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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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?
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.
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.