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Kloppite

David Segar

Pitch Publishing, 2017

Softback, 288pp, £12.99

 

There’s always a danger with a book that looks at an evolving situation that, upon publication, it is already out of date, overtaken by events. However, in this case - a narrative of Jurgen Klopp’s first two seasons at Liverpool – there is much that appears either unchanged or in a state of continuity. So, this narrative of his tenure at Anfield is timely and pertinent, with many of the questions as well as the optimism still holding good.

The success and dominance of Liverpool in the 70s and 80s has become something of a millstone around the necks of managers since. Yes, there have been intermittent achievements and trophies with Houllier and Benitez both winning European tournaments, but if anything these have served to underline the fact that there has been no consistent challenge in the league or elsewhere. Despite Brendan Rogers winning Manager of the Year in 2014 after the club’s second place, he was sacked after not winning any major trophy in three years.

The appointment of Klopp seemed to have an inevitability about it. He had guided a team from mid-table to Bundesliga titles, had revelled in and harnessed the fanatical support in Dortmund, and shown passion and an understanding of the link between fans and the club. His positive style of play -gegenpressing- was one which seemed to be suited to the traditions of Liverpool, and he had said that a job in England outside for a club that wasn’t fulfilling its potential would appeal. Plus, of course, a name that is heaven sent for headline (or book) writers when talking of Liverpool.

There was certainly a widespread optimism that Klopp was the man to turn the club into a major force again. For those that didn’t share it, the man himself said one of his tasks was to turn doubters into believers. The author, a committed supporter, doesn’t let his narrative become a rose tinted one. Nor does he express frustration at any perceived lack of progress in the first couple of seasons. There’s a recognition that Liverpool doesn’t have the big money that competitors can draw on and that maybe the club was a bit further back than was apparently the case. The second-place finish in 2014, for instance, owed much to them having the outstanding talent of Luis Suarez at the time. Without him the sum of the parts wasn’t possibly as good as others had.

Klopp is recognised as an outstanding coach; transformation of players such as Henderson and Milner into new roles and the development of Lallana are given as examples. Yet, at the same time as being successful at getting more from some players there’s a nagging doubt that tactically Klopp has not yet imposed himself in the English game. At Dortmund there was a feeling that other clubs learned to cope with his tactics and that’s a criticism that’s growing here. Maybe it’s too early to fully appraise his player recruitment but this season (and last) the defensive squad seemed lightweight. The author looks at both the ups and downs of the Klopp reign, it’s an honest and detailed story of one of the most charismatic and interesting managers in the country. When appointed he talked of three years as a measure for achievement. Now, after two, it’s an appropriate time to assess whether the believers have grown in number or not.

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It’s Not All About The Old Firm

Scott Burns

Pitch Publishing, updated edition 2017,

Softback, 449pp, £12.99

 

How many successful clubs are there in Scotland? Presently there is just one that dominates football there and in a manner that is probably not matched in any other European country, certainly not over a period of years. For decades, however, the pre-eminence was shared between Celtic and Rangers, the Old Firm.  Located in the most populous city, with an historic reach that’s rooted in cultural and religious loyalties, they have accrued more silverware, supporters and publicity than, probably, the rest of Scottish clubs put together. But there is much more to Scottish football and every so often the giants’ stranglehold has been loosened.  Scott Burns has produced an impressive volume that chronicles the “uprisings” of the past 30 years or so by teams from other parts of the country and gives hope that they can continue.

 

The first Scottish league championship was shared; between Dumbarton and Rangers in 1891. Indeed, it was Dumbarton who won it outright the following season and it wasn’t until the next year that Celtic first lifted the trophy. Similarly with Scottish FA Cup. In its first 18 seasons (starting 1874) neither of the Old Firm won it. Honours went to Queens Park, Third Lanark, Vale of Leven, Dumbarton, Renton, Hibs and Hearts.  So it was from the 1890s that the Glasgow big two began their rise to pre-eminence and, to many outsiders, it has generally appeared to have been the case ever since (Rangers’ recent troubles set aside). Closer inspection obviously shows that it hasn’t always been a shoo in for them and the great Hibs team of the 1940s and 50s almost rocked the boat, with isolated success for other clubs perforating the litany of Old Firm success.

