338 CardiffCardiff City and the Cup Winners Cup 1964-1993
by Mario Risoli
St David’s Press, £16.99
Reviewed by Huw Richards
From WSC 338 April 2015

Buy this book


Collective memory tends to privilege the ancient and modern at the expense of what came in between. For Cardiff City the FA Cup win in 1927 looms with the same symbolic weight as 1966 does for England fans, while recent recall summons up unwanted red shirts, thwarted promotion campaigns and misery last season.

Mario Risoli, an expert preserver of Welsh football’s past, aims here to reclaim a time when Cardiff combined being a lower-division club at home with redoubtable warriors in Europe. It needed recovering. That these achievements were in a tournament which no longer exists, and enabled by a route Cardiff can no longer take – winning the Welsh Cup – cuts institutional continuities. And while the last venture was in 1993, the core of this history (and two thirds of its length) is contained in the years between 1964 and 1971.

Risoli draws on press archives and an outstanding collection of interviews with former players. They offer a vivid picture of European competition before it was subsumed to club business plans, as a glorious break from mundane reality and, in a less travelled age, a venture into the unknown.

Even that future footballing cosmopolite John Toshack could recall of the food in Tashkent in 1968: “It was like dog food. The only thing that we could eat were these big bread rolls. We called them discuses.” Entrepreneurial players took chocolates, ties and socks to sell in Moscow, only as Bobby Ferguson recalls: “We ended up eating most of the chocolate and giving the rest away because the people were so nice.”

Along with the tales of Cardiff stalwarts such as Peter King, who contributes a fine foreword, and Don Murray are glimpses of more widely remembered careers, bracketed by John Charles’s last great display at Sporting Lisbon in 1965 and Robbie James’s final senior goal, scored in defeat by Standard Liege in 1993. At the book’s heart is a compelling warts-and-all picture of Jimmy Scoular, Cardiff’s manager from 1964 to 1973 – so competitive he would kick players in a Friday afternoon five-a-side, given to tirades of abuse and arbitrary decisions and paranoid about all foreigners, yet still cherished by many of his players.

And the title gets it right. Beating Real Madrid 1-0 in 1971 is the most remembered achievement of this whole period. Yet the truly historic feat was the extraordinary expedition of 1968, passing through Breda, Moscow, Tashkent and Augsburg en route to a semi-final defeat by Hamburg which ranks for heartbreak alongside the missed penalty that cost Cardiff the League title in 1924. Risoli might perhaps have made more of fan memories and put his excellent game-by-game narration more into the wider context of the club’s history. There should certainly have been an index included. But with all that, he has produced both a great read and a real contribution to football’s collective memory.

Buy this book

338 SmilingHow Newcastle 
became United
by Paul Brown
Goal Post, £10
Reviewed by Mark Brophy
From WSC 338 April 2015

Buy this book


Popularly, Newcastle United were founded in 1892 and in a way they were, for that was when the current name was adopted. But the club existed before that under other names, Stanley FC and Newcastle East End. This is their story from the beginnings 11 years earlier until the first FA Cup win in 1910. Though the facts are known, the first part especially has had little presence in the popular mythology of the club. Even the latter part, taking in three League titles as well as the aforementioned FA Cup win in the Edwardian era, has faded into history a little, certainly in the mind of this fan.

It’s a story which travels between two extremes, the club moving rapidly from a bunch of teenagers playing on sloping wasteground to professionals playing in the country’s top division. Along the way we learn the “United” name was pure PR. It’s commonly believed East End merged with their main local rivals West End to form Newcastle United, but East End merely took over West End’s lease on St James’ Park after they folded. The decision to change the name was meant to placate both sets of fans. There’s physical movement too, the club’s home shuffling around the city’s east end until finally settling at its present location.

The chronological tale is hung off the author’s visits in the present day to the club’s five home grounds and surrounding areas, various museums and a local theatre. The latter trip is to experience something like the atmosphere of watching the first footage filmed of the club in action, as spectators who attended the game against Liverpool in 1901 would have done later that evening, and there is atmosphere aplenty in this book. An effort is made to identify with the fans of the time, which perhaps is easy for a resident of the city and fan of the club to do. But it wouldn’t be impossible for anyone from an industrial city who supports their local team, such is the sense of community and shared experience.

