Football Books: The Rough Guide to Soccer In Print

A few weeks ago, Tom Dunmore asked me to be Pitch Invasion’s regular book reviewer even though he knew full well my blogging track record back is just this side of abysmal (I am, to the half-dozen of you who read my work, the blogger known as Antonio Gramsci). I was so flattered I actually accepted but ever since, I’ve been fretting over what to write my first column about, not least because I haven’t actually read a football book other than the amply-reviewed Beckham Experiment in several months and my next fix from Amazon.co.uk probably won’t show up for another couple of weeks. So, what to write about? How can I introduce myself to the Pitch Invasion faithful?

In the end I decided that if I’m going to be regaling you all with my take on football books on a regular basis, I should probably start with an overview of the state of football literature in general. After all, it’s back-to-school time, and I’m sure you’re eager to do the background reading before we begin our journey together through the coming year’s football books.

Tony Adams Addicted

The basics

Lets start with the basics: as in every genre of sports writing, the mainstay is the biography or autobiography of the superstar player. These are normally tedious; the only ones which are vaguely of interest are the ones where the player himself is or was horribly messed-up in some way — Tony Adams’ Addicted, for instance, or Jimmy Burns’ biography of Maradona, The Hand of God: The Life of Diego Maradona. If anything, football lags other sports in this area: there has yet to be a player autobiography of the standard of Ken Dryden’s The Game, or that has the humour of Bill Lee’s The Wrong Stuff. This is not, in truth, entirely the fault of the publishing industry. Football doesn’t really produce many intellectuals on Dryden’s level (the only one I can think of off the top of my head would be Jorge Valdano, who does in fact write books on football, but none of them have been translated into English), and while it does have its share of “characters”, it’s hard to think of any quite as colourfully anarchic as Lee, either. Chalk it up, perhaps, to the limitations of the sporting culture than of the publication culture.

Biographies aren’t limited to players: managers and occasionally referees get a look-in, too. Again, there’s nothing here to look at, really.

After player biographies come club biographies – these, too are usually dreck. Read one on your own team, by all means. If you want more, read Phil Ball’s White Storm: The Story of Real Madrid about Real Madrid, which is probably the best of this genre and maybe Jimmy Burns’ Barca: A People’s Passion (although the latter needs to be taken with a serious dose of salt). Do yourself a favour and give the rest a miss. There simply aren’t enough teams with world-historical importance even within the limited terms of the football world. Books which look at “big derbies” aren’t much better, often reducing major clubs to outdated stereotypes (e.g. bourgeois River Plate v. proletarian Boca Juniors) in order to build up the story.

The Football Business

Football is, increasingly, a business – and there’s any number of books about how money (usually personified in the form of Sky’s owner Rupert Murdoch) is ruining football. Most are pretty uninteresting, but David Conn’s books The Football Business: Fair Game in the ’90s? (Mainstream sport) and The Beautiful Game?: Searching the Soul of Football both mix excellent financial reporting with a fierce and passionate devotion to the welfare of the fans who support the game. They’re well worth a read.

Foul by Andrew Jennings

Of course, corruption isn’t just about business – it’s in the buying and selling of matches, a subject examined in Declan Hill’s recent book The Fix: Soccer and Organized Crime. And there’s also a long history of serious corruption allegations at FIFA headquarters in Lausanne. A quick read of journalist Andrew Jennings’ Foul!: The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote Rigging and Ticket Scandals is the best way to get a handle on this, though more academically-minded readers may prefer John Sugden and Alan Tomlinson’s books FIFA and the Contest for World Football: Who Rules the Peoples’ Game and Badfellas: FIFA Family at War (Mainstream sport), or Paul Darby’s Africa, Football and FIFA: Politics, Colonialism and Resistance.

Academically minded, you say? Is there really an academic literature on football? You bet. Some of it is quite good (though since it’s priced at academic rates, it’s not the most accessible literature in the world). Most of the really good stuff is either written or edited by the University of Aberdeen’s Richard Giulianotti, and his Football: A Sociology of the Global Game is well worth the investment for the serious-minded. Also worth a look is Football and Fascism: The National Game under Mussolini, a book adapted from author Simon Martin’s University College London PhD thesis.

