Bobby’s Books

Match of the Day 365: Goals, Matches and Memories for Every Day of the Year

MoTD 365
By Steve Wilson

Published by BBC Books – ISBN 978-1-84990-988-4

Reviewed by Richard DJJ Bowdery

BBC Books have scored again. Following hard on the heels of ‘Match of the Day: 50 Years’, comes this latest trip down football’s memory lane.

‘Match of the Day 365’ is a compilation of iconic moments from the Premier League era, spanning its first 22 seasons. Written by MoTD commentator Steve Wilson, it’s a fascinating reminder of what we watched, read and talked about in the pubs and on the terraces.

Set out in bite-size chunks, there is a story for each day of the year along with a paragraph or two on other notable events.

Although there is some cross-over between the two books, it doesn’t diminish the attraction of this latest offering which provides a wealth of stories that fans of the ‘beautiful game’ will want to revisit again and again – and what memories they are.

Who can forget?

• that cheeky shot from the halfway line which announced to the world a special footballing talent (17 August)
• one keeper’s kick that was even longer but achieved the same result as it bounced into the net over the opposing keeper’s head (2 Nov)
• the emotional Italian who pushed over a referee – the ref seemed to go down in stages (26 September)
• a manager’s rant to the TV cameras as pressure mounted on his team’s push for the League title (29 April)
• a European comeback by a team who were dead and, almost, buried at half-time (25 May)
• the tears of a clown when a penalty shoot-out lost us the chance of glory – if only his legs were two inches longer (26 June)
• a Kung-Fu kicking Frenchman who later talked of sardines and trawlers (25 January and 31 March).

With this type of book there is bound be stories that didn’t make the cut – a debate you can have with your fellow fans. But the book does what it says on the cover. And regardless of whether or not you agree with Steve Wilson’s choice of stories, you’d be hard pushed not to smile and even chuckle as you reminisce on an era that brought a fresh start for the English game.

All in all it’s a book every fan, who lived through this new dawn, should own, and every future fan should be encouraged to buy: so they can read for themselves what makes the Premier League probably the most talked about league in the world.

Published 3 September 2015.

Harry Redknapp
“Always Managing”
Reviewed by Rob Shepherd

harry-redknapp-autobiography-585x900Published by Ebury Press.

ISBN: 978-0-09191787-6

Harry Redknapp is one of those football managers who falls into the Marmite category – you either love him or hate him.

There is one thing that is certain though; life has never been dull at any of the clubs he has managed over the past 30-odd years.

Within the game Redknapp is highly respected and regarded as a far more astute tactician than those who have painted him merely as a wheeler – dealer wide-boy.

Above all though Redknapp believes that even though the role of a football manager has changed since he started at out as Bobby Moore’s assistant at Oxford City in the late Seventies many of the principles remain the same, with man management the key.

Harry’s autobiography “Always Managing” is a jocular journey through his career which started as a young winger at West Ham in the Sixties.

After his playing career fizzled out in the United Sates, Redknapp was jobless for a while and was working as a mini-cab driver.

But after the strange period with Moore at Oxford, Redknapp got a break at Bournemouth, before emerging as a top level boss with West Ham, Portsmouth (twice) Southampton, Tottenham and QPR.

Redknapp parted company with Rangers earlier this year when it was clear that the club lacked the squad to stay in the PL. He had led them back to the top flight having inherited an over bloated, over-paid squad when he succeeded Mark Hughes two years ago.

One of the constant themes in the book is that ultimately, no matter how good a manager is, success can only be achieved when a club has enough quality players in it’s squad for the level they are playing at.

He suggests that had Jose Mourinho taken over QPR when he did then he would have been unlikely to keep them up either.

Inevitably this book is laced with humour and some wonderful anecdotes. Redknapp also addresses the issue of the High Court Case over tax (he was cleared of all charges) and how that affected him getting the England job ahead of Roy Hodsgon.

Redknapp concludes: “Football, like life, isn’t always about winning – the Premiership, the Champions League and the rest of it.”

“For most of us, like life, it’s about staying afloat and doing the best with the hand you have got, looking to build something worthwhile, never giving in, and trying – amidst all this – not to forget to love every minute of it.”