This is a story about football though, with plenty of heroes. Outstanding players, shrewd secretary/managers, all spring to our attention, not least Colin Veitch, the long-serving captain of the club through their greatest days and a polymath in both the sporting and more conventional sense. He was an innovator as well as a truly versatile footballer, playing all over the pitch for Newcastle, and the book calls him “arguably the greatest player in the club’s history”. He was also a committed socialist, a founder of both the players’ union and a still-performing local theatre company, an actor and a musician.

It’s difficult in the circumstances not to contrast the drive for success in the first decade of the 20th century on display here, “boundless in its ambitious aims”, with the inertia and cynical refusal even to try for it today. For all that, this isn’t about glory. The most successful period of the club’s history is covered in only two chapters. More important is the journey, where the club came from and how they eventually got there.

Buy this book

334 UnthinkableRaith Rovers’ improbable journey from the bottom to the top of Scottish football
by Steven Lawther
Pitch Publishing, £14.99
Reviewed by Gavin Saxton
From WSC 334 December 2014

Buy this book


In November 1994, Raith Rovers beat Celtic in the League Cup final to win the first and only major trophy of the club’s history. This book commemorates the 20th anniversary and charts the club’s progress to Hampden from their low-point as a third-tier part-time team in the mid-1980s, via interviews with many of the players and backroom staff.

It’s a feelgood story, but while there might have been a danger of veering into cliche (there is much talk of “team spirit”) you are instead carried along by the enthusiasm of both the author and his interviewees. Because this was not just a special day for the fans, for so many of the players too it was their professional highlight. Dave Narey and manager Jimmy Nicholl had more illustrious playing days behind them (notably with Dundee United and Manchester United respectively) and youngsters such as Colin Cameron and Steve Crawford had good international careers to come. The rest of the squad, however, was a mishmash of local lads, rejects and journeymen, who came together to give the club the finest period in their history: they won the cup as a Division One side, but were also to go on and take the league title. Their UEFA Cup campaign the following season (although not covered here) gave them a tie against Bayern Munich, during which they led 1-0 in the Olympic Stadium at half time before losing 4-1 on aggregate. Accordingly almost all of the squad have been happy to talk, and author Steven Lawther succeeds by, for the most part, allowing them to tell the story, intervening only to provide linking narrative and fill in the necessary detail.

The stories include the bad days as well as the great ones, some entertaining insights into the minds of middle-ranking footballers – such as Gordon Dalziel’s efforts to avoid having to work too hard in a training session – and of course all the on-field heroics. Among the most improbable is the tale of Brian Potter, the 17-year-old goalkeeper who came on as sub after Scott Thomson’s red card and made the vital save to win the penalty shootout in the semi-final against Airdrie.

In the final Thomson himself became the hero, again in a penalty shootout after a late equaliser gave Rovers a well-earned 2-2 draw. Celtic captain Paul McStay was the man whose penalty Thomson saved (the book’s title comes from Jock Brown’s TV commentary at the time: “Unthinkable surely for the skipper to miss”), and McStay deserves huge credit for putting the bad memories aside and also allowing himself to be interviewed.

For those like myself who were following Raith at the time the book brings back wonderful memories. But for others too, it’s a great story and an evocation of a time when lower-league clubs could have such days in the sun. As the game in both England and Scotland polarises all the more between haves and have-nots, one suspects it’s a tale that, just two decades on, would now be impossible. Unthinkable, even.

Buy this book

331 PiratesFC St Pauli: Falling in 
love with a radical football club
by Nick Davidson
Sportsbooks, £8.99
Reviewed by John Van Laer
From WSC 331 September 2014

Buy this book


It is often held to be one of the unwritten rules governing the life of a football fan that your allegiance, once chosen, remains unchanged. However many now feel priced out of what used to be an affordable form of popular entertainment, while any sort of supporter activism is seen by the clubs as a threat to the sanitised matchday experience. Only very few such people, however, have taken as radical a course of action as Nick Davidson, the author of the first English-language book about FC St Pauli. Once a season-ticket holder at Watford, he drifted away from Vicarage Road, attempting to rekindle the footballing flame by getting involved at his local non-League club. Sadly, the petty politics that blight local football proved equally unappealing and a lifelong interest in the game appeared to be at an end. However, chancing upon an article about St Pauli and deciding to visit the Millerntor stadium for a match in 2007 proved to be a turning point – the essence of this book is about a rediscovered love for football, coupled with the enjoyment of sharing the experience with thousands of like-minded individuals.