Fever Pitch and Beyond

One of the problems with football literature, you’ll realize quickly, is that there is far, far too much of it about. Often, sub-genres start promisingly but then die a horrible death as someone tries to replicate the same theme for every single team in the Premiership and Football League. Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, for instance, which was a well-written meditation on the relationship between sport, narrative and masculinity with Arsenal at its centre, was followed by at least thirty-odd volumes by fans writing books about their lives and how their fanatical support for (insert team here) is a metaphor for their overall condition in life. Dreck.

Another sub-genre is the “seasonal” genre. Some journalist comes up with an idea to spend a year following a particular team. Hunter Davies originally did it with Tottenham in the 1970s in his book The Glory Game: The New Edition of the British Football Classic (Mainstream Sport); the concept was updated and given a bit of a twist in the 1990s when American author Joe McGuiness spent a season at a tiny Italian club in The Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy. These two books are classics and belong in everyone’s library. Tim Parks’ A Season with Verona: Travels Around Italy in Search of Illusion, National Character, and…Goals! had the literary style one would expect from a novelist and is an interesting look at the culture of Italian tifosi but ultimately kind of craps out because Parks’ knowledge of football isn’t brilliant. The couple of dozen other attempts at this genre, sometimes by journalists (like Guillem Balague’s A Season on the Brink: A Portrait of RAFA Benitez’s Liverpool), but more often usually by fans trying to find a way to write off the cost of their season ticket as a business expense (e.g. The Great Divide: The Inside Story of the 1999-2000 Season at Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur by Alex Fynn and Olivia Blair). Unless you have an obsessive-bordering-on-compulsive interest in that particular club, they are not worth the paper they are printed on. And even then…

Then there’s hoolie porn: endless reams of books, usually by ex-hooligans, talking about the fights they had, how hard such-and-such a firm is, etc. Or the related genre of books about the sordid world that revolves around footballers, such as Mirror journalist Graham Johnson’s Football and Gangsters: How Organised Crime Controls the Beautiful Game. These can almost all be filed under “books that make you feel dirty when you read them”. Read Bill Buford’s Among the Thugs, by all means, or John Sugden’s Scum Airways: Inside Football’s Underground Economy (Mainstream Sport) (which recounts how the hooligan element came to dominate the football tourism trade and the fake replica shirt market). Other than that, steer clear.

Books about specific historical incidents are occasionally worthwhile, and there are a lot of good books about the period around World War II, including David Downing’s Passovotchka: Moscow Dynamo in Britain, 1945 (Bloomsbury Paperbacks) (the Red Army team’s 1945 tour of the UK), Andy Dougan’s Dynamo: Triumph and Tragedy in Nazi-Occupied Kiev (about a semi-mythical game in occupied Ukraine where a team from Kiev beat a German Air Force team despite severe intimidation, after which several players were executed), and of course Simon Kuper’s Ajax, the Dutch, the War: Football in Europe During the Second World War“>Ajax, the Dutch, the War (which is about football in WWI in general but more specifically about the fate of Jewish club members once German judenrein policies came into effect in Holland in 1940).

The Global Game

How Soccer Explains the World by Franklin Foer

Arguably, it was this same Kuper who inaugurated the modern age of football writing started arguably started in the mid-1990s with the publication of Soccer Against the Enemy: How the World’s Most Popular Sport Starts and Fuels Revolutions and Keeps Dictators in Power. Bits of it are now dated, and some of the stuff on South America and the Ukraine are a bit dubious (the part suggesting that Dynamo Kiev was exporting fissile material in the mid-90s strains credulity), but overall it’s a fantastic read. Few have come close to equaling it – Franklin Foer’s attempt at doing so in How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization was mostly pathetic apart from a decent essay on Serbian football. But it’s nevertheless a historiographically important book because it opened up the eyes of the English reading public to the fact that football is a sociological window into the soul of other cultures.

This line of inquiry has led to a series of national histories of the game, and through it some of the best football writing around. David Winner’s Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football, John Foot’s Calcio: A History of Italian Football, Ulrich-Hesse Lichtenberger’s Tor!: The Story of German Football, Alex Bellos’ Futebol: Soccer: The Brazilian Way, Phil Ball’s Morbo: The Story of Spanish Football, David Wangerin’s Soccer in a Football World: The Story of America’s Forgotten Game (Sporting), and Jonathan Wilson’s Behind the Curtain: Travels in Eastern European Football are all excellent national/regional histories of football of Holland, Italy, Germany, Brazil, Spain, the United States and Eastern Europe, respectively.