BB Rating: 9.5/10

 

Roy Keane
“The Second Half”
Reviewed by Richard Bowdery

The Second Half by Roy Keane with Roddy Doyle

Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson

ISBN-13: 978-0297608882

It might seem an odd choice to have a novelist, dramatist and screenwriter as collaborator for a famous footballer’s memoirs.

It might seem even stranger given that the footballer in question is Roy Keane and his previous autobiography Keane: The Autobiography (published in 2002) was ghosted by ex-Millwall legend turned journalist Eamon Dunphy.

RoyKeaneBookBut this different approach – and I’m sure it is completely different, though I must confess I never read Keane – works very well. In fact, as one might expect from a dramatist collaborator, the book reads more like dialogue than prose. It’s as if Keane is regaling his mates in one of Cork’s hostelries with stories of his life since the 2002 autobiography.

The Second Half has much less of a hard edge about it than I had expected. Indeed Keane isn’t afraid to bare his soul as can be seen when he lets on how he’d cried in his car, after Manchester United said they were letting him go.

It left a question hanging in the air: “Had United’s ‘enforcer’ gone soft?” Not a bit of it.

The crunching tackles came thick and fast as he laid bare his views on some of United’s coaching staff and former team mates, his punch up with Peter Schmeichel, and how he didn’t sign Robbie Savage because of a voice mail message.

As you may expect there is quite a bit of swearing; but then you’re in a bar and the Guinness is flowing so what do you expect?

If I have any criticism, it is that the book ends on a whimper, as if Roy just got off his stool, ambled towards the exit and disappeared into the night air without so much as a ‘see you soon lads.’

You’re left with a nagging feeling that more could have been said. The book would have been better for it. Although the legal eagles may well have insisted on sanitizing certain stories. But that is only a minor complaint.

For the most part it doesn’t fail to deliver, it’s a good, illuminating read on the man and the football industry. You come away having viewed Roy Keane in a different light: much more of a human being and much less of an aggressive caricature.

And reading between the lines I’m sure I could detect the reasons why Roy Keane gave up his role at Aston Villa – though at the time the book was published he was still coaching at Villa as well as working with the Irish national team.

I wait eagerly for ‘volume 3’ to see if my assumptions were correct.

BB Rating: 8/10

@RichardBowdery

 

Matt Dickinson
“Bobby Moore: The Man in Full”
Reviewed by Richard Bowdery

Published by Yellow Jersey Press

ISBN-13: 978-0224091725

 

To bastardize a Winston Churchill quote: Bobby Moore was a gentleman, wrapped in a facade inside an enigma. In other words he was a very private man.

Brian Glanville, the doyen of football writers, knew Moore for nearly 40 years, but wasn’t sure he really knew him.

BobbyMooreBookMichael Parkinson, who made a career of getting beneath the surface of his interviewees, has said: “You loved him because he was so friendly but, when you stopped to think, you realized you knew bugger all about him.”

Even in his darkest hour, stricken with terminal cancer at the young age of 51, he kept his illness secret, only making it public shortly before his death.

Credit, therefore, must go to journalist Matt Dickinson who, with this biography, has succeeded in peeling away the layers that surrounded the legend, to reveal a life that was by turns heroic and tragic.

But in dealing with the life story of Bobby Moore, who has been called the ‘patron saint of English football’, the author could have veered towards sycophancy.

Instead we are presented with an honest, even-handed assessment of Moore from what must have been hours and hours of research carried out among family, friends, other journalists and former teammates and colleagues from the world of football.

As you would expect from such a renowned wordsmith the biography he crafts is both engaging and illuminating.

For instance, were you aware that Moore suffered from testicular cancer in 1964? Or that as Southend manager he turned up to one match, drunk? Or that Elton John approached him about managing Watford?

The book highlights Moore’s highs and lows in detail, from his receiving the World Cup from Her Majesty the Queen to his being ejected from Upton Park for not having a valid ticket.

In between we read about West Ham manager Ron Greenwood’s desire to build a team around ‘Mooro’; Moore’s business ventures which involved some shady characters; the arrest in Bogota prior to the 1970 World Cup Finals for allegedly stealing a bracelet; how Moore was snubbed by club and country after his retirement; his attempts at football management; the divorce from his childhood sweetheart; and how cancer finally took the life of this icon.

