THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Reviews from When Saturday Comes. Follow the link to buy the book from Amazon.

 

335 Cronicasedited by Jethro Soutar 
and Tim Girven
Ragpicker Press, £10
Reviewed by Nick Dorrington
From WSC 335 January 2015

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The Crónica is a Latin American literary form, somewhat akin to the output of the new journalism movement of the 1960s and 1970s, in which the author involves themselves, to some degree, in the story. Written from a bold and engaging first-person viewpoint, it is a form that is the subject of a number of dedicated magazines across Latin America.

It is through the medium of the Crónica that this collection explores the football and society of a region in which a team bus is shown more deference than an ambulance in traffic, where villagers gather on a hillside to get the best possible signal for the radio broadcast of a match and where entire cities can be brought to a halt by an important fixture. These entries are supplemented by a book extract in similar style and three short stories.

The standard varies a little from piece to piece but the overall quality of both the writing and translation is to be applauded. Authors from across South America, plus two from Mexico, have been included, writing on subjects as varied as a prison team in Argentina, a Latino immigrant league in New York and a team of transvestites in Colombia. The rare missteps occur when the focus is on well-known subjects such as Alcides Ghiggia or Romário.

One of the most interesting entries is by the Peruvian writer Marco Avilés. It tells the story of the women’s football team of a high Andean village where no Spanish is spoken and the comforts of modern society are not to be found. The women travel down to the nearest developed city to take on the local team in a match that Avilés bills as a battle of ojotas (rustic flip-flops) versus trainers; ancient tradition against globalisation.

The changing face of football is masterfully described in a wry short story about an elderly man denied access to a stadium due to his failure to produce a shop loyalty card. “Purchasing power is all that matters,” a steward tells him as the man fruitlessly describes the various triumphs and defeats he has witnessed in his many years in the stands.

The best pieces in the collection are those about people who for one reason or another stand on the margins of mainstream society. We sometimes forget that football, in its most basic form, can act as a unifier for communities, or provide a platform for those whose voice is rarely heard. This theme is beautifully summarised in the final entry, a short story by Vinicius Jatobá that provides a fictionalised account of the genesis of Brazilian football and the emergence of Leônidas da Silva in the docks of Rio de Janeiro.

Laced with local patois and references to the art, food and history of the region, the book is, at times, a challenging, even daunting read. Explanatory footnotes would have been a welcome addition. Yet it is still an enlightening and ultimately rewarding excursion into the football and culture of Latin America.

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335 GoldblattThe meaning and making of English football
by David Goldblatt
Viking/Penguin, £16.99
Reviewed by Alan Tomlinson
From WSC 335 January 2015

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David Goldblatt writes with the authority of a serious academic theorist of the globalisation process, but displays a lucidity and fluency to match the best feature journalists and sport writers. In The Game Of Our Lives he draws on specialist journalism, consultancy reports, arcane academic findings, new media and personal observations to analyse how English football has both mirrored and anticipated the broader neo-liberal agenda over the last two or three decades. Citing JK Galbraith in his conclusion, Goldblatt argues that English football represents the triumph of unaccountable affluence for the few over the many whose experiences and hopes are increasingly defined by the deprivations that denies them access to the game’s new riches.

The book confirms how swiftly the Premier League seized power in the early 1990s, and how timid the FA were in defence of the traditional values of the game. There may have been reviews, commissions and discussion of the need for serious change and modernisation; but the FA never managed to act, beyond the backing of the Taylor report for reform following the Hillsborough tragedy. Yet the consequent modernisation of grounds, in significant levels publicly funded in the name of community and civic goals, was a transformative project that Rupert Murdoch must have thought was a ruse or a booby-trap. But no, here it was on the eve of transnational satellite broadcasting: a cleansed and modernised infrastructure for him to buy into and sell on worldwide. Rarely has any besieged culture handed the battering-ram to the invasive aggressor in such a naive and timid way.

Goldblatt knows the sport too, and this is far from any dry history of the economics and politics of the game. He conveys the enduring cultural appeal of football, the resonance of matchday in the face of the forces of “fragmentation and distraction” that the new mobile media bring to bear in threatening the crowd’s “unbroken engagement and shared experience”. Analyses of the culture of the game, including the lost genius of the flawed Paul Gascoigne and the global profile of the feted metrosexual David Beckham, alternate through the book with vignettes on the political and economic realities of the emerging neo-liberal agenda. He illuminates the meaning of the game in its Premier League phase, balancing an evocation of its excellence and attractions with a critique of its financing and governance, reminding us too of the collective values that originally made football possible in its modern form, and of the game’s capacity to offer models of co-operative endeavour.