The problem with this genre is that once someone has written about a country or an area, then it is “done” and that territory taken. And, to be blunt, we’re running out of territory. James Montague took out most of the Arab world last year in a good-in-patches-but-disappointing-overall book When Friday Comes: Football in the War Zone. Ditto Russia, with Marc Bennett’s Football Dynamo: Modern Russia and the People’s Game. Steve Menary tried to outflank everyone by writing about football in non-nations – those islelets and stateless ethnic groups that make up the non-FIFA world, such as Greenland, Tibet and Gibraltar – in an engaging way in his book Outcasts!: The Lands That FIFA Forgot, even if his central premise that FIFA should chuck any considerations about national sovereignty every time some groupuscule says it wants to field a football team is only barely this side of being totally batshit. But the real problem with these geographically-centred histories of the game is that in many ways they were completely blown out of the water by the monumental and magisterial The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer by David Goldblatt. This frankly brilliant 915-page global history of football everywhere around the world has set the bar for football history so high that it’s possible no one has anything left to say.

There’s a similar problem with respect to tactics. Though historically a fringe area of football publication, you could occasionally find a half-decent book on the subject – Sky’s Andy Gray published a surprisingly good book on tactics called Flat Back Four about a decade ago. But last fall, Jonathan Wilson published Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics, and it’s hard to imagine anyone ever bettering it as a description of the development of football formations. There is probably still some room for a specialist tome on the evolution of defensive tactics, but other than that Wilson’s book is it.

Rounding out the literature, of course, are the quirky books. Charlie Connelly following the Lichtenstein national team for two years of World Cup Qualification in Stamping Grounds: Exploring Liechtenstein and Its World Cup Dream; Andrew Anthony’s history of spot-kicks in On Penalties, Musa Okwonga’s take on the eleven elements of a successful footballer in A A Cultured Left Foot: The Eleven Elements of Footballing Greatness. There’s a few of these gems around, but if the title is going out of its way to scream quirky, it’s usually not worth the hassle. Paul Brown’s medley of anecdotes, published under the title Balls: Tales from Football’s Nether Regions, is one of those examples of a book that had a title long before any text was actually written.

Why England Lose by Simon Kuper

So where next for football literature? Is there anything useful left to write in the post-Goldblatt era? Well, there’s a good deal more to be written about the economics of football. This has received some academic treatment and was touched on to a certain extent by Andrew Zimbalist and Stefan Szymanski in their comparative history of football and baseball National Pastime. Expect Szymanski to touch on this theme a bit more in his forthcoming book (already released in the UK) with Simon Kuper entitled Why England Lose: and Other Curious Phenomena Explained, which I’ll be reviewing in the next couple of months. Geographically speaking, a good treatment of African football is desperately needed – it’s been done a couple of times by Peter auf der Heyde and Filippo Maria Ricci, but neither really gets to grips with the subject in a substantive way. Mexico and Argentina could both do with something solid on their domestic games and though a couple of authors have had a run at French football, it’s still in need of a good popular treatment.

There’s definitely room for a book on how people consume football, both historically and in the electronic age – the different varieties of fandom and spectatorship. I nominate Tom for this one.

But most of all what football literature needs is some decent fiction. Apart from David Peace’s The Damned Utd, a fictionalized account of Brian Clough’s career and in particular his 44 days at the helm of Leeds United, there is remarkably little fiction of any quality at all dealing with our favourite sport. Certainly, football has yet to produce anything like the genius of WP Kinsella. With so much drama embedded in the game and the generally soap operatic nature of events off the pitch, it’s hard to believe that the sport still trails baseball in this respect. But it seems there’s no one on the horizon seeking to end this literary drought.

Over the next few months in the run up to the World Cup in South Africa, we can expect a higher-than-average stream of books about our favourite game. I’m hoping for a few gems amid the inevitable dross. But one way or another, you can find out about new football books here on Pitch Invasion, with me and my bitchy sarcasm as your faithful companions. I’m looking forward to it.