 

This book is really about the last 30 years or so. The author describes the winning achievements of Aberdeen and Dundee United. The “New Firm” he calls the teams of Alex Ferguson and Jim McLean with their feats both domestically and in Europe, and nearly half the chapters are concerned with these two clubs. There’s much more however and the glories, albeit temporary in many cases, of Hearts, St Mirren, Ross County, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Motherwell, Raith, Kilmarnock, Livingston, Hibs and St Johnstone are all chronicled. Based on over 100 interviews, the vast majority with ex-players, it is vibrant with passionate memories and there’s an ever-present sense of pride and affection that not only has the duopoly been breached but that each individual club has achieved something, regardless of the Old Firm having their noses put out of joint.

 

For supporters of any club outside the elite in whatever country the ambition for glory is a driving force. There must be the hope, if not the expectation, that their day will come. Even if it’s not your club that wins, the fact that another that is in similar circumstances does do so usually provides some satisfaction. So, this book, whilst of specific relevance to those following the clubs that are highlighted, is of value and interest to supporters anywhere who still dream of knocking the big guns off their perch.

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Where Have All the Irish Gone?

Kevin O’Neill

Pitch Publishing, 2017

Softback, 222pp, £12.99

 

The impact of players like Brady, Quinn, Irwin, Keane, Giles, McGrath, or Whelan upon English football, and indeed upon the international scene was undoubtedly significant. Star players for leading clubs, components of a national side that repeatedly punched above its weight, they were prime examples of the quality of Eire born footballers who crossed the Irish Sea in the 80s and 90s.

 

Yet, in 2013/4 three English Premier League clubs had no Irish players – including at youth/academy level. And the top five clubs at the end of 2012/13 had no Irishmen in their first team squads at the start of the next season.

 

Are there less talented players being born Irish? Or is it a result of other factors that the country is no longer a prime source of players for the top flight of England? Kevin O’Neill has looked at a range of contributory circumstances, from the structure of coaching and development in his native country, to finance, and, most tellingly surely, the vast influx of players from around the globe into the Premier League, and Championship. Indeed the “Irish” in the book’s title could just as easily been replaced with “English” or “Scottish”.  As clubs seek instant success it is easier to buy a readymade and proven player with experience of playing in a good league rather than nurturing and developing a youngster. It’s an analysis that is generally accepted, and one that on its own would not necessarily justify a book focusing on Irish players. O’Neill, however, looks wider and suggests that even if his countrymen are not impacting at the very top, there are still plenty plying their trade in other arenas.

 

The increased professionalism of English youth set ups, children from the age of eight being associated with big clubs, training and coaching several times a week, means that the equivalent Irish child is already behind in football development even if they were to come to England as teenagers. It is such disadvantage that has contributed to the release of players who have been part of Premiership set ups. Jack Byrne, tipped to make it at Manchester City, has just signed for Oldham, one of the many Irish players operating, and earning a decent living, in the EFL and Scottish leagues. Enda Stevens was with Aston Villa but moved on around cubs till he got to Portsmouth in League 2, and most weekends there are around 20 Irish players in that fourth tier. Others impact in Scotland: Adam Rooney has been a leading scorer with Aberdeen.  Some are choosing to stay in Ireland, or return there. The League of Ireland has seen signs of increasing in quality and Dundalk have shown it’s possible to progress in the Champions League.

 

So maybe it’s a question of realignment of aspirations. Just as many players from the British mainland can no longer expect to star at the top so it is for those from Ireland too. The Irish haven’t stopped playing football it’s just that they are contributing on different stages.

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29 Minutes From Wembley

Steve Phelps

Pitch Publishing 2017

Softback, 192 pages, £12.99

 

Gordon Milne was one of football’s brightest young managers in the 70s and 80s. Success at Wigan, then non-league, Leicester, and in Turkey (becoming a legend at Besiktas) surrounded his achievements at Coventry from 1972-81. Shortlisted for the England job after Sir Alf Ramsey, Milne built an exciting team at Highfield Road, one that was committed to attack and entertainment. Assuring the club’s status in the top flight he also got the club tantalisingly close to their first Wembley cup final. This book tells the story of that tilt at the League Cup in 1981.

