328 ShadesThe short life and tragic death of Erich Schaedler
by Colin Leslie
Black & White, £17.99
Reviewed by Archie MacGregor
From WSC 328 June 2014

Buy this book

 

Erich Schaedler was the son of a former German POW who became an integral part of the swashbuckling, but ultimately fragile, Hibernian side of the early 1970s and was capped once by Scotland – as fate would have it against West Germany. To this day his death in December 1985 aged just 36 is surrounded by unresolved and unsettling questions. This biography sets out to find an answer to why his body was found in his car with a single shotgun wound to the head in countryside near his hometown in the Scottish Borders. Though a police investigation concluded there were "no suspicious circumstances" and it is generally regarded as having been suicide, some, including Schaedler's immediate family, could not accept that he would have taken his own life.

Colin Leslie, the author of this overdue and exhaustively researched appreciation, is in as good a position as any to try to get to some sort of closure on the tragedy, being both a lifelong Hibs fan and currently sports editor of the Scotsman newspaper. Yet even after scores of interviews with former colleagues, friends, acquaintances and Erich's older brother John he is forced to conclude that a definitive explanation for what happened remains
"elusive".

Though one of Leslie's aims may be left unfulfilled, his book also provides a telling reminder of what a genuinely fine footballer the unheralded Schaedler was. As a player with a ferocious dedication to his fitness regime as well as interests in physiotherapy and coaching that were well ahead of their time in the Scottish game, there is testimony after testimony of how, through hard work, he developed from a raw talent into an international class full-back. The "Turnbull's Tornadoes" Hibs side that he served so well really ought to have registered more major honours than a solitary League Cup final victory in 1972, but they had a gnawing propensity to fall away in their league campaigns and suffered painful defeats to Celtic, by scores of 6-1 and 6-3, in another couple of cup finals. In a later spell with Dundee Schaedler helped the club notch up a couple of promotions and again made it to a League Cup final.

Across the chapters the shadow of what was to ultimately transpire hangs heavily however. Leslie rightly gives space to reflect on the issue of mental health which football, like other areas in society, still struggles to address in a truly open and grown up way. Many of the interviewees mention that "Shades" could be quiet, withdrawn or "deep" but hardly any saw him as someone who might need help. Although attitudes and awareness may be changing it is a dreadful irony one of his team-mates at Dundee, Ian Redford, also recently committed suicide, as covered in WSC 325. Redford's own reflections on his former colleague's sometimes introspective moods – "There were a few demons I think, although I have no idea where they came from" – lend a final poignancy to the recurring theme of this 
thoughtful book.

Buy this book

328 KingLedley King: My autobiography
by Ledley King 
and Mat Snow
Quercus, £18.99
Reviewed by Alan Fisher
From WSC 328 June 2014

Buy this book

 

The title of the opening chapter of Ledley King's autobiography sums it up in two little words: "What If?" He was the perfect contemporary centre-half, with pace, strength, total application and his trademark timing in the tackle as he eased the ball away from onrushing forwards. It was a talent that should have brought him worldwide fame. Instead he spent half his career on the treatment table.

His fortitude in pain and loyalty to the only club he has ever played for has earned him the enduring respect of Spurs fans. An unending saga of breakdown and comeback meant his hopes were rebuilt then crushed as often as his knee, yet King does not show a trace of self-pity; despite agony, disappointment and upheaval at his club, he was grateful for the chance to play.

For virtually half his career King did not train. When his knee was rebuilt, he remodelled his running style. One report suggested that toward the end, his knee was so bad he couldn't have a garden kickabout with his young son yet come matchday he was often a match for the very best.

Co-author, journalist and Spurs fan Mat Snow utilises a conversational style which gives the book a sense of authenticity, especially in the early passages about King's upbringing on an east London council estate by a single mother and surrounded by a supportive network of family friends. King has some interesting reflections on the fine margins between success and failure at this level, concluding that attitude and family stability are more significant than ability.

It seems to be out of character to be critical of those around him so expect few revelations. Nonetheless, King sheds some light on the footballing culture differences between Fabio Capello and his squad and confirms years of managerial turmoil at Tottenham, with Glenn Hoddle distant and unable to communicate while first-team coaches Martin Jol and Gus Poyet actively undermined their managers, Jacques Santini and Juande Ramos respectively.