In a synthesising achievement of this scale, errors will certainly have crept in, and Burnley’s former chairman Barry Kilby is presented as “benefactor… Barry Kidder”. Wigan Athletic were formed in 1932, not “the late 1970s”, which was when they replaced Southport in the League; England’s “first defeat by a foreign team at home” was not the Hungarian lesson at Wembley in 1953, but a 2-0 loss to Ireland at Goodison Park in 1949. But this is a superb study that will surely inform and sustain debate on the nature and culture of the game, and the impact of the excesses of the Premier League upon football’s rich cultural legacy.

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335 KeaneMy autobiography
by Roy Keane and Roddy Doyle
W&N, £20
Reviewed by Dave Hannigan
From WSC 335 January 2015

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Near the very end of this book, Roy Keane fondly remembers a night at Nottingham Forest when Brian Clough gifted him a £50 note for accompanying him to a charity event. For a 19-year-old neophyte in 1990, that was a substantial sum and the memory stuck with him. Yet, earlier in the narrative, he talks about telling his family they would all have to cut back after he departed Manchester United, by which time his personal fortune was, according to Sunday newspaper rich lists, well north of £20 million.

That sort of inconsistency is rife in these pages, as rife it would seem as it is in Keane’s personality. He hates publicity and craves anonymity yet for the past decade of his life, he has spoken out so often about so many topics that he’s the footballing equivalent of singer/shock merchant Sinead O’Connor. He’s livid at Alex Ferguson for criticising players and being disloyal but, as he trawls through his own managerial stints at Sunderland and Ipswich, he sticks the boot into those who he believes let him down.

If those sort of double-standards are infuriating, this is still a very entertaining account of the subject’s life since the publication of his first autobiography in 2002. Keane is forthright about most (crucially not all) subjects and, as fans of his fast-paced fiction will already know, ghostwriter Roddy Doyle has a wonderful light, comic touch. His handling ensures that this fairly crackles along while offering glimpses of life behind the scenes at Old Trafford, the Stadium of Light and Portman Road.

For all that though there’s something terribly dissatisfying here. Firstly, all the best gags lose their impact because you’ve already read them somewhere else. Secondly, several times you think Keane is finally going to open up about the demons that drive and torment him. Yet he doesn’t. Drink is discussed more than once but by the end of the book you are no nearer understanding the exact nature of his troubled relationship with alcohol.

Strangely for a memoir, he also swerves away from discussing his family. That may be his prerogative but when he makes references to the adverse impact of controversies on his wife and kids, you expect a little more substance about that side of his life. Surely, the very purpose of a serious autobiography is to show the man behind the lazy tabloid caricature.

Even if it is getting tiresome, Keane is still to be commended for having the guts to rail about Ferguson, the game’s most sacred sacred cow. Yet Irish readers in particular will be disappointed he hasn’t a single thing, positive or negative, to say about John Delaney, chief executive of the FAI, and beyond Keane himself, the most controversial figure in the sport in Ireland. Did the current Ireland assistant-manager pull his punches? Or is he learning to be smart when it comes to staying gainfully employed? Like so much else in this book, there remain more questions than answers.

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334 UnthinkableRaith Rovers’ improbable journey from the bottom to the top of Scottish football
by Steven Lawther
Pitch Publishing, £14.99
Reviewed by Gavin Saxton
From WSC 334 December 2014

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In November 1994, Raith Rovers beat Celtic in the League Cup final to win the first and only major trophy of the club’s history. This book commemorates the 20th anniversary and charts the club’s progress to Hampden from their low-point as a third-tier part-time team in the mid-1980s, via interviews with many of the players and backroom staff.

It’s a feelgood story, but while there might have been a danger of veering into cliche (there is much talk of “team spirit”) you are instead carried along by the enthusiasm of both the author and his interviewees. Because this was not just a special day for the fans, for so many of the players too it was their professional highlight. Dave Narey and manager Jimmy Nicholl had more illustrious playing days behind them (notably with Dundee United and Manchester United respectively) and youngsters such as Colin Cameron and Steve Crawford had good international careers to come. The rest of the squad, however, was a mishmash of local lads, rejects and journeymen, who came together to give the club the finest period in their history: they won the cup as a Division One side, but were also to go on and take the league title. Their UEFA Cup campaign the following season (although not covered here) gave them a tie against Bayern Munich, during which they led 1-0 in the Olympic Stadium at half time before losing 4-1 on aggregate. Accordingly almost all of the squad have been happy to talk, and author Steven Lawther succeeds by, for the most part, allowing them to tell the story, intervening only to provide linking narrative and fill in the necessary detail.

