THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

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

 

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.

A Scottish Football Safari
by Gary Sutherland
Birlinn, £7.99
Reviewed by Archie MacGregor
From WSC 262 December 2008 

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With bookshelves groaning under the weight of companion guides on every subject from Slovakian folk music to Carry On... movies these days, why not a travelogue about Scottish football grounds? It appears to have several of the essential ingredients – a hint of the exotic (how many of us have ever contemplated a day trip to Peterhead?), a touch of the reassuringly familiar (match-day catering nightmares) and a couple of dastardly panto villains to provide a common point of reference (the Old Firm).

Portait of a Winner
by Gabriele Marcotti
Bantam, £18.99
Reviewed by Matthew Barker
From WSC 263 January 2009 

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Gabriele Marcotti’s profile of Fabio Capello is a brisk (though at 400-plus pages not short) summary of the England coach’s career, putting his appointment in charge of the national team in the context of his achievements at club level. After the briefest of glimpses at his childhood and family background we’re off and running, rounding-up a quietly distinguished playing career: beginnings with Spal; the big move to Roma under early influence Helenio Herrera; joining Juventus; that azzurri goal at Wembley; and on to Milan. One constant that features in the various anecdotes and reminiscences is of a player old before his time, a bit of a loner, a little too focused, a little too intense. Classic managerial material in, other words.

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.