LaticsPete

Book Reviews

65 posts in this topic

 

We didnt win.

 

Too soon?

Ha ha more about the fan account way the country got behind them. Add 1996 being a good year and all. Worth a read

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Coventry City: A Club Without A Home

Simon Gilbert

Pitch Publishing, 2016

Softback, £12.99, 255pp

 

FA Cup winners in 1987, in the top flight since the 1960s, and with the prospect of a brand-new 40,000 stadium, Coventry City supporters must have felt they were in a good place in the late 90s. The manner in which that cam crumbling down, to put them in a position where they look more than likely to end up in the bottom tier of the Football League, and without a ground that they own, is a complex and bewildering story to anyone looking in from the outside. Simon Gilbert, a journalist at the Coventry Telegraph, tells it in a detailed and objective manner, though probably leaving the reader still perplexed about how the tangled tale might ever have a happy ending.

 

It’s been said that whilst nowadays people with a vision are hailed, a few hundred years ago anyone claiming to have seen a vision would have been burned at the stake for being in league with Satan. There are many Coventry fans who believe that some of those involved in the last 20 years should have suffered that latter fate. It all seemed to start well. In 1997 the club was spending, bankrolled by Geoffrey Robinson, and European ambitions were strong. The West Midlands area was looking to regenerate its economy and Coventry as a city wanted to be a big part of that. The idea of the football club playing a role in that made good sense: Highfield Road had limited potential and would never be able to become one of the country’s top stadia, offering more than football alone. So, with the goal of becoming a venue for an England World Cup bid for 2006, the search for a new site was begun. Arena 2000 was to be a 40,000 stadium, providing facilities for a range of sports as well as conferences, exhibitions etc. Grand designs indeed and several parties were keen on being part of them.

 

As we know, England didn’t win the bid to host the World Cup. Designs had to be revisited and the club was £60m in debt at a time when its bankers, The Co-op Bank, were trying to reduce lending to football clubs. However, the purchase of a new site on former gasworks was going ahead, and here the complexity begins. As well as the club, Coventry City Council, and the bank, a Dutch construction company, HBG, was involved, commissioned to decontaminate the site and to build a new stadium. They bought the land, sold it to the council, who then sold part of it to Tesco. The club and council formed Arena Coventry Ltd (ACL) but couldn’t get a loan from a Spanish bank. It seems the club then sold its share to a charity in exchange for cash to finance the project.

 

In April 2005, the club left Highfield Road, playing their first match at the new, now named Ricoh Stadium in August. The future looked rosier but costs kept on rising for the stadium and the club. By the end of 2007 the club was drowning in debt, administration or worse loomed, and a buyer was desperately needed to clear liabilities and invest for the future. Sisu were one of six bids, their bid was fronted by ex-player Ray Ranson, and the deal was done.

 

So, what has happened in the last nine years? Well, the land itself is owned by the city council, ACL operate the Ricoh Arena and, of course, the football club is a distinct entity. Rent was paid by the club to ACL, but it didn’t receive income from non-matchday events or match parking, food etc. The intricacies of what developed are excellently described, although the reader needs to concentrate (!), and the move from Sisu being seen as saviours to demons seems like a slow-motion car crash. We know that the club were locked out of the Ricoh after going on rent strike, playing at Northampton, before returning in 2014/15. Relegation from the Championship had increased the problems and Sisu and ACL became ever more estranged. Matches at the Ricoh now are as likely to see fan demonstrations as to see City win. Currently it’s a rugby club, Wasps, that is in control of the ground and Sisu the football club – a club that doesn’t own its own home.

 

Is there a new dawn beckoning? It seems unlikely at present. The club is on the brink of further relegation, Sisu won’t sell at a significant loss, and the fans remain loyal but estranged. Ownership of football at many levels is in the hands of companies who want profit from their investment and the game reaps many disadvantages from it having become more of a commercial business than anything else. The continuing story of Coventry must be a worry to supporters nearly everywhere and the manner Simon Gilbert tells it is even-handed and incredibly informative.

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Saints & Sinners: Southampton’s Hard Men

Graham Hiley

Pitch Publishing 2016 £16.99

Hardback 256pp

Be honest. Most of us like the juicy bits about the game. Probably we still have an affection for the days when a defender would shake up the centre forward with a thundering tackle in the first few minutes, receive just a finger wag, and both players would get on with the game. No histrionics, no cards. Players who could take it as well as dish it out.