BB Rating: 9/10

@RichardBowdery

 

One Bombshell After Another…
BOBBY’S Roy Dalley Gives His Take on ‘Bobby Moore: The Man in Full’

by Roy Dalley.

One suspects if you dumped a fluffy white cat onto Matt Dickinson’s lap he would pass an audition for the next James Bond movie.

He’s the journalist who emerged from the disgruntled press pack to apply the coup de grace to Glenn Hoddle’s tenure as England manager when his critique of Hoddle’s rather extreme interpretation of Karma was splashed on the front page of The Times.

As if to prove he hasn’t mellowed, Dickinson stuck the boot into Brian Clough on the Times’ sports pages last month while almost everyone else paid nothing but tribute on the 10th anniversary of his passing.

And he as good as admits his forefinger was hovering above a metaphorical big red button as he sat down to research and write Bobby Moore The Man In Full.

Dickinson writes in his Prologue: “He is held up as a man without blemish but could he really be that perfect? Could anyone? To me, the idyll seemed implausible. It wasn’t that I thought the eulogies were untrue; rather I could not believe they represented the whole truth. There is chaos and complexity in every life. Shit happens, even to saints.”

Uh oh.

Certainly it soon becomes apparent that Moore was blessed and cursed in equally monumental measures. Music folklore contains the legend of Robert Johnson, a blues guitarist and singer of modest repute, who only found his chops and success after selling his soul on a crossroads in the Mississippi Delta.

MooreBookIt’s just as preposterous, of course, to suggest Moore found his own crossroads somewhere in the Thames Delta, yet there is no doubt his rise and fall contains all the chief ingredients required of a Hollywood film script.

Moore was born into a world at war in an area a few miles east of London that was heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe. (Talk about trying to get your retaliation in first.) He was a chubby schoolboy who suffered from taunts of ‘Fatso’ from the back of the class, and the scouting report that earned him an apprenticeship at West Ham was hardly glowing: “Whilst he would not set the world alight, this boy certainly impressed me with his tenacity and industry.”

But the planets seemed to align in Moore’s favour. First he was thrust into the orbit of one of the game’s most progressive and imaginative thinkers in senior pro Malcolm Allison. The random good fortune of geography meant he got lifts home from training from Big Mal, which doubled as confidence boosting exercises as Allison opened Moore’s eyes to new possibilities on the field of play.

That luck was multiplied when Ron Greenwood arrived as manager and effectively changed the way the game was played in England to accommodate Moore in the first-team, parachuting him in as a second central defender in an era commonly deploying only one centre-half between two full-backs.

The rest, as they say, is history… but Dickinson is quick to remind us that the brightest light produces the darkest shadow. Battles with cancer, Greenwood, the bottle, England manager Alf Ramsey, and even the Colombian Police, would follow. Then there were arson attacks on no less than three of Moore’s business premises as he tried to rebuild his life after the game he served so well effectively washed its hands of him.

Moore’s contemporaries queue up to offer their loving reminiscences and anecdotes, yet also speak of a private man seemingly cocooned by his thoughts and fears.

Perhaps Moore really was fully aware of his destiny all along?

He seemed lost in his thoughts on the couple of occasions I encountered the great man. The first time was after a midweek match at Brentford sometime in the very late 70’s or early 80’s, and although his star was inexplicably on the wane it felt incongrous to see him standing alone at the rear of the main stand, staring at nothing in particular.

Coincidentally I was with Rob Shepherd, founder of Bobbyfc, who I had to cajole into going over to introduce ourselves, at that time a couple of teenage football-writing wannabes. Shep, I can reveal, is no shrinking violet (on another occasion we bumped into Little Richard while he was flogging his autobiography and Shep demanded: “Oi Little, Little! Gissa book!”) but such was his awe, as a West Ham fan, he took some persuading.

The last time I saw Moore was in the press room at QPR during the 92-93 season. It was an area about 20 feet square with a bar in the corner pumping out free pints of Guinness (QPR’s shirt sponsors at the time) and populated by about 20 journalists.