While there's plenty of interest to Spurs supporters, King played during a largely undistinguished period in the history of club and country so other potential readers may be deterred by a book where the highlight is a League Cup final win and a world tour of physiotherapists. Gradually the dreary routine of daily treatment catches up on body and mind. He plays down the two nightclub altercations that thrust him uncharacteristically into the headlines but there's no doubt they were linked to the loss of what had mattered most to him since he was a boy – the realisation that he can't play on and the end of his camaraderie with team-mates. If King has regrets, he hides them well. It's left to the reader to speculate about those "what ifs?" on his behalf.

Buy this book

328 Secretby The Secret Footballer
Guardian Faber, £12.99
Reviewed by John Earls
From WSC 328 June 2014

Buy this book

 

At the end of 2012's entertaining first volume, the Secret Footballer (TSF) was binge-eating in a deliberate attempt to end his career. Nearly 18 months later he's still playing, although the nature of his increasingly tiresome secret identity means it's hard to gauge at what level. This time round, he's still trying to fathom an alternative career, but his loathing of football's machinations is making it hard to pick one.

It's tricky to work out who TSF has most contempt for. He dismisses fans for being clueless about what really goes on in football (ironic, as his previous book was marketed as letting us rubes acquire such insider knowledge). But he also wants to avoid managing, as that involves dealing with annoying players who need constant mollycoddling "like me". Yet the book is at its best when discussing coaching, as our man eloquently explains various tactics while taking his badges. A section on the FA's centre of excellence is also revealing – it's superbly stocked but effectively useless as poor design means physios can't actually see injured 
players using the equipment.

Such nuggets mean it hurries along and mostly avoids feeling like offcuts not good enough for the first book, bar a pointless chapter on why his favourite player is Paul Gascoigne. Fairly conclusive evidence shortly before publication appeared to reveal TSF is Dave Kitson. So you feel conflicted when reading about an inept chairman trying to get players to waive their wages, wondering which of Kitson's clubs it's referring to. Or is it not Kitson, and we're unfair in assuming it's Portsmouth?

There is more about TSF's personal life than before, but his vague identity means it's hard to care about a relatively routine teenage MDMA comedown when you don't know who's enduring it. Whoever TSF is, he comes across as more boorish than the first book's apparently cultured aesthete. A tale about crashing a yacht with four newly met women on board is told in a spirit of laddish high-jinx, but is as crass and misogynistic as anything TSF's nemesis Ashley Cole could create. Nor do constant moans about paying tax make the reader think the author could be mistaken for Noam Chomsky. Every moving passage about depression is countered by one leering at players cheating on their partners. It would have been a more effective book if TSF had dropped the S, stopped trying to be a Popbitch-style nark and gone into more detail about his complex attitudes to football and his own driven nature.

If you're after further gossipy froth such as the League Two club who cry poverty every close season yet pay their manager three times more than the rest of the division, then TSF has triumphed again. But this book's main aftertaste is one of unease. This self-entitled author feels too liberal to bond with most of his fellow players, which paints a more undernourished image of football's culture than any number of tabloid splashes.

Buy this book

327 KillaThe autobiography of Kevin Kilbane
by Kevin Kilbane
Aurum, £18.99
Reviewed by Jonathan O'Brien
From WSC 327 May 2014

Buy this book

 

Sixteen and a half years on, it seems surreal to recall that when Kevin Kilbane initially broke into the Ireland squad, he was touted as a bright, shining young hope who could give Damien Duff a serious run for his money on the wing. Things didn't pan out that way, of course. But only one of them appeared in 66 competitive internationals in a row, and it wasn't Duffer.

That extraordinary stat (in the history of international football, only Billy Wright managed a longer streak) sums up Kilbane's entire career. Never more than ordinary on a technical level – I once saw him lose possession against Israel at Lansdowne Road by doing an inexplicable 360-degree pirouette while the ball trundled slowly towards him – he built himself a decent and rewarding career through sheer hard work and force of will.

Football memoirs don't always reflect the subject's own persona (read Gordon Strachan's for proof, or rather don't) but this one does. Killa is a stolid, honest and meticulous read. Generous-spirited, too, in more ways than one: all the proceeds go to a Down's Syndrome charity. Kilbane is the sort of player who can still remember what he had for breakfast on the morning of a game in Reykjavik in 1997, and who said what to whom after a match against Macedonia aeons ago. Either that or he kept a detailed diary.

