THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Reviews from When Saturday Comes. If you've liked – or disliked – any of the books, add your comments to those of our reviewers. Follow the link to buy the book from Amazon.

 

My Story
by Kenny Sansom
John Blake, £17.99
Reviewed by David Stubbs
From WSC 258 August 2008 

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Kenny Sansom’s autobiography ought to be a rollicking, tasty read. He was brought up alone in south London by a strong-willed mother, his father having departed family life to work with the Krays. A joker, he appears more proud at times of his Norman Wisdom impersonation than a career in which he won 86 England caps. He also liked a drink – he was a key member not just of Arsenal’s mid-Eighties defence but also their wrecking crew, embarking on many a bibulous adventure with Tony Adams, Paul Merson and so on, fuelled by pints of Chablis and whisky. He played in two World Cups, including the “Hand of God” game against Argentina in 1986, ascribing the defeat as much to Steve Hodge’s forgetfulness when it came to offside traps as to Diego Maradona. He comes across as a likeable, reflective, self-effacing fellow, whose laddishness doesn’t tip over into outright lairiness or TalkSport gobbishness.

The Spy Who Played for Spartak
by Jim Riordan
4th Estate, £14.99

Reviewed by Tom Davies
From WSC 258 August 2008 

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Football in the Soviet Union held a lurid fascination for many – by turns menacing, exotic, secretive and awe-­inspiring. So it’s something of a surprise that the curious story of the only Englishman to play for a Soviet League club is so little known. Children’s author and Russian studies academic Jim Riordan, then a young British Communist Party member, found himself propelled through political connections and his modest prowess with a Sunday morning expat team into a title-chasing Spartak Moscow side for two league games in the early Sixties, and this is his account.

The Maestro
by Martin Plumb
Ashwater, £27.50

Reviewed by Neil Hurden
From WSC 258 August 2008

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You could rely on one thing at Craven Cottage in the 1970s. At moments of maximum desperation in the Fulham ranks, one of the denizens of the strange, non-Leagueish world of the Stevenage Road Enclosure would inevitably pipe up with the ironic refrain: “Bring on Johnny Haynes!”

A Football History
by Gary James
James Ward, £21.95

Reviewed by Joyce Woolridge
From WSC 258 August 2008 

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Gary James’s ambitious aim is to tell the history of football in the Manchester area and thereby establish its importance to the city and its environs. The game was banned there 400 years ago because the inhabitants had been “greatly wronged... by a company of lewd and disordered persons... breaking many men’s glass windows at their pleasures and other great enormities”. As James points out, the authorities have not always been sensible of the myriad benefits of what became the region’s favourite pastime. You can hear James’s exasperation as he writes: “It says much about how the early history of football has been viewed in Manchester that the only plaque commemorating the history of [Manchester] City is actually incorrectly positioned.”

How racism, drugs and cancer almost destroyed me
by Paul Canoville

Headline, £7.99

Reviewed by Mike Ticher
From WSC 257 July 2008 

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The only time I’ve been punched in the face at a football match was because of Paul Canoville. I’d like to say it was on account of some courageous protest, but in the early 1980s at Stamford Bridge you only had to clap him to rile his racist tormentors. Canoville was great to watch: an upright, powerful winger with a destructive change of pace. But as Chelsea’s first black player, he was hounded by his own fans on his debut at Crystal Palace in 1982, and long afterwards.

by Ivan Ponting

Know the Score, £16.99

Reviewed by Roger Tiford
From WSC 257 July 2008 

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There are two types of obituary, the personal – written by someone who knew the deceased – and the professional. Ex-footballers tend not to have close friends or family who can offer a thousand finely wrought words at the drop of a chap so, for the benefit of readers of the Independent, Ivan Ponting has being doing this duty for the past 15 years. Given that newspaper’s circulation, this collection of obituaries will be fresh, yet timeless, material for the vast majority of fans.

A Biography
by Steve Gordos

Breedon Books, £12.99

Reviewed by Jim Heath
From WSC 257 July 2008 

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Having started to support Wolves almost 40 years ago, I just missed out on the halcyon period between 1949 and 1960 when they won two FA Cups and three League titles. Recent retrospectives on captain Billy Wright and manager Stan Cullis have opened up a new dimension on the era and Steve Gordos’s biography of inside-forward Peter Broadbent, now stricken with Alzheimer’s, adds richly to that seam.

Inside the British Derby
by Douglas Beattie
Know the Score, £16.99
Reviewed by Csaba Abrahall
From WSC 257 July 2008 

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Together with the admission that it was watching Celtic and Rangers fans beating the crap out of each other that led to his interest in the subject, the photograph of typical 1980s terrace brawling that adorns the cover of Douglas Beattie’s study of derby rivalry raises the fear that it will provide the setting for some standard hooliganism porn. Happily, such a fear proves to be unfounded. Although there are tales of violence dating back to an all-in scrap featuring fans, players and police in Sheffield in 1892, what Beattie – an award-winning BBC news journalist – has produced is an intelligent and well written insight into the eight biggest derbies in British football.

The Willie Miller Story
by Willie Miller with Rob Robertson

Birlinn, £14.99
Reviewed by Neil Forsyth
From WSC 256 June 2008 

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For the uninitiated, Willie Miller is not a mafia overlord but a long-standing servant of Aberdeen, also known as the Dons. Miller played for the club for 19 years, before a spell as manager and his current post as director of football.

The Hidden History of the 1966 World Cup
by Martin Atherton

Meyer & Meyer, £17.95
Reviewed by Josh Widdicombe
From WSC 256 June 2008 

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In 1997, FIFA paid £254,000 at auction for a replica of the Jules Rimet Trophy, possibly believing it to be the real thing. It wasn’t. Since 2000 Martin Atherton has been investigating how the incidents surrounding the theft of the trophy in 1966 led to this purchase decades later. A tale of intrigue, scheming and a black-and-white cross-breed called Pickles, it is equal parts Ealing comedy and an episode of Spooks.