Book Club

Posted by on Sep 11, 2010 in Uncategorized | 14 Comments

As a card-carrying member of the Society of Young Publishers and a certified football spod, I’m always on the lookout for ways to bring two of my major interests together. Happy was the Christmas Day I spent with David Goldblatt’s 911-page whopper The Ball is Round in one hand and an isosceles turkey sandwich in the other.

A brief discussion this week with my fellow blogger Lloyd on current reading material set me on a quest for the best books on all things Football League. And I came up with very little. Despite a recent upsurge in quality football-related tomes, such as Jonathan Wilson’s colossal Inverting the Pyramid (even if he has since made a career out of rehashing its material), leagues 2-4 of the English game have been largely overlooked. The two outstanding examples we came up with go back a few years.
First, RTÉ motormouth Eamon Dunphy‘s unflinchingly honest Only a Game? An account of the 1973-74 season at Millwall, Dunphy’s prose succeeds in providing a windowpane on the life of a professional footballer in the days when kick-off was delayed by dockworkers’ shifts rather than Rupert Murdoch’s TV schedules, while evoking a working-class corner of South London much changed in the intervening years.
The second, more recent, example is also a player’s eye-view of life in the lower reaches. Ex-Charlton striker Garry Nelson‘s Left Foot Forward is structured around the Addicks’ 1994-95 campaign, though portraying events outside the game as often as the team’s struggles on the pitch. Although aided by the ghostly presence of Anthony Fowles, Nelson’s tale successfully updates Dunphy’s experiences for the contemporary audience.
Beyond those two fine tomes, though, my dust-swept shelves need filling, and mornings are spent combing the train for discarded copies of Metro. Recommendations please.
Stanley
As a kid, Stanley undertook an odyssey around the football grounds of London and North Kent before alighting at Millwall. Despite the efforts of Jason Dair and many others, as an adult he decided to move closer to the arena erroneously known as the New Den and is now a proud season-ticket holder.

14 Comments

  1. glenglenglen
    September 12, 2010

    Harry Pearson's 'The Far Corner' covers every level of football in the North East with brilliant insight and humour. If you've not read it do so. If you have read it, do so again

    Reply
  2. gerschenkron
    September 12, 2010

    Society of Young Publishers? Dear God Man, that's even more embarrassing than being a Millwall fan!

    Reply
  3. Russell George
    September 12, 2010

    Tony Cascarino's autobiography 'The Secret Life of . . .', ghosted by Paul Kimmage, is a brilliant account of a footballer whose career had numerous peaks and troughs in various divisions. But overall, finding a good football book is a bit like having a decent time in a nightclub after you have turned 30 – elusive and random, and your expectations get lower and lower.

    Reply
  4. Lanterne Rouge
    September 12, 2010

    Agree wholeheartedly on the Far Corner – marvellous. Nelson's other book on his time at Torquay is also well worth seeking out. See the column on the right for reviews of various football tomes from the Two Unfortunates team.

    Reply
  5. Lanterne Rouge
    September 12, 2010

    I should also add that Gerschenkron's aversion to the Society of Young Publishers is based on his being too old to now be eligible.

    Reply
  6. Russell George
    September 12, 2010

    The problem with football books generally is that they are more Alan Greene than Stuart Hall. Partisan, unimaginative and lacking in narrative, football books also usually exhibit poor English skills and a concern with currency above longevity. All this adds up to a body of literature that will usually bore anyone over 18. Gary Imlach's 'My Father and Other Working Class Football Heroes' is a notable recent exception.

    Reply
  7. Russell George
    September 12, 2010

    The Society of Young Publishers is a Mossad cell, so you're not missing out.

    Reply
  8. Matthew Brown
    September 13, 2010

    Derick Allsop's Kicking In The Wind is a decent account of a season at Rochdale in the 90s. Though I can't remember much else about it.

    Reply
  9. Stanley
    September 13, 2010

    Good shout on 'My Father and Other Working Class Football Heroes', Russell. An outstanding work in any field, not just the sportswriting ghetto. Keep them coming.

    Reply
  10. Stanley
    September 13, 2010

    One that I forgot to mention but that every football spod should own is Match Day'' by Bob Stanley (he of Saint Etienne.) A collection of programme covers from all 92 clubs, plus a few non-league ones on top. Although it's more of an object than a read, the images and essays are well worth the cover price.

    Reply
  11. Frank Heaven
    September 14, 2010

    Provided You Don't Kiss Me: 20 Years With Brian Clough is essential reading if you miss characters like Old Big 'Ead. The author Duncan Hamilton has also just published a fine biography of Harold Larwood if you're a cricket fan.

    Football's 12 Apostles: The Making of the League, 1886-1889 is not bad if you are a historian of the game (see review on this site).

    Finally, if you want further reminding of the greed and corruption in modern football, read Tom Bowers' excellent Broken Dreams.

    Reply
  12. Lloyd
    September 14, 2010

    Granted, there's a limited amount of decent literature in the area, but I'd argue that there's enough for 2 or 3 football reads a year.

    For me, the only extra-special football-league related book that hasn't already been mentioned is the Greatest Footballer You Never Saw: The Robin Friday Story. I think it's been mentioned elsewhere on the two unfortunates, but it really is a good read.

    Otherwise, Fathers, Sons and Football, a book about the three generations of Summerbees that have played the game, is enjoyable enough.

    I'm currently reading Left Foot Forward, and a short review will follow shortly on here.

    Reply
  13. Ben
    September 15, 2010

    I'll echo those recommending 'The Far Corner' – it's genius.

    Reply
  14. TSS
    September 20, 2010

    From Sowetto to Soccer Superstar should be a good read. It's the biography of Lucas Radebe, who to me (admittedly a Leeds United fan) is one of the greatest rags to riches football stories ever. Just been released, so some 'fresh off the press' stuff for you…

    Reply

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