His otherwise happy 1980s Preston childhood was darkened by an alcoholic father who "pissed away all his wages", and whose eventual departure from the family home "made no difference to my life". Kilbane himself briefly became something of a drunkard in 1994, a pattern which came to an abrupt end when he was caught stealing a car stereo and a police sergeant gave him "the longest bollocking of my life".

The tone is generally positive and sunny (I lost count of the number of times players or teams were referred to as "great lads"), but there are sporadic glints of anger. Cesc Fàbregas's reputation for arrogance is added to here as Kilbane relays his obnoxious comments during an Arsenal v Huddersfield cup tie ("This team are shit!"). Later in the book, a Coventry fan screams at Kilbane that he deserves to have a handicapped daughter (Elsie has Down's Syndrome). Kilbane tells him to fuck off, but is then pressurised by the club into making a public apology. Kilbane offers the fan the chance to hear the apology face to face, secretly hoping in vain that he turns up because "an apology was the last thing I was going to offer him".

A few more interesting nuggets pop up – David Moyes supposedly finds it near-impossible to relax even on squad getaway breaks; hard man Thomas Gravesen privately cringed at the idea of being tackled hard; and Kilbane claims that Ireland's players came up with the tactical gameplan for the fateful World Cup play-off in Paris behind Giovanni Trapattoni's back. In the main, however, Killa mirrors its subject almost exactly, taking few chances and diligently plugging away. It passes a few hours agreeably enough, but that's all.

Buy this book

327 Campbellby Simon Astaire
Spellbinding Media, £18.99
Reviewed by Adam Powley
From WSC 327 May 2014

Buy this book

 

Major football biographies have taken a bit of a battering of late, with many publishers offering huge advances on books which failed to sell. Now, doubting commissioning editors are all looking for an "angle". Sol Campbell's biography, written by Simon Astaire, fits the bill. The headline grabber is inevitably only a small part of the story, but Campbell's assertion that he was denied the England captaincy due to the colour of his skin has been a 
publicist's dream.

It is also a serious accusation and one that has received widespread condemnation. One criticism is that it negates the more serious issues about lingering racism in football. It is also challengeable factually as well as being fodder for those who see Campbell as a whinger. As far as this book goes, it's another example of Campbell's lifelong grudge about being neglected.

At its heart, for all the extensive memoir of a hugely successful career, the book is primarily about Campbell's resentments, and in particular the fractured relationship with his late father. Yet for someone so prone to self analysis, he shows a glaring lack of self awareness. He moans about the England manager Steve McClaren failing to call him but leaves his future wife in the lurch by not answering her calls for three months. And he agonises about his father's distance while all but ignoring his own record as a parent who has had little or no contact with one 
of his children.

This will chime with the many Tottenham fans who still dislike Campbell for his move to Arsenal. There is some welcome context on the build-up to that event, and the pure logic of the move is evident. But his preening conviction – the other extreme of Campbell's complex character – simply doesn't countenance that it might not have been the most 
honourable of decisions.

Emerging from a difficult upbringing, Campbell shouldn't be admonished for his ambition, but doesn't appear to appreciate the consequences of his actions. He is now playing down the England captaincy accusation, like letting off a firework then complaining about the bang. In a Newsnight interview with non-football fan Jeremy Paxman, the message was hopelessly muddled – a result of Campbell trying to position himself as the intelligent footballer with something profound to say, but lacking articulacy.

Campbell fares better expressing himself via his biographer. He has interesting perspective on his experience at Lilleshall, while the chapter on life at Arsenal under Arsène Wenger and David Dein is enlightening. But the navel gazing overwhelms. The hitherto publicity-shy Campbell is laid bare as needy, introverted, a maddening mix of single-minded focus and debilitating reserve.

For all that, Astaire does a good job of keeping the narrative on track, while extracting genuine insight into playing at the elite level. The passages on the England v Argentina World Cup games convey the sheer intensity these contests generated. The antics of the Munto snake-oil salesmen who hijacked Notts County – and made a fool out of Campbell – make for a bleakly comic contrast.

This, however, is a biography only in name. It would have been productive, for example, to hear from the mother of Campbell's first child, or what his 11 siblings have to say, yet, over nearly 300 pages, only three of them are even mentioned by name. "Why don't people understand I'm just different to most professional footballers?" Sol pleads. He just wants to be loved, it seems – but he is hard work to warm to.

