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.

 

355 RockyThe tears and triumphs of David Rocastle
by James Leighton
Simon & Schuster, £18.99
Reviewed by David Stubbs
From WSC 355 September 2016

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David Rocastle commands enormous affection among Arsenal fans, who have a special fondness for their underachievers; Charlie Nicholas and John Jensen spring to mind also. In Rocastle’s case, he was luckless with injuries over the course of his career and, sadly, suffered the supreme misfortune of dying in 2001 aged just 33 of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In the decade he spent at Arsenal, however, he is remembered as a player who on his day was able to conjure flashes of Brazilian-style magic for an Arsenal team whose success was generally earned, under George Graham, through more pragmatic means.

353 HucksterHow Chuck Blazer got rich from – and sold out – the most powerful cabal in world sports  
by Mary Papenfuss & Teri Thompson
HarperCollins, £20
Reviewed by Alan Tomlinson
From WSC 353 July 2016

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Chuck Blazer: the Father Christmas lookalike whose weight had mushroomed to 450lbs by the time the FBI and the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) nobbled him on the Manhattan pavement outside his Trump Tower base in November 2011. This was just under a year after FIFA’s decision to award the next two World Cups to Russia and Qatar, and while a generation of FIFA powerbrokers and crooks was beginning to shatter the silence of a long-held code of omertà.

353 MisterThe men who taught the world how to beat England at their own game
by Rory Smith
Simon & Schuster, £18.99
Reviewed by Andy Brassell
From WSC 353 July 2016

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Mister is the story of England’s (and its coaches’) role as a football missionary, spreading the gospel across the continent and beyond until the point when the pupils overtake the master – and keep going until the latter is a mere dot in the distance.

353 LionsEuro 96 and the last great British summer
by Paul Rees
Aurum, £18.99
Reviewed by Si Hawkins
From WSC 353 July 2016

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There’s something oddly masochistic about our ongoing desire to wallow, at length, in massive disappointments. This book may well be one too, for those attracted by the title: 311 pages long, its Euro 96 coverage ends on page 189, which may come as a surprise. But then When We Were Lions isn’t strictly a football book.

353 HillsboroughThe real story told by the people themselves
by Kevin Sampson
Ebury Press, £12.99
Reviewed by Rob Hughes
From WSC 353 July 2016

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There are many horrific disclosures in the testimonies that make up this essential book. But perhaps the most shocking is that, of the 96 people who died at Hillsborough, as many as 58 could have survived had the correct medical procedures been in place. It’s a statistic that campaigner Sheila Coleman calls “obscene”. Compiled by Awaydays author Kevin Sampson in association with the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, Hillsborough Voices offers an unflinching account of the events of April 15, 1989 and its aftermath, from those who were there, those left bereaved and those who subsequently devoted their energies to the long struggle for truth and justice.

352 BoysThe unseen story behind England’s World Cup glory
by John Rowlinson
Virgin Books, £20
Reviewed by David Stubbs
From WSC 352 June 2016

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One of the recurring themes of this volume to commemorate the 50th anniversary of England’s sole international triumph is how relatively little was made of it at the time. Kenneth Wolstenholme’s famous “They think it’s all over; it is now” line epitomises the phlegmatic, English reserve that prevented too much of the sort of histrionic reaction that would prevail nowadays. Were England to win the World Cup today, you suspect Jonathan Pearce’s head would, literally, explode. Not then.

352 EibarThe extraordinary rise of La Liga’s smallest team
by Euan McTear
Pitch Publishing, £9.99
Reviewed by Phil Ball
From WSC 352 June 2016

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The Eibar story is de facto a wonderful one, easy pickings for a half-decent author. Euan McTear, an ardent young blogger now resident in Belfast, had dabbled with journalism in Scotland and then spent time in Barcelona, using his residency there as the springboard for documenting Eibar’s maiden season in Spain’s top flight. McTear goes on to demonstrate with unbridled affection the vicissitudes of his adopted club’s foray into the limelight, and although the book was published with somewhat indecent haste (three months after the conclusion of the 2014-15 season), the rookie author comes over as genuine.

352 Savageby Robbie Savage
Constable, £18.99
Reviewed by Tom Lines
From WSC 352 June 2016

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Apparently, you either love Robbie Savage or you hate him. He is, in his own words, “Mr Marmite”: someone who divides opinion “like Moses divided the Red Sea”. It’s an interesting choice of simile, suggesting a finely balanced reservoir of people on each side of the debate. In reality, on one hand there are the people who love him: his close friends and family, perhaps his agent, and on the other there are all the people you’ve ever met with an interest in football.

352 WhenFootballEngland, the English and Euro 96
by Michael Gibbons
Pitch Publishing, £12.99
Reviewed by Jonathan O’Brien
From WSC 352 June 2016

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It’s now 20 years since Euro 96, a relentlessly mediocre, often sparsely attended tournament won by an unexceptional Germany team that stumbled over the line carrying a busload of walking wounded. Realistically, it should be best forgotten. Yet, oddly, it continues to exert a strong hold over English football’s folk memory. Not because of the standard of play, or because England achieved anything beyond a restoration of respectability, but... just because. For better or worse, its name has come to evoke an unrepeatable moment in time.

351 1930sSimple or sublime?
by Jack Rollin
Soccerdata, £18
Reviewed by Roger Titford
From WSC 351 May 2016

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What a curious book this is. At first I thought it was a reprint but it is a new offering from Jack Rollin (of Rothmans Football Yearbook fame) and published by Soccerdata, the imprint of another revered statto, Tony Brown. It may have taken as its model and inspiration Geoffrey Green’s classic Soccer In The Fifties but it reads rather less fluently. Imagine a decade’s worth of the Rothmans Yearbook condensed and set to workaday prose. It’s hours of fact, the whole gamut of the game – internationals, England, Scotland, Amateurs, the Army Cup and the Varsity match – comprehensively covered. If you are about 95 years old you may well get some of those “Ah, I remember that” moments.