Moore, as is the wont of all great footballers, had found space, though now it was in order to stand alone, leaning with his back against a wall, almost hiding under a cap with his collar turned up. His skin was yellow.

I sat quietly and stole glances and wondered if I should ask if he’d like a cup of tea or something, yet his body language suggested, very politely, to Leave Me Alone. He was only weeks from making his final pass though we didn’t know it. But it was obvious something was seriously wrong and it was also heart breaking. Moore, as always, kept his woes to himself, but who can blame him for that having already given everything of himself to his country?

Like that famous image of Moore held aloft by his team-mates with the World Cup in his clutch, he remains the England captain head and shoulders above all other England captains.

As Michael Caine pointed out: “It was the cometh the moment, cometh the man. It’s a bit like a messiah. You know, out of the gloom of the fifties… he just came, like a gleam of light.”

(*Dickinson, thankfully, plays a blinder in what is I daresay a fair representation and portrayal. The book jacket informs of a £20 cover price though I got mine in a supermarket for just nine quid. Yet after reacquainting myself with Moore once again I can think of no good reason not to send the balance to the Bobby Moore Fund.)

@RoyDalley

The Age of Innocence – Football in the 1970s
Edited by Reuel Golden

Published by Taschen

football_in_the_70s_fo_gb_3d_05781_1406131009_id_811010ISBN 978-3-8365-4797-0

For those who lived through the seventies, The Age of Innocence will evoke memories of an era when football seemed simpler, less aloof and less remote from the fans. A time when, for instance, a West Ham fan could pop down to an East End pub and find Bobby Moore at the bar buying drinks for Harry Redknapp and Frank Lampard Snr. In short, a time when you could reach out and touch your heroes.

This book beautifully captures that age and will appeal not only to those who witnessed it first-hand but also to those who love the game, its history and its flamboyance.

It opens with introductory essays from four of football journalism’s top writers:

• Brian Glanville who recalls the European Cup in the 70s • David Goldblatt who considers how the game become truly global during this time • Rob Hughes who looks at the World Cups played in that decade • Barney Ronay who considers this age of innocence.

Then it allows the photographs to do the talking. And at over 300 hundred pages this weighty tome is full of them, reproduced in both colour, and black and white.

What memories they evoke.

Who can forget Pele and Bobby Moore embracing at the end of the Brazil versus England game during the 1970 World Cup? Or Bobby Charlton leading out his Manchester United team mates in his 606th and final league game for the Red Devils, in 1973? Those moments in time are reproduced here in all their glory.

There is even a picture of Jack Charlton having a crafty fag during training – a ritual that Bobby FC covered in its This Was the Week column.

But the book doesn’t restrict itself to the English game. There are plenty of images from around the world of football including (and this is one of my favourites) a shot of Diego Maradona in 1977 with his head under a hair dryer fixing his perm, while reading a soccer magazine.

Other football greats are captured through the lens of a camera including Eusébio, Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff, as well as great teams such as Holland, Italy and Argentina.

Although many of the pictures feature players in the heat of battle, quite a few show the quieter, less intense side of football.

For instance, there’s a picture of Helmut Schőn, West Germany’s World Cup winning coach, watering his garden a few weeks after his 1974 triumph.

Then there is perhaps the world’s greatest player, Pele, caught on camera during a TV interview with the legendary Johnny Carson on his The Tonight Show.

There is even a very topical shot: the Russian army in the stands at Dynamo Kiev’s stadium during an international against France, held in what is now the Ukraine. It begs the question, what would happen to the players from the USSR if they lost?

If I do take issue with this coffee-table book at all, it is where it’s billed the 70s as ‘footballs most beautiful era’. Yes there was some wonderful moments but it was also a time of cynical aggression on the pitch and violence off it.  This ugly side of the game is not really shown in any depth, though, to be fair, it does include one or two representative pictures.

My favourite element in the book is where the words and pictures gel so perfectly. The picture is of George Best and the words sum it up so wonderfully.

 THE-AGE-OF-INNOCENCE-FOOTBALL-IN-THE-1970s-4

Turn to page 79 and you’ll see George standing alongside a sleek sports car, outside his boutique shop. Then flip (well perhaps not, it is a big book) to the back cover and you’ll read his quote: “I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.” Magical.

