Tuesday, 9 July 2013

The Football Attic Book Club

Not so long ago, we announced to an unsuspecting public that we were planning to record a Football Attic Podcast on the subject of football books. We asked for suggestions, memories, opinions and recommendations on books that are well read and well appreciated.

The response we got from you was nothing short of exceptional - in fact we got so many responses that we simply couldn't find a way to read them all out during our podcast.

And that's why we've created this blog post - to provide a go-to place all of your football book recommendations, comments and suggestions, should the need for literary inspiration ever strike.

If you want to provide us with further recommendations of your own or if you can provide feedback about one of the books mentioned, please leave us a comment at the foot of the page. Failing that, if any of you would like to review a football book for The Football Attic, that would be excellent too - just drop us a line to admin [at] thefootballattic [dot] com. We look forward to hearing from you!

And now, here's what you told us...

Terry Duffelen: ‘All Played Out: The Full Story of Italia 90’ by Pete Davies. “This book probably had the biggest effect on me. I really enjoyed the frankness of some of the interviews and Davies' account of the Italia 90 semi defeat has stuck with me forever.”

Steve Gabb: ‘Only a Game?' by Eamon Dunphy. “Great autobiography covering a couple of years in Dunphy's career playing as a journeyman midfielder for Millwall (in the Second Division) during the 70s. It's a really insightful read and made me understand a lot more about how footballers think. Though how relevant it is to modern day footballers, I'm not sure.”

‘A Season with Verona’ by Tim Parks. “A great introduction to Italian football and also covers a lot on Italian politics.”

Dixie Dean's biography: “I've always been fascinated by football in the early part of the 20th century. Dean's biog is great. It covers his famous 60 goal season as well as incidents such as crashing his motorbike, having a metal plate inserted into his head, making his come-back three weeks later (and scoring the winning goal - with a header). The first comic book hero. Great read. Eddie Hapgood's is also an interesting read, the first footballer biography.

Victorian Football Miscellany: “A collection of news articles and match reports printed in the late 19th century. Fascinating stuff and gives a wonderful insight into how football began in the UK.”

Stuart Howard-Cofield: “For the sheer beauty of the writing and making you look at football in a completely different way- almost as art - Eduardo Galeano's collection of essays Football in Sun and Shadow: An Emotional History of World Cup Football’ is a treat.

“I loved ‘The Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy’ for the drama, and ‘A Season with Verona’ by Tim Parks is a great look at Italian fan culture, mixed with a travelogue.

“Also, the Hunter Davies collection ‘The Second Half’, which was left at my local rail station's waiting room book exchange. It was the inspiration for me starting [Stuart's website] grumpyoldfan.net

Greg Johnson: "'Football In Sun And Shadow.’ Written by Uruguayan poet and author Eduardo Galeano it's a really vivid and visual read that's written almost like an experiential literary critique, but it never loses any insights, direction or its connection with reality. It's packed with history context on the game's development in South America and Europe, including socio-economic factors and also takes on the more aesthetic, slippery side of football in the most satisfying and thoughtful way I've ever come across. Couldn't recommend it enough, and it's a great change of pace to your standard football history, tactics or anthropology titles."

“Both of Musa Okwonga's books, 'A Cultured Left Foot' and 'Will You Manage?' are excellent reads. The books are both written as investigation/debates into what is required to become a great player and manager respectively. They're really lucid but full of anecdotes and information from first hand sources, sometimes from backgrounds and angles you wouldn't expect.”

James Bartaby:Paolo Di Canio's autobiography is a good read, as is ‘Manslaughter United: A Season With A Prison Football Team’, a book by Chris Hulme.

Michael Chapman: 'How Football Explains The World' by Franklin Foer. I really enjoyed it but I was obviously a convert since childhood; but I loan it to everyone who asks me 'why soccer?'"

Kevin Bell: "Footballeur "by" Robert Pires sticks on my mind as the most dull book I've ever read. Title spelling is best bit! Also Harry Pearson's 'The Far Corner: A Mazy Dribble Through North-East Football'. Football has changed loads since it was written and on re-reading it feels nostalgic."

