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.

 

351 66by Ian Passingham
Pitch Publishing, £14.99
Reviewed by Jon Matthias
From WSC 351 May 2016

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The concept of this book is to help the reader “relive the finals as if they were happening today”. Broadly speaking it works, as Ian Passingham tells the story of the 1966 World Cup in modern journalistic style. That means lots of headlines, short sentences and picking the newsworthy angle out of the factual details. There are times when anachronisms grate, such as references to “WAGs”. “The Angels of the North” particularly stood out as a headline out of sync with the rest of the book, given the Angel was only erected in 1998. But minor quibbles apart, Passingham manages to make the source material fresh and interesting.

351 SecretGuardian Publishing, £12.99
Reviewed by Si Hawkins
From WSC 351 May 2016

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When the Secret Footballer embarked on his lid-lifting column for the Guardian six years ago, he presumably didn’t envisage having to stretch those trade secrets across four books, even after retirement. There’s a telling chapter here in which he repeatedly tries to quit playing, but football keeps pulling him back in, and you wonder if his publishers have been doing the same: “Dig deep, TSF, just a few more anecdotes…”

351 Kloppby Elmar Neveling
Ebury Press, £12.99
Reviewed by Rob Hughes
From WSC 351 May 2016

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Attempting to write a biography of someone with an ongoing career means that your work is never quite done. As a contributor to DFB Bundesliga magazine, Elmar Neveling has been well placed to chart the rise of Jürgen Klopp over the past decade. A book published in Germany in 2011 Echte Liebe (Real Love) brought Klopp’s achievements with Borussia Dortmund into some kind of focus, but landed between back-to-back Bundesliga titles. A new version, published four years later, was able to evaluate his achievements (including the German double and reaching a Champions League final) from a better perspective. Klopp’s decision to cut short his post-Dortmund sabbatical has now necessitated an extra chapter in this English version of the book, probably earlier than Neveling anticipated, to cover the start of his Liverpool tenure.

350 CrazyThe true inside 
story of football’s 
greatest miracle
by Dave Bassett 
and Wally Downes
Bantam Press, £18.99
Reviewed by Shane Simpson
From WSC 350 April 2016

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Dave Bassett, and co-author Wally Downes, make it clear that this book has been written in response to those involved in the BT Sport documentary The Crazy Gang, who Bassett feels “had not done their homework on the years before the 1988 Cup final… [having] an agenda whereby they wanted to sensationalise some of the stories that Vinnie and Fash had, and made them the centre of attention when the film was released”.

350 FarrellFootball between 
the lines
by David Farrell
Teckle Books, £9.99
Reviewed by Neil Andrews
From WSC 350 April 2016

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There’s a scene in Dad’s Army that neatly sums up David Farrell’s football career. In the midst of a rant about class warfare, Captain Mainwaring informs Sergeant Wilson that he had to “fight like hell” to get into grammar school and “fight even harder to stay there”. It is a sentiment Farrell can empathise with in his dogged determination not only to become a professional footballer but remain one, despite a crumbling left foot and a run of very bad luck.

350 CahillThe autobiography 
of Tim Cahill
by Tim Cahill
HarperSport, £18.99
Reviewed by Jamie Rainbow
From WSC 350 April 2016

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When Tim Cahill’s contract with Shanghai Shenhua was terminated, a number of A-League clubs approached the midfielder offering him the chance to finish his playing career in Australia. But, as he reveals in Legacy, he’d already snubbed an earlier return to his homeland for commercial reasons. The 36-year-old, fast approaching the end of his playing career, was already thinking about life after football. Or, to use Cahill’s own slightly nausea-inducing phrase, he had to “strategize as a businessman”.

350 BuryHow Bury triumphed 
in British football’s worst year
by James Bentley
SilverWood Books, £14.99
Reviewed by Charles Morris
From WSC 350 April 2016

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The story of how a hard-up Fourth Division club succeeded against the odds and won promotion in 1984-85 using just 15 players has immediate appeal to fans of smaller clubs. The underdog theme also chimes with the present, as Leicester, Bournemouth and Burton confound expectations this season. The tale’s backdrop is compelling, too, because 1984-85 was a nadir for British football, a period besmirched by appalling hooliganism and the tragedies of the Bradford fire and the Heysel stadium.

349 Dugout400Football at the 
sharp end
by Richard Gordon
Black and White, £9.99
Reviewed by Gordon Cairns
From WSC 349 March 2016

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“Tales From The Technical Area” may have been a more pleasingly alliterative title, but the stories author Richard Gordon elicits from his subjects are generally of the more humble variety; summoning the sense of a damp bus shelter rather than a Perspex conservatory. The author is better known as the reasonable anchor man on Radio Scotland’s Sportsound among more excitable colleagues. Drawing on these radio connections he has amassed 48 interviews with a range of figures in the Scottish game. What is refreshing is that stories about Celtic and Rangers are minimal, allowing backroom staff and managers from smaller teams to tell their tales with a remarkable degree of candour.

349 Ronaldo400by Guillem Balague
Orion, £20
Reviewed by Joyce Woolridge
From WSC 349 March 2016

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Throughout the 350 and more pages of his “definitive” biography of Madeira’s finest player, Guillem Balague never runs out of steam or ways in which to point out that his subject is insecure, selfish, self-obsessed and immature. You don’t need to call in Freud to understand Balague’s negativity, just the 18-page prologue which demonstrates how miffed the author is not to have the sort of co-operation given by Lionel Messi in a previous biographical outing.

349 fling400Could Oxford United really steal the heart of a Manchester City fanatic?
by Steve Mingle
Pitch Publishing, £12.99
Reviewed by Piers Pennington
From WSC 349 March 2016

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The subtitle of this book – Could Oxford United really steal the heart of a Manchester City fanatic? – poses a question I have been wrestling with for more than 50 years. I looked forward to reading an account of what it felt like to have divided loyalties in a part of your life where devotion is meant to be wholehearted and unequivocal. A fellow sufferer, and the same two teams.