The Coventry of the seventies was a club that was never far away from publicity. Not surprisingly with Jimmy Hill as Chairman/Managing Director it pioneered attempts to shake up the way the game was administered and presented. Big on sponsorship tried to change its name to Coventry Talbot to link with a local car factory. It was the second club to go with new kit manufacturers Admiral and its iconic “tramline” shirts and brown away kit are still remembered. But it backed up the off the field activity with a team that punched above its weight. Steve Phelps sets out the background of how the club developed in that period and how the team was built and performed.

The narrative build with an account of how they went on a League Cup run, getting past Manchester Utd, Brighton, Cambridge and Watford before playing West Ham in the two-legged semi-final. The furthest the club had been in a senior competition, the promise of Wembley looked close. Indeed, after the first game the Sky Blues held a 3-2 advantage. City were still in the lead and Wembley bound until the 61-minute mark. It was then, 29 minutes to go, that West Ham equalised, snatching victory in the dying minutes Less than half an hour from the final the Coventry tilt at glory was over.

The strength of the book is in the memories and testimonies of players (including opposition), officials and others involved. It’s never a dry factual narrative but a momentum of emotion and memories that convey well not only the one season but a period in the life of Coventry City. A team that had Tommy Hutchison, Mick Ferguson, Les Sealey, Ian Wallace and Mark Hateley was bound to have character and it comes to life fully here.

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Russian Winters: The Autobiography

Andrei Kanchelskis

De Coubertin Books, 2017

Hardback, 248pp, £20

 

A Lithuanian surname, Ukrainian mother, childhood in the Soviet Union, British passport and capped for Russia. Just from that one could guess that Andrei Kanchelskis was destined to have a career that spanned several countries and would be influenced by cultures and politics from each of them.  With the World Cup in Russia imminent he has brought together not only stories from his playing and managerial days but also personal insight into present day life there and football there.

Growing up and developing as a young footballer was in a society that was still a controlled one, with little in the way of luxuries but support for many who shone at sport. Kanchelskis was a boy in Kirovograd , and was selected for a football academy in Kharkov (although his first love was ice hockey). Even though he was initially told he was too little and too slow his perseverance and talent earned him a contract with Dinamo Kiev. Like all Dinamo teams it was part of the security and police forces network and although he still had to do national service it was only three months and he proudly writes that he’s now proficient in assembling and using a Kalashnikov!

Moving from Kiev to Shakthar Donetsk gave him more certainty of first team football and stability, important at a time the Soviet Union was beginning to break down. Kanchelskis points out how fortunate he was as a footballer; the Donetsk supporters were mainly miners still working in conditions that were dangerous and demanding. Shakthar players were taken down the mines to see the conditions and it was a sobering experience. The emergence of private enterprise saw agents appear for players and it was an agent-arranged move to Manchester United with Kanchelskis not knowing who he would be signing for even when he was on the flight to England.

As part of Ferguson’s team his impact was immense, a flying winger who scored goals frequently, although he found the manager difficult to adapt to. Kanchelskis certainly comes across as someone with self-confidence and who isn’t afraid to voice an opinion, attributes that led to an erratic relationship with Fergie.  A move from Old Trafford was almost inevitable and Arsenal, Liverpool and Middlesbrough were all interested. Joe Royle, manager at Everton, was the successful suitor (after telling Kanchelskis that Middlesbrough was “like Chernobyl”) and there’s clear mutual admiration between the two, with Joe writing an afterword in the book, and resigning the player for Manchester City later.

Moves to Glasgow Rangers, Fiorentina, Southampton, Saudi Arabia, and back to Russia followed, a playing career that finished at Krylia Svetov in 1996. Less success came with management in Russia and Latvia, but there are few who ever saw him play that would begrudge him accolades as a footballer. Against a background of both Russian and Italian Mafia involvement, bombings, backhanders and politics, the Kanchelskis story is a good one to read.