What could be described as just a German second division team that happen to be based in the red-light district of Hamburg in fact embodies a political viewpoint and an attitude to football's place in society that has all but disappeared from the game in England. Over the last 30 years or so, the fan groups from St Pauli have become the most prominently left-wing supporters in German football. The politicisation of football at this working-class club started almost by chance but over time the groups such as Ultras Sankt Pauli have become an important counterpoint to the right-wing influence within some supporters' groups at clubs such as Rostock, Dortmund and others. Of course, that is not to say that there are no other left-wing fans' movements in the German game, but those connected with St Pauli are easily the most high-profile and active within the professional game.

Davidson tells the stories of his visits to St Pauli games across Germany in a style that betrays the increasingly partisan nature of his relationship to the club and its fans, while realising that both have their faults. These travelogues are intertwined with information about the history of the club and how the support has developed over the years. As a club St Pauli are not immune to the financial pressures of modern football, and certainly make capital from the iconic Totenkopf (skull and crossbones) emblem, but it is one of the few places where supporters still have effective influence over decisions affecting the future of their club, and are not afraid to voice their opinions. Many fans (and some players) are also actively engaged in political and social causes, both within the local St Pauli district and further afield.

It is hard not to share Davidson's obvious enthusiasm for his team and the culture that they continue to embody, which he is actively supporting by donating all royalties from this book to the St Pauli Museum project.

Buy this book

331 UnionRangers, Britain & Scottish independence
edited by Alan Bisset and Alasdair McKillop
Luath Press, £8.99
Reviewed by Gordon Cairns
From WSC 331 September 2014

Buy this book


The editors of Born Under A Union Flag have taken on an ambitious task: to quantify Rangers fans' relationship not only with Scotland but the United Kingdom as a whole. A difficult terrain to map, as historically the club has been considered the team of a union that may be dissolving. That Rangers are in this position as a Unionist team in a country falling out of love with the UK is due to a particular set of circumstances which occurred at the turn of the last century, when a challenger was sought for a successful team of immigrants. The fanbase of this new champion just happened to be drawn from the Catholic-free zone of the Govan shipyards.

As Scotland has moved from being strongly identified with Britain, the position of Rangers has shifted too, from the establishment team to that of outsiders, while ironically it is the "rebel" club Celtic who have had one of the UK's most right-wing home secretaries of recent memory, John Reid, on their board. The 14 authors, representing both opinions on the issue of Scottish independence and all bar one fans of the club, examine Rangers' place in the UK with varying degrees of success, using a mixture of personal experience and historical perspective, with the latter the more persuasive to this non-Old Firm fan.

Historian Graham Walker convincingly charts the shift from Rangers as the establishment team to "becoming at odds with the country as a whole", and casts light on how the support evolved to deal with this change, illustrated through the recasting of God Save the Queen as a subversive anthem. The song gained popularity in the 1980s as the club fell out of favour with mainstream opinion. Although the purpose is to wind up the anti-monarchy opposition, and I must admit it has this effect on me, Walker describes a rendition of the national anthem to illustrate his argument that many fellow fans are more concerned with showing their loyalty than supporting the team. Rangers' last game in Europe was a must win against NK Maribor in 2011; as the team pushed for the decisive goal in the last few minutes, the crowd began to chorus the dirge-like anthem rather than the Ibrox roar, destroying the momentum on the pitch while creating an atmosphere of resignation and defeat, and so the team failed to progress.

While calling for a constitution to be created for the club, editor Alasdair McKillop looks to Barcelona as a model. He argues that "Celtic have a morally infused narrative that is entwined with the socio-economic progress of the community", backing up their claims to be "more than a club". In my opinion, as Rangers' estrangement from Scottish society grows and their fans continue to utilise British symbolism and song, they could mirror Barcelona's "other" club, Espanyol (ie "the Spanish"), and become the quintessentially British club, or that of the outsiders – especially if Scotland breaks from the union.

"Better Together" or "Yes" campaigning pollsters will be sorely disappointed if they read this book hoping to get an insight into how this considerable section of Scottish society might vote on September 18. However what it does do is take the temperature of Rangers fans at an important juncture of Scottish history.

Buy this book

325 LiverpoolA history in ten matches
by Jonathan Wilson with Scott Murray
Orion, £18.99
Reviewed by Rob Hughes
From WSC 325 March 2014

Buy this book


As author of Inverting The Pyramid and The Anatomy Of England, both of which cast a clinical eye over the cultural shifts in football tactics over the past century, Jonathan Wilson is well placed to take the same approach to Liverpool. This insightful, highly readable book attempts to map the evolution of the club through ten specific matches. The idea, he points out, is to choose games that aren't necessarily the most memorable. Instead they're the ones that "lie on the faultlines of history, marking the end of one era or the beginning of the next".

