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

Modern Russia and the People's Game
by Marc Bennetts
Virgin, £11.99

Reviewed by Csaba Abrahall
From WSC 259 September 2008 

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Russia’s impressive showing at Euro 2008, following recent UEFA Cup victories for CSKA Moscow and Zenit St Petersburg, was the latest indication that Russian football, after a long period of post-Soviet underachievement, is emerging into an era of success. Marc Bennetts’ affectionate analysis of football in modern Russia is therefore a timely one.

by Rowan Simons

Macmillan, £14.99
Reviewed by Ben Lyttleton
From WSC 260 October 2008 

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All eyes were on China in August as Beijing proved, with the odd journalist-napping aside, to be an excellent host city for the Olympics. Rowan Simons has spent most of the past 20 years living in China and this book charts his period in the country, from his student days watching the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 to his rise as a football pundit (though not a very good one as one of his favourite lines is “He’ll never score with a haircut like that”) and a political figure trying to create more pitches and more opportunities for Chinese amateur ­footballers.

Football in the war zone
by James Montague
Mainstream, £10.99
Reviewed by Mike Ticher
From WSC 261 November 2008 

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Let’s get the title out of the way first. It’s a bit – how can I put it – derivative? And it doesn’t really tell you what the book is about, which is the Middle East. James Montague travelled to a dozen countries to explore their football culture, or at least taste it, in trips that sometimes lasted only a few days.

Northern Ireland in Sweden
by Ronnie Hanna
Sportsbooks, £7.99
Reviewed by Robbie Meredith
From WSC 263 January 2009 

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The team that made it to the quarter-finals of the 1958 World Cup have served as a sustaining cliche in Northern Irish football. We’re perennial underdogs, so the story goes, and “our wee country”, although comparatively short of players and facilities, can occasionally roll our sleeves up and battle to victory over superior teams who just can’t match our collective warrior spirit, just like the boys of ’58.

 A Refugee Team, An American Town
by Warren St John
Fourth Estate, £14.99
Reviewed by David Wangerin
From WSC 270 August 2009 

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In Atlanta to promote his first book, Warren St John came across someone who worked in a nearby refugee settlement and suggested the author “check out the soccer team” there. He did – and discovered that the town of Clarkston, a few miles north-east of the city, had developed into a sort of international refugee centre, teeming with dislocated families from Iraq, Kosovo, Liberia and other trouble spots.

My Story
Hodder & Stoughton, £18.99
Reviewed by Tim Springett
From WSC 250 December 2007

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Did he think of that title himself or pay someone else to come up with it? Whichever, it’s apt, of course – the subject is so tall that he doesn’t even fit in the frame for the book’s front-cover photo. Peter Crouch is a player who – as he reminds us frequently – has had to work harder than many to prove himself. I wondered whether he would show similar dedication to his autobiography, which he has had published at the tender age of 26. Well, actually, he hasn’t done too badly.

Ferguson and Shankly
by Oliver Holt
Pan, £8.99
Reviewed by David Stubbs
From WSC 250 December 2007

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Sir Alex Ferguson and Bill Shankly have some things in common, opines Oliver Holt, not least in their sharing of the sentiments expressed in the title to this double biography. For Ferguson, the need to prevail – to compensate, perhaps, for the setbacks and disappointments of his early working life – was deep-dyed. He was even known, when a game of cards with his players wasn’t going well, to chuck the entire pack across the coach in fearsome, capillary-bursting pique. As for Shanks, he outlined the attitudes that made him practically a hermit to football in an uncharacteristically revealing letter to a journalist in 1955. “I used to think that it would be better to die than to lose,” he wrote. “To enable me to reach the top, I went to all extremes, no woman, no smoking, early to bed – this went for years, but it was worthwhile.”

The Autobiography of Ian Holloway
Green Umbrella, £16.99
Reviewed by Matt Nation
From WSC 250 December 2007

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Although Ian Holloway himself admits to being “not a particularly nice kid”, it doesn’t appear to have stopped his eye for a wrong ’un extending into adult life. After Ollie is dropped as a low-paid teenager at Bristol Rovers, Mike Channon attempts to console him by first by offering him £1,000 and then snatching it away at the last second. Three lines later, however, Channon is described as a “fantastic bloke”. Both Bobby Gould’s and Dave Bassett’s man-management skills are (once again) shown to be about as sensitive as a nipple wrench in the bogs, yet Ollie “likes” and “respects” his former gaffers. Only with Wally Downes does Ollie eschew praise with faint damnation in favour of a full-on, and fully deserved, kicking after the former Wimbledon man cracked wise about the new boy’s wife’s chemotherapy.

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