If you’re a purist, then this book probably isn’t for you. If names like Neil Ruddock, Jimmy Case , Terry Hurlock and Mark Dennis make you wince, then pass on it. If, however, they strike a chord as men who gave a distinct, if not always savoury, edge to football, then immerse yourself in the stories and anecdotes collected by Graham Hiley.

The author is steeped in the Saints. Formerly editor of the club’s website and programme, he also covered them for 13 years for the local paper. The result has been access to the personal stories of 24 players who, as Hiley says, are some of the nicest guys off the pitch but, once across the white line, could “handle themselves”. It’s not a full compendium of Saints who were sinners: sadly, some of those who would fall into that category, names like Peter Osgood, Jimmy Gabriel and John McGrath, have passed away. It is enriched, however, by the fact that the stories come from the players themselves, warts and all, and it’s an entertaining journey through on and off the pitch transgressions. It’s probably worth saying here that although many of the tales not only portray breaking the laws of football (as well as the laws of the land), probably every player included could be regarded as a “fan’s favourite” with Saints’ supporters. To paraphrase Wellington, they may have been rogues, but they were Southampton’s rogues

Some, like Terry Paine the legendary winger, didn’t look for trouble but were certainly able to withstand the knocks, and, as such, qualify for the hard man status just as much as others who were “enforcers”. And, as part of the environment of the game when many of these players turned out, the treatment for injuries was rather less intensive than nowadays! Paine recalls the quick examination by a trainer and “if your leg wasn’t broken, they sent you back on”.

Needless to say, the demon drink played a part in some of the incidents away from playing matches. Ruddock recalls the night when Alan Shearer’s career nearly came to an early end. A summer trip to Portugal and the drinking of minibars dry led to a raid on the young forward’s room to steal his minibar. A crash left glass all over the floor with the consequence that the future England captain was left with three toes cut to the bone. Fortunately, they were successfully sewn up!

It’s a book that isn’t for someone who would prefer to see ball juggling than a hard tackle. Nor for anyone who believes that there’s no room for a physical approach to the game. But, if you fancy a trip to blood and thunder football, then this is one for you. A good, easy read, and some marvellous anecdotes.

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Owls: Sheffield Wednesday Through the Modern Era

Tom Whitworth

Pitch Publishing, 2016, Softback £12.99, 285pp 

Sheffield always seems to be a city that, in footballing terms, is something of an underachiever.  A populous, passionate community that has two teams that constantly seem attached to the phrases “big clubs” and “should be higher”.  Yet it’s nearly 20 years since either actually played in the top flight. Wednesday were last there in 1999/2000 and this book is a story of the club’s ups and, more frequent, downs since the “almost glory” days of the early 90s when Sheridan, Waddle and Hirst brought pride and near success.

In 1992/3 the Owls made four visits to Wembley in 48 days; an FA Cup semi, a final and replay, and the League Cup final.  Yet the team was not tweaked by manager Trevor Francis in the summer – it was pretty much dismantled. A theme that was to run through the subsequent years, one of change and disruption, whether at managerial, Board or ownership level. The author does an excellent job of chronicling and analysing the saga of the intervening years, a narrative that is fascinating yet with a sense of “this isn’t going to end well”.  For those of us watching from the perspective of supporting another club the turbulence (probably a euphemistic word) of appearing in the High Court, of suing its own supporters, at being at loggerheads with all four local MPs, winding-up orders, and relegation to the third tier, may have been schadenfreude or there but for the grace of God goes us. Either way, Wednesday were more often in the headlines because of things not going well rather than the opposite.

Whitworth is thorough in his background sources in pulling together this well researched and written book. The extensive bibliography (including “legal cases”) demonstrates this and he uses the quotes from and interviews with players, managers, supporters, directors and others inside and outside the club in an entertaining, informed and informative manner. One aspect of his picture of the Owls that I particularly liked was how he put it in the context of Sheffield as a city and its attempts to revitalise and energise its future. Football clubs do not exist separate from their towns, they can make massive contributions to their development or, in some cases, stagnation. The message from recent years in Sheffield is that it’s certainly the former. For Wednesday seem to have risen again and there is genuine cause for optimism both on and off the pitch. As this review is written the Owls are in a play-off position so, whether next season or soon after, the next part of their story may well be a positive one. In the meantime, enjoy this very good book.

