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.

The England Women's Story
by Natalia Sollohub & Catherine Etoe

Tempus, £14.99
Reviewed by Pete Green
From WSC 252 February 2008 

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If women’s football still lacks credibility in the minds of many fans and journalists (of both genders), its advocates can also tend to hinder the cause by suspending their critical faculties. “It was a difficult chance,” pleaded a chivalrous Gavin Peacock during the 2007 World Cup, after England’s Eni Aluko screwed horribly wide of an open goal against Japan. As former players, Natalia Sollohub and Catherine Etoe slip easily into a similar cheerleading role – but readers looking for a basic primer on the England team rather than rigorous punditry will find their book a breezily efficient ­introduction.

The Autobiography
by Barry Davies
Headline, £8.99
Reviewed by Harry Pearson
From WSC 251 January 2008 

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“The Tiber had flowed into the Olympic Stadium and its colour was red.” This description of the 1977 European Cup final could, I think it fair to say, have come from only one man: Barry Davies. It bears all the veteran BBC commentator’s distinctive tics: portentousness and classical allusion are married in a sentence that at first reading seems to make no sense, but which after careful study is discovered to make absolutely no sense whatsoever. That to many people a red Tiber will conjure up images not of Rome and Liverpool, but of Enoch Powell is the collateral damage of his bombast.

Studs! The Greatest Retro Football Annual the World Has Ever Seen
edited by Barney Ronay
Ebury, £9.99
Reviewed by Taylor Parkes
From WSC 239 January 2007 

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Football Handbook – The Glory Years
Marshall Cavendish, £9.99

Reviewed by Taylor Parkes
From WSC 239 January 2007 

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As the Premiership becomes an increasingly remote circus, the primary colours and brutal joy of Old Football seem more appealing by the day. The fan of a certain age starts keening for the past – because at least it’s our past – and Christmas offers the chance to indulge in nostalgia without the slightly queasy feeling of having to go out and buy it ourselves.

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