The book closes with a 1970s dream team selected by one of the contributors. I won’t spoil it for you by naming the eleven but I’m sure many may well disagree with the line-up. What I will say is that two British players are included. I defy anyone to question their inclusion.

This is a publication you can turn to again and again and never tire of recalling those wonderful memories of a bygone age when football really did seem so much simpler, less aloof and less remote.

BB rating 8/10

by Richard Bowdery.

 

Sir Bobby Robson: Brave Player, Great Coach… But Most of All a True Gent

sirbobbyrobsonBookCoverToday is Bobby Robson day.

It is five years since Sir Robert died.

The FA has established an annual tribute day to remember the great man and also support the Bobby Robson cancer trust.

Read below the fine tribute his official biographer Paul Hayward wrote in 2009. And for the whole story we recommend you buy the book (ISBN 978034 082 23477).

Sir Bobby Robson: Brave Player, Great Coach… But Most of All a True Gent.

by Paul Hayward, Sir Bobby Robson’s Official Biographer

One word captures the people’s view of Sir Bobby Robson. He was easily and universally recognised as a gentleman, which was no small feat in a sport with an increasingly wonky moral compass.

The two elder statesmen of our national game have been the two Sir Bobbys: Charlton for his achievements on the field and his ambassadorial aura, and Robson for his endless love of coaching and being around players.

SirBobby&Elsie

Sir Bobby Robson and his wife Elsie.

Robson’s nirvana was a 7am alarm call and a cup of tea with his beloved wife Elsie followed by a long and intense session on the training pitch. The medical records are unavailable, but many suspect he was born in a tracksuit.

He could be profound, fierce, angry, sad, insightful and entertaining in a single answer. Often he would illustrate his point by turning the kitchen into a training pitch.

With a fine comic sense and an actor’s gift for delivery, Bobby would set off on a tale about how, on foreign trips, he would write the name of the Ipswich team hotel on the shirt cuffs of chairman John Cobbold, who was partial to a wander and a drink.

Then he would recall how the great Corinthian of the boardroom would tell him after a defeat: ‘Bobby, today it wasn’t our turn, but we’ve given the other team the pleasure of winning. That’s something.’

Robson would chuckle at that. The idea of losing charitably was anathema to him, because behind the avuncular exterior he was demonic in pursuit of success. Yet he also understood the value of civility and honour in an industry of careerists and carve-ups.

One morning I arrived at his London home to find him frantically calling a local radio station and failing to get through. He said he had been ringing for almost an hour but had succeeded only in listening to countless bars of Mozart.

‘Why?’ was the obvious question. It turned out that a stranger on a bike had stopped him in the street the day before and told him that if he (Sir Bobby) called the radio station and vouched for the celebrity sighting, a sum of money would go to charity while the cyclist would be eligible for a £1,000 prize draw.

On the back of this chance collision with a stranger, Robson was quite willing to spend the whole morning trying to report the meeting so the charity would get its money and the young man would have a chance of scooping the pot.

bobby_robson_fulham_1953

Bobby Robson playing for Fulham in 1953.

Walking 100 yards with him would take an hour, because builders would come down from scaffolding and taxi drivers would halt to salute him. Sure, they admired his achievements on the football field, but the deeper attraction was his decency, his consideration for others.

He had an ego like the rest of them. No manager could survive almost 40 years in the dugout without one. There was a hardness about him, too: a product, perhaps, of his early years below ground in the Durham coalfields.

He could be severe with players or journalists who crossed him. He also had a keen sense of his own market value. An initial offer of £400,000 a year in 1999 to manage Newcastle was rejected on the grounds that Alan Shearer was then earning around £3million. As the negotiations opened, Robson would not allow his love for the club to override his professional pride.

Acquisitive though he was, he would never trample on others to reach the top, or forget that manners are one of the simplest and most lasting measures of a man. In one sense, his was a career of nearmisses.

As a player he spent most of his 17 years among the rakes and rogues of Fulham: a fun-loving club where an injured player would be turfed off the treatment table to accommodate a team-mate’s greyhound who needed urgent physio for a race at the weekend.