The stories include the bad days as well as the great ones, some entertaining insights into the minds of middle-ranking footballers – such as Gordon Dalziel’s efforts to avoid having to work too hard in a training session – and of course all the on-field heroics. Among the most improbable is the tale of Brian Potter, the 17-year-old goalkeeper who came on as sub after Scott Thomson’s red card and made the vital save to win the penalty shootout in the semi-final against Airdrie.

In the final Thomson himself became the hero, again in a penalty shootout after a late equaliser gave Rovers a well-earned 2-2 draw. Celtic captain Paul McStay was the man whose penalty Thomson saved (the book’s title comes from Jock Brown’s TV commentary at the time: “Unthinkable surely for the skipper to miss”), and McStay deserves huge credit for putting the bad memories aside and also allowing himself to be interviewed.

For those like myself who were following Raith at the time the book brings back wonderful memories. But for others too, it’s a great story and an evocation of a time when lower-league clubs could have such days in the sun. As the game in both England and Scotland polarises all the more between haves and have-nots, one suspects it’s a tale that, just two decades on, would now be impossible. Unthinkable, even.

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334 PepThe inside story of Pep Guardiola’s first season at Bayern Munich
by Marti Perarnau
Arena Sport, £14.99
Reviewed by Dermot Corrigan
From WSC 334 December 2014

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During the 2013-14 season Bayern Munich had 279 training sessions over 326 days, while also playing 56 official matches and 14 friendlies. The team won four of six trophies entered, but the season was not seen as a success. All this was witnessed by author Marti Perarnau while writing this book. It begins as a typical enough season diary. Perarnau is a former Olympic high-jumper and now friend of Guardiola’s, allowed daily access to Bayern’s private training sessions. The inside story includes lots of previously unpublicised detail on the tactical exercises, choreographed group moves and regular video sessions Pep uses to introduce his “game philosophy” to his new team.

The concepts involved are meticulously described in a way sure to interest tactical buffs, and probably opposition coaches, but the language sometimes goes too far. Phrases like “belief system”, “innovation” and “mission” appear regularly. His assistant calls Guardiola a “football revolutionary” who “deconstructs ideas”. The biggest tactical innovation of the season is using full-backs as “false midfielders”.

But Perarnau has not just written a book about cutting-edge football tactics or training methods. Pep Confidential works best as a character study of a worryingly obsessive individual, who appears to be driven mostly by a fear of failure. Just a month into the season Guardiola is “depressed, silent, brooding” at home, frustrated at an inability to get the players to understand his ideas. He regularly changes his mind on tactics and line-ups while preparing for big games, and gets so nervous on matchday that he cannot eat anything even before evening kick-offs. Guardiola leaves the post-match dinner late one night with his sleeping young daughter in his arms, while asking Perarnau to remind him in the morning to talk to Thomas Müller about his positioning. “I have so many doubts, I worry about everything and am secure about nothing,” he tells the author in one of many such awkward moments.

Perarnau writes that Guardiola’s “deep fear of coming under attack… was probably born during his playing career. He was physically fragile and lacked athleticism – rather on the puny side.” His friend claims such “anxiety” is overcome through “audacity”, arguing that “Pep has developed enormous courage precisely because of this fear”. But it is the fear which dominates this book.

Even Guardiola’s players appear to be concerned about their coach. Philipp Lahm says: “He’s such a perfectionist… he can never allow himself to sit back and say ‘this is brilliant’.” Thiago Alcantara says similarly: “Pep will never enjoy football because he is always looking for what has gone wrong in order to correct it.” The book ends with Perarnau saying “Guardiola’s second year [at Bayern] promises to be even more intense”. But it never seems to question whether so much intensity is positive for either Pep or his teams.

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334 RioMy autobiography
by Rio Ferdinand
Blink Publishing, £20
Reviewed by Jonathan O’Brien
From WSC 334 December 2014

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At the time of writing, media speculation was rife that Rio Ferdinand’s brief spell at Loftus Road would soon be brought to an end, with QPR reportedly left cold by the 35-year-old’s efforts since he joined them from Manchester United last July. Should the press scuttlebutt be true, it will be a somewhat shabby end to what’s been an excellent career. For all his intermittent inanity off the pitch, Ferdinand remains, alongside Tony Adams, the best centre-half produced by English football since Bobby Moore.

