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Football Books: News and Reviews

The Unofficial Football World Championships: An Alternative Soccer History 0

Posted on September 01, 2011 by samh

The Unofficial Football World Championships: An Alternative Soccer History, by Paul Brown (2006)

This book reveals an alternative international soccer competition and claims to discover football’s real champions.

Football fans facing the prospect of waiting four years to see their side make another early exit from the next World Cup finals need not despair.

The UFWC determines football’s world champions via a continuous series of boxing-style title matches dating back to the first ever international game in 1872, 58 years before the first World Cup. This book is an official guide to this unofficial competition, its matches, players, and stats. Read more…

Terry Butcher: My Autobiography 0

Posted on August 29, 2011 by samh

Terry Butcher: My Autobiography (2005)

Terry Butcher is a name that resonates with all football fans of a certain age, instantly bringing to mind the pictures of the giant central defender, fists clenched, bloody head bandaged, his once white England shirt streaked with claret.

Butcher has earned his stripes and his reputation over the years not only as an honest and committed footballer but also as a broadcaster who says it exactly as he finds it and a manager who never asks for more or less than 100% from his players. This autobiography chronicles – with candour and a great sense of fun – Butcher’s playing days with Ipswich and England before his momentous move to Scotland where he led a rampant Rangers side to just about every domestic prize.

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Soccer in a Football World: The Story of America’s Forgotten Game 0

Posted on August 29, 2011 by samh

Soccer in a Football World: The Story of America’s Forgotten Game, by David Wangerin (2006)

This book claimed to be the first comprehensive history of the game in the United States, a story of wild swings from brief euphoria to seemingly endless despair over the chances of the world’s game winning over its most powerful country.

In the 1920s the US had a league that robbed Europe of some of its best players. In 1950 it produced the greatest World Cup shock of all. In the the 1970s it persuaded the world’s most famous footballer to help sell the round-ball game to a public that was largely baffled, always sceptical and sometimes downright hostile. And in the 1990s it staged a successful World Cup even though it had no national league. Not until the turn of the 21st century did steady growth at the grassroots get the US off the rollercoaster. Read more…

Sir Alf, by Leo McKinstry 0

Posted on August 29, 2011 by samh

Sir Alf: A Major Reappraisal of the Life and Times of England’s Greatest Football Manager, by Leo McKinstry (2006)

Award-winning author Leo McKinstry’s biography of England’s greatest football manager provides a thought-provoking insight into the world of professional football and the fabric of British society over the span of his life.

Alf Ramsey’s life is a romantic story of heroism. Often derided by lesser men, he overcame the prejudice against his social background to reach the summit of world football. Read more…

Yours Sincerely, by Ron Greenwood 0

Posted on August 29, 2011 by samh

Yours Sincerely, by Ron Greenwood (1984)

When Ron Greenwood, who died in February 2006 aged 84, worked as a teenager on the ground staff at Wembley stadium before the Second World War, he could hardly have expected to return there as England’s manager – but he did.

In 1977, when Don Revie abruptly left, the Oxford don Sir Harold Thompson turned to the retired Greenwood, who then stayed in the post until 1982. In this biography, written with Bryon Butler of The Daily Telegraph, the former West Ham manager from 1961-77 reveals all about his life at the helm of the England team and how he stuck to his word when he resigned after the 1982 World Cup.

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Rio: My Story, by Rio Ferdinand 0

Posted on August 29, 2011 by samh

Rio: My Story, by Rio Ferdinand (2006)

Rio Ferdinand is widely acknowledged as one of the most talented defenders in the world.

His transfer from West Ham to Leeds set a British record, a feat he repeated with his subsequent move to Manchester United. Ferdinand’s success on the pitch was meteoric – including high drama in the Champions League, a World Cup (where, in 2002, he was the outstanding English player) and a dramatic Premiership victory.

Ferdinand reveals all about his infamous missed drugs test, the controversies surrounding both his transfers, his supposed reluctance to re-sign for United in 2005, the alleged tapping-up meeting with Chelsea’s Peter Kenyon and various sex, driving and anti-social behaviour scandals.

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Psycho: The Autobiography, by Stuart Pearce 0

Posted on August 29, 2011 by samh

Psycho: The Autobiography, by Stuart Pearce (2000)

When Stuart Pearce arrived at Nottingham Forest he advertised his business as an electrician in the club programme – his blunt attitude earned him the nickname “Psycho”.

