godfrey and referee Linington awarded the spot kick which was confidently converted by the 19-year-old Chelsea loanee James.

The Canaries came out firing at the beginning of the second half when Onel Hernandez forced a good save from Walton.

At the other end the impressive James drove forward and fired just over from 25 yards.

It was end to end stuff as Walton saved from Pukki and from the resulting corner Godfrey headed over the crossbar.

Latics best chance came when Naismith set up Clarke, who slipped a defender before lifting the ball over Krul, but also agonisingly wide of the post.

James fired another free-kick over and Robinson blazed wide from a good position as Latics went in search of the second goal which would have almost certainly clinched all three points.

Latics had defended well throughout but on 81 minutes they were caught out when Pukki was allowed far too much space and the prolific Finn finished past Walton for the equaliser.

Even then Latics might have won it in stoppage time as Clarke headed in an excellent James free-kick but the goal was frustratingly adjudged to be offside by the assistant referee.

Latics’ home form hasn’t been a problem this season – they were very unlucky not to get all three points against Norwich – but they now need to show the same level of effort and commitment at second place Leeds United on Good Friday as they seek to put an end to their abysmal away form.

Posted in Norwich City, Reece James, Teemu Pukki, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment