The Autobiography

Norman Whiteside
Headline, £18.99
Reviewed by Joyce Woolridge
From WSC 249 November 2007 

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It’s June 1991, and Norman Whiteside won’t get out of bed. His fearless attitude on the pitch inspired a Manchester United fanzine, The Shankhill Skinhead, but he spends his “bed-in” crying, unable to come to terms with the reality that he is finished as a footballer at 26. So begins Determined, his autobiography, and he spares readers none of the harrowing details as he traces how a series of medical decisions, made in good faith and often the standard treatment then available, had, as he puts it, “done for him” by the time he was 18. By that tender age he is unable to rotate his hips, giving him his trademark robotic-style run, has lost his pace, and has a knee in which bone grinds against bone. Chips will henceforth regularly flake off into the joint, causing excruciating pain, swelling it up to the size of a swede, necessitating further surgery. Injuries used to be discussed in macho style in football autobiographies, an inevitable consequence of a man’s game, the honourable scars of battle. The recent trend of revealing the pain, both physical and mental, of professional football is refreshing and welcome, if often difficult to read without wincing.

The Remarkable Life and Death of Leigh Richmond Roose, Football's First Play Boy
by Spencer Vignes
Tempus, £9.99
Reviewed by Harry Pearson
From WSC 249 November 2007 

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While those with even a passing interest in cricket can probably name a dozen Edwardian players without recourse to Wisden, I suspect that even the die-hard football fan finds the era before the First World War a good deal less familiar. Because while cricket regards the years that spawned Frank Woolley, Jack Hobbs and Victor Trumper as its “golden age”, to most people football doesn’t really seem to get going until the 1930s.

The Forgotten Truth of Gary Sprake
by Stuart Sprake & Tim Johnson
Tempus, £9.99
Reviewed by Huw Richards
From WSC 248 October 2007 

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Some decent sporting careers are damned by a single error. Bill Buckner, a just-this-side-of-great baseball player, has for 21 years been defined by the fielding error that extended the Boston Red Sox’s interminable wait to win a World Series. Gordon Smith will have to make one heck of a splash running the Scottish FA to efface memories of his miss in the 1983 FA Cup final. Such judgments are often undeserved, however, and the authors here aim to prove that Gary Sprake, Stuart’s uncle, merited better.

by Margaret Potts & Dave Thomas
SportsBooks, £17.99
Reviewed by Alan Tomlinson
From WSC 247 September 2007 

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Harry Potts played for and managed Burnley in some of their most successful periods from the late 1940s to the late 1960s, and again in some less successful times in the 1970s. This book combines the memoir of his wife, Margaret, with the broader context portrayed by writer Dave Thomas. It is an engaging book, a richly illustrated portrait of a time and culture a million miles away from the excesses of the post-1992 English football elite.

The Biography of Jimmy Johnstone
by Jim Black
Sphere, £18.99
Reviewed by Graham McColl
From WSC 247 September 2007 

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The post-football fate of Jimmy Johnstone is one of the best arguments that can be mustered in favour of the super-inflated salaries of today’s footballers. He was voted the greatest ever Celtic player in 2002, yet for the previous two decades, after finishing with football as a player, he had found himself skint and, as outlined here, spent that period meandering unsatisfyingly through various menial jobs. These included three years as a manual labourer and, irony of ironies, a spell as a satellite-dish salesman, purveying the very piece of equipment that has made today’s players rich beyond Jimmy’s wildest dreams.

The Story of a Goalkeeping Legend
by Mike Blake
NPI Media, £14.99
Reviewed by Tom Green
From WSC 246 August 2007 

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Every club has its legends. In modern times the player most loved by Charlton fans has been Derek “Killer” Hales, a man whose fighting spirit came to epitomise the Addicks’ struggle to survive. For the previous generation, however, the undisputed hero was goalkeeper Sam Bartram.

The Way It Is
by Wayne Rooney
Harper Collins, £8.99
Reviewed by Mark O’Brien
From WSC 246 August 2007 

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“Coleen bought me an Aston Martin from her own money. It was a birthday present that she gave me before the big day. On my actually birthday she gave me a Jacob watch, inscribed with my name and date of birth. I love watches.” And so on, and so forth. Who on earth is this actually aimed at? It’s not an autobiography; it is a prospectus for Paul Stretford’s Proactive Sports Management Ltd. It’s also an insult to the intelligence of the reader, although quite frankly anyone who buys it after seeing Rooney posing on the cover wearing a Coca-Cola T-shirt – he has a contract with them – probably hasn’t got that much grey matter to offend.

The Story Of A Legend
by Tom Oldfield
John Blake, £17.99
Reviewed by Jonathan O’Brien
From WSC 246 August 2007 

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Gary Neville is sometimes described as a throwback to a simpler, financially poorer, more sepia-toned generation of footballers, what with all the “union man” stuff, the 15-year stay at one club and the general tidy efficiency of his play. What gets mentioned less frequently, though, is that thing on his top lip, a slimline version of the kind of soup-strainer you used to see adorning the faces of Liverpool players 30 years ago. Visually, if nothing else, he belongs to a bygone age.

The Biography of Joe Cole
by Ian Macleay
John Blake, £17.99
Reviewed by Taylor Parkes
From WSC 245 July 2007 

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No, I couldn’t believe the title either. Another lavishly packaged quickie, Cole Play is predictably bland and impossibly turgid. It’s not that badly written – unlike most football-themed hack product, you would feel safe handing this in as English Language GCSE coursework – but it is so boring, so terribly uninspiring, like a book that’s played under José Mourinho for three years. There are no secrets here, no fresh perspectives, yet it runs to a whopping 310 pages, of which 309, at least, are entirely forgettable. Cole Play may not give short weight, but it’s topped up with a lot of ballast.

A history of black players in English football
by Rodney Hinds
Sports Books, £16.99
Reviewed by Matthew Brown
From WSC 245 July 2007 

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Rodney Hinds begins Black Lions, his account of the emergence of black footballers in England, by claiming that “in less than 25 years the black footballer has turned from freak show into a respected member of the football fraternity”.

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