BobbyRobsonEng

Robson guided England to the semi-finals of the World Cup

With England, Robson was injured before the 1962 World Cup, which opened the door to a certain Bobby Moore, and looked back with anguish at his narrow failure to make the victorious 1966 squad. His 20 caps were no consolation as Moore lifted the trophy.

Robson said: ‘I confess I gritted my teeth and shook my head. I was in the top division with Fulham. I felt I could handle anyone. I could have played that day in 1966.’

As England manager he survived eight years and was denied a World Cup final appearance by a penalty shootout in the semi-finals of Italia 90.

In 1986 in Mexico, he preferred to ascribe Diego Maradona’s infamous goal to the ‘hand of a rascal’. But after tolerating vicious personal abuse with characteristic grace, he left the England job as the country’s most successful manager since Sir Alf Ramsey, by virtue of that World Cup semi-final.

The pattern was repeated in large parts of his managerial career. At Ipswich, where he worked miracles in a sleepy Suffolk town, he won the UEFA and FA Cups but missed out several times on the English league championship.

At Portman Road, he was the unofficial lord of Suffolk, running the club from top to bottom while the Cobbolds sipped their gins and tonic and upheld sporting values from a vanished age.

He won league titles in Holland and Portugal, but finished second with Barcelona in his only year at the Nou Camp (1996-97).  Typically, though, he assembled a Barca side who scored 137 times and won two cups. Another of Robson’s enduring legacies is his devotion to adventurous, attacking football.

Robson lifts the UEFA Cup

Robson lifts the UEFA Cup

For him, football had a duty to excite. His teams expressed his character: energetic, fun, indefatigable. He was too proud to admit it publicly, but his time at Newcastle United scarred him to his bones.

When chairman Freddy Shepherd sacked him four games into the 2004-05 season, it’s no exaggeration to say Robson entered a period of bereavement. Many of us wondered whether he would ever recover from being first undermined and then fired by the club he had queued to watch as a small boy with his father immediately after the war.

‘I’ve been sacked for finishing fifth,’ he would complain. ‘Fifth! In my last three seasons there we finished fourth, third and fifth!’
He left it to others to point out that Newcastle then came home in 14th place in Graeme Souness’s first season in charge.

Robson’s five years on Tyneside cast an unflattering light on the modern footballer and he was frequently bemused by the antics of Kieron Dyer and Craig Bellamy, who got into a fist fight with Sir Bobby’s No 2 in a departure lounge on the way to a European game. He was baffled by the superstar lifestyle, the egocentricity of some modern players.

Robson, after all, had travelled home by train and bus after playing for England in front of 80,000 spectators at Wembley. He vividly remembered having to take his shoes off to ease his blisters as he limped the final few yards from the bus stop after scoring for England against Scotland in 1961.

It was not that he romanticised the era of dubbin and modest wages. More that he always thought the game was more precious than any material gain it might bring. Though the Newcastle experience broke his heart, retirement was unthinkable. It would have separated him from who and what he was.

And yes, he did occasionally struggle with names, however much he objected privately to people thinking he muddled them up. Once or twice he called me Peter. But I didn’t mind. He could have called me anything. To me he represented most of what is great about football. More importantly, he was an inspiration as a man.

 

Sir Bobby Robson, 1933 - 2009.

Sir Bobby Robson, 1933 – 2009.

Brian Glanville
“The Story of the World Cup”

376903-MPublisher: Faber & Faber

ISBN: 0-571-21058-9

There will never be another football writer like Brian Glanville.

Erudite, eccentric, brilliant and sometimes maddening but always with an opinion based on vast knowledge and insight of a game he started covering in the Fifties.

Even though he is now in his Eigthies Glanville is still to be seen in press boxes where he writes match reports for The Sunday Times – and still does it the old style by ad-libing his copy.

Not for him the clincism of a laptop – although he does use a mobile phone to dictate which he handles more like a walki-talki – one of his grandsons (there are no copy takers anymore) then taps out Brian’s words and emails them to the sports desk.

It means that Brian’s live reports still have that wonderful feel of, well, being live, containing a deft combination of lyricism and one line wit in the manner of one of his heroes; Groucho Marx.