Thus, we have the European Cup second round defeat to Red Star Belgrade in November 1973. Already trailing 2-1 from the first leg, a similar reverse at Anfield becomes the catalyst for a change in Bill Shankly's philosophy. The realisation hits that traditional English attributes such as pace and power are no longer enough when it comes to playing continental teams with superior technical know-how. Shankly began refining his pass-and-move principles as a direct result of being booted out of Europe that year, resulting in a style that placed greater emphasis on patient build-up play and possession.

It was a method that paid dividends in the 3-1 defeat of Borussia Mönchengladbach in the 1977 final, by which time Bob Paisley was in charge. He is often painted as a more avuncular version of hardman Shankly, but Wilson posits the idea that both men were actually the exact opposite of their public personas. There's little sentiment with Paisley, even banning Shankly from the Melwood training ground. If Shankly's brand of football was an extension of his socialist principles, Paisley was far more prosaic. All that mattered was winning football matches.

Elsewhere, Kenny Dalglish's sudden abdication after the 4-4 draw with Everton in February 1991 is seen as especially pivotal. Entertaining as it may have been to the neutral, the manner of the opposition goals exposed the cracks in a rapidly ageing Liverpool team whose last signing was the spectacularly ordinary Jimmy Carter. Dalglish had simply drained himself of all energy. With no readymade successor in the wings, Wilson makes a valid claim that this game (and the manager's decision to resign straight after) "was a blow from which Liverpool have arguably never recovered".

There's also room, predictably, for the Champions League final in Istanbul. Much has been made of the Liverpool fans' stirring rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone as the pep for their side's improbable second-half comeback. But Wilson instead points at key moments on the field of play as the triggers, not least Sami Hyypia somehow escaping a red card after hauling down Kaká when the Brazilian was clean through to make it 4-0 just after the break.

Above all, The Anatomy Of Liverpool is an engrossing account of a sporting institution forging its identity through the post-war years. Some of the detail is priceless too (Shankly playing his Desert Island Discs show on the coach to the 1965 Cup final; Berti Vogts seeking out Kevin Keegan to buy him a drink in recognition of the Liverpool man giving him the complete runaround). Highly recommended.

Buy this book

322 FearBarcelona vs Real Madrid
by Sid Lowe
Yellow Jersey, £18.99
Reviewed by Dermot Corrigan
From WSC 322 December 2013

Buy this book


"Barcelona good, Madrid bad" is a pretty common idea among English-speaking football fans. Even those who question the Catalan club's "football philosophy", or its board's financial dealings with Qatar and Brazil, still often see Barça as purer than, and morally superior to, their rivals from the Spanish capital.

This idea can be traced all the way back to George Orwell's Homage To Catalonia – and is just plain wrong, according to Sid Lowe's new contribution to the growing pile of English language books on Spanish football.

Fear And Loathing In La Liga: Barcelona vs Real Madrid takes a broader approach than most, looking closely at the impact of political and cultural trends on the game, including epigraphs from writer Antonio Machado and Swansea City attacker Michu. The early 20th century poet's quote is of "the two Spains", a famous line referring to the pre-Civil War right-left political divide. But Lowe appears to agree more with the modern player's preference to avoid choosing one or the other.

The strongest chapters consider the effect of the 1936-39 conflict on football and turn over some pretty widely held preconceptions. Madrid (the city) was not Franco's base, instead it suffered the fiercest nationalist attacks. This meant Real Madrid had to stop playing official games, their ground was ruined, and their republican club president Rafael Sánchez Guerra was imprisoned when the city finally fell to Franco's forces. Barcelona was less directly impacted by the fighting, so FC Barcelona kept playing in the Catalan Championship and Mediterranean League, then toured North America.

During the first 15 years of the dictatorship the Catalan club were also more successful, winning five La Liga titles to Real Madrid's none. In those years the Barça boardroom was stuffed with well-connected businessmen, just as it is now. Professional football clubs – in Spain under Franco, just as in England under Tony Blair – tend to go with the political flow. Which explains Barcelona's current embrace of Catalan nationalism.

