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 Amazing Story of the Islington Corinthians 1937-38 World Tour
by Rob Cavallini with Colin Duncan
Dog ’n’ Duck, £14.99
Reviewed by Pete Green
From WSC 267 May 2009 

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Fans sometimes like to think that football is popular across the world because it’s somehow more universally, intrinsically appealing than rugby, or baseball, or kabaddi. It’s not: it’s because of people like Tom Smith.

The Story of the Footballers' Battalion in the Great War
by Andrew Riddoch & John Kemp
Haynes, £19.99
Reviewed by Harry Pearson
From WSC 267 May 2009 

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Football folk are fond of commenting that some event – a natural disaster, terrorist outrage, loss of a relative to disease – has “put things in perspective”. And you can almost guarantee that five minutes later they’ll once again be arguing about a penalty decision as if their life depended on it.

Confessions of a Lower League Legend
by Peter Swan with Andrew Collomosse
John Blake, £17.99
Reviewed by Terry Staunton
From WSC 267 May 2009 

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A foreword by Sky’s Helen Chamberlain and further front-loaded testimonials from Gary Speed, Phil “The Power” Taylor and more leave the reader in little doubt that Peter Swan is a “larger than life” character. He goes on to tell us so himself many times, and employs the phrase “joker in the pack” almost as frequently.

by Don Shaw
Ebury Press, £16.99
Reviewed by Peter Gutteridge
From WSC 268 June 2009 

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The story of Brian Clough’s triumphs at Derby County and his fractious relationship with chairman Sam Longson has been told many times. Now we have another film and book, The Damned United, in which Clough’s supposed inner demons are explored. It is therefore a huge challenge for Don Shaw to produce a fresh look at this key period of Derby’s history – but he succeeds.

Malcolm Allison, Joe Mercer and Manchester City
by Colin Shindler
Mainstream, £17.99
Reviewed by Ian Farrell
From WSC 268 June 2009 

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Back in the late Nineties, Colin Shindler’s Manchester United Ruined My Life became one of football writing’s biggest break-out hits, earning its author plenty of mainstream praise, a spin-off TV documentary, and, it has to be said, a fair amount of criticism, amid suggestions that it was just a Manchester City version of Fever Pitch. Such carping about merely putting his own club’s spin on a recent success is clearly of no concern to Shindler if the strangely familiar premise of his latest work is anything to go by: a piece of nostalgic ­“faction” about a big-mouthed, larger-than-life coach battling for control... of Man City. In fact, given that its release has been timed to follow that of The Damned United’s much-hyped film version, it doesn’t look like Shindler and his publisher’s publicity department mind one little bit if you make the comparison. Now that I’ve done their bidding, I’ll say this: they’re nothing like each other.

by Brad Friedel with Malcolm McClean
Orion, £18.99
Reviewed by David Wangerin
From WSC 268 June 2009 

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No colourful boots for Brad Friedel – no self-aggrandising tattoos, no trophy wife, and certainly no flamboyant hairstyles. But, almost inevitably these days, there is a book. Not that we should begrudge this Premier League stalwart a foray outside his penalty area; indeed, how a collegiate star from Ohio became one of England’s most dependable goalkeepers and a hero of the 2002 World Cup would seem to be a story worth reading.

by Steve Stammers
Hamlyn, £18.99
Reviewed by David Stubbs
From WSC 268 June 2009 

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The very first match played by Arsenal Football Club took place on December 11, 1886, after a whip round a few days earlier at the Royal Oak pub in Woolwich had raised the necessary funds (three shillings and sixpence) to purchase a football. The “pitch” was on the Isle of Dogs. It was oblong, with boundaries provided by adjoining back gardens. An open sewer ran across the playing surface.

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.