He says it as he sees it and still asks managers probing questions refusing to be swayed by PR machines.

Brian has written many books on football, both fact and fiction, plus non- football novels and musicals.

But if there is one book of Glanville’s you must read then it has to be “The Story of the World Cup”.

It’s simple but brilliant. It does exactly what it says on the tin.

It is also brilliant from a publishing point of view because every four years ahead of the next World Cup Brian simply adds a chapter from the last tournament and its then re-issued.

Years ago Bobby Moore said of it “There is no better book if you want to learn about the World Cup. Beware of less enjoyable imitations – this is the definitive history.”

Need I say more…?

BB Rating9/10

by Rob Shepherd.

Jamie Carragher
Carra: My Autobiography

Publisher: Corgi

ISBN-13: 978-0552157421

The final chapter of Jamie Carragher’s Autobiography begins:

“I stare at my medal collection and there is a gaping lingering hole. It’s a void I fear will never be filled before that dreaded moment when I wear the red shirt for the last time…”

Carra was published in 2008. The opening lines of that the Walk On chapter have proved profound and prophetic.

A year on from Carragher’s decision to hang up his boots Liverpool are on the brink of winning that elusive title for the first time in almost two generations.

carra_bookAs a pundit Carragher has no doubt been kicking every ball when he’s not on camera.

Liverpool’s exciting assault on the title, led by his bosom buddy Steven Gerrard, must make part of Carragher gleam with pride and another part secretly hurt – endure bitter regret even – that he didn’t battle on for just one more season and be part of this team that is now on the brink of ending 24 years of hurt… even a bit part.

After all Carragher continues: “I’m fixated by this goal, consumed by the determination to bring the title back to Anfield… Winning the title has become Liverpool’s obsession… it will sicken me not to achieve it.”

The honesty and colour of the language sums up the book which, ghosted by journalists Henry Winter and Chris Bascombe, is one of the best player/football books to come out in recent years.

Carragher’s raw honesty comes to the fore as he confronts so many issues about his club career; his thoughts on England, Hillsborough, the wider issues of how the game has evolved since the Nineties and one spine-tingling chapter about the miracle of Istanbul.

This is not just a compelling read for Liverpool fans but football fans in general.

BB Rating: 9/10

by Rob Shepherd.

 

Alex Bellos;
Futebol: Soccer The Brazilian Way

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

ISBN-13: 978-0747561798

 

The English invented the game but soccer’s spiritual home is Brazil. That’s what make this summer’s World Cup finals so exciting.

And the countdown has really started in earnest.

We are now within the final 100 days on the road to Rio. Worryingly much of the stadia and infrastructure is behind schedule. There remain profound worries about security issues too.

FutbolBut the prospect of a soccer fest played to the rhythm and syncopation of the samba beat in the background is as intoxicating as several large Caipirinha’s.

For once England’s expectations are so low but that doesn’t seem to matter quite as much as it did.

The cosmopolitan nature of the Premier League means that as an audience there is a greater understanding and appreciation of the global game and it’s players in this country.

Even the most one eyed patriot will still be intrigued and probably enthralled with what Ronaldo or Lionel Messi get up to as much as whether Daniel Sturridge can gel with Wayne Rooney.

And of course how the Brazilians will cope with the pressure of winning on home soil, an achievement they failed to do in 1954 when they were defeated in the final by Uruguay, will be fascinating to watch.

Since then Brazil have become the undisputed masters of the Copa Mundial – The World Cup – having won the Jules Rimet trophy three times and the subsequent trophy twice .

The Brazilian skill and style known as the Jogo Bonito (The beautiful game) is revered.

To fully understand it and how it evolved from the days of Garrincha and Pele through to Zico and now Neymar then have a read of Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life by Alex Bellos.

It is a wise way to warm up for this summer’s finals.

As Norman Cook aka Fatboy Slim says on the cover credits: “It vividly captures the romance and passion that we expect from the Brazilians, as well as entertaining us with tales of their occasional absurdity. Immensely enjoyable.”

He might have added: “Go read it; right now!”

BB Rating: 8.5/10

by Rob Shepherd.