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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This fictional account of gritty Scottish working-class life and football in the 1990’s is a deeply immersive experience. Through 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.
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.
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.’
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.