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.

 

The Autobiography
by Ian Rush
Ebury, £18.99
Reviewed by Robert Fordham
From WSC 263 January 2009 

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“It’s funny,” Ian Rush says at one point, “how often seemingly inconsequential things seem to stick in your mind for years to come.” As his autobiography ploughs through lists of opponents for pre-season friendlies, “funny” is not the word that comes to mind. Likewise, the dressing-room jokes Rush recalls are often less side-splitting than he supposes. An attempt to dress him up as a “rough-edged youth” made good, off the back of one bungled shoplifting attempt, falls flat.

by Lou Macari
Bantam, £18.99
Reviewed by Jonathan O'Brien
From WSC 263 January 2009 

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There’s a 30-year-old piece of footage, buried somewhere in the BBC’s archives, of Lou Macari leaning out of the window of the Scotland team bus to talk to Tony Gubba, an hour or so after the 1-1 draw with Iran at the World Cup in Argentina. Despite the awfulness of the result, Macari looks awesomely relaxed, even though you can hear the enraged Scottish fans baying for the team’s blood outside. If his own account in this book is to be believed, the cheekily carefree Macari of 1978 is long gone and not coming back.

Northern Ireland in Sweden
by Ronnie Hanna
Sportsbooks, £7.99
Reviewed by Robbie Meredith
From WSC 263 January 2009 

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The team that made it to the quarter-finals of the 1958 World Cup have served as a sustaining cliche in Northern Irish football. We’re perennial underdogs, so the story goes, and “our wee country”, although comparatively short of players and facilities, can occasionally roll our sleeves up and battle to victory over superior teams who just can’t match our collective warrior spirit, just like the boys of ’58.

The Best Of The Guardian’s Footballing Obituaries
by Brian Glanville
Guardian Books, £12.99
Reviewed by Taylor Parkes
From WSC 264 February 2009 

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The first real heavyweight of British sports journalism, and the only one to have contributed sketches to That Was The Week That Was, Brian Glanville remains something of a national treasure. His eloquent, sharply cynical style, drenched in arcane phraseology, literary allusions and brutally condescending wit, highlights the enduring lack of personality in football writing (at least, the kind of personality you’d want to sit next to at dinner). Any writer who believes that football and intelligence need not be mutually exclusive – at least not all the time – owes him a large debt of gratitude. This collection of obituaries from the pages of the Guardian is not the best platform for Glanville the stylist, but a fine showcase for his strengths as a journalist: that astonishing, exhaustive knowledge of football history, an eye for detail, and the ability to pack each paragraph with information while keeping the prose clean, clear and eminently readable.

Football v Apartheid
by Chuck Korr & Marvin Close
Collins, £17.99
Reviewed by Mike Ticher
From WSC 264 February 2009 

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In 1986 Charles Korr, an American academic, wrote a serious and unusual history of West Ham. Since then, just one book, on baseball. One reason for that sparse output becomes clear when he explains that More Than Just A Game (originally a film) began as long ago as 1993.

From Blackpool To Barcelona; Football’s Greatest Rivalries
by Andy Mitten
HarperSport, £15.99
Reviewed by Mark O'Brien
From WSC 264 February 2009 

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One of the oldest questions asked in football is: “Which is the biggest derby game?” Like trying to argue who is the biggest club or who has the best supporters, it’s actually something of a pointless exercise, but nevertheless these fierce local rivalries retain a unique fascination, and even if sides have been slugging it out forever – and at least four times a season for the Old Firm – the sense of anticipation before each encounter rarely dissipates.

The Autobiography
by Denis Smith
Know the Score, £17.99
Reviewed by Andy Thorley
From WSC 264 February 2009 

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When Stoke beat Arsenal recently, Arsène Wenger became really upset. Stoke’s players, he said, were dirty and tried to injure his side. Thank goodness he didn’t see Denis Smith play. Such is the frequency of the accounts of on-pitch violence that this autobiography of one of the Potters’ greatest ever players reads like a new Danny Dyer show, Naughty Tackles of the 70s.

by Wilf McGuinness with Ivan Ponting
Know the Score, £17.99
Reviewed by Joyce Woolridge
From WSC 265 March 2009 

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Roy Keane’s response to his recent managerial difficulties was to grow a patriarchal, piebald beard. At least he could shave it off after a few days. Wilf McGuinness’s hair began to fall out in clumps and turn white when he was “relieved of his duties” at Manchester United and all he could do was briefly sport a trimmed ladies’ wig until an overenthusiastic Greek goal celebration dislodged it. McGuinness could teach Keano a thing or two about stress. As he says in his introduction, football has given him some tremendous highs, but has also “shattered his world” on several occasions.

An Anthology Of Modern Football Writing
edited by Christopher Davies
Know the Score, £19.99
Reviewed by Terry Staunton
From WSC 265 March 2009 

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That title’s not the best pun you’ve ever read, is it? Not nearly as clever, witty or inspired as sports headlines can be, but it’s the first word that’s the main problem: what does it say about a book when the authors are seemingly apologising on the cover? Perhaps it’s unfair to be too petty when it comes to charity projects, and a cause such as Great Ormond Street Hospital (which benefits from sales of this book) is the epitome of worthy, but the Football Writers Association’s idea of inviting nearly 70 journalists to pen a fresh piece on any aspect of the game they choose was bound to be somewhat hit-and-miss.

The Willie Johnston Story
by Tom Bullimore with Willie Johnston
Know the Score, £17.99
Reviewed by Alex Anderson
From WSC 265 March 2009 

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Featuring the most infamous hay fever remedy ever and 20 red cards in 20 years, Willie Johnston’s career is publishing gold dust. Yet by the end of this structureless, misspelled, style-free trudge of factual inaccuracies, you’re left astounded not by Johnston’s experiences but by author Tom Bullimore’s inability to provide a remotely commensurate book.