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Russian Winters: The Autobiography

Andrei Kanchelskis

De Coubertin Books, 2017

Hardback, 248pp, £20

 

A Lithuanian surname, Ukrainian mother, childhood in the Soviet Union, British passport and capped for Russia. Just from that one could guess that Andrei Kanchelskis was destined to have a career that spanned several countries and would be influenced by cultures and politics from each of them.  With the World Cup in Russia imminent he has brought together not only stories from his playing and managerial days but also personal insight into present day life there and football there.

Growing up and developing as a young footballer was in a society that was still a controlled one, with little in the way of luxuries but support for many who shone at sport. Kanchelskis was a boy in Kirovograd , and was selected for a football academy in Kharkov (although his first love was ice hockey). Even though he was initially told he was too little and too slow his perseverance and talent earned him a contract with Dinamo Kiev. Like all Dinamo teams it was part of the security and police forces network and although he still had to do national service it was only three months and he proudly writes that he’s now proficient in assembling and using a Kalashnikov!

Moving from Kiev to Shakthar Donetsk gave him more certainty of first team football and stability, important at a time the Soviet Union was beginning to break down. Kanchelskis points out how fortunate he was as a footballer; the Donetsk supporters were mainly miners still working in conditions that were dangerous and demanding. Shakthar players were taken down the mines to see the conditions and it was a sobering experience. The emergence of private enterprise saw agents appear for players and it was an agent-arranged move to Manchester United with Kanchelskis not knowing who he would be signing for even when he was on the flight to England.

As part of Ferguson’s team his impact was immense, a flying winger who scored goals frequently, although he found the manager difficult to adapt to. Kanchelskis certainly comes across as someone with self-confidence and who isn’t afraid to voice an opinion, attributes that led to an erratic relationship with Fergie.  A move from Old Trafford was almost inevitable and Arsenal, Liverpool and Middlesbrough were all interested. Joe Royle, manager at Everton, was the successful suitor (after telling Kanchelskis that Middlesbrough was “like Chernobyl”) and there’s clear mutual admiration between the two, with Joe writing an afterword in the book, and resigning the player for Manchester City later.

Moves to Glasgow Rangers, Fiorentina, Southampton, Saudi Arabia, and back to Russia followed, a playing career that finished at Krylia Svetov in 1996. Less success came with management in Russia and Latvia, but there are few who ever saw him play that would begrudge him accolades as a footballer. Against a background of both Russian and Italian Mafia involvement, bombings, backhanders and politics, the Kanchelskis story is a good one to read.

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On The Brink: A journey through English football’s North West

Simon Hughes

DeCoubertin Books, 2017

Hardback, 290pp, £18.99

 

The professional game that we follow and love was massively shaped by clubs from the North West. Six of the original twelve Football League teams were from Lancashire, so were eight of the first ten non-amateur winners of the FA Cup. Despite all the changes since, the region, regarded in the book as stretching from Carlisle down to Northwich in Cheshire, remains a major force at all levels of the pyramid. Whilst some teams have fallen from grace and out of the League (E.g. Barrow, Stockport, Southport) others have replaced them (Fleetwood, Macclesfield, Morecambe), have bounced back (Tranmere, Accrington), or are not far from knocking on the door (Salford, Fylde).  And five of the Premier League’s top eight hail from here too.

Simon Hughes takes the rich raw material that results from this and paints not only pictures of individual clubs and communities but also of trends and shared issues. Themes emerge of which some are encouraging, and some portray a history of poor decision-making allied to external factors that have led to hard times. Whether it’s the classic wealthy benefactor owning and running a club or decline of local economies and consequent impact on the local team, he describes them with an understanding and analysis that’s praiseworthy.

Not every club is looked at but there’s enough breadth of coverage to ensure interest at many levels and sets of circumstances. Each case study is well illustrated through interviews with key players in the club, perhaps not always giving every side of a story but certainly enough to make a point that’s worth discussion. Along the way there is a continuous series of stories, anecdotes and insights. John Coleman and Jimmy Bell (“thick as thieves”) were pleased when bad weather meant they had to train on astroturf. It meant they didn’t have to tell some new loanees that Accrington didn’t have a training pitch. Joe Royle tells of the weather at Oldham’s Boundary Park where all four corner flags would blow in different directions. David Haythornthwaite, owner of AFC Fylde with League status an ambition by 2022, adorns the boardroom with pictures of Churchill and Thatcher, supports fracking and opposes new housing near his own home and appears as a modern-day Bob Lord, the patriarch of Burnley.