It’s hard to tell whether #2Sides would have been a superior book had Ferdinand employed a different ghostwriter (the one he did hire, David Winner, has taken an unconventional approach to the form, as we shall see). The title, a nod to his fondness for spending hours on Twitter, immediately makes the heart sink – and for the most part, the contents are similarly disappointing. In fact, it’s less a memoir and more a succession of disparate polemics on Ferdinand’s most cherished (or, in the case of John Terry, least cherished) topics, presented with few concessions to the concept of basic chronology.

Ferdinand has been a sufficiently voluble presence in the media over the years for you to more or less know in advance what his take on each subject will be. Fabio Capello and Roy Hodgson are duly slammed. So is David Moyes for his miserable ten months as Manchester United manager, though in this case Ferdinand does leaven the harsh criticism with unstinting praise for Moyes as a person (as well as revealing that the alleged “Do it like Phil Jagielka would” exchange on the training ground never actually happened). The details of his now-terminal rift with Ashley Cole, ignited when Cole gave evidence in favour of Terry, are rendered in almost sorrowful terms.

But #2Sides suffers woefully from its utter absence of structure. No sooner has Ferdinand finished talking about the Terry racist abuse trial or the 2008 Champions League final or a title race, than we’re off into a digression about the restaurant he co-owns, or his favourite music (grime and corporate rock), or something equally thrilling. There’s even a chapter devoted solely to that Twitter account, entitled “5.7 Million And Counting”. It’s not up to much.

If you’re wondering why #2Sides has little discernible structure or cohesion, it’s worth mentioning that Winner has form for this approach. In Brilliant Orange, his award-winning 2001 study of Dutch football, the author gave the chapters random “squad numbers” for whimsical reasons. It worked very well on that occasion, but a number of his more recent books – Those Feet, Around The World In 90 Minutes – have been misfires, and so is this. Winner ghostwrote #2Sides immediately after finishing Dennis Bergkamp’s memoir Stillness And Speed, so there may or may not have been an element of racing to beat the clock.

By far the most substantial chapter comes early on, where Ferdinand explains his approach to the art of defending, going into fascinating detail about how he could “smell out” one kind of attacking danger and his long-time partner Nemanja Vidic could scent another. A penny for Tony Fernandes and Harry Redknapp’s thoughts if they read it.

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334 UpThereThe north-east, football, boom & bust
by Michael Walker
DeCoubertin Books, £16.99
Reviewed by Paul Brown
From WSC 334 December 2014

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In 1960 the BBC journalist Arthur Appleton wrote a still-admired portrait of north-east football called Hotbed of Soccer. The title was apt, the book being published between Jackie Milburn’s Newcastle winning the FA Cup three times in the 1950s, and Bobby and Jack Charlton’s England winning the World Cup in 1966. The north-east had long been regarded as football’s great nursery, producing a succession of fine players and 
influential managers.

Yet Appleton recognised that the area’s influence on British football was waning. Its clubs were in decline and its players were leaving the region. As cases in point, Newcastle have not won a domestic trophy since the 1950s, and neither Charlton brother played for a north-east team. Even from his 1960 vantage point, Appleton was inclined to look back. “When the present has been temporarily exhausted, there is the rich past to be peeped into,” he wrote.

Fifty-four years later, Michael Walker explores that rich past, and the unavoidably depressed present, in Up There, an excellent and long-overdue social history of north-east football. From the game’s earliest years, Walker shows how the industrial north-east established itself as a football powerhouse. Cash-rich Sunderland won the Football League four times by 1902 and innovative Newcastle won the League three times, and the FA Cup, by 1910. There was a seemingly infinite stream of great players, from Colin Veitch, Raich Carter and Wilf Mannion to Stan Mortensen, George Camsell and Stan Anderson (who, uniquely, captained Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough).

Some became great managers. Brian Clough and Don Revie both grew up in terraced houses in Middlesbrough. Bob Paisley and Bobby Robson, like many of the region’s most prominent football characters, came from mining communities. As Walker discovers via a series of insightful interviews, mining and other industries were central to the success of north-east football, providing structure and stability for community teams and local players. When north-east industry took hits, so did north-east football, particularly after the wars, and then, fatally, during the brutal 1980s.