Buy this book

326 McDerby John McDermott 
& Simon Ashberry
The History Press, £9.99
Reviewed by Pete Green
From WSC 326 April 2014

Buy this book

 

In many ways John McDermott's book is the archetypal lower-league autobiography. You have contractual wrangles and several relegations shot through with moments of glory, laddish hijinks on pre-season tours of Scandinavia, a touching sense of wonder when the player crosses paths with his contemporaries from the Premier League and transcription from interview tapes with a minimum of editorial effort. Rather than leave for a new club every chapter, though, McDermott spends all of his 21-year, 750-match career with Grimsby Town.

This is what makes his story remarkable. He is, perhaps, the last of his kind – not just at Blundell Park, but anywhere. McDermott was long recognised as one of the best full-backs outside the top flight, having perfected the art – as we Town fans sometimes called it – of defending without tackling. "The best defender on any team is the one with the cleanest pair of shorts," he is told as a young player, and "that became my forte, staying on my feet rather than sliding in rashly." It's Not All Black & White sounds only the faintest notes of wistfulness as the author reflects on transfer approaches from Ipswich, Bradford and Watford – all three of whom go on to reach the Premier League. An England scout arrives early on but McDermott has just been sent on a cross-country run by manager Mick Lyons and has a stinker.

As a schoolboy McDermott travels down from his native Middlesbrough for a trial and never looks back. He speaks of his club and adopted hometown with gentle rather than showy affection (once asked by a national paper why he stayed with Grimsby, he cited the area's low house prices). Over two decades managers come and go, and with them a variety of methods. Lennie Lawrence takes Town to the bottom of the second tier but McDermott admires his futuristic approach to fitness. More typical is the illustrious Alan Buckley, who throws down the scouts' opposition report and says: "Right, read it if you want but I'm not bothered if you don't... it's all about us."

McDermott's situation eventually prompts a sad and telling reflection on footballers' pay. Wages reflect only what it costs to retain a player – not his ability. When an ageing star is performing superbly these are not the same. Supporters vote McDermott player of the year, but at the age of 36 approaches from elsewhere are unlikely, so the then Grimsby chairman John Fenty (who essentially retains the role to date, in all but name) cuts his weekly pay from £650 to £300. Witness a club legend scrabbling around for odd jobs at the ground to bring in an extra £50 a week, and you see the kind of house Fenty has been running.

For all the talk of McDermott's loyalty, the most striking trait in evidence here is his dignity. He speaks of Fenty with a surprising lack of bitterness and declines to settle old scores with the senior players who bullied him as an apprentice. In 2009, after retiring, he receives the PFA Merit Award – bestowed previously upon the likes of Jimmy Armfield and Alex Ferguson – and his humility shines on. As with the playing style, so with the man: never lunging in, always staying upright. He's Grimsby's greatest ever and his story is compelling.

Buy this book

326 FashThe Justin Fashanu story
by Nick Baker
Reid Publishing, £14.99
Reviewed by Paul Buller
From WSC 326 April 2014

Buy this book

 

How much is there left to say about a man of whom so much has already been said? This biography of Justin Fashanu will certainly not be the last. The sleeve notes of Nick Baker's Forbidden Forward promise more detail than ever before and to identify "those who are to blame for his untimely death".

That salacious hook thankfully fails to live up to its promise and is a distraction from what is a comprehensive insight into Fashanu's life, from birth through to the moment he took his own life aged just 37, with intimate contributions from those acquainted with him along almost every step of the way.

Described as "a hero to some, a conman to others and an enigma to most", Fashanu's story is that of a young black footballer's struggle to make it in his career and life, with the added burden of coming to terms with being a gay man in two unforgiving environments – professional football and evangelical Christianity.

This could be the story of many a young player: catapulted to stardom as a teen, treated brutally by a new manager (Brian Clough), terrible with money but fond of the high life. But it's the mix of circumstances that make Fashanu's tale so engaging. He was a striker of supreme ability with a penchant for on-field violence; an intelligent, gentle, well-spoken young man off the pitch who was both introvert and extrovert, aloof and needy, avaricious and generous.

It's a shame then that what should be a fairly fluid tale jars at regular intervals. The story of his early idyllic life in sleepy rural Norfolk, where Fashanu grew up boxing and playing endless football, is brought to a screeching halt by clunky metaphors and segues: "While other kids his age were down the arcade or hanging out on street corners smoking, Fashanu was perfecting his punch and smoking opponents" is but one of many that get in the way.