The re-emergence of Tranmere and its juxtaposition across the Mersey to the probable site of Everton’s new ground is revealingly dealt with by, from the former, Chief Executive Mark Palios and, from Everton, local supporters groups. That’s neatly linked to similar movements amongst Liverpool fans and their impact on recent history at Anfield. The link between club and community is highlighted in nearly every chapter, whether it’s the importance a thriving team can make, or the reverse, what a difference a community in economic or social decline has on football.

So, from rural Cheshire through the former industrial giants of towns in Lancashire right up to the Scottish border, there’s a rich story of connections, hopes, ambitions, and backs to the wall struggles. The past, present, and future of North West football is probably that of English football too.

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World In Motion

Simon Hart

deCoubertin Books, 2018

Hardback, 382pp, £18.99

 

The eyes of Schillachi, tears of Gazza, celebration of Milla, and voice of Pavarotti. The 1990 World Cup was replete with iconic incidents, personalities, and matches. A tournament that coincided with the final manifestation of some nations, and with the most extensive tv coverage to date, it was possibly one of the least attractive in terms of pure football but captured the imagination of spectators and viewers across the world.

The author has delivered an outstanding series of stories about some of the most significant elements of Italia 90. Context, personalities involved, and consequences are all dealt with through a range of illuminating interviews with key protagonists as well from his own thoughtful analysis. The result is a book that not only celebrates and commemorates a remarkable few weeks of football but allows the reader to reflect on their legacy for football today.

Hart rejects a match-by-match narrative and provides a tapestry that ranges from the big nations to the smaller ones and their consequent expectations and experiences. Football was still pretty much governed by its history, so for an African nation, Cameroun, to reach the last eight for the first time is as crucial as was the final between West Germany (making their last appearance) and Argentina (who lived up to stereotype with two players sent off). For the United Arab Emirates, it was a nation only 19 years old that made its bow and saw their impact not so much on the field but in the exposure and credibility that was gained, helping doors open in business and politics in the months afterwards. Less than 30 years on it is the UAE that wields power in the Premier League and elsewhere.

Each chapter is excellently constructed around research that has tracked down those involved on and off the field at the time. Whether it’s Dragan Stojkovic of the soon to be extinct Yugoslavia team, Argentine keeper Goycochea, Schillachi himself, or referee George Courtney, Hart has extracted illuminating and articulate insights and memories. The qualifying journey to Italy, the matches at the tournament, the financial and political back ground in many of the countries, and the ensuing careers of participants are all excellently conveyed. For us in the British Isles it has varying degrees of fondness. For England it is still regarded as a glorious failure, a so near tournament whilst Scotland a few weeks that ended in ignominy when its domestic product was seemingly strong (Rangers had more players in the England squad, four, than any other club).  The Republic of Ireland saw a collection from the Irish diaspora and from home create a pride and enjoyment that gave a new momentum to the country’s status internationally, s sporting manifestation of the Celtic Dragon.

Why has Italia 90 achieved such a strong recollection rating? After all there have been six other World Cups since. Undoubtedly, as the author chronicles, it was partly due to tv. In the season before the tournament there were just 12 live broadcasts of English league fixtures. The explosion of coverage in that summer was still somewhat a novelty. Time zones were sympathetic, the BBC had a masterpiece of a musical theme, and football somehow began to be fashionable again.  The best World Cup (other than 1966)? Possibly, and Paul Hart marks it superbly well with this book.

 

 

 

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Being Fulham

Roland Jaquarello

2017, Softback

250pp, £8.99

 

Fulham are now back in the Premier League and tipped by many to establish themselves relatively comfortably this season.  Promoted in May via the Play Offs, last season was one of continued progress and a resounding reinforcement of how they had developed in 2016-17 when they lost at the same stage. This book is a chronicle of that campaign, ultimately a losing one but, as it turns out, a solid stepping stone to the year that followed.

The concept of writing a match by match diary of a season isn’t new and there’s always a danger of it being of little interest to anyone who isn’t a follower of that particular club. Whilst this book is obviously going to have most appeal to Cottagers, it’s still lively enough to be a good read for other fans. As a supporter of a club for whom the Championship was (and is) a place still to be revisited, this was an entertaining review of activities that took place elsewhere and which I didn’t really dwell on at the time.