In a story of extraordinary achievement, and equally conspicuous misfortune and failure, as both player and manager, Pearce recalls the legends and also-rans he has met along the way, offering no-nonsense portraits of the likes of Brian Clough, Glenn Hoddle and Rudd Gullit, and an insider’s take on the realities of the professional game.

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When Pele Broke Our Hearts: Wales and the 1958 World Cup 0

Posted on August 29, 2011 by samh

When Pele Broke Our Hearts: Wales and the 1958 World Cup, by Mario Risoli (1998)

This is the story of Wales’ only appearance in the World Cup Finals; it was later reprinted with a new preface by Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers, who loved the book.

Wales managed to get to Sweden in 1958 through the back door, after hostilities in the Middle East meant that Arab teams refused to play Israel. Wales were picked to play them instead, beat them 4-0 over two legs and were on their way to their first and only World Cup – and what is surprising is that this remarkable story had not been fully told before.

Cardiff journalist Risoli’s book reads like an extended newspaper article, which is not a bad thing: the many interviews with the surviving members of the Welsh team make the book more than just a dry history. Their comments and humorous anecdotes make the book come alive, as do appropriate quotes from newspaper reports of the time.

Risoli also includes a lot about the background surrounding the 1958 World Cup, not least the air disaster in Munich shortly before the finals began, which tragically wiped out most of Busby’s Babes. This had a direct effect on the Welsh team, as their manager Jimmy Murphy was also Matt Busby’s assistant at Manchester United; he had to act as United manager too, and instead of celebrating Wales’ achievement he was mourning United’s loss: “He was doing the job of four men…As a result he was not as well prepared for the World Cup as he could have been”.

The backgrounds of each of the players is also interesting; the point is made that they were worlds apart from the stars of the Brazilian team. They still are: in their retirement, many of them still live in Wales, a good number of them in Swansea. All of this crystallises the strong sense of identity in the Welsh team, due to their close-knit roots and the fact nobody gave them a prayer in the tournament.

But they ground out good results again Sweden, Mexico and Hungary in a punishing schedule, and reached the quarter-finals, where they were to play Brazil. The rest is history, as they say, and the title of the book gives you some clue as to the outcome. But Wales were resilient, and were only just edged out by a team of legends. This meticulously researched book makes this story seem not all that long ago, even when some of the players are long gone and the black and white photographs have faded.

Review by Sam Hawcroft

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Pele: The Autobiography 0

Posted on August 29, 2011 by samh

Pele: The Autobiography (2006)

The world’s greatest footballer gives us the full story of his incredible life and career.

Told with his characteristic grace and modesty, but covering all aspects of his playing days and his subsequent careers as politician, international sporting ambassador and cultural icon, this is an essential volume for all sports fans, and anyone who admires true rarity of spirit.

Pele was the best of a generation of Brazilian players universally acknowledged as the most accomplished and attractive group of footballers ever to play the game. He won the World Cup three times and is Brazil’s all-time record goalscorer. But how did this man – a sportsman, a mere footballer, like many others – become a global icon? Was it just by being the best at what he did, or do people respond to some other quality? These questions and more are answered in this entertaining autobiography.

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Ossie: King of Stamford Bridge 0

Posted on August 29, 2011 by samh

Ossie: King of Stamford Bridge, by Peter Osgood, Martin King and Martin Knight (2002)

In A 16-year career spent with Chelsea and Southampton, the late goal-scoring legend Peter Osgood made 560 appearances, scoring 220 goals and winning two FA Cup-winners’ medals.

He was part of the victorious Chelsea side that defeated the mighty Real Madrid in the 1971 European Cup-Winners’ Cup final and is the last player to have scored in every round of the FA Cup, including the final.

This book tells the story of the career and the extraordinary roller-coaster personal life of the man who spearheaded a team that made as many headlines off the field as on, and tells the truth about the hard-drinking and hard-living antics of these Kings Road dandies – Hudson, Cooke, Baldwin and company.

Osgood, who died in March 2006 aged just 59, tells of his strained relationship with manager Dave Sexton, which resulted in his and other stars’ departures, triggering a decline in Chelsea FC’s fortunes that took some 20 years to reverse. He recounts his experiences in the Mexico World Cup of 1970 and is brutally honest about the challenges and problems faced by ex-footballers as they attempt to adjust to life in mainstream society.

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