THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

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

 

The Story Of A Legend
by Tom Oldfield
John Blake, £17.99
Reviewed by Jonathan O’Brien
From WSC 246 August 2007 

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Gary Neville is sometimes described as a throwback to a simpler, financially poorer, more sepia-toned generation of footballers, what with all the “union man” stuff, the 15-year stay at one club and the general tidy efficiency of his play. What gets mentioned less frequently, though, is that thing on his top lip, a slimline version of the kind of soup-strainer you used to see adorning the faces of Liverpool players 30 years ago. Visually, if nothing else, he belongs to a bygone age.

The Biography of Joe Cole
by Ian Macleay
John Blake, £17.99
Reviewed by Taylor Parkes
From WSC 245 July 2007 

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No, I couldn’t believe the title either. Another lavishly packaged quickie, Cole Play is predictably bland and impossibly turgid. It’s not that badly written – unlike most football-themed hack product, you would feel safe handing this in as English Language GCSE coursework – but it is so boring, so terribly uninspiring, like a book that’s played under José Mourinho for three years. There are no secrets here, no fresh perspectives, yet it runs to a whopping 310 pages, of which 309, at least, are entirely forgettable. Cole Play may not give short weight, but it’s topped up with a lot of ballast.

A Global History of Football
by David Goldblatt
Penguin/Viking, £30
Reviewed by Steve Roser
From WSC 245 July 2007 

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David Goldblatt’s new book weighs in at 3lb 8oz – three-and-a-half times the regulation ball weight established in the first revision of the laws of the game in 1872, but probably about the same mass as the sodden leather bladder that Nat Lofthouse used to head home. Very little has changed in the size and weight of the ball since then (an odd ounce in 1937), although technology, fashion and utility mean the modern ball is a different beast. In many ways the attraction of football is the enduring simplicity and coherence of the laws echoing those governing the ball, and the room that leaves for self-expression on a personal and team level. Goldblatt draws together all aspects of the game’s development into a terrific set of stories and insights, from tiny detail to sweeping generalisation, that well repays the potential upper body strain of lifting the thing.

A history of black players in English football
by Rodney Hinds
Sports Books, £16.99
Reviewed by Matthew Brown
From WSC 245 July 2007 

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Rodney Hinds begins Black Lions, his account of the emergence of black footballers in England, by claiming that “in less than 25 years the black footballer has turned from freak show into a respected member of the football fraternity”.

The Untold Story of Manchester United, 1919-1932
by Justin Blundell
Empire, £10.95
Reviewed by Joyce Woolridge
From WSC 245 July 2007 

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Manchester United’s recent affluence has been built upon two things: a ground that, according to Simon Inglis, has enjoyed one of the most “unhampered situations” of any major English stadium and two modern periods of success, under Matt Busby then Alex Ferguson. However, the move to Old Trafford in 1910, though it began auspiciously with the winning of United’s second title the following season, came close to putting the club out of business. It was poor timing to build a £60,000 stadium just before the outbreak of the First World War and the subsequent suspension of League football, though the wealthy brewer, John Davies, who undertook the relocation could hardly have known what lay in store.

20 Years with Brian Clough
by Duncan Hamilton
Fourth Estate, £14.99
Reviewed by Al Needham
From WSC 244 June 2007 

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Provided You Don’t Kiss Me starts with Hamilton as a terrified teenager in Brian Clough’s office doing an interview for a local sports paper (naturally, Clough asks more questions than the author) and ends on the sofa of his girlfriend’s Leeds flat on the day that Clough died, tearstruck over a father figure he barely realised he had. The story in between – the memoirs of nearly two decades serving as Clough’s mouthpiece in the Nottingham Evening Post – blows away anything The Damned Utd came up with.

Trouble and takeover at the world’s richest football club
by Mihir Bose
Aurum Press, £18.99
Reviewed by Adam Brown
From WSC 244 June 2007 

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The spate of foreign businessmen buying English clubs has received little serious attention from the nation’s hacks who seem to regard the process in the same way that a child looks at a glittery bauble on a Christmas tree. Bose, now the BBC’s sports editor, should be congratulated for providing this incredibly detailed account of the failed BSkyB bid to buy Manchester United in 1999 and the successful Glazer family takeover in 2005.

A Labour Of Love?
by Martin Roderick
Routledge, £22.99
Reviewed by Joyce Woolridge
From WSC 244 June 2007 

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In the mid-1990s, Martin Roderick was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It spelled the end of his professional football career, but also explained why he had suffered pain and exhaustion for several years. His managers and club doctors had already decided why he was so tired. He was a lightweight, a “big time Charlie” who didn’t like playing in the lower divisions. Their solutions: various forms of verbal bullying and a couple of ibuprofen. Since leaving football, he has pursued an academic career and written a thesis based on anonymous interviews with nearly 50 professionals, as well club doctors, physios and a few agents, which explores football as work.

Fighting Back from the Booze, Swindles and Drugs That Ripped My Life Apart
by Peter Marinello
Headline, £12.99
Reviewed by Taylor Parkes
From WSC 243 May 2007 

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The first pre-hyped footballer, Peter Marinello tipped up at Arsenal in 1970, fresh from startling the Scottish League, and flopped. He had the right qualifications to be the latest rave – youth, talent, dress sense, fashionably feminine good looks – but he never had the freakish concentration or the blind determination, he joined the wrong club at the wrong time (wayward flair did little for Bertie Mee and Don Howe) and, worse, he was born unlucky. There’s no Peter Marinello website; there are no classic‑clip compilations on YouTube. What remains is a scrapbook full of fashion shoots for the Daily Express and a black-and-white ­recording of Top of the Pops, where a painfully shy young Scot looks awkward next to a girl with false eyelashes and Tony Blackburn breaks the tension with false, toothy laughter. It’s repeated whenever TV producers want to show what a bastard football can be.

Football Fans, Terrace Songs and a Search for the Soul of Soccer
by Colin Irwin
Andre Deutsch, £12.99
Reviewed by Ed Upright
From WSC 243 May 2007 

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Sing When You’re Winning has a very broad brief. It is an attempt at an amusing travel journal, a brief history of several football clubs and the story of terrace songs. It supports the folk singer Martin Carthy’s view that football crowds “represent the one true surviving embodiment of an organic living folk tradition”. Above all, according to the subtitle, it is a “search for the soul of soccer”. With so many boxes to tick, this was always going to be difficult task and unfortunately it doesn’t quite succeed.