The 1990 World Cup represented something of a last hurrah. England’s starting XI included four north-east players in captain Bryan Robson, Paul Gascoigne, Peter Beardsley and Chris Waddle, plus manager Bobby Robson. By the 2014 World Cup, England’s sole north-east-born starter was Jordan Henderson. Henderson is one of the few remaining north-east players in the Premier League, with Steve Bruce the only north-east manager.

The decline of north-east football at all levels is well illustrated when Walker presents Durham FA secretary John Topping with a 1983-84 yearbook, and asks what has happened to its list of 16 youth leagues. “Gone. Gone. Gone…” replies Topping. Only two of the 16, he explains, are still around.

Walker does manage to find some causes for optimism. The pioneering Northern League is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, Gateshead are pushing for a return to the Football League and Middlesbrough are challenging for promotion to the Premier League. At junior level, Northumberland’s Pinpoint League is thriving, catering for 12,500 young players. “It’s a mini-revival,” the Pinpoint League’s Ian Coates tells Walker. “In five years’ time I think what you’ll see are more local boys and better local boys playing for the big 
north-east clubs.”

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333 LuckyLucky Johnny
The footballer who survived the River 
Kwai death camps
by Johnny Sherwood
Hodder & Stoughton, £20

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The Happy Warrior
From Leeds United 
to Burma
by Jan Rippin
Tricorn Books £9.50
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333 Happy
Reviewed by Roger Titford
From WSC 333 November 2014

 

There is a recent surge of interest in British footballers at war which may have deep and complex roots. These two titles appear coincidentally at the same time about two men whose war and lives bore remarkable similarities. Only one survived to tell his tale.

Johnny Sherwood (Lucky Johnny) was an embryonic professional at Reading, came home to a curtailed career and wrote a memoir, partly for therapeutic reasons, in later life. The manuscript was discovered last year by his grandson. Eric Stephenson (The Happy Warrior) was an established First Division player at Leeds United with two caps and was a member of the last England touring party before the war. His daughter Jan Rippin was just three when she last saw him and his death left an immense void in family life. Her loving tribute also acts as a means of easing pain.

A modern football audience needs to be alert to the difference between war books about men who happened to be footballers, rather than milkmen or lathe operators, and books about footballers who fought. These titles tread that line rather awkwardly at times because they are constructed more from the war perspective and their football content is a little sketchy.

Rippin’s account of her father is plainly written but nonetheless emotional, particularly in the latter half which deals with his war and death. She creates a picture of the kind of man we no longer seem to have: working class, inspired by books, chapel and political discussion and now memorialised in stained glass. Every last drop of available personal detail is squeezed out of the Leeds match reports but little else is conveyed about his life as a footballer. He was posted to Burma in 1942, rose to the rank of major and fought there until his death in action in September 1944.

In the very same week Sherwood came closest to death, being torpedoed and afloat in the South China Sea for 17 hours. Having been captured just days after landing in Singapore in 1942 he spent most of the next two years working as slave labour for the Japanese building the “railway of death” by the River Kwai. His fitness and status as a footballer enabled him to survive several dangerous moments and his memoir is utterly harrowing, with comrades dying horribly on every other page.

There are some footballing nuggets here and there, notably actually playing matches against the guards who treated them so badly and cautiously not winning too well. This example of football as a bridge between men, more remarkable than the Christmas Day truce match of 1914, would benefit, as would other incidents, from being highlighted in an accompanying commentary. Sherwood survived to briefly pick up his League career with Aldershot but the trauma from having played his part in what literary folk called “the greater game” stayed with him until his death in 1985.

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333 TwelveThe art & psychology of the perfect penalty
by Ben Lyttleton
Bantam Press, £14.99
Reviewed by Jonathan O’Brien
From WSC 333 November 2014

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The glib explanation for the English fascination with penalties is because they lose so many shootouts and are thus mesmerised by the idea of actually being good at them, somewhat like a gormless youth trying to work out the secret of successfully conversing with an attractive woman. Of course, just as a confident man is likely to have more success in a nightclub than a self-conscious one, if they (by which I mean England players) spent less time thinking about penalties, they’d probably fare a little better at them.

Ben Lyttleton explores this theme at length in Twelve Yards, a book which covers much the same ground as Andrew Anthony’s 2000 effort On Penalties (though it’s roughly twice as long). His conversation with Ricardo Pereira, the former Portugal goalkeeper whose penalty saves knocked England out of two different tournaments, soon becomes a faintly farcical catalogue of neurosis, jittery body language and general mental collapse.