 

Edited by LaticsPete
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Cardiff City Rebranded: Bluebirds and Red Dragons

Scott Johnson

Pitch Publishing 2016

Softback £12.99 288pp

 

What price does history have? Can the lure of success allow supporters to embrace a new identity for their club or are there principles of culture that are beyond a monetary and status value?  In 2012 Cardiff City, the “Bluebirds”, announced that they would, in future, play in red. To compound the rebrand the club’s traditional symbol was to be replaced by a dragon.

 

What followed is a story that can, in part, be identified with by fans of many teams. A new owner, not steeped in the heritage of the game let alone the club, divisions amongst supporters, a spending spree followed by economies, are each part of the wallpaper of football for many followers. For Cardiff supporters it’s been a turbulent few years with a rebrand of a rebrand, delivery to the land of plenty in the Premier League, immediate relegation and retrenchment but possibly in a better place that’s better than where they were before owner Vincent Tan arrived from Malaysia. Has it been worth it? Author Scott Johnson presents a variety of opinions from supporters, officials and journalists, as well as his own and it seems that the jury is still out.

 

In 2010 Cardiff were in deep financial trouble when they were bought by a Malaysian consortium headed by Tan. As well as significant debts to creditors they were facing a winding-up order from HMRC.  Tan sorted this out, avoiding administration, and appointed a new manager in 2011, Malky Mackay, to sort things out on the pitch. In his first season the club made the play-offs and the Carling Cup final.  Money was promised, and made available, for a new push for promotion. Then what was a bombshell for many was dropped. From 2012/13, the club would play in red – and the dragon would appear as the new badge. Why? In Malaysia, the colour red is associated with success (blue with mourning), the dragon is a powerful symbol one shared with Wales (and appeared on Cardiff shirts when they won the FA Cup in 1927) and there was ambition to promote the club to a new Far East audience and market.

 

Two surprising (for an outsider) aspects of the story emerge from the book. One is that Tan seems to have been advised by officials at the club that there wouldn’t be mass outrage from the supporters and the other is that many of those supporters accepted the change. The owner was intent on putting £100m into the club, paying debts but also investing in players, stadium expansion and training facilities. As he said “The Supporters Trust agreed…provided I put in money. We were promoted and no one said red was lousy. Red was great”.  Certainly, there was opposition, vocal and not insignificant, but for many the trade-off of promotion and success was worth it. 

 

The season 2013/4 saw City in the Premier League but it was a short, one season, stay. Stepping back down saw Mackay sacked when there was no immediate bounce back– though it appears to be for a series of unpleasant emails as much as for anything else.  When Ole Solskaer failed and Russell Slade was appointed to cut costs it appears both Tan and the continuing groups opposed to red drew breath. Talks began and, in January 2015, Cardiff returned to blue (and the bluebird became dominant on the badge with a small dragon below). Was it a victory for fan power? In part yes, although many would have been content to remain red if the team had been doing well. Tan remains owner, not throwing toys out of the pram, but has interests in other teams abroad now too.  Turbulent and tortured years for a while but as the author says, it feels as though the club was beginning to heal, with a desire and resolve to fix the club. Let’s hope so.

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Four Lions: The Lives and Times of Four England Captains

Colin Shindler

Published by Head of Zeus, 2016

Hardback, 408pp, £18.99

 

Wright, Moore, Lineker, Beckham. Four captains of England who carried out the role against differing social and economic backgrounds, with varying degrees of success but who shared the expectations of a country where football means much more than being a sport.

Fabio Capello, when manager of England, couldn’t understand why we attached so much importance to the captaincy and, when looked at objectively, that’s understandable. Unlike, for instance, cricket the football captain has little impact on tactics and isn’t involved in selection. Yet the job has a symbolic and disproportionate significance, especially at national level. He is a standard bearer for all those who follow the team, and regarded by those who don’t as a metaphor for the state of society. In a very special way he represents the country and the consequent spotlight and scrutiny is both a privilege and a burden.

