Reviews from When Saturday Comes. Follow the link to buy the book from Amazon.

Malcolm Allison, Joe Mercer and Manchester City
by Colin Shindler
Mainstream, £17.99
Reviewed by Ian Farrell
From WSC 268 June 2009 

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Back in the late Nineties, Colin Shindler’s Manchester United Ruined My Life became one of football writing’s biggest break-out hits, earning its author plenty of mainstream praise, a spin-off TV documentary, and, it has to be said, a fair amount of criticism, amid suggestions that it was just a Manchester City version of Fever Pitch. Such carping about merely putting his own club’s spin on a recent success is clearly of no concern to Shindler if the strangely familiar premise of his latest work is anything to go by: a piece of nostalgic ­“faction” about a big-mouthed, larger-than-life coach battling for control... of Man City. In fact, given that its release has been timed to follow that of The Damned United’s much-hyped film version, it doesn’t look like Shindler and his publisher’s publicity department mind one little bit if you make the comparison. Now that I’ve done their bidding, I’ll say this: they’re nothing like each other.

An Intimate Portrait of Football’s Last Romantic
by Ian Ridley
Simon & Schuster, £16.99
Reviewed by Harry Pearson
From WSC 270 August 2009 

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It’s a popular notion that silence is enigmatic. “Still waters run deep,” we say. Some people, however, can talk a hell of a lot yet remain unfathomable. Kevin Keegan is a veritable babbling brook, yet despite the fact he rarely seems to have shut up for four decades the motivations behind key decisions at important times in his life appear oddly mysterious.

by Alex Gray
Sphere, £11.99
Reviewed by Graham McColl
From WSC 255 May 2008 

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England’s tilt at the 2006 World Cup is still a “live” memory for most football fans: the last hurrah of Sven, Beckham as prima donna, Theo Walcott as team mascot, Joe Cole’s goal against Sweden, Wags dancing on tables and, of course, of Nicko Faulkner, the midfield player, since found stabbed to death in his Glasgow home, and whose obituary in the Gazette states: “He will probably be best remembered for his performance for England in the 2006 World Cup that earned him an England cap.”

by Anthony Cartwright
Tindal Street Press, £9.99
Reviewed by Matthew Brown
From WSC 269 July 2009 

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Novels about football are notoriously difficult; good ones distinctly rare. It’s been a long time since Brian Glanville’s Goalkeepers Are Different and although that was basically a tale for teenage boys, it still stands out in the football fiction landscape. More recently David Peace’s The Damned United, yet that could be filed under the dubious “faction” label.

The Eleven Elements of Footballing Greatness
by Musa Okwonga
Duckworth, £15.99
Reviewed by Jonathan O’Brien
From WSC 249 November 2007 

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Musa Okwonga’s impressive CV includes the fact that he once won a poetry competition, a detail that may well send shudders down the spines of potential purchasers of his new book. In the event, A Cultured Left Foot rarely threatens to end up in Pseud’s Corner, but it still fails to really come together as an analysis of modern ­footballing excellence.

by Graham Poll
Harper Sport, £18.99
Reviewed by Tom Green
From WSC 248 October 2007 

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Early on in Graham Poll’s autobiography, the now retired referee shows a surprising degree of self-awareness. Admitting that, as a child, he had a tendency to play the clown, he explains that it was his way of dealing with insecurity. “If I was told, as a schoolboy, to go to such-and-such a room, I would loiter outside, dithering about whether it was the right room and what people would think about me when I went in. So, to deal with that feeling, I would confront it. I would burst into the room and be completely over-the-top. I used to overcompensate.”

The Making of The League 1886-1889
by Thomas Law
Desert Island Books, £16.99
Reviewed by Harry Pearson
From WSC 244 June 2007 

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For this reviewer the only disappointing thing about Football’s Twelve Apostles was that it slid through the letterbox during the hottest April for centuries. If ever there was a book that ought to be savoured in an armchair by a roaring fire (possibly with the accompaniment of port and pickled walnuts) it is this one.

A Global History of Football
by David Goldblatt
Penguin/Viking, £30
Reviewed by Steve Roser
From WSC 245 July 2007 

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David Goldblatt’s new book weighs in at 3lb 8oz – three-and-a-half times the regulation ball weight established in the first revision of the laws of the game in 1872, but probably about the same mass as the sodden leather bladder that Nat Lofthouse used to head home. Very little has changed in the size and weight of the ball since then (an odd ounce in 1937), although technology, fashion and utility mean the modern ball is a different beast. In many ways the attraction of football is the enduring simplicity and coherence of the laws echoing those governing the ball, and the room that leaves for self-expression on a personal and team level. Goldblatt draws together all aspects of the game’s development into a terrific set of stories and insights, from tiny detail to sweeping generalisation, that well repays the potential upper body strain of lifting the thing.

Football’s Tabloid Tales
by Harry Harris
Know The Score, £16.99
Reviewed by Luke Chapman
From WSC 242 April 2007 

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Pressured by demanding editors, mistrusted by professionals and loathed by some readers, tabloid football journalists require rhino-thick skins. And skins surely cannot be much more impervious than the hide of ace newshound Harry Harris. So he probably won’t mind the view that his 36th football book is arguably his worst yet. Not enough insight into the sports hack’s trade and too much ­name‑dropping make this an exemplar of how football is in thrall to the rich and powerful.

by Ivan Ponting

Know the Score, £16.99

Reviewed by Roger Tiford
From WSC 257 July 2008 

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There are two types of obituary, the personal – written by someone who knew the deceased – and the professional. Ex-footballers tend not to have close friends or family who can offer a thousand finely wrought words at the drop of a chap so, for the benefit of readers of the Independent, Ivan Ponting has being doing this duty for the past 15 years. Given that newspaper’s circulation, this collection of obituaries will be fresh, yet timeless, material for the vast majority of fans.

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