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”.

A Labour Of Love?
by Martin Roderick
Routledge, £22.99
Reviewed by Joyce Woolridge
From WSC 244 June 2007 

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In the mid-1990s, Martin Roderick was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It spelled the end of his professional football career, but also explained why he had suffered pain and exhaustion for several years. His managers and club doctors had already decided why he was so tired. He was a lightweight, a “big time Charlie” who didn’t like playing in the lower divisions. Their solutions: various forms of verbal bullying and a couple of ibuprofen. Since leaving football, he has pursued an academic career and written a thesis based on anonymous interviews with nearly 50 professionals, as well club doctors, physios and a few agents, which explores football as work.

Fighting Back from the Booze, Swindles and Drugs That Ripped My Life Apart
by Peter Marinello
Headline, £12.99
Reviewed by Taylor Parkes
From WSC 243 May 2007 

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The first pre-hyped footballer, Peter Marinello tipped up at Arsenal in 1970, fresh from startling the Scottish League, and flopped. He had the right qualifications to be the latest rave – youth, talent, dress sense, fashionably feminine good looks – but he never had the freakish concentration or the blind determination, he joined the wrong club at the wrong time (wayward flair did little for Bertie Mee and Don Howe) and, worse, he was born unlucky. There’s no Peter Marinello website; there are no classic‑clip compilations on YouTube. What remains is a scrapbook full of fashion shoots for the Daily Express and a black-and-white ­recording of Top of the Pops, where a painfully shy young Scot looks awkward next to a girl with false eyelashes and Tony Blackburn breaks the tension with false, toothy laughter. It’s repeated whenever TV producers want to show what a bastard football can be.

The Unknown Story of Britain’s Greatest Sportsman
by Mick Collins
Aurum Press, £14.99
Reviewed by Ian Farrell
From WSC 243 May 2007 

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Living in an age when sporting versatility means being able to answer one of Sue Barker’s tricky “away” questions, the fact that Ian Botham once had a few run-outs for Scunthorpe seems extremely impressive to me. That Denis Compton won the FA Cup with Arsenal verges on the surreal. But even Compton starts to seem hopelessly limited after reading Mick Collins’s excellent ­biography of Max Woosnam: captain of his country in both football and tennis, Olympic gold medallist, scratch golfer and Lord’s centurion. Applying the word “genius” to sportsmen is always contentious, but rarely has the term “all rounder” been better deserved.

The Story of Keith Houchen
by Jonathan Strange
Tempus, £14.99
Reviewed by David Jenkins
From WSC 242 April 2007 

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Just as – to quote Monty Python – strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government, so, one might think, one diving header in an FA Cup final is surely no justification for a biography.

Football’s Flamboyant Maestro
by Jethro Soutar
Robson, £9.99
Reviewed by Barney Ronay
From WSC 242 April 2007 

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“The importance of Ronaldinho’s aura, his grace and charisma, cannot be overstated,” writes Jethro Soutar halfway through this meticulous 90,000-word exercise in doing just that. Immaculately put together and perkily written, the only thing the book lacks is any kind of analysis of its subject to go alongside all the facts. Surprisingly, given its unofficial nature, there’s no room here for Ronaldinho as anything but permanently smiling super athlete, a sporting brand defined by his umbilical, and highly marketable, link to the common myth-kitty of Brazilian football greatness. This is a shame because, as far as it goes, this is an energetic and comprehensive biography.

Setting The Record Straight
by Peter Swan with Nick Johnson
Stadia, £17.99
Reviewed by Harry Pearson
From WSC 239 January 2007 

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It is the misfortune of some professional footballers to have their entire careers defined in the public mind by one terrible mistake. The glaring miss in a cup final, a blundering attempt to deal with a weak shot, or an idiotic injury are sometimes all we recall of men who played hundreds of games at the top level. Peter Swan is one such player, though his error was of a slightly different sort. In December 1962 he and Sheffield Wednesday team-mates Tony Kay and David Layne placed bets on Ipswich Town to win when the two teams met at Portman Road. Two years later, following a tabloid exposé of match-rigging and a police investigation, Mansfield Crown Court sent Swan – who pleaded not guilty – to jail for four months and fined him £100. The Football Association, meanwhile, banned him from the game for life (the ban was eventually lifted in 1972).

The Autobiography
by Alan Mullery with Tony Norman
Headline, £18.99
Reviewed by Adam Powley
From WSC 239 January 2007 

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“Outspoken, controversial and entertaining”: so say the publishers in hyping the memoirs of Alan Mullery, adding the titillating prospect of naked blondes in hotels and “every human emotion”. Perhaps the current trend for football biogs replete with tales of mega-bungs, bling and bedroom antics has skewed the biographical template, but there’s little need for the Heat-style hard sell here.

by Paul McGrath
Century, £18.99
Reviewed by Peter Daly
From WSC 239 January 2007 

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When Paul McGrath was 19, he embarked on “a journey of unimaginable strangeness” that lasted almost a year. He did so without leaving his hospital bed. In fact, he did so almost without moving a muscle – it was a psychological voyage, see, during which a confused and frightened McGrath lay for so long with his legs locked tensely together that he would suffer from knee pains for ever more. That’s just one of the reasons it’s amazing he went on to have a football career, let alone a glorious one.

The Biography
by Joel Miller
John Blake, £17.99
Reviewed by Paul Doyle
From WSC 247 September 2007 

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Good things about this book include: the high standard of spelling; functionally correct grammar; and the fact that if you dropped it from a great height on to the head of the person who recommended it to you, it would do serious damage. Beyond that, the highest praise you could give it is that it reads like an extended Wikipedia entry, a broadly efficient collation of information already in the public domain. If you think that makes it worth almost 18 of your English pounds, then you presumably pay for WSC with wheelbarrows of gold. Well done.

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