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.

 

by Rowan Simons

Macmillan, £14.99
Reviewed by Ben Lyttleton
From WSC 260 October 2008 

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All eyes were on China in August as Beijing proved, with the odd journalist-napping aside, to be an excellent host city for the Olympics. Rowan Simons has spent most of the past 20 years living in China and this book charts his period in the country, from his student days watching the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 to his rise as a football pundit (though not a very good one as one of his favourite lines is “He’ll never score with a haircut like that”) and a political figure trying to create more pitches and more opportunities for Chinese amateur ­footballers.

The Autobiography
by Mike Summerbee & Jim Holden
Century, £18.99
Reviewed by Ian Farrell
From WSC 260 October 2008 

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In an attempt to sell Mike Summerbee’s autobiography beyond a niche market of Manchester City fans, George Best is pictured alongside him on the back cover, while his minor role in Escape to Victory is hyped in the dust-jacket blurb. With few of his great moments – or massive bust-ups – caught on tape, and his eight-cap England career covering little of note, Summerbee’s impact on the collective consciousness is surprisingly slight for such a great player. He will always be thought of in relation to other people: as Best’s best friend in the Swinging Sixties, as one third of the Bell-Lee-Summerbee triumvirate, or as “Nicky’s dad”.

The Biography of Manchester United’s Midfield Maestro
by Ian Macleay

John Blake, £ 17.99

Reviewed by Joyce Woolridge
From WSC 260 October 2008 

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This is a book that should have been written two years down the line, when hopefully Owen Hargreaves has managed to put in something like a full season and lived up to his premature billing here as “United’s Midfield Maestro”. Currently, the Canada-born player is yet again not gracing the Old Trafford, or any other, pitch with his sublime skills, though his return to ­fitness is expected soon. It is undoubtedly true that without Hargreaves’s sporadic appearances Manchester United would not have won their two trophies last season, but the same could be said with more justification about most of the rest of United’s squad. He also showed some promise as the “holding midfield player”, the current mythical missing piece of the England team’s jigsaw, when fit. But he is still a work in progress.

The Frank McGarvey Story
by Frank McGarvey and Ronnie Esplin
Mainstream, £15.99
Reviewed by Graham McColl
From WSC 261 November 2008 

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In a mid-1980s Celtic programme, Frank McGarvey described himself as an avid viewer of wildlife documentaries – a rare trait in a footballer. Disappointingly, Frank does not elaborate here on that professed love of wildlife. The only animals to feature regularly are horses, done up in racing colours, in which Frank takes an enormous interest while admitting that after decades of betting on them he still knows nothing about the beasts.

by David McVay
Reid Publishing, £9.99
Reviewed by Pete Green
From WSC 261 November 2008 

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How should a serious newspaper cover lower-league football? The Guardian hardly bothers at all, contemptuously summarising 72 clubs’ weekends in a negligible bullet-point “round-up”. The Times and Telegraph, superficially at least, sometimes offer the lower divisions greater respect, with weekly columns dedicated to life outside the top flight. But exactly how respectful is it to commission lower-league specialists to get their hands dirty at Underhill while their staff writers hoover up the posh nibbles in comfy Premier League press rooms?

by Mickey Thomas
Century, £18.99
Reviewed by Ashley Shaw
From WSC 261 November 2008 

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By the end of this book it’s difficult not to feel angry with Mickey Thomas. The stench of natural talent wasted for the want of a smidgen of intelligence hangs over most of his career, even if the author appears to have learned his lesson by the book’s close.

Football in the war zone
by James Montague
Mainstream, £10.99
Reviewed by Mike Ticher
From WSC 261 November 2008 

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Let’s get the title out of the way first. It’s a bit – how can I put it – derivative? And it doesn’t really tell you what the book is about, which is the Middle East. James Montague travelled to a dozen countries to explore their football culture, or at least taste it, in trips that sometimes lasted only a few days.

The Hard Life and High Times of Malcolm Allison
by David Tossell
Mainstream, £16.99
Reviewed by Harry Pearson
From WSC 262 December 2008 

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I once met Malcolm Allison in a pub in County Durham. The thing that struck me about Big Mal was that he was really quite small. Admittedly he was by that stage an elderly man, but the fact is that in football “bigness” has always been about more than mere physical stature.

A Footballer’s Life
by Mel Sterland with Nick Johnson
Green Umbrella, £18.99
Reviewed by Andy Hockley
From WSC 262 December 2008 

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Mel “Zico” Sterland was a fine right-back who deserved more England caps than the one he picked up against Saudi Arabia in 1989. Given that there is plenty to say about his career, you might be surprised to learn that the title of this book is not the worst thing about it.

A Bumper Book of Football Writing
by Giles Smith
Penguin, £7.99
Reviewed by Terry Staunton
From WSC 262 December 2008 

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Giles Smith’s regular column for, and other contributions to, the Times are blessedly free of the piousness associated with the majority of self-appointed Fleet Street sages, who purport to articulate the voice of the stands while sat smugly in the press box. A Chelsea season-ticket holder for most of his adult life, the bulk of his exposure to “live” football is consequently largely restricted to watching one team, which means, like the rest of us, he gets his broader fix from TV.