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.

 

100 Years of the PFA
by John Harding
Breedon, £18.99
Reviewed by Joyce Woolridge
From WSC 269 July 2009 

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Trade union history is not the easiest of material to turn into an engrossing read. Chronicling the history of the Players’ Union brings an additional challenge, that, in some quarters at least, there is little sympathy for the PFA and its purported defence of irresponsible, greedy players “holding the game to ransom”. Harding’s update of his earlier pioneering PFA official history For The Good of the Game is an unashamedly polemical and timely reminder of why the PFA exists and what it has done for professional football. Written with the same clarity and skill as Harding’s classic biography of Billy Meredith, Football Wizard, and the underrated Living to Play, this book is yet another timely addition to what could be thought of as an ongoing “elevatory project” within football which seeks to counter the stereotype of the “footballer as a thick-headed yokel who needs constant discipline and cannot be trusted to manage his own affairs” as maverick 1970s PFA Chair Derek Dougan put it.

by Anthony Cartwright
Tindal Street Press, £9.99
Reviewed by Matthew Brown
From WSC 269 July 2009 

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Novels about football are notoriously difficult; good ones distinctly rare. It’s been a long time since Brian Glanville’s Goalkeepers Are Different and although that was basically a tale for teenage boys, it still stands out in the football fiction landscape. More recently David Peace’s The Damned United, yet that could be filed under the dubious “faction” label.

by John Wark
Know The Score, £18.99
Reviewed by Gavin Barber
From WSC 269 July 2009 

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Sometimes it’s the little details that point towards the most interesting aspects of a book. One does not expect the acknowledgements page of John Wark’s autobiography to thank Warner Chappell for permission to reproduce the lyrics to Shirley Bassey’s I Am What I Am. But sure enough, all three verses of Warky’s favourite song are there in the final chapter: we learn that he frequently gives it a spin on the stereo when he gets back from the pub. The image of the legendary hardnut cutting a tipsy rug to this well-known gay anthem is an unexpected one.

Northern and Proud
The Bob Stokoe Story
by Paul Harrison
Know The Score, £17.99
Reviewed by Joe Boyle
From WSC 269 July 2009 

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Left Back In Time
by Len Ashurst
Know The Score, £17.99
Reviewed by Joe Boyle
From WSC 269 August 2009 

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As Sunderland head for next season with another new manager, where are the templates for managerial success on Wearside? Bob Stokoe is the obvious choice but, on the evidence of two recent books, a more nuanced understanding of the club and the game comes from Len Ashurst, another former Sunderland boss.

An Intimate Portrait of Football’s Last Romantic
by Ian Ridley
Simon & Schuster, £16.99
Reviewed by Harry Pearson
From WSC 270 August 2009 

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It’s a popular notion that silence is enigmatic. “Still waters run deep,” we say. Some people, however, can talk a hell of a lot yet remain unfathomable. Kevin Keegan is a veritable babbling brook, yet despite the fact he rarely seems to have shut up for four decades the motivations behind key decisions at important times in his life appear oddly mysterious.

 A Refugee Team, An American Town
by Warren St John
Fourth Estate, £14.99
Reviewed by David Wangerin
From WSC 270 August 2009 

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In Atlanta to promote his first book, Warren St John came across someone who worked in a nearby refugee settlement and suggested the author “check out the soccer team” there. He did – and discovered that the town of Clarkston, a few miles north-east of the city, had developed into a sort of international refugee centre, teeming with dislocated families from Iraq, Kosovo, Liberia and other trouble spots.

Saturday Afternoons in Front of the Telly
by Jeff Stelling
Harper Sport, £15.99
Reviewed by Roger Titford
From WSC 270 August 2009 

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Not long ago I bought a remaindered copy of Barry Davies’ autobiography, Interesting, Very Interesting. “Toe-curling, very toe-curling” would have been more appropriate. Likewise, Jeff Stelling has drawn from the well of his own commentary for a title. In his case he confesses the pun on the Mansfield defender’s name was many months premeditated and this tells you all you need to know about his (or hopefully his ghost’s) style. But the truth is both Barry and Jeff are among my very favourite football broadcasters. Stelling has created in Soccer Saturday the only programme where I prefer the Sky offering to the BBC and he has used it as a platform to half-escape the backwater of satellite TV for Channel 4’s Countdown.

Love, Death and Football
by Jason Cowley
Simon & Schuster, £14.99
Reviewed by Terry Staunton
From WSC 270 August 2009 

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Michael Thomas’s last-gasp goal for Arsenal at Anfield on May 26, 1989, has proven to be hard to top, in terms of live and unscripted televised sporting drama. Possibly the most replayed clip from a domestic football match of the last two decades, what has happened to the game in the intervening years forms the basis of Cowley’s persuasive argument that nothing was ever the same again.

Premier League to Prison
by Mark Ward
Football World, £17.99
Reviewed by Mark O'Brien
From WSC 271 September 2009 

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Mark Ward enjoyed a playing career that took in Northwich Victoria, Oldham Athletic, West Ham United, Manchester City, Everton and Birmingham City. He scored a goal in the Merseyside derby and was a key member of the Hammers side that finished third in the 1985-86 season, but what he will always be known for, and probably the only reason his autobiography was commissioned, is the fact that in 2005 he was arrested on drug charges and subsequently received an eight-year jail sentence.

by Steve Claridge with Ian Ridley
Orion, £18.99
Reviewed by Pete Green
From WSC 271 September 2009 

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One book was never going to be enough for Steve Claridge. While his well-received earlier volume Tales From the Boot Camps told an enjoyable if fairly standard tale of a mostly lower-division pro enjoying glimpses of the big time, this follow-up finds the archetypal journeyman scurrying around the leagues in his late 30s to extend an already epic CV. With some brief but eventful stints in management and a burgeoning media career, there is masses of raw material, and with his co-author and friend Ian Ridley, Claridge has crafted it into another decent read.