THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

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

 

Setting The Record Straight
by Peter Swan with Nick Johnson
Stadia, £17.99
Reviewed by Harry Pearson
From WSC 239 January 2007 

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It is the misfortune of some professional footballers to have their entire careers defined in the public mind by one terrible mistake. The glaring miss in a cup final, a blundering attempt to deal with a weak shot, or an idiotic injury are sometimes all we recall of men who played hundreds of games at the top level. Peter Swan is one such player, though his error was of a slightly different sort. In December 1962 he and Sheffield Wednesday team-mates Tony Kay and David Layne placed bets on Ipswich Town to win when the two teams met at Portman Road. Two years later, following a tabloid exposé of match-rigging and a police investigation, Mansfield Crown Court sent Swan – who pleaded not guilty – to jail for four months and fined him £100. The Football Association, meanwhile, banned him from the game for life (the ban was eventually lifted in 1972).

The Autobiography
by Alan Mullery with Tony Norman
Headline, £18.99
Reviewed by Adam Powley
From WSC 239 January 2007 

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“Outspoken, controversial and entertaining”: so say the publishers in hyping the memoirs of Alan Mullery, adding the titillating prospect of naked blondes in hotels and “every human emotion”. Perhaps the current trend for football biogs replete with tales of mega-bungs, bling and bedroom antics has skewed the biographical template, but there’s little need for the Heat-style hard sell here.

by Paul McGrath
Century, £18.99
Reviewed by Peter Daly
From WSC 239 January 2007 

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When Paul McGrath was 19, he embarked on “a journey of unimaginable strangeness” that lasted almost a year. He did so without leaving his hospital bed. In fact, he did so almost without moving a muscle – it was a psychological voyage, see, during which a confused and frightened McGrath lay for so long with his legs locked tensely together that he would suffer from knee pains for ever more. That’s just one of the reasons it’s amazing he went on to have a football career, let alone a glorious one.

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.