THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

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

 

And Other Curious Phenomena Explained
by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski
Harper Sport, £15.99
Reviewed by Roger Titford
From WSC 272 October 2009 

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Ignore the title – presumably the publisher’s slant to sell more – and follow the sub-head about curious phenomena. Written by an FT journalist and an economist this is a book for nerds. Around the periphery of today’s football (and sports) industry there are a lot of clever people generating a lot of information that, if correctly assembled, should prove they are cleverer than the likes of Harry Redknapp and the typical phone-in caller. Kuper and Szymanski address topics as varied as the suicide rates after major football tournaments (lower than expected) and strategies in the transfer market (think twice about buying blonds unless you’re a Swedish club). The sacred cows of some of our football beliefs are attacked with hard data. Some, to my mind, survive the onslaught.

Playing To Win
The Autobiography
by Dave Whelan
Aurum Press, £18.99
Reviewed by Ashley Shaw
From WSC 272 October 2009 

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Mild And Bitter Were The Days
Wigan 1970
by Ken Barlow, £9.99 
Reviewed by Ashley Shaw
From WSC 272 Oct 2009 

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It’s easy to have a pop at Dave Whelan. An old-school Tory businessman with a “pull yourselves up by the bootstraps” philosophy, he has recently taken on a rent-a-quote personality, a reliable fall-back for Sky Sports News on a slow news day. His book, like the man, is a plain-speaking offering that might irk some. 

The Autobiography of Dave Jones
by Dave Jones & Andrew Warshaw
Know The Score, £17.99
Reviewed by Tim Springett
From WSC 272 October 2009 

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Football was never the reason for writing this book. That was clear long before Dave Jones said so on page 191 out of 192. Jones states that his motivation was his desire for closure, particularly for his family, ten years after he was initially accused of child abuse while working at the Clarence House children’s home on Merseyside in the late 1980s. What could have been an interesting football history is hence told in somewhat sketchy form, as the story of the charges, the trial and swift acquittal dominates.

The Billy Abercromby Story
by Billy Abercromby with Fraser Kirkwood
Macdonald Media, £9.99
Reviewed by Archie MacGregor
From WSC 273 November 2009 

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Many would contend that if football is Scotland’s national game then the favourite pastime of those playing it is most surely drinking. There’s certainly a longstanding tradition of romanticising, and even celebrating, the alcohol-fuelled deeds that so many of Scotland’s leading players have presented us with over the years – from an inebriate Jimmy Johnstone floating helplessly down the Firth of Clyde in a rowing boat on the eve of the 1974 World Cup to the recent escapades of Allan McGregor and Barry Ferguson. Yet all this larking about all too often comes at a cost. Be it a truncated career, or worse, in the tragic cases of the likes of Jim Baxter, a truncated life.

A Riotous Footballing Memoir About the Loneliest Position on the Field
by Graham Joyce
Mainstream, £8.99
Reviewed by Pete Green
From WSC 273 November 2009 

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What do goalkeepers daydream about? What goes through their minds when all the play is down the other end? Simple Goalkeeping Made Spectacular is the true story of a 52-year-old custodian called up to represent England in a Writers’ World Cup in Florence. The story fades into the background, however, as Graham Joyce digresses into matters as diverse as the pre-match huddle, what the six-yard box is for and the efficacy of spraying WD-40 on your osteoarthritic knees.

How the World's Most Famous Athlete Tried to Conquer America
by Grant Wahl
Crown, £16.99
Reviewed by David Stubbs
From WSC 273 November 2009 

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David Beckham’s transfer to LA Galaxy was a surprising late chapter in the adventures of a footballer whose global superstar status exceeds by some distance his admittedly considerable abilities on the pitch. It was a slight return to the mid-1970s and the influx of internationals who chose to spend their sunset years in American soccer – Pelé and George Best among them. They had failed to galvanise interest in the game stateside but, it was optimistically argued, the infrastructure of MLS would enable Beckham to raise the profile and standards of the game more successfully than had his forebears.

The Real Story of Brian Clough at Leeds United
by Phil Rostron
Mainstream, £12.99
Reviewed by Duncan Young
From WSC 273 November 2009 

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The spine of this book by experienced Leeds United journalist Phil Rostron promises “the real story of Brian Clough at Leeds United”. The title and timing suggest that inside the reader will discover truths that were glossed over by David Peace in his dramatisation of that famously short tenure.

Got To Be There
Part One 1964-1987
by Dave Burnley
Dawber, £10.00
Reviewed by Alan Tomlinson
From WSC 274 December 2009 

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Big Club, Small Town & Me
The epic story of Burnley’s meteoric rise to the Premiership
by Brendan Flood with Stuart Wilkin
TH Media, £9.99
Reviewed by Alan Tomlinson
From WSC 274 December 2009 

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Before and on October 18, 2009, the UK’s sport media focused upon what some called the “cotton-town derby” – Blackburn Rovers versus Burnley – that would establish “bragging rights” in east Lancashire. The two clubs were founder members of the Football League in 1888, but had not met in a top-flight fixture for over 40 years. It was an eerie atmosphere walking to Ewood Park from Lower Darwen, as the blue-and-white of Blackburn dominated the streets, one shirt announcing “Burnley fans eat bananas with their feet”. The 2,800 Burnley supporters were bussed in with a police escort. During this 11-mile journey passengers were abused from the windows of respectable Blackburn residences. On arrival buses were cordoned off by lines of police, preventing any contact with the visiting supporters. “How many of you are on duty for this?” I asked a young policewoman. “All of us... They’ve cancelled everyone’s day off.”

A German’s view of our beautiful game
by Raphael Honigstein
Yellow Jersey, £11.99
Reviewed by Mike Ticher
From WSC 274 December 2009 

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Psychoanalysing national character is “a murky business”, says Raphael Honigstein, a German journalist who has lived in England since 1993. It certainly is, especially when your picture of the nation is a caricature. An unflattering view from an outsider is often unsettling. It can also be refreshing and challenging, but only if the insights are original. Honigstein has absorbed a lot about English football through direct experience and its literature (he leans heavily on David Winner and David Downing), but most of his conclusions seem to me exaggerated, too broad or half-truths, at best.

The Duncan McKenzie Story
by Duncan McKenzie and David Saffer
Vertical Editions, £17.99
Reviewed by Mark O'Brien
From WSC 274 December 2009 

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Duncan McKenzie openly admits that his style of play divided opinions. There were those who saw him as a luxury player, while others considered him the sort of maverick who could unlock defences in an era, the 1970s, when men like Ron Harris and Tommy Smith would emasculate forwards as soon as look at them.