A History of Football Tactics
by Jonathan Wilson
Orion, £18.99
Reviewed by Harry Pearson
From WSC 259 September 2008

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To those of us who grew up reading World Soccer in the 1970s, the word “tactics” will forever conjure up the severe glasses of journalist Eric Batty, portly sage of formations and positional play, whose annual selection of a World XI invariably involved at least one player of whom the writer would observe: “For club and country he is predominantly deployed on the right wing. I have elected to play him at left-back...” In 1970, Batty wrote a book in which he presented an analysis of the styles and tactics of the teams at the Mexico World Cup. In it the author conclusively proved – by data, argument and drawings – that Brazil were the most effective side at the tournament.

by David McVay
Reid Publishing, £9.99
Reviewed by Pete Green
From WSC 261 November 2008 

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How should a serious newspaper cover lower-league football? The Guardian hardly bothers at all, contemptuously summarising 72 clubs’ weekends in a negligible bullet-point “round-up”. The Times and Telegraph, superficially at least, sometimes offer the lower divisions greater respect, with weekly columns dedicated to life outside the top flight. But exactly how respectful is it to commission lower-league specialists to get their hands dirty at Underhill while their staff writers hoover up the posh nibbles in comfy Premier League press rooms?

A Bumper Book of Football Writing
by Giles Smith
Penguin, £7.99
Reviewed by Terry Staunton
From WSC 262 December 2008 

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Giles Smith’s regular column for, and other contributions to, the Times are blessedly free of the piousness associated with the majority of self-appointed Fleet Street sages, who purport to articulate the voice of the stands while sat smugly in the press box. A Chelsea season-ticket holder for most of his adult life, the bulk of his exposure to “live” football is consequently largely restricted to watching one team, which means, like the rest of us, he gets his broader fix from TV.

A Scottish Football Safari
by Gary Sutherland
Birlinn, £7.99
Reviewed by Archie MacGregor
From WSC 262 December 2008 

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With bookshelves groaning under the weight of companion guides on every subject from Slovakian folk music to Carry On... movies these days, why not a travelogue about Scottish football grounds? It appears to have several of the essential ingredients – a hint of the exotic (how many of us have ever contemplated a day trip to Peterhead?), a touch of the reassuringly familiar (match-day catering nightmares) and a couple of dastardly panto villains to provide a common point of reference (the Old Firm).

The Best Of The Guardian’s Footballing Obituaries
by Brian Glanville
Guardian Books, £12.99
Reviewed by Taylor Parkes
From WSC 264 February 2009 

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The first real heavyweight of British sports journalism, and the only one to have contributed sketches to That Was The Week That Was, Brian Glanville remains something of a national treasure. His eloquent, sharply cynical style, drenched in arcane phraseology, literary allusions and brutally condescending wit, highlights the enduring lack of personality in football writing (at least, the kind of personality you’d want to sit next to at dinner). Any writer who believes that football and intelligence need not be mutually exclusive – at least not all the time – owes him a large debt of gratitude. This collection of obituaries from the pages of the Guardian is not the best platform for Glanville the stylist, but a fine showcase for his strengths as a journalist: that astonishing, exhaustive knowledge of football history, an eye for detail, and the ability to pack each paragraph with information while keeping the prose clean, clear and eminently readable.

Football v Apartheid
by Chuck Korr & Marvin Close
Collins, £17.99
Reviewed by Mike Ticher
From WSC 264 February 2009 

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In 1986 Charles Korr, an American academic, wrote a serious and unusual history of West Ham. Since then, just one book, on baseball. One reason for that sparse output becomes clear when he explains that More Than Just A Game (originally a film) began as long ago as 1993.

From Blackpool To Barcelona; Football’s Greatest Rivalries
by Andy Mitten
HarperSport, £15.99
Reviewed by Mark O'Brien
From WSC 264 February 2009 

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One of the oldest questions asked in football is: “Which is the biggest derby game?” Like trying to argue who is the biggest club or who has the best supporters, it’s actually something of a pointless exercise, but nevertheless these fierce local rivalries retain a unique fascination, and even if sides have been slugging it out forever – and at least four times a season for the Old Firm – the sense of anticipation before each encounter rarely dissipates.

An Anthology Of Modern Football Writing
edited by Christopher Davies
Know the Score, £19.99
Reviewed by Terry Staunton
From WSC 265 March 2009 

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That title’s not the best pun you’ve ever read, is it? Not nearly as clever, witty or inspired as sports headlines can be, but it’s the first word that’s the main problem: what does it say about a book when the authors are seemingly apologising on the cover? Perhaps it’s unfair to be too petty when it comes to charity projects, and a cause such as Great Ormond Street Hospital (which benefits from sales of this book) is the epitome of worthy, but the Football Writers Association’s idea of inviting nearly 70 journalists to pen a fresh piece on any aspect of the game they choose was bound to be somewhat hit-and-miss.

Titan Books, £12.99
Reviewed by Harry Pearson
From WSC 266 April 2009 

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As a boy I always resented those bits of the comic annual that were given over not to the strips but to solid blocks of text, what my mother would term “proper stories”. It struck me that, like the bizarre habit of putting hard centres in boxes of chocolates, this was just another adult way of limiting a child’s enjoyment of life.

The Story of the Footballers' Battalion in the Great War
by Andrew Riddoch & John Kemp
Haynes, £19.99
Reviewed by Harry Pearson
From WSC 267 May 2009 

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Football folk are fond of commenting that some event – a natural disaster, terrorist outrage, loss of a relative to disease – has “put things in perspective”. And you can almost guarantee that five minutes later they’ll once again be arguing about a penalty decision as if their life depended on it.

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