The author feels the need to remind us too often that life will not always be as rosy as the early years: portents of the doom are waiting at every opportunity, mostly at the end of chapters in what feels like an unnecessary plea for us to keep reading.

Baker also occasionally offers his opinion on Fashanu's state of mind and the treatment he received as a black and openly gay man but it's more pub psychology than insight. When we're treated to a graphic description of how the book's subject took his own life we're told, twice, what he was thinking as he he did it. Fashanu was alone at the time, left only a simple note and told no one of his intentions, yet the author writes as if he was there.

In the end, no one is blamed for Fashanu's death, but don't take that as a spoiler. Beyond the publisher's hype and some slack editing, the book gives an insight into a tumultuous life that remains as intriguing now as it did when Justin Fashanu was alive.

Buy this book

326 Willieby Willie Morgan with Simon Wadsworth
Trinity Mirror, £16.99
Reviewed by Graham McColl
From WSC 326 April 2014

Buy this book

 

If the purpose of this book were to rid Willie Morgan of the image of being George Best's doppelganger, it sets about it in a strange fashion. Behind the main picture on the cover, faint background images show Morgan at various stages of his life from babe to footballer but, inexplicably, the only other person amid these images is Best, Morgan's late 1960s and early 1970s fellow winger at Manchester United. On the inside back flap, there is a picture of Morgan in a United strip… along with Best. Inside the book there is only one advertisement for another publication – a page-sized promotion for The Best of Best, a "souvenir magazine" from the Daily Mirror that boasts "lost images" of "The Genius As You've Never Seen Him Before".

George is given further prominence once the story begins, receiving a mention on more than 40 pages. Yet in Bestie, George's own 1998 authorised biography, Morgan features only twice, both times derogatorily. "Morgan always seemed a bit jealous," Georgie says. Morgan, in contrast, on first mention of Best, says, touchingly, that their lives would be "intertwined".

Pushing this book on the back of Best, as someone has decided to do, is unnecessary. Morgan is an engaging storyteller, a happy-go-lucky individual with an underlying toughness forged, as he relates in excellent detail, through his upbringing in Sauchie, the Clackmannanshire mining village. He is also capable of some fabulous self-promotion: "Along with Geroge Best [who else?], I was one of the two biggest stars in football," he says of mid-1968 – the era of Eusébio, Bobby Charlton, Bobby Moore, Jimmy Johnstone, Pelé, Denis Law et al.

One early inconsistency almost brings the tale to a shuddering halt, though. Willie states that his dad, after a theological dispute with a Canon Matthews in Sauchie when Willie was around 12, had "wanted to kill" Matthews, and never went to church again. Yet, when Willie turns 15, his dad keeps him on at school, on the advice of a priest, rather than sending him down the pit, because: "My dad was never one to go against the wishes of the church." This seeming inconsistency is more than a pedantic niggle. If Willie goes down the mine, he doesn't play schools football, doesn't get spotted by Burnley FC, doesn't become a pro footballer, doesn't write this book.

Get over that hurdle and the book lives up to the breathless cover blurb of "hundreds of tales" about "the hell-raising Best [him again] and a host of others", although the story of Scotland's 1974 World Cup is shockingly light on insider detail. Things peter out with post-playing tales of socialising with people such as Rod Stewart which does at least bring some amusement, with a schoolboyishly eager Stewart asking Willie, as they attend a match, to relate each stage of his own pre-match professional routine. "I would probably be picking some horses out right now for the next race," Morgan replies. His yarn is like that all the way through and plentifully enjoyable for it.

Buy this book

326 Gillespieby Keith Gillespie
Sport Media, £16.99
Reviewed by Robbie Meredith
From WSC 326 April 2014

Buy this book

 

The advance publicity for, and newspaper serialisation of, Keith Gillespie's autobiography concentrated heavily on his prodigious gambling habit. Given that Gillespie estimates he squandered around £7 million over the course of his career this is understandable, but How Not To Be A Football Millionaire is much more than a tale of beaten dockets. To his credit, Gillespie refuses to wallow in self-pity or to portray himself as a particularly likeable man.

Rather he comes across as intelligent, complex and contradictory – despite a lifelong, and ultimately damaging, habit of refusing to face up to conflict or responsibility, he's refreshingly willing to put the boot in now his career is over. He's withering about Stuart Pearce's "Psycho" image, and there's a telling depiction of Graeme Souness striding around Blackburn's training ground in nothing but a towel and formal shoes, but his deepest scorn is reserved for his former manager at Sheffield United, Kevin Blackwell. There's an elongated and blackly comic account of his time working under Blackwell, which culminates in a series of late-night abusive text messages.

