Bobby’s Books

Alex Ferguson:
“My Autobiography”

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

ISBN : Hardback : 978 0 340 91939 2
E Book : 978 1 848 94863 1

It is without doubt the football book of 2013.

It is indeed one of the best football books of all time.

In terms of global sales it is already blockbuster – but unlike so many autobiographies this one has sold not just because of the big name, it is has sold so well because it is underpinned by big content too.

Alex Ferguson: My Autobiography is not just a gripping read; it is a must read.
On the day of its publication it caused a furore in the Salman Rushdie league.
Sensational headline followed sensational headline as the juicy paragraphs slamming Beckham, Keane, Liverpool, The FA et al were ripped from the pages.

But in most cases the context was lost.

3d_alex_ferguson__AutoThere are many football books which after they have been plundered by the press aren’t worth buying because essentially you’ve read it all. This is not this case with Fergie’s book which has been impressively ghosted by Daily Telegraph sports writer Paul Hayward.

Paul does not confuse matters by trying to add too much flowery prose or gild the lilly. When you read this book it’s as if you are sat by the fireside of a grand drawing room in a winged leather chair facing Fergie similarly sat, sharing a glass of fine red wine or single malt whiskey and listening to the Big Man tell it as it is. And you don’t want to leave.

Although it is an autobiography, Fergie’s early years are skated over, since that part of his life are covered in a previous tome “Managing my Life” which reached it’s climax when Manchester United won the Champions League in 1999.

That said, I would still have liked to have read a bit more about Eric Cantona and Bryan Robson.

Nevertheless the book takes the reader on a fascinating journey from the turn of the Millennium to Ferguson’s retirement in May with Manchester United crowned Champions again.

The chapters on David Beckham, Roy Keane and Cristiano Ronaldo are utterly compelling.

Although he tears Beckham apart for “selling out to celebrity” it is not just the character assassination as was depicted when the newspapers first got hold of the book.

The same goes with Keane. There is context – although ultimately his appraisal of the Irishman is damning.

In contrast Ronaldo is lavished with praise.

There are also many rich anecdotal asides. For instance Ferguson points out Ryan Giggs only won five penalties in a 20 year career because the player refused to go down. Perhaps Giggs ought to take a firmer hand now he is a coach at the club…

But it is far more than just a book about Fergie’s unparalleled success at Manchester United. It is a book that gets to the heart and soul of football and how much it has changed since he started out as a young manager at St. Mirren in the Seventies.

It is a must read for every football supporter who wants to see the bigger picture …even those other Reds, Liverpool fans.

BB Rating: 10/10

By Rob Shepherd.

Anthony Clavane
“Does Your Rabbi Know You’re Here?”

Publisher: Quercus Publishing Plc

ISBN-13: 978-0857388124


Hanukkah is the eight day Jewish festival which comes around about a month before Christmas.

But it doesn’t have much of a “profile” in Britain.

Neither does the role of Jews in football.

That is hardly surprising. A Hall of Fame of top Jewish players wouldn’t take up much space.

blog-soccer-081213That said a recent visit to the Four Four Jew exhibition at the Jewish Museum in Camden was a fascinating insight into how much football has played a  role in the assimilation of the ‘Jewish Tribe’  into British so society.

In London, Manchester and Leeds especially there  have long been major pockets of Jewish football fans.

And as anti-semitism was eroded in British society more and more Jewish businessmen have sat  in the boardroom of clubs or have  taken up important roles in football administration. Think Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich or former FA chairman David Bernstein.

Many of the most powerful football agents in the game are Jewish from Jerome Anderson to Pini Zhavi.

Er, and the players and managers..?

Well Mark Lazurus and Barry Silkman, now a leading agent by the way, were decent pros but hardly stars. And Ronnie Rosenthal of course came from Israel.

David Pleat who was an excellent prospect when a young player is known better as a manager. As for Avram Grant, well he quickly became known as ‘Average Grant’ during spells as Chelsea and West Ham boss.

All these strands are represented in the exhibition which was inspired by Antony Clavane’s book “Does Your Rabbi Know You’re Here”.

It’s an intriguing  read which combines soccer and social history.

It’s also reveals that the player many assume to be the most famous Jewish footballer in British football, England’s World Cup winner George Cohen, was not Jewish at all although a distant relative had been

The are some strange gaps.

There is no reference to Eric Hall , who unlike many Jews involved in football who often hid their roots, loved to play on his Yiddish genes as he helped change the face of the English game as the first showbiz style football agent.

Nor Alfie Conn, the Scottish international who was the first player since the Second World War to play for Rangers then Celtic either side of a cult period at Tottenham, the club most associated with a Jewish following

As a Gentile brought up in Gants Hill on the borders of east London and Essex -which became a Jewish enclave as the working classes moved out of the East End in The Sixties – I found it a fascinating but at times frustrating book.