Colin Shindler focuses on four post-war captains, who held the position for a varying number of matches (18 to 90). His book is not a set of biographies, in fact much of it is more about the game or our culture at the time rather than the individuals. In a fluid and very readable manner he is able to present the captains as symbols of the change from a deferential, maximum wage era through the emergence of a less rigid, more affluent time, to the Cool Britannia mass media years.  It isn’t a dry sociological tome: far from it.  This is an author who knows his football and can present his ideas with credibility. At the same time, there are lots of the anecdotes and stories of the game that keep the pages turning. As an example, just one day before the 1966 World Cup began, Bobby Moore’s contract with West Ham finished and he was in dispute over a new one. If Alf Ramsey hadn’t got Ron Greenwood (West Ham manager at the time) to sort something out quickly then Moore would have been unregistered and ineligible for the tournament.

It’s a fascinating book, portraying much about the FA, the media, and England managers as well as the captains. The relationships between the latter two are particularly well dealt with and it’s probably a credit to the four individuals that they often had to deal with driven, difficult team bosses – whom themselves were the object of football politics and deviousness.  Using a wide range of source material, Shindler has produced an excellent read, a book that’s insightful, compelling and knowledgeable. Definitely worth getting hold of.

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Pulp Football

Nick Szczepanik

Pub by Pitch Publishing, 2016

Softback, 256pp, £9.99

 

A bit like a box of chocolates or a tube of Pringles this is a book you can keep dipping into, one that’s rather moreish and easy to digest.  Each page tempts the reader into returning for a bite with its seemingly non-stop stories of the less savoury, the outrageous, and the simply hard to believe that surround the game.

Imagine one of those TV programmes that are in the style of “Most stupid criminals”, “Celebrities behaving badly” or the like. There’s always a slightly incredulous commentary that expresses partial amazement at the situations that are shown. And the viewer is loath to turn over, enjoying the exposure of stupidity, ineptitude, or simple bad behaviour on show. This book is rather like that, a look at the bungling, incompetence and outrageous decision making from many in football.  An entertaining, amusing and slightly frightening exposure of the game of comedy rather than the game of beauty.

If you’re looking for analysis of why things go wrong then this isn’t the book. But if you want to relax and be entertained with a touch of schadenfreude then dip into its pages with gusto.  Whether it’s the antics of mascots on and off the pitch, vendettas of players towards others, amazing own goals, managerial shenanigans, or countless other scenarios that beggar belief, the author has probably covered it here. Despite his chronicle of football behaving badly, it’s clear that he loves it so it’s not a book that’s been written just to have a pop at the game. More of an insight into the less reputable goings on of some members of the family that everyone involved in football belongs to.

A new season isn’t far away and there’ll no doubt be more amazing stories that develop. In the meantime enjoy a compendium of those that have already become part of the game’s history and folklore. Maybe there won’t be another murder discovered because a new stand has been built (as happened at Blackburn) but “Pulp Football” should prepare you for anything.

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Highly recommend this -

 

The Mixer: The Story of Premier League Tactics, from Route One to False Nines, Michael Cox

 

It's a history of the Premier League expressed as a chapter each season on the tactical trends and key players who shaped them. It's not as dense or historically precise as Jonathan Wilson's Inverting The Pyramid, but a lot more digestible. Although there is an unforgivable Latics-related mistake where he mixes us up with Ipswich Town...

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On 30 June 2017 at 0:02 PM, LaticsPete said:

Pulp Football

Nick Szczepanik

Pub by Pitch Publishing, 2016

Softback, 256pp, £9.99

 

A bit like a box of chocolates or a tube of Pringles this is a book you can keep dipping into, one that’s rather moreish and easy to digest.  Each page tempts the reader into returning for a bite with its seemingly non-stop stories of the less savoury, the outrageous, and the simply hard to believe that surround the game.

Imagine one of those TV programmes that are in the style of “Most stupid criminals”, “Celebrities behaving badly” or the like. There’s always a slightly incredulous commentary that expresses partial amazement at the situations that are shown. And the viewer is loath to turn over, enjoying the exposure of stupidity, ineptitude, or simple bad behaviour on show. This book is rather like that, a look at the bungling, incompetence and outrageous decision making from many in football.  An entertaining, amusing and slightly frightening exposure of the game of comedy rather than the game of beauty.

If you’re looking for analysis of why things go wrong then this isn’t the book. But if you want to relax and be entertained with a touch of schadenfreude then dip into its pages with gusto.  Whether it’s the antics of mascots on and off the pitch, vendettas of players towards others, amazing own goals, managerial shenanigans, or countless other scenarios that beggar belief, the author has probably covered it here. Despite his chronicle of football behaving badly, it’s clear that he loves it so it’s not a book that’s been written just to have a pop at the game. More of an insight into the less reputable goings on of some members of the family that everyone involved in football belongs to.