The author has been supporting Fulham for sixty years, so his credentials are on the table and, even if he didn’t go to every match, his reaction to each of them is like many of us in a similar position; valid and sometimes more intense by only being able to experience it through updates on tv or social media. There’s nothing like the score flash on Soccer Saturday to get you out of the chair, or make you sink deeper into it.  However, his attendance at home and away games (an inveterate traveller on supporters’ coaches) his more than consistent enough to give a true sense of the atmosphere and experiences of the season.

A couple of style points stand out. One is a seemingly reasonable attitude to opposition supporters. There’s an interesting passage about who Fulham’s real rivals are. Chelsea ? QPR? Brentford? Even in the case of the latter two, who Fulham played that season, there’s no real bitterness or venom neither when intuitively aggressive followings such as the 7000 from Leeds turn up at Craven Cottage. Each match review is well punctuated with descriptions of the chants and songs from each set of fans, but it’s done in a quite impartial manner. His personal encounters with them, especially at away games, seem to be ones of genuine pleasure too, recognising the shared elements of being football supporters rather than tribal differences.

The other is that a book like this must tread the line between setting out the non-football life of the author and boring the reader with its minutiae. Jacquarello manages it well, giving enough to show a person that does have another set of interests and relationships whilst understanding that the raison d’etre of the book is football, not autobiography.

It was a good season for Fulham even if not wholly successful. It’s well described in this book and a nice, entertaing read.

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For Latics fans this has the additional interest of interviews with Tommy Wright, Alan Young, Andy Lochhead, Ian Marshall, Paul Dickov, Gerry Taggart, and Peter Taylor.

 

 

 

Can’t Buy That Feeling

Simon Kimber & Gary Silke

Conker Editions, 2018

Softback, 206pp, £15.00

 

The Fox is a Leicester City fanzine that’s been published for around 30 years. Over that period, it has interviewed 130 players, managers, board members, famous fans and coaches from the club and has now brought lots of them together in a very nicely produced book. Lots of photos and clear design make this an attractive publication right from the start.

The span of years makes narratives of three divisions with consequent ups and downs along the way, and a host of individuals who talk of their relationship with the club. As an outsider, Leicester have always seemed to me to be a club that has had some very good players, not always at the same time until recently, and the names are nearly all likely to generate a “oh yes, I bet he’s got something interesting to say” reaction. It’s a great book for dipping in and out of and, whilst self evidently having greatest appeal to Foxes supporters, can genuinely be regarded as being one for the wider football supporting community.

The earliest interview goes back to 1989, with Ian Baraclough. Each is preceded by a paragraph reminding us of the person’s context in the club and at the time of the interview. Baraclough was a City youth player, a local lad, and dating the fanzine’s assistant editor’s sister. Most of the others took place after their playing days, and there’s a panoply of names at different points in their lives. Gary Lineker was interviewed in 2001, before his MOTD days, and talks about being a fan before a player, David Pleat another young fan and who returned to the club as manager. Jon Sammels is one of the few who had two interviews, once when a driving instructor in1992, and the other when retired in 2015, whilst Robbie Savage is another, who was apparently still keen to return to Leicester despite being roundly abused by fans after leaving previously.

Each interviewee is united in a great affection for the club with good memories even if things didn’t work out. A look at just part of the roster of names demonstrates not only top-quality players but also those solid professionals who supporters of other clubs would have had in their sides. Brian Little, Alan Smith, Gary McAllister alongside Gerry Taggart, Gary Mills and Muzzy Izzet. And the managerial roll call of interviewees isn’t bad either: Gordon Milne, Martin O’Neill, Frank O’Farrell, and Sven Goran Eriksson.

When Leicester won the Premier League in 2016, there was considerable pleasure amongst football supporters. Much to do with the fact that the “big boys” had been beaten, but surely also because it was Leicester City that had done so. A club that has consistently played a significant part in the game, never too flash, and which has been home to both stars and solid professionals.  “Can’t Buy That Feeling” is an enjoyable chronicle of the last three decades at Filbert Street and since, and of football more widely.

