Book Review: IBWM: The First Two Years

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IBWM: The First Two Years
Published by Ockley Books
2012, £14.99

Put simply, In Bed with Maradona has defined football blogging in recent years. Founded in 2010, the site isn’t the longest lived on the scene, but it rivals the Frick Collection itself in its sheer eclecticism.

Acting as a welcoming platform to a host of impressive writers as well as the occasional mediocre one, the good humoured openness of Jeff Livingstone and his team has provided a rallying point for those interested in the less travelled byways of the game, while a thin layer of streetwise cool has prevented the site from sliding full scale into geekdom.

A book summarising the achievements of the past two years was inevitable but one would hardly have expected it to be as sumptuous as it is – Ockley Books, publishers of David Hartrick’s 50 Teams that Mattered, should be congratulated on producing such a lavish item – a volume where art, authorship and design have united to form a heady brew.

I came to IBWM: The First Two Years having read a number of the republished articles but by no means all – such is the prolific output of the site. Hence, dyed in the wool favourites such as Greg Theoharis’s sad salute to Gazza and Chris Ledger’s account of Madchester’s positive influence on football jostle with pieces I had shamefully missed first time.

Highlights amongst these include contributions from Two Unfortunates regulars Michael Hudson and John Dobson, Chris Nee on the 1968 Atlanta Chiefs and Ben Shave on the decidedly dodgy rolling up of Bebe at Old Trafford.

Comparisons with any given issue of The Blizzard will be legion – Jonathan Wilson contributes a foreword while essays from Juliet Jacques on Senegalese football hero Raoul Diagne, Iain Macintosh on the influence of Sun Tzu and Livingstone himself on Johan Cruyff’s aborted move to Leicester City would nestle just as comfortably amid the pages of that esteemed periodical.

The artwork is nothing short of amazing too – Steve Welsh is in typically creative form producing the images for IBWM’s famous ‘The 100’ project while Daniel Nyari’s graphic versions of the current German squad (minus poor Mario Gomez) also stand out amid a riot of fabulous images.

Like Tom Dunmore’s Pitch Invasion collection which we reviewed last year, the project provides a useful summary of the best the blogosphere has had to offer in recent times at a point where Richard Whittall has provided the pursuit with a shot in the arm following his uncovering of journalistic sloppiness at The Times.

Having recently undergone a redesign, In Bed With Maradona continues to go from strength to strength although the closure of a number of excellent sites in recent months and the understandable decision of many of the best writers to pitch up for paid work with alternative hosts has left a suspicion that the period between 2010 and 2012 was perhaps the high watermark for independent football writing on the internet.

That situation can be reversed, however, despite the valid criticisms of Barney Ronay – and titanic efforts such as the Bundesliga Show’s season preview and the continued excellence of sites such as Two Hundred Percent, Magic Spongers and A Football Report indicate that there is life in the old pooch yet. That I purchased this book in Waterstones in Birmingham City centre is evidence of what a productive few years it’s been.

Rob Langham (pen name: Lanterne Rouge) is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 45 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Football Attic, The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, A United View on Football and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.

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