THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

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

 

The inside story of Clough’s Derby days
by George Edwards
Tempus, £12.99
Reviewed by Terry Staunton
From WSC 250 December 2007

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Brian Clough was football’s first great multi-media star, an endlessly quotable mouthpiece whose fame and notoriety stretched far beyond the sport itself. He was a constant subject/target for TV impressionists, and his profile was so high that he was an obvious and welcome guest on Parkinson at a time when the show was awash with A-listers of the calibre of Robert Mitchum and Orson Welles.

The Biography
by Joel Miller
John Blake, £17.99
Reviewed by Paul Doyle
From WSC 247 September 2007 

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Good things about this book include: the high standard of spelling; functionally correct grammar; and the fact that if you dropped it from a great height on to the head of the person who recommended it to you, it would do serious damage. Beyond that, the highest praise you could give it is that it reads like an extended Wikipedia entry, a broadly efficient collation of information already in the public domain. If you think that makes it worth almost 18 of your English pounds, then you presumably pay for WSC with wheelbarrows of gold. Well done.

The Autobiography

Norman Whiteside
Headline, £18.99
Reviewed by Joyce Woolridge
From WSC 249 November 2007 

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It’s June 1991, and Norman Whiteside won’t get out of bed. His fearless attitude on the pitch inspired a Manchester United fanzine, The Shankhill Skinhead, but he spends his “bed-in” crying, unable to come to terms with the reality that he is finished as a footballer at 26. So begins Determined, his autobiography, and he spares readers none of the harrowing details as he traces how a series of medical decisions, made in good faith and often the standard treatment then available, had, as he puts it, “done for him” by the time he was 18. By that tender age he is unable to rotate his hips, giving him his trademark robotic-style run, has lost his pace, and has a knee in which bone grinds against bone. Chips will henceforth regularly flake off into the joint, causing excruciating pain, swelling it up to the size of a swede, necessitating further surgery. Injuries used to be discussed in macho style in football autobiographies, an inevitable consequence of a man’s game, the honourable scars of battle. The recent trend of revealing the pain, both physical and mental, of professional football is refreshing and welcome, if often difficult to read without wincing.

The Remarkable Life and Death of Leigh Richmond Roose, Football's First Play Boy
by Spencer Vignes
Tempus, £9.99
Reviewed by Harry Pearson
From WSC 249 November 2007 

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While those with even a passing interest in cricket can probably name a dozen Edwardian players without recourse to Wisden, I suspect that even the die-hard football fan finds the era before the First World War a good deal less familiar. Because while cricket regards the years that spawned Frank Woolley, Jack Hobbs and Victor Trumper as its “golden age”, to most people football doesn’t really seem to get going until the 1930s.

A Clueless American Sportswriter Bumbles Through English Football
by Chuck Culpepper
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £16.99
Reviewed by David Wangerin
From WSC 249 November 2007 

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The disaffected fan will readily identify with the first eight pages of Chuck Culpepper’s book, a catalogue of much that is wrong with American sport, which the Virginia-born expatriate claims left him afflicted with “Acute Sportswriter Malaise”, the product of “a 14-year career immersed in a vat of drivel, banality and corruption, especially drivel”. His conclusion – “sport sucks, but I’d hate to live without it” – could be a motto for the 21st century.

The Eleven Elements of Footballing Greatness
by Musa Okwonga
Duckworth, £15.99
Reviewed by Jonathan O’Brien
From WSC 249 November 2007 

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Musa Okwonga’s impressive CV includes the fact that he once won a poetry competition, a detail that may well send shudders down the spines of potential purchasers of his new book. In the event, A Cultured Left Foot rarely threatens to end up in Pseud’s Corner, but it still fails to really come together as an analysis of modern ­footballing excellence.

The Biography
by Xavier Rivoire
Aurum, £16.99
Reviewed by David Stubbs
From WSC 248 October 2007 

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There is, among the photographs included here, a picture of Arsène Wenger in a line-up for FC Duttelheim, at the age of 11 in his native Alsace. So exactly did he look then as he does now, from the neck up at any rate, that you might suspect a mischievous bit of photoshopping. The combined, hawkish air of scrutiny but also inscrutability is already engraved on to his countenance. For Wenger, despite numerous examples cited of his thoughtfulness and considerateness, doesn’t always seem quite human. Arsenal supporters have loved and revered the man but have also found him, emotionally, to be a bit of a closed book. Which is why the rise in his spats with a succession of managers, including Glenn Roeder, Alan Pardew, Martin Jol, and, of course, Sir Alex Ferguson and José Mourinho, have almost come as a relief to some fans, despite the fact that they have coincided with a decline in the club’s fortunes.

by Graham Poll
Harper Sport, £18.99
Reviewed by Tom Green
From WSC 248 October 2007 

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Early on in Graham Poll’s autobiography, the now retired referee shows a surprising degree of self-awareness. Admitting that, as a child, he had a tendency to play the clown, he explains that it was his way of dealing with insecurity. “If I was told, as a schoolboy, to go to such-and-such a room, I would loiter outside, dithering about whether it was the right room and what people would think about me when I went in. So, to deal with that feeling, I would confront it. I would burst into the room and be completely over-the-top. I used to overcompensate.”

The Forgotten Truth of Gary Sprake
by Stuart Sprake & Tim Johnson
Tempus, £9.99
Reviewed by Huw Richards
From WSC 248 October 2007 

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Some decent sporting careers are damned by a single error. Bill Buckner, a just-this-side-of-great baseball player, has for 21 years been defined by the fielding error that extended the Boston Red Sox’s interminable wait to win a World Series. Gordon Smith will have to make one heck of a splash running the Scottish FA to efface memories of his miss in the 1983 FA Cup final. Such judgments are often undeserved, however, and the authors here aim to prove that Gary Sprake, Stuart’s uncle, merited better.

My Story
by Neil Warnock
Hodder & Stoughton, £18.99
Reviewed by Pete Green
From WSC 248 October 2007 

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Neil Warnock should be more popular. Sure, you wouldn’t want to watch his players lamping the ball up to the big man every week, but his moaning about referees is far from unique and, in an age when distinctiveness is at a premium among managers, Warnock stands out as one of very few with a personality rather than a checklist of banalities. When most football autobiographies seem as achingly dull as their authors’ TV interviews, then, Made in Sheffield ought to shine out as Warnock lays into his long list of adversaries.