A new season isn’t far away and there’ll no doubt be more amazing stories that develop. In the meantime enjoy a compendium of those that have already become part of the game’s history and folklore. Maybe there won’t be another murder discovered because a new stand has been built (as happened at Blackburn) but “Pulp Football” should prepare you for anything.

That sounds like a good book to read.

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No Hunger in Paradise by Michael Calvin.

 

A very good book talks about the whole academy system. How the players get treated and ones who don't make it.

 

How agents will use there power and infurlence to help sign kids up to big contracts and play the clubs off each other's.

 

Mentions players who have gone abroad to restart there career how clubs will do all they can to hold onto contracts even if there not gonna sign them to stop others signing them.

 

Speaks to many ex players Mentions how Oldham had Andre Blackman on trial. 

 

How former player Kevin Betsey was actually working in McDonald's & now coaches England C.

 

How some players & parents think once in an Academy they have automatically made it.

 

A very good book.

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If Only

Simon Turner

Pitch Publishing 2017

Softback, 382pp, £9.99

 

Subtitled “An Alternative History of The Beautiful Game”, this is a series of six scenarios where history has been rewritten and there’s a very different outcome to that we’re familiar with. So, Scotland win the inaugural World Cup, Clough’s Derby become champions of Europe, and, in another European final, David O’Leary’s Leeds gain revenge over Bayern Munich with a victory in 2001. Oh yes, England win the 1990 World Cup (beating Argentina of course).

 

Each of us probably has a moment in our own club’s past when if it wasn’t for the width of a goalpost, a handball not spotted, or deflected shot, then things would have turned out differently. It’s part of the angst we all feel, at the same time both frustrating and somehow liberating, giving us the opportunity to weave a more successful narrative and outcome. If only Mark Hughes had slightly miscued his extra time volley in the 94 FA cup semi-final then Oldham would have gone on to win the Cup, avoid relegation, play in the UEFA Cup and so on.  So, this book takes us into such a parallel universe, and, at least for fans of the teams involved, it will be an enjoyable journey.  

 

It's a work that’s both fiction and non-fiction. The author packages his altered reality with a healthy and researched description of the context and background of the competitions he talks about. Thus, for the 1984 Battle of Britain final of the European Cup between Liverpool and Dundee Utd, you are presented with a very good background not only of the Liverpool era of the 70s and into the 80s but also of the Tannadice club and staff. Jim McLean is rightly identified as the driving force behind the club’s rise and there is an insightful piece on its ascent to the top of the Scottish game. In reality, the Tannadice Tangerines lost to Roma in the semi-final but Simon Turner intersperses the factual background with an account of his “alternative history”, the build up to the game, the match itself and reactions to it.  And this is his technique with each of the six matches he writes about, so there’s plenty of football history (from 1930) as well as fiction.

 

Suspend reality and this is a book that works. It’s written in a very readable style and has a strong factual background. It’s escapist in its premise and, like anything that’s the subject of a “what might have been” discussion, should be judged as that.  And the next time a shot gets kicked off the line get dreaming about what might have happened in the years to come if it hadn’t.

 

 

 

 

 

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16 hours ago, maddog said:

Downboated?! Really, Tom?

Well he did mention THAT goal.

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On 16 July 2017 at 3:23 PM, maddog said:

Downboated?! Really, Tom?

Downboated what?

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Kicking off in North Korea by Tim Hartley

 

Having read about this trip to watch a game in North Korea my overall impression is that the whole book would be based upon this.

 

How wrong I was under the title of the front cover the words Football & Friendship in Foriegn lands.

 

There was only one chapter about North Korea. Instead it turned out to be a fantastic book about all the various places he has been with his lad from the age of 4 up until he was 22 watching football.

 

Feom Baku to Moldova, to Brazil to Israel & Palestine. He mentions a couple of his non Football trips to Mexico. Being in Kiev when the trouble in the Ukraine began while at a Fans football tournament aimed at bringing fans from across the globe together but some of the Eastern European countries still living in the Dark Ages. From feeling like at a tourist at El Classico.

 

Mixing football with Charity trips & the strange atmosphere at a Football game in North Korea.

 

If you want to read something different away from the Premier League and a interest in football abroad this book be a good read.

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