30 thoughts on “Football Books: The Rough Guide to Soccer In Print

  1. Inca

    Brilliant. I’m glad I’m not the only one that was seriously unimpressed with Franklin Foer’s book, which seemed to get mostly positive reviews in the US. I think Simon Kuper’s book on Ajax in WW2 is quite good, but I feel that I must say that your link to his Football Against the Enemy should come with the disclaimer that the American edition of the book, put out by Nation Books, is woefully edited–references to “the Rangers” when talking about Rangers, and it seems that they simply did a search for “football” and replaced it with “soccer.” I swear at one point there was a reference to a quarterback “in American soccer” when Kuper obviously originally wrote “American football.”

  2. Fake SIgi

    God, “Addicted” was terrible. I wanted to gouge my eyes out. Robert Pires’s autobiography was even worse – I think I only read the photo captions.

    Nice literary survey – I agree with most of what you’ve said here. It would be nice to see Americans write more worthwhile books on MLS, and no, “The Beckham Experiment” does not count in any way, shape or form.

  3. James

    Brian Glanville’s works are conspicuous by their absence from this otherwise great list.

    His autobiographical “Football Memories” is a real journey through the old greats of the 40s right through to modern World Cups, can’t recommend it highly enough. He also delves into some football-based fiction and non-fiction. An old-fashioned writer, not matched by the younger journalists.

    David Winner’s “Those Feet”, his follow-up to “Beautiful Orange” is a nice musing on the English game, but not as captivating as the Dutch one.

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  5. Jonathan

    Nice article. I’ve been wondering where you were, Gramsci’s Kingdom was one of my favourite blogs a while back!

    I agree a lot of territory has been covered, but there is still plenty of fresh ground to cover in the ‘global game’ genre of football book in my opinion. And new, fresh perspectives on already covered regions can also never be a bad thing. I think a top book on French football would be fascinating.

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  7. Mike

    Brilliant article, and I especially love the inclusion of the wonderfully quirky Brilliant Orange.

    My favourite footy book remains The Far Corner, by The Guardian’s Harry Pearson (from before he was The Guardian’s anything, I believe). Admittedly, I’m biased about any book that nails the north-east so deftly and with such good humour, but it’s ever a funny and poignant read with just the right amount of biographical detail to give it context without being indulgent or making the book about the author.

    To those who haven’t read it, The Far Corner sees our hero visit a number of matches in the north-east across the course of a season, taking in the biggest sides – Newcastle, Sunderland, etc – to those from the depths of the regional leagues. There’s real history here, including some details on the old Northern League contained teams that were good enough to beat Juventus, and a wry, affectionate sense of humour lacing the narrative. It makes me feel homesick whenever I read it.

  8. Mabbs

    Nice article Alex. I’m a Spurs fan but one of my favourites was The Professor: The Biography of Arsene Wenger by Myles Palmer. It’s less of a biography to be honest and more of an account of Arsenal’s season but it is still a very interesting read.

    I also hated Addicted.

  9. Lanterne Rouge

    I just finished Szymanski’s new book which provides some interesting points but suffers from the usual economist’s problem of self-regarding “all knowingness”. Jonathan Wilson’s Inverting the Pyramid is, as you say, a stunning survey though – thanks for a brilliant article yourself.

  10. trilla

    I’d recommend Outcasts United, by Warren St. John, though it’s more about what happens to relocated refugees in America and is not about the professional game.

    For another look into American soccer, maybe try Andrei Markovits’ Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism – a 71 page update was released in 2006 through The Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University, but I don’t know that it was ever added to the published version. Parts of it are overly simplified like Foer, but it does show good insight into the uphill battle the game faces in the US.

  11. joejoejoe

    This post is a feast I’ll be eating for months. Thanks for the great summary of so many interesting books!

  12. Alex Usher

    Thanks all for your comments and for working your way through such a bloated post.

    OK, I admit Addicted might not have been the best example of a biography – it has more of a thrill for Gunners fans than others and I can certainly respect the tedium for non-Gunners. But perhaps this further illustrates my point about the weakness of the genre.

    I’m a bit curious why Fake Sigi disliked the Beckham Experiment so much. It was, of course, ruined by the fact that SI managed to excerpt every decent thing about it into one long article, but I thought it was a decent treatment of the subject. It avoided the snobbish put-downs that would have been in it had been written by a European; if the trade-off for that was that it had to work a little too hard to explain the basics of the game to an audience that might not be fully soccer-literate, I thought it was worth making. Not a world-beating book, but not a bad one, either, I thought.