Ricardo – who memorably took off the gloves to save Darius Vassell’s effort at Euro 2004 and then blasted in the winner himself – describes Vassell as “very nervous” in the run-up, notes that Steven Gerrard couldn’t look him in the eye and claims that Jamie Carragher’s “mind was fucked up” when the defender took what transpired to be his team’s final penalty in Gelsenkirchen in 2006. He finishes by giving three simple tips to England penalty-takers: focus on the positive, don’t think about the media and forget about the history. One of these might be easier to execute than the other two.

Lyttleton’s scope is nothing if not wide. He travels to South America to interview two penalty-taking keepers, José Luis Chilavert and Rogério Ceni, who ended their careers with well over 100 goals between them. “I was always calm,” Chilavert tells him with no discernible sarcasm. “I was playing a role on the pitch… Look, I could hardly be the hero with this face!”

He meets up with Antonin Panenka, scorer of the most famous penalty ever, outside a village pub near Prague, and discovers that while the legendary midfielder is justifiably proud of the clever little chip which won Euro 76, he also feels it has overshadowed everything else in his long career. Panenka theorises that the main reason for his worldwide fame is because his name “sounds the same in any language”.

But at times, you can sense Lyttleton straining to reach the word count (the book may have had more impact at a shorter length). One entire chapter is a retelling of the France v West Germany match in Seville in 1982, translated directly from a feature in France Football – it’s a very good read, admittedly, but relatively little of it has anything to do with penalties. There’s also a small handful of very bad mistakes – to pick one at random, Spain’s legendary keeper in the 1930s was named Ricardo Zamora, not Schavio Zamora. But this is a readable study of an almost unknowable art, as long as you don’t mind stumbling over yet another graph or table of stats every ten pages or so.

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333 Mooreby Matt Dickinson
Yellow Jersey, £20
Reviewed by Mark Segal
From WSC 333 November 2014

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When a modern-day footballer steps out of line, you don’t need to go far to find a sports writer of a certain vintage bemoaning today’s young millionaires and stating with utter certainty that this would not have happened in “Bobby’s day”.

The Bobby in question is of course late England captain Bobby Moore, whose legend and legacy has ascended to a higher place in the years following his untimely death from cancer in 1993 aged just 51.

According to legend, not only was Moore gifted with fantastic footballing skills but he was also a model professional who knew and understood the responsibilities of being captain of your country. It’s these assumptions about Moore which author Matt Dickinson sets out to investigate in this new book. And it’s a task he completes in some style.

Employing a straight chronological format, Dickinson guides the reader through Moore’s formative years as the shy youngster from Barking breaks into the West Ham first team. The book then centres on the middle years of the 1960s when Moore becomes a triple Wembley winner, first with West Ham in the FA Cup and Cup-Winners Cup and then finally with England in the World Cup final, before detailing his slow decline.

While Moore’s exploits on the pitch have been widely documented – except maybe for a bizarre nine-game stint for a small Danish team in 1978 – the strength of the book lies in the way Dickinson has been able to go beyond football and find Moore’s real character.

While Moore would often be the one instigating nights out with team-mates he was always more comfortable in the role as an observer rather than a performer. Former colleagues and friends alike describe a man who you thought you knew but actually didn’t. His private nature almost acted as a shield against whatever the world might throw at him. This detached nature is perfectly described in the beautifully written chapter about his death, as his second wife Stephanie speaks of the horror on his face as she broke down in tears after being told the disease had spread and there was no cure. Bobby never liked to make a scene.

While all the usual characters from his playing days turn up in the book, Dickinson also uses interviews with some of the journalists who followed Moore’s career at a time when players treated journalists as friends who they could confide in. He also speaks to both of Moore’s wives and also friends from outside football which all helps to provide a more rounded description of a difficult man to categorise.

The way he was ignored by football after his retirement is also discussed with the author believing a mixture of class snobbery, Moore’s lack of self-promotion and links with some of the East End’s more notorious characters all contributed to a managerial career which amounted to short spells at Oxford City and Southend.

Sadly, friends describe how as he entered his 50s Moore was finally beginning to come out of his shell and open up a bit more. Unfortunately, this new and relaxed Bobby was not given a chance to flourish. The passages about his final days make for difficult reading.

As a West Ham fan growing up just a few miles from where Bobby Moore was born, I was always going to have an interest in this book. Dickinson’s achievement has been to honour the memory of Moore while also allowing us to understand that he was far from perfect.

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