The Eleven Elements of Footballing Greatness
by Musa Okwonga
Duckworth, £15.99
Reviewed by Jonathan O’Brien
From WSC 249 November 2007 

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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 

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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 

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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.

A Global History of Football
by David Goldblatt
Penguin/Viking, £30
Reviewed by Steve Roser
From WSC 245 July 2007 

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David Goldblatt’s new book weighs in at 3lb 8oz – three-and-a-half times the regulation ball weight established in the first revision of the laws of the game in 1872, but probably about the same mass as the sodden leather bladder that Nat Lofthouse used to head home. Very little has changed in the size and weight of the ball since then (an odd ounce in 1937), although technology, fashion and utility mean the modern ball is a different beast. In many ways the attraction of football is the enduring simplicity and coherence of the laws echoing those governing the ball, and the room that leaves for self-expression on a personal and team level. Goldblatt draws together all aspects of the game’s development into a terrific set of stories and insights, from tiny detail to sweeping generalisation, that well repays the potential upper body strain of lifting the thing.

Football’s Tabloid Tales
by Harry Harris
Know The Score, £16.99
Reviewed by Luke Chapman
From WSC 242 April 2007 

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Pressured by demanding editors, mistrusted by professionals and loathed by some readers, tabloid football journalists require rhino-thick skins. And skins surely cannot be much more impervious than the hide of ace newshound Harry Harris. So he probably won’t mind the view that his 36th football book is arguably his worst yet. Not enough insight into the sports hack’s trade and too much ­name‑dropping make this an exemplar of how football is in thrall to the rich and powerful.

by Ivan Ponting

Know the Score, £16.99

Reviewed by Roger Tiford
From WSC 257 July 2008 

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There are two types of obituary, the personal – written by someone who knew the deceased – and the professional. Ex-footballers tend not to have close friends or family who can offer a thousand finely wrought words at the drop of a chap so, for the benefit of readers of the Independent, Ivan Ponting has being doing this duty for the past 15 years. Given that newspaper’s circulation, this collection of obituaries will be fresh, yet timeless, material for the vast majority of fans.

The Hidden History of the 1966 World Cup
by Martin Atherton

Meyer & Meyer, £17.95
Reviewed by Josh Widdicombe
From WSC 256 June 2008 

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In 1997, FIFA paid £254,000 at auction for a replica of the Jules Rimet Trophy, possibly believing it to be the real thing. It wasn’t. Since 2000 Martin Atherton has been investigating how the incidents surrounding the theft of the trophy in 1966 led to this purchase decades later. A tale of intrigue, scheming and a black-and-white cross-breed called Pickles, it is equal parts Ealing comedy and an episode of Spooks.

The Lands that FIFA Forgot
by Steve Menary
Know the Score, £16.99

Reviewed by Jonathan Wilson
From WSC 253 March 2008 

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Every country, Henry Kissinger once said, needs an army, a bank and a football team. Many of the countries discussed in Outcasts don’t have an army or a bank. Many aren’t even countries, at least not in the traditional sense. And yet all are desperate for a football team that would somehow give them legitimacy. When Tibet played Greenland in a friendly in Copenhagen, who did not see it as a strike against the Chinese authorities who would deny them statehood? And yet there is a sense in which Greenland are rather more wronged than Tibet, at least in terms of FIFA’s refusal to acknowledge them as a member.

The Extraordinary Football Games of Britain
by Hugh Hornby
English Heritage, £16.99
Reviewed by John Turnbull

From WSC 255 May 2008 

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Staring each other down across a rutted meadow in the Scottish Borders as daylight fails, two participants in the 2006 Shrovetide football match in Denholm, Roxburghshire, might be about to re-enact Monty Python’s semaphore-based version of Wuthering Heights. The caption to the photograph on page 131 of Uppies and Downies – the latest publication in the Played in Britain series – explains that this is what the unpredictable cross-country ramble offered at that moment: a game of wits between two men – one Uppie and one Doonie – several hundred yards apart, tramping through field and wood.

The Globalisation of Football
by John Samuels
Book Guild, £17.99
Reviewed by Roger Titford
From WSC 253 March 2008 

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The author confesses he started out with an analysis of the decline of midlands football but his publishers, seeking returns more global than those encompassed by the Nuneaton-Cannock-Worcester triangle, persuaded him to broaden his scope. He went away and did his reading, but his analysis is not particularly compelling.

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