    I like Glanville as a journalist – but his books, for me, have always been coloured by his attempts to write football fiction – which, shall we say, were not his finest hour. If really stuck for material one day, I may regale you with a review of “Goalkeepers are Different”. I know it was only meant for teenagers, but the it’s the prose equivalent of British Leyland…a cliche-stuffed reminder of how crap almost everything in early-70s Britain was. This is perhaps unfair of me, but there we are.

    I’ve never read either the Far Corner or Outcasts United (the latter is only out in the last year or so, so I think I have an excuse), but with these recommendations I shall surely put them on my list – thanks to those who recommended them.

    And if you’ve got any requests for reviews, please send them along.

  13. imp

    Trying not to feel all hurt about your comments on football fiction. But ignoring my own efforts, your assertion is wrong. Try Brian Glanville’s ‘Goalkeepers Are Different’ (kids’ book, but still a fine portrayal of the pro game in the 70s), his short stories (in a collection called ‘Footballers Don’t Cry’, together with some other essays), and grown-up ‘The Rise of Gerry Logan.’ There’s Anthony Cartwright’s highly recommended ‘Heartland’ (published this year), Robin Jenkins’ superb ‘The Thistle and the Grail’ about a Scottish small town and its Junior team, and JL Carr’s charming ‘How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the FA Cup’. As in most genres, there are gems among the gravel.

  14. Nora

    Thanks for the post! Great idea for a column…I used to check out Gramsci’s Kingdom too–you’re not doing it anymore?

    I loved Brilliant Orange as well. I don’t think I’ll ever watch them play again without thinking about the (admittedly semi-scientific) insight that the Dutch were the only people in an international survey to prefer abstract/modern art to landscape painting.

    In general, I think writers have a hard time choosing what else they are writing about besides football–and unless it’s a tactics book, there always has to be something else. Poor choices or lack of specificity there (Foer?) really hurt the endeavor…especially when combined with the usual pitfalls of sports journalism: cliche, sentimentality and susceptibility to mythologizing.

    Here’s a good piece from Virginia Quarterly a while back about Surinamese football…not book length but some of you might like it.

    http://www.vqronline.org/articles/2007/fall/titinger-kicking-the-ball/

  15. Jennifer Doyle

    This is a fun list. But – it’s so predictable of me – it’s not an overview of football literature unless it includes writing about the women’s game. So, please specify – “overview of literature about the men’s game” or whatever seems appropriate.

    So – my feminist version of the “and what about…” comments that follow articles like this:

    No Mia Hamm’s Go for the Goal? It isn’t gorgeous prose but it is actually a really great book for beginning players. Amazing gift for any kid, or adult, new to the sport. It’s surprising because it is not a biography – as I think most people assume. When she titles the book “go for the goal,” she means, quite literally, “go for the goal.” (There’s a whole bit in there about visualizing the goal, not the goalie.)

    I really love Pete Davies, I Lost My Heart to the Belles – a stand-out in the seasonal genre – I can see how you missed it as it’s about the Doncaster Belles, the UK’s oldest women’s football club.

    There is some decent historical work out there – not a lot, but Jean Williams’s “A Game for Rough Girls: The History of Women’s Football in Britain” comes to mind, because it’s just a great story and Williams did her homework (not easy for a history that was underground for decades and underdocumented).

    OH, and what happened to Galeano? Or is Soccer in Sun and Shadow just too obvious?

    JD

  16. danielmak

    I look forward to reading your reviews here, AG. I think the addition of a (somewhat) regular book review column will be a good thing for football fans. My own interests more generally tend to connect to storytelling. And so football books that take a more literary journalist approach to football culture appeal to me more than biographies (which I never read) or straight historical analysis (although Tor and Morbo were excellent books). Clearly, Nick Hornby’s Feverpitch was a starting point for many of the books that followed in this literary genre. It’s all been said before, but he clearly helped reframe the ways in which people view footballing culture and football fans. And while many of the books that followed tended to be written off as second-rate copies of Feverpitch, I think those criticisms are just too simple. For example, Tim Parks’ A Season with Verona is probably one of my favorites. It features a great balance of broader cultural politics and criticism with the nuances of everyday life as a member of a family, as an employee, as a fan, etc. (although larger cultural questions do not need to be viewed as separate from everyday life). Fans of travel writing will like the geographical focus of this book as well. Finally, it’s worth checking out some of the edited collections that bring together stories about football fandom. I’m thinking about the excellent When Saturday Comes series, Always Next Year and Simon Kuper’s series, Perfect Pitch. I was less sold on the the latter when I started the first issue but really grew to enjoy the first two volumes. Both speak to questions of cultural memory and the emergence of footballers as celebrity icons. I’m getting ready to start the third volume, Men and Women, which may or may not have been covered on Jennifer Doyle’s blog. With all of that said, kudos AG for covering a lot of ground. My initial response to your post was a general level of excitement that you covered a lot of ground, but I also felt like you focused (A) on too many books/genres that you did not like vs. those that you loved and (B) questioned why you only skimmed the surface of each book, but now I have gone and done the same thing. :-) I guess this is why you will dedicate future columns to single books, which will collectively flesh out what you have started here.