Lowe's impressive list of interviewees includes Alfredo di Stéfano, Johan Cruyff, Luís Figo, Zinedine Zidane and Andrés Iniesta. He uncovers new archival evidence about how Barça president Josep Sunyol died in 1936, and why Di Stéfano joined Madrid not Barça in 1953. There are also neat mentions of Barça's (unwitting) role in the murder of Leon Trotsky, as well as Madrid's links to the Beatles in the 1960s and Pedro Almodovar in the 1980s. It's a rare book that discusses ETA (the Basque separatist organisation) and Michael Owen on the same page.

The weakest section is towards the end, as by now there is little new to say on José Mourinho the ex-translator versus Josep Guardiola the former ballboy. But that's a minor quibble. We have already seen how closely Spain's two biggest clubs have mirrored each other through the years. Real Madrid and Barcelona do not represent different strands in Spanish history, or competing political points of view, they're just two sides of the same coin.

Buy this book

322 GrobarPartizan pleasure, pain and paranoia
by James Moor
Pitch Publishing, £12.99
Reviewed by Marcus Haydon
From WSC 322 December 2013

Buy this book


The collapse of communist-era structures had a profound effect on football in central and eastern Europe, but the ethnic wars in the former Yugoslavia created even deeper fault lines. Modern-day Serbia, which was home to Europe's best team 22 years ago, now has the continent's 25th best (or 29th worst, depending on your perspective) league according to the UEFA coefficients. Its historic powers, Partizan and Red Star Belgrade, perpetually battle for supremacy in a competition whose numbers are topped up by minnows from the country's provinces and capital's suburbs.

With the competitiveness of the Yugoslav era gone, the corruption and off-field problems that blight the game seem to carry added importance. Clubs are no longer arms of the state but continue to be exploited for political and commercial reasons. On the terraces xenophobia is a persistent issue, leading to attacks founded on race or, as is more common in this part of Europe, ethnicity. For James Moor, an Arsenal fan posted in Belgrade by the Foreign Office, football presented him with a conduit through which to observe and attempt to decode Serbia's complexities. Initially it is his way of making local friends – it is they who are responsible for his allegiance to Partizan – but it ends up taking him across the country to experience firsthand the varied ethnic tapestry and supporter culture.

The book is presented chronologically, following Partizan during a season in which they are eliminated from the Champions League qualifiers by Shamrock Rovers, lose three times to rivals Red Star, sack their management team mid-season and see their two main supporters' groups at constant loggerheads. Oh, and they win the league. Taking his posting seriously, Moor engages quickly with the country and its language, and while his anecdotes about watching Arsenal title successes on television and a clumsy description of the "English Championship League One" can leave you suspicious of his credentials, he makes up for it in the context of his new surroundings with a strong awareness of regional history and contemporary politics. A trip to Novi Pazar, where the population has a Bosniak (Slav Muslim) majority, is carefully framed with valuable non-footballing context and his detailed translations of chants, banners and terrace conversations add cultural currency to what are otherwise just descriptions of Serbian league matches from two years ago.

Despite making a living from diplomacy, Moor manages to avoid the occupational trait of using a great number of words to say very little of note on complex or controversial issues. Equally, he is also not guilty of simply feeding the reader polemics from his terrace acquaintances without first coupling them with some objective analysis of his own. The prose can at times get drawn a little too much into the "banter" of the matchday experience – a questionably large number of things are "awesome" – but the enduring feeling is that it's heartening to see work such as this published.

As Jonathan Wilson points out in the foreword, this is essentially "a book about the second most famous team in Belgrade" and, accordingly, both Moor and his publisher deserve great credit for bringing it to print at all. Hopefully the knowledge and insight offered in this example will inspire more publishers to show similar faith.

Buy this book

321 ManUtd1958-68
by Iain McCartney
Amberley Books, £25
Reviewed by Jonathan O'Brien
From WSC 320 October 2013

Buy this book


Whatever the other flaws of Manchester United: Rising from the wreckage 1958-68, you can't accuse Iain McCartney of not putting in the hard yards. Don't be fooled by the fact that it's 350 pages in length: that figure could easily have been considerably higher, had the typesetter been only slightly more generous with the font size and spacing.

Books on the Munich disaster aren't hard to come by. McCartney himself already has one to his credit, a well-reviewed biography of Roger Byrne, the United captain who died in the crash with 22 other people. This one is clearly his final word on the subject. Each page is crammed full of microscopic detail, from George Best's car windscreen being defaced with lipstick by a lovelorn female fan, to the price of touted tickets for the Cup final, to assistant manager Jimmy Murphy's preferred at-home listening (Chopin and Grieg).