Phil Lucky: "'The Beautiful Game? Searching for the Soul of Football' by David Conn is an eye opener. Robert Enke's bio ('A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke' by Ronald Reng) is brilliantly written, very sad. 'Fever Pitch' by Nick Hornby is an obvious classic; Cass Pennant's is good; 'The Football Factory' by John King; Enke's is my fav though. Cried like a baby."

Mark Biram: "So many! 'The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer' by David Goldblatt, 'Calcio: A History of Italian Football' by John Foot, 'Feet of the Chameleon' by Ian Hawkey and 'Behind the Curtain: Travels in Eastern European Football' by Jonathan Wilson.

Simon Robertson: "Mine would be 'Soccer Club Colours' by Martin Tyler and more recently John Devlin's 'True Colours.' I also remember a series of kid's football books by Michael Hardcastle ('Scorton Rovers')

Richard: "I haven't read too many, but Jason Cowley's 'The Last Game: Love, Death and Football' is very good. 'Fever Pitch' is probably my favourite. Oh, and I'm not sure it counts, but John King's 'The Football Factory' is superb."

Andy Lee: "'Got, Not Got: The A-Z of Lost Football Culture, Treasures and Pleasures' by Derek Hammond and Gary Silke - it's The Football Attic in book form..."

Daniel Burdett: ‘The Rothmans Football Yearbook’ - “that was the Bible of football information each year before the internet.”

Se├ín Flannagan: "‘Inverting the Pyramid (The History of Football Tactics)’ by Jonathan Wilson, ‘Jumpers for Goalposts: How football sold it's soul’ by Rob Smyth, and ‘The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy’ by Joe McGinniss."

Andrew Rockall: 'Provided You Don't Kiss Me: 20 Years with Brian Clough' by Duncan Hamilton or Robin Friday's story 'The Greatest Player You Never Saw' by Paul McGuigan

Giles Metcalfe: 'Football Against the Enemy' by Simon Kuper and 'The Greatest Footballer You Never Saw' by Paul McGuigan

Michael Oliver: ‘My Father and Other Working Class Heroes’ by Gary Imlach

Gary Silke: ‘Soccer Tribe’ by Desmond Morris (for pictures), ‘Fever Pitch’ by Nick Hornby (for words)

Geoffrey Vivian: ‘Only a Game?' by Eamon Dunphy

Rob Stokes: 'Goalkeepers Are Different' by Brian Glanville

Football Shirt World: 'Up Pohnpei: Leading the ultimate football underdogs to glory' by Paul Watson

Mighty Tractor: "Kids' book called ‘One Nil’ by Tony Bradman. Classic story."

Steve Coe: The 'When Saturday Comes' collections and books

John Devlin: ‘True Colours Volumes 1 & 2’

Yes, well you would say that, John...

Al Gordon recommended the following:

Left Foot Forward - Garry Nelson

Apart from being centered around Charlton, this book shows a far less glamorous side to the English professional game. We take footballers for granted but it's not the easy life we all presume, especially when you're close to hanging your boots up. Where will the next contract come from and will you have to pull your children out of their school when and if you sign it? Not to mention one more knock on that knee and it's game over for good.
A year in the life of a journeyman footballer, it's stressful but you want change it for the world.

The Greatest Footballer You Never Saw -  Paul McGuigan

Cross George Best with Frank Worthington and you'll still fall short of the player that was Robin Friday. Throw in a little Keith Richards and you'll be getting warmer. Sex, drugs, rock'n'roll, booze, more sex, prison, and a little football and you've got a story of the most unbelievable of all footballers.
As you'd expect from a hell raiser like this he died far too young, it's very unlikely you'd know anyone who watched him play and perhaps the most bizarre bit of all, he did it in middle class Berkshire.

More Than Just A Game: Football v Apartheid - Charles Korr

Robben Island prison. We've all heard the stories, conditions not much different to the Nazi concentration camps from World War II. One thing kept those prisoners going, one thing gave them hope, football. It's not unheard of for inmates around the world to play football matches remember the Porridge motion picture spin off) but on Robben Island they formed teams and even a structured league. The most moving football book you'll ever pick up.


  1. Any chance of an "e" at the end of my surname please chap? Thanks for the mention though. ;-)

  2. 'Brian Clough: Nobody Ever Says Thank You: The Biography' is excellent and very moving too.