 

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Burnley FC On This Day

Philip Bird

Pitch Publishing 2018

Hardback 250pp £14.99

 

To state the blindingly obvious, something happens every day. Events that range from the momentous to the seemingly trivial. To anyone with a passion, or at least a deep interest, then even the apparently trifling can have a significance. Thus, for a club supporter, a book that presents a 365-day compilation of facts and figures, stories and happenings, can be a treasure trove. So, for Burnley fans this is probably a diary of delights.

The “On This Day” feature began in the Clarets’ programme in 2008 and continues to the present. Such is the nature of the football season , however, that such a series will never cover much of the summer months and this volume not only rectifies that but expands and introduces much more from the rest of the year. Some of the entries will, no doubt, be well ingrained in the minds of the Turf Moor faithful whilst others have been dug out from repositories of the forgotten or never noticed!

May 9th is a classic case of the former as it was on that day in 1987 that Burnley won the last game of the season against Orient to stay in the Football League, after being 92nd when the game kicked off.  On the other side of the coin of memorability, May 8th is remembered for a 2-1 victory over Walsall in 1982.

Maybe not April Fools Day, but the day after, April 2nd in 1983, saw Burnley striker Terry Donovan leave the Turf Moor pitch with hypothermia. Manager Frank Casper said, “Jimmy Holland had to undress him and carry him into the bath”. A date to remember for both Donovan and Holland perhaps. Another very unusual day was August 22nd when early in the season in 1968, manager Stan Ternent sacked four players giving a blunt opinion on Michael Williams that “he will never win the fans over and will not play for Burnley again”.

Burnley’s history is a long one, the club was a founder member of the Football League in 1888, and perhaps the book would have been a more comprehensive read if a greater number of mentions were of earlier days. The club’s first ever Football League game was on Sept 8th, 1888 but the date is recalled for matches against WBA in 1951 and Rotherham in 2001. It’s still a fascinating volume for anyone who has an affinity with the Clarets, and, at 250 pages, obviously full of memories and notable moments.

 

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Fantasy Football

Edward Couzens-Lake

Legends Publishing, 2012

Hardback, 220pp, £19.99

 

The first season of the Premier League was 1992/3 and, despite the best efforts of Sky, it was by no means a dramatically different animal than the old Div 1. Indeed, looking back, it seems quite a restrained change, with more, though still relatively limited tv coverage, and commentators and pundits still recognising that football wasn’t invented by its arrival. The hegemony of the handful of big clubs hadn’t become established meaning there was still hope for others, if not of winning the league at least being challengers. In fact, 4 out of the top 5 at the end of the season are no longer in the top flight (extending the comparison, thirteen of the original twenty-two teams are no longer there).  This book looks at the very successful season of one of the outsiders, “from the mouths of real Norwich City heroes” as the subtitle proclaims.

It hadn’t looked as though the campaign was going to be a delight. Only just escaping relegation the season before, a new manager in place, and terrace hero and goal scorer Robert Fleck having been sold, there wasn’t a great deal of expectation. The author has written eight books on the Canaries and knows the club both as an observer and supporter. He has excellently conveyed the moods of fans and that of the pundits and journalists. The former, hopeful but not necessarily optimistic, the latter almost wholly dismissive of the club from the wilds of East Anglia. This despite City having had 17 of the previous 20 seasons in the top flight and qualifying for Europe on three occasions.  The season, however, had its own story to tell.

This isn’t a blow by blow, match by match account. It’s a well-structured look, with many interviews, at the people associated, whether its those departed such as Fleck or the Club Secretary, numerous players, both regulars and understudies, and journalists that covered the club. All set to the background of the changing nature of football, on and off the field. The personal recollections and hindsight of those involved do make a rounded and fascinating story of one club at the very start of the Premier League. It’s that level of story in that there’s a “happy ending” (plot spoiler – Norwich finished third), but also because, despite the overwhelming affection the author has for Norwich, he can set eveeything in a wider context, relevant to readers whoever they support. More than 20 years on it may now feel like a fantasy that “smaller” clubs could be successful in the modern environment but having fantasies is surely what supporters of such clubs must have. 

 

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