McCartney must effectively have lived in the cuttings library for months to amass this much material. In its own way, the deluge of information reaches critical mass – and it's not helped by the lack of subheadings to break up the text, meaning that the whole thing feels like a slog at times.

We all already know the narrative: the emotional aftershock of the crash, the slow rebuilding, the many painful defeats, the shaping of talented young players into gods of the game, the regaining of the title in 1965, won again two years later, the coronation against Benfica in 1968. McCartney uses the 1963 FA Cup final, in which United beat Leicester 3-1, as the turning point. The team narrowly avoided relegation that same month, finishing 19th, with many players still not psychologically recovered from Munich, dressing-room recriminations abounding (Noel Cantwell reputedly led the player-power faction) and Jack Crompton's coaching methods being soundly criticised. It's a reminder of how easily everything could have turned out differently.

With so much information crammed in, the prose tends towards the dryly matter-of-fact. Perhaps unavoidably, it settles into a laundry-list of match after match and win after win (though it never resorts to the Lego-brick approach of David Peace's scarcely readable Red Or Dead). At times, it reads as if it were written in the late 1950s themselves. Perhaps this is McCartney's way of getting into the spirit of the thing, eschewing the pseudy floweriness of so much current football writing for a just-the-facts approach that better suits the subject matter. Or perhaps that's just the way he writes: not having read the Byrne book, it's difficult to tell.

Despite its occasional drabness, it's not hard to imagine Manchester United: Rising from the wreckage 1958-68 becoming the set text on the subject matter. If nothing else, it's a remarkable feat of research and hugely admirable as an important contribution to the historical record – even if it's not always easy to love as a piece of writing.

Buy this book

319 NicknamesIn 
Britain And Ireland
by Shaun Tyas
Paul Watkins, £19.95
Reviewed by Roger Titford
From WSC 319 September 2013

Buy this book


Shaun Tyas opens a new area in the examination of the minutiae of football culture. We've had stadiums, haircuts, kits, programmes, even Subbuteo; why not club nicknames? I would not have thought that it was an overly promising proposition but by dint of thorough desk research, extensive use of Wikipedia and taking the whole of the British Isles (including Isle of Man) as his canvas he generates over 350 pages of entries. He quotes a beautiful 19th-century aphorism – "a nickname is a biography in a word" – as a kind of justification for the study. Not only do so many clubs share the same nickname (I note to my surprise 11 cases of the Royals) but some clubs have many nicknames.

The main entertainment value lies in the archaic and the unofficial nicknames rather than the official and the well-known stories. To give an idea of the scope here are all the nicknames he found associated with Bristol City: Babes, Cider Army, City, Eighty-Twoers, Reds, Robins, Slave Traders, Turnips and Wurzels. As you might well imagine a number of these have been bestowed by fans of rival clubs and are sourced from a 2003 fans' survey. Old football annuals and cigarette cards provide much of the source material.

Tyas has tackled his subject more from the top down – that is using official and often national sources, rather than from individual club histories and fan interviews. The inevitable and forgivable consequence is some omissions, common to the first edition of any dictionary. For instance, Reading have also been known as the R's which has mutated into URZ and been in common usage over the past decade; the apparently unknown derivation of Spanners (a Charlton nickname for Millwall) dates to a spanner-throwing incident at Elm Park in August 1995.

Small gaps perhaps but Tyas has approached his task in a determinedly scholarly way with a full complement of appendices, indices, bibliography and cross-references that allow the reader to skip easily around the main body of the text. If that were not sufficient he offers a detailed four-step classification of nicknames into 50 categories so that in "name-based on locality/human history/language/proverbial sayings" you will find "The Bairns" (Falkirk) and three possible derivations thereof.

There are times when one could feel that this is a lightweight subject taken rather too seriously but then nobody nowadays would dismiss the 1960s folklore work of Peter and Iona Opie on children's nursery rhymes and playground games which at the time may have appeared inconsequential. Moreover, while Tyas is methodical and, as far as I can tell, factually very sound, he writes with real joy and positivity about his chosen subject. This dictionary is an entertaining volume to dip into and there cannot be a fan who would fail to learn something of interest or amusement. I'd never heard of the Old Farm derby (Norwich v Ipswich) or this neat, modern biography in a word: Jackburn for Blackburn.

Buy this book

Sign up to the WSC Weekly Howl - a small portion of despair and enlightenment delivered to your inbox every Friday