Captain of the North
by Stan Anderson & Mark Metcalf
Sportsbooks, £17.99
Reviewed by Joe Boyle
From WSC 292 June 2011

Buy this book

 


The urge to revisit football's once firmly embedded localism strengthens the more global the Premier League becomes. As local heroes go, Stan Anderson is hard to beat. Born in County Durham in 1933, Anderson is the only man to captain all three major north-east clubs. The bulk of his career was spent at Sunderland, playing at wing-half, a now defunct defensive midfield position. Anderson's instincts, however, were to push on, resulting in 46 goals in just over 500 appearances.

by Mick Rathbone
Vision Sports, £12.99
Reviewed by Jonathan Paxton
From WSC 294 August 2011

Buy this book

 


It's hard to imagine Trevor Francis, with his nasal, West Country drawl, as a figure to be feared but to the teenage Mick Rathbone in the 1970s, he was strangely terrifying. The author's thin skin and paranoia of failure dictate the early part of this book. Breaking into the Birmingham first team, Rathbone is struck rigid with fear every time he receives a pass from his idol, almost incapable of directing any ball towards Francis, and the most interesting parts of this book concern his lack of self-belief. He plays without shinpads in the hope of picking up an injury, dreads the papers giving him a poor rating and almost quits football for a job with Dyno-Rod.

A Life of Two Halves
by Paul Lake
Century, £14.99
Reviewed by Tony Curran
From WSC 295 September 2011

Buy this book

 


Despite his prodigious talent and popularity as a player at Manchester City, I seem to recall that Paul Lake had a slight image problem with the wider public. Rather like Glenn Hoddle at Tottenham, Lake's languid, easy style and comfortable technique were revered by home fans but occasionally perceived as being rather too effortless by some less enlightened outsiders who preferred their heroes to demonstrate more tangible evidence of commitment.

Up Close with the Giants of the Modern Game
by Simon Kuper
Simon & Schuster, £16.99
Reviewed by Jonathan O'Brien
From WSC 295 September 2011

Buy this book

 


Though it shares a near-identical title with John Giles's recent memoir, The Football Men is several galaxies removed from the pockmarked pitches, pitiful wage packets and gnarled enforcers of that book. The world upon which it gazes is one of big names, bigger contracts, jawdropping skill, lucrative endorsements, expensive sunglasses and public tantrums.

The Autobiography of a Goalkeeping Legend
by John Burridge
John Blake, £16.99
Reviewed by Damon Green
From WSC 295 September 2011

Buy this book

 


Like the tale of one of those old ladies born in Paris to the sound of Robespierre's guillotine, and eventually run over by a motor car on the Champs-Élysées, it is hard to believe that the two ends of the John Burridge story belong in the same lifetime.

Growing Up Fast
by Theo Walcott
Bantam Press, £18.99
Reviewed by Cameron Carter
From WSC 297 November 2011

Buy this book

 


This is not a life of peaks and troughs. There are no regrets, no fatal flaws, no falls from grace – just a rapid rise to the top by a polite young man from Newbury. Theo Walcott's story is an incredible one, but only from one angle: his youth.

The Tragedy of Robert Enke
by Ronald Reng
Yellow Jersey Press, £16.99
Reviewed by Mike Ticher
From WSC 297 November 2011

Buy this book

 


Considering young men are a group at high risk of suicide, the number of active footballers who have taken their own lives is surprisingly small. Dave Clement, Alan Davies and Justin Fashanu are perhaps the best known in Britain, all in their declining football years. That makes Robert Enke a rarity among rarities: the Hannover 96 goalkeeper was at his peak, in a season that should have led to the World Cup, when he walked in front of a train in November 2009.

My Autobiography
by Gary Neville
Bantam Press, £18.99
Reviewed by Joyce Woolridge
From WSC 297 November 2011

Buy this book

 


"Put ‘Gary Neville' and 'wanker' into Google and you'll get about 10,000 results." Neville is a man with no illusions about his popularity. The English generally like their professional footballers to be either thick or humble, preferably both. Gary Neville is neither and has taken plenty of flak about what are deemed to be his ridiculous pretensions, such as planning to build an ecohouse and daring to have opinions.

The Andy Morrison Story
by Andy Morrison
Fort Publishing, £16.99
Reviewed by Tim Manns
From WSC 298 December 2011

Buy this book

 


Ask about Andy Morrison in some of Plymouth's rougher pubs and the general response is a wince or a sharp intake of breath. He left the city 18 years ago, but is still remembered with a mixture of fear and dislike by many. Ask the same question at Home Park and more often than not those old enough to have seen him play will smile and wish there was a player with similar commitment and attitude in the current team. And there, as the man himself recognises, lies the conundrum. How could he run towards Argyle's hooligan element to celebrate a goal in the afternoon and then seek them out later for a brutal fight in the company of his brothers and mates?

My Autobiography
by John Robertson
Mainstream, £17.99
Reviewed by Geoff Wallis
From WSC 298 December 2011

Buy this book

 


In his preface to WH Davies's The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp, first published in 1908, George Bernard Shaw revealed that he did not know whether to describe its Welsh subject as "a lucky man or an unlucky one". A century later this autobiography by the self-styled "chubby little lad from Uddingston" insists that luck played a major role in his sporting career, albeit luck offset by life-changing misfortunes in his personal life – his first daughter was born with cerebral palsy and died at a young age, and his elder brother was killed in a car crash in 1979.

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