50 years of trials and triumph with football’s
by Tim Quelch
Reviewed by Nick Miller
From WSC 301 March 2012
Part memoir, part collection of anecdotes and – perhaps slightly surprisingly – part modern history, Underdog! is a collection of stories about when the improbable occurs in football. There are the obvious tales, such as Wimbledon winning the 1988 FA Cup, along with more obscure stories, like the Northampton Town side that reached Division One in the mid-1960s.
by Archie Macpherson
Black & White, £17.99
Reviewed by Archie MacGregor
From WSC 278 April 2010
As unlikely alliances go, learning that Archie Macpherson was once good pals with Jeremy Paxman during their days on breakfast TV in the late 1980s must rank right up there as one of the most bizarre double acts in the history of television. There's no suggestion that they've remained close buddies ever since, rather the rapport was a fleeting mutual support mechanism designed to help both of them deal with the mind-numbing ordeal of early morning broadcasting. Look what it did to Frank Bough after all.
And Other Curious Phenomena Explained
by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski
Harper Sport, £15.99
Reviewed by Roger Titford
From WSC 272 October 2009
Ignore the title – presumably the publisher’s slant to sell more – and follow the sub-head about curious phenomena. Written by an FT journalist and an economist this is a book for nerds. Around the periphery of today’s football (and sports) industry there are a lot of clever people generating a lot of information that, if correctly assembled, should prove they are cleverer than the likes of Harry Redknapp and the typical phone-in caller. Kuper and Szymanski address topics as varied as the suicide rates after major football tournaments (lower than expected) and strategies in the transfer market (think twice about buying blonds unless you’re a Swedish club). The sacred cows of some of our football beliefs are attacked with hard data. Some, to my mind, survive the onslaught.
A Riotous Footballing Memoir About the Loneliest Position on the Field
by Graham Joyce
Reviewed by Pete Green
From WSC 273 November 2009
What do goalkeepers daydream about? What goes through their minds when all the play is down the other end? Simple Goalkeeping Made Spectacular is the true story of a 52-year-old custodian called up to represent England in a Writers’ World Cup in Florence. The story fades into the background, however, as Graham Joyce digresses into matters as diverse as the pre-match huddle, what the six-yard box is for and the efficacy of spraying WD-40 on your osteoarthritic knees.
A German’s view of our beautiful game
by Raphael Honigstein
Yellow Jersey, £11.99
Reviewed by Mike Ticher
From WSC 274 December 2009
Psychoanalysing national character is “a murky business”, says Raphael Honigstein, a German journalist who has lived in England since 1993. It certainly is, especially when your picture of the nation is a caricature. An unflattering view from an outsider is often unsettling. It can also be refreshing and challenging, but only if the insights are original. Honigstein has absorbed a lot about English football through direct experience and its literature (he leans heavily on David Winner and David Downing), but most of his conclusions seem to me exaggerated, too broad or half-truths, at best.
Forty years in the commentary box
Xby John MotsonX
Reviewed by Taylor Parkes
From WSC 274 December 2009
If you disregard the alarming cover, on which Motty appears to be offering you outside for a fight, this exhaustive autobiography is more or less what you’d expect. Spanning a gruelling 386 pages – the last 65 just listing the games over which Motson has jabbered and chuckled – at its best it’s warm and charming. At its worst, it’s slightly deranged. Mostly, it’s boring.
50 Great Cup Upsets
by Derek Watts
Book Guild, £12.99
Reviewed by Terry Staunton
From WSC 276 February 2010
The return of a certain country of perceived footballing minnows to the world stage this summer is likely to trigger some dewy-eyed reminiscences in the north-east of England. Bizarre as it may sound to younger fans, there is a corner of Middlesbrough that is forever North Korea.
The Eleven Elements of Footballing Greatness
by Musa Okwonga
Reviewed by Jonathan O’Brien
From WSC 249 November 2007
Musa Okwonga’s impressive CV includes the fact that he once won a poetry competition, a detail that may well send shudders down the spines of potential purchasers of his new book. In the event, A Cultured Left Foot rarely threatens to end up in Pseud’s Corner, but it still fails to really come together as an analysis of modern footballing excellence.
by Graham Poll
Harper Sport, £18.99
Reviewed by Tom Green
From WSC 248 October 2007
Early on in Graham Poll’s autobiography, the now retired referee shows a surprising degree of self-awareness. Admitting that, as a child, he had a tendency to play the clown, he explains that it was his way of dealing with insecurity. “If I was told, as a schoolboy, to go to such-and-such a room, I would loiter outside, dithering about whether it was the right room and what people would think about me when I went in. So, to deal with that feeling, I would confront it. I would burst into the room and be completely over-the-top. I used to overcompensate.”
The Making of The League 1886-1889
by Thomas Law
Desert Island Books, £16.99
Reviewed by Harry Pearson
From WSC 244 June 2007
For this reviewer the only disappointing thing about Football’s Twelve Apostles was that it slid through the letterbox during the hottest April for centuries. If ever there was a book that ought to be savoured in an armchair by a roaring fire (possibly with the accompaniment of port and pickled walnuts) it is this one.