  17. Josh

    Two of my favorites include, “The Italian Job: A Journey to the Heart of Two Great Footballing Cultures” and “Soccer in Sun and Shadow.” The latter being an intertesting look at soccer history through the words of Uruguayan poet, Eduardo Galeano and the former, a “soccer as culture” investigation into the differences between the English and Italian game.

  18. Andy Fitzpatrick

    A brilliant selection of football books and gives me some ideas for what to take on holiday for reading next to the pool. As an aside anyone wanting a quality book about Wigan Athletic can do worse than Let’s Hang On written by Martin Tarbuck better known as Jimmy. It chronicles the season leading up to the Premiership in which Martin went to every game.

  19. Timoteo

    An interesting compilation of international soccer writing is The Global Game, Edited by John Turnball out of the University of Nebraska Press. In a way, it mirrors your assertation that globally, great soccer writing is rather sparse, since I found the selections uneven. However, even so, its a book well worth picking up as well as a visit to the website http://www.globalgame.com.

  20. James

    Can someone delete this Collins Brown character’s post? He’s clearly one of those lecherous “agents” who fill impoverished young men in developing nations heads with pipe dreams, taking their money, giving them hope and delivering nothing.

    A foul, foul practice.

  21. Glass Voice

    “Can someone delete this Collins Brown character’s post? He’s clearly one of those lecherous “agents” who fill impoverished young men in developing nations heads with pipe dreams, taking their money, giving them hope and delivering nothing.

    A foul, foul practice.”

    Had a good laugh over your comment James, and apparently your request was addressed as the comment was not visible to me. On the topic of fixed matches, this needs to be completely removed from the sport. People who sit in front of their televisions and wonder why their star player missed that easy goal need a reality check. Pride for the game although alive and well, is not prevalent in every player.

  22. Peter Alegi

    On African football see:

    Peter Alegi, _African Soccerscapes: How a Continent Changed the World’s Game (forthcoming 2010)
    Peter Alegi,_Laduma! Soccer, Politics and Society in South Africa_ (2004)
    Paul Darby, _Africa, Football and FIFA: Politics, Colonialism, Resistance_ (2002)
    Sarah Forde, _Playing By Their Rules: Coastal teenage girls in Kenya on life, love and football_ (2009)

  23. Neil

    Fantastic article – I actually had very little idea there were football books in this many different sub-genres. At the moment I’m reading Alex Ferguson’s autobiography, which is really interesting (being a Scottish United fan) and I had Roy Keane’s lined up to be next, but you’ve actually convinced me to take a look at that Foul! book about corruption. I also agree with you on the lack of decent football fiction – sort it out people!

  24. Steven Williams

    Very interesting. In a world were far too many Football books are generic cuttings produced rubbish it is great to see some of the more interesting titles that are available.

    One book I have recently enjoyed is More Than Just a Game: Football v Apartheid This is a fantastic and moving tale that really resonates especially with the world cup currently being held in South Africa.

  25. David Toms

    Excellent article. I’ve read the bones of the books you’ve listed there and agree that in terms of histories and tactical works, both The Ball Is Round and Inverting the Pyramid takes some beating – although the bibliography Jonathan Wilson provides, will lead you on to some really excellent books. Eamon Dunphy also wrote a book on football that by all accounts is an excellent read Only a Game?: Diary of a Professional Footballer. Apparently, Provided You Don’t Kiss Me is a soccer book of considerable merit also. I find the William Hill Sports Book of the Year a particularly good marker of decent books on Soccer.

    My on to recommend to anyone though, is Gary Imlach’s My Father and Other Working-Class Football Heroes.

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