Gillespie's chronic gambling habit is nurtured at Old Trafford early in his career, where he gladly takes on the task of placing bets for Alex Ferguson, but it reaches its nadir at Newcastle. One of the most pathetic images in the book, although I doubt if he sees it that way, is of Gillespie spending endless afternoons on his sofa – phone in one hand and Racing Post in the other – placing huge telephone bets on the horses. A crisis comes when he loses £62,000 in two days, but the strengths and flaws in Kevin Keegan's management are apparent when, rather than imploring his player to seek help, he organises a club payment to Gillespie's bookie to clear the debt; a misguided act which, yet again, prevents the player from taking charge of his own life.

Money, clubs and marriages alike then come and go, while no night out is turned down. "Anything," he puts it, "to relieve the boredom." Gillespie was a very good player, but it's tempting to wonder how much better he'd have been without being out on the lash three nights a week. He remembers only two games, for Newcastle against Barcelona and Northern Ireland's famous win over England in 2005, where he actually sat in after a match.

A typically hasty and mistaken attempt to make a quick buck by investing in film schemes leads to bankruptcy late in his career when he can least afford it. However, this ultimately forces Gillespie to counter the failings in his own character, not least by opening the numerous final demand envelopes cluttering up his living room. It is too cliched to claim that Gillespie achieves redemption at the end of his tale. Rather he gains the uncertain gift of a better understanding of himself. In doing so, he provides a compelling glimpse into the dark void inherent in the modern age of adrenaline-fuelled football celebrity.

Buy this book

324 ArmstrongThe David Armstrong biography
by David Armstrong 
with Pat Symes
Pitch Publishing, £17.99
Reviewed by Harry Pearson
From WSC 324 February 2014

Buy this book

 

There was always something a little Dickensian about Middlesbrough and Southampton midfielder David Armstrong. Small, prematurely bald, slightly portly with a face that fell naturally into an expression of melancholy, he was more Oliver Twist than the 1970s footballer of popular mythology. Even his nickname Spike has a whiff of the Victorian workhouse about it.

The nickname, it transpires, was given to him by Middlesbrough team-mate Basil Stonehouse for no other reason than that Stonehouse thought someone in the squad should have it. It's the kind of anticlimactic tale that seems to have characterised Spike's career. A hard-working left-sided player and an excellent passer and crosser, Armstrong scored over 100 goals from midfield and was so robust at times he seemed indestructible (he made 356 consecutive appearances for Boro).

He was not a dribbler though, nor was he quick, both of which counted against him when it came to international honours – he was only capped twice by his country. Trophies too eluded him. At Ayresome Park Jack Charlton's reluctance to spend money – faced with a choice between Trevor Francis or Alf Wood, Big Jack opts, naturally, for the latter – scotches Middlesbrough's chances of silverware, while Southampton fall agonisingly short of a Double in 1983-84 with Armstrong playing in all 51 games.

While other footballers' autobiographies are often brimming with bitterness or rancour, The Bald Facts is tinged with sadness and regret. Armstrong's career ended by an ankle injury that was treated in so bungling a manner the player is barely able to stand up for several years, his finances in tatters, you come away from reading it with the impression that the midfielder feels let down, not necessarily by individuals, but by the game itself.

As is too often the case the player's unworldliness has hardly helped his cause. You don't need to be a genius to realise that when you are going to court for an alimony hearing driving into the car park in a brand new red Mercedes is not the best idea. That's what Armstrong does though. The results are predictable – his wife gets the house and whacking great yearly maintenance payments. "I came out of that court and burst pathetically into tears," Spike records. There are a lot of tears in these pages, the odd laugh too, and a rather puzzling story about dognapping and Joe Laidlaw. Ultimately though there's a sense of promise unfulfilled and of tales half told.

I started reading The Bald Facts during the hullabaloo that followed FA chairman Greg Dyke's comments on the number of foreign players in the Premier League weakening the national team. Armstrong, of course, played when there were very few non-British professionals in the English top flight so it is instructive to see the midfield Ron Greenwood selected for the game against West Germany in 1982. Alongside Armstrong were Alan Devonshire, Ricky Hill and Ray Wilkins. Is that the sort of line-up that would strike fear into the hearts of the current Spanish, German or Brazilian sides?

Buy this book

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