But worth a read as the candles burn late into the night over Hanukkah…

BB Rating: 8/10

by Rob Shepherd


Glenn Hoddle
“My 1998 World Cup Story”

Publisher: Andre Deutsch

ISBN-13: 978-0233994239

Glenn Hoddle has hit back at claims made by David Beckham in his autobiography.

Beckham, whose book is featherweight in content compared to Sir Alex Ferguson’s heavyweight block buster, says that Hoddle added to the “feeding frenzy” that the player suffered after getting a red car against Argentina at France 98.

Hoddle’s post match comment that “If he [Beckham] had stayed on the pitch and we had 11 against 11, I believe we would have won” was taken as a pointed remark by Beckham and contributed to the vitriolic response.

Beckham said; “He showed his anger and irritation with me. It definitely fed the frenzy.

“He didn’t blame me, exactly, but he made it clear that he thought that my mistake cost England the game”, the 38-year-old Beckham says in his book. “I found his interview difficult to take. He showed his anger and irritation with me. It definitely fed the frenzy.”

HoddleMyWorldCupStoryBut Hoddle said “I am really sorry to hear that David Beckham thinks I fed the frenzy of criticism against him after his sending-off in the World Cup tie with Argentina. Nothing could have been further from my mind at the time, and certainly not since.

“Any manager would say, as I did immediately after the game, that their team would have stood a better chance with 11 men than with 10.”

And Reading through Hoddle’s book, ‘My 1998 World Cup Story’, the former England manager does not really savage Beckham in the chapter about the 3-2 quarter final defeat to Argentina. Indeed he points out that he thought it was no more than a yellow and added: “How ever made I was with David I was furious with the referee.”

At the time Hoddle though displayed a general coldness and aloofness towards Beckham before and after that incident. That comes across in Hoddle’s book.
But on the whole, going through Hoddle’s diary of the whole 1998 campaign again, much of it seems a fairly tame if decent review of the road that ended in St Etienne rather than Paris.

But at the time there was a lot of unrest among the squad when the book was released just a few months after the tournament, especially Hoddle lifting the lid on how badly Paul Gascoigne took the news that he was the be axed from the squad.

Hoddle lost the trust of several senior players who believe he broke the taboo of opening the dressing room door whilst he was still in charge.

Indeed the publication loosened his grip on the job which he lost when expanded on his religious beliefs and made a bizarre comment about the handicapped and the afterlife.

BB Rating: 7/10

by Rob Shepherd


Brian Glanville “The Story of the World Cup”

Publisher: 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.

376903-MBrian 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.

With the qualifying tournament heading for its climax will England be there next summer or will it be a return of the days when they failed to qualify in 1974 and 1978?

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 Rating: 9/10

by Rob Shepherd.

Eamon Dunphy
“Sir Matt Busby and Manchester United: A Strange Kind of Glory”

Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd

It was never going to be a smooth ride succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson.

And already there are rumblings of discontent even if much of it is from those only to be pleased to stoke up things a little and create an impression things are already going wrong at OT.

Much has been made about the lack of activity in the transfer market until the last seconds. There was the always doomed chase of Fabregas, the Wayne Rooney saga and mutterings from RVP about changes on the training ground.

DunphybookMaybe to counter act some of the flak David Moyes has now said he needs to shake up the club’s scouting system.

The pressure on Moyes succeeding Fergie The Godfather draws obvious comparisons with how the club coped – or didn’t – when Matt Busby abdicated at the end of the Sixties.

A transition that was designed to be seamless was far from it as Manchester United unravelled from a club who had won the European Cup in 1968 to become one which was relegated from the top flight in 1974. Such a decline was unthinkable back then, but it happened.

Eamon Dunphy’s ‘Sir Matt Busby and Manchester United: A Strange Kind of Glory’ offers a fascinating insight into the club’s decline of the time and takes the reader through the seeds of recovery that Ferguson started to sew at the end of the Eighties.

And of course it examines just what made United the club it became, taking the reader from the very start of the Busby era in 1945; with authoritative detail of the Busby Babes, Munich Air disaster and the rise from the ashes to the height of the Swinging Sixties.

The book is further helped by the fact that Dunphy was a young player at the club at the end of the Fifties and start of the Sixties and so adds a fantastic personal touch and has unique access to some of the players of the time where he gets underneath the skin of the true relationships between Best, Charlton and Law.

It’s not just a book for United fans, but every football fan who wants to understand the roots of the club and what it was all about before the commercial era took hold. One thing is certain now, given how the landscape has changed and their financial muscle, United won’t go down the pan as dramatically as they did back then.

BB Rating: 9/10

Who Ate All The Pies? The Life & Times of Mick Quinn

Publisher: Virgin Books
ISBN 978-0753508039

Unlike a lot of books written by footballers, Micky Quinn’s autobiography isn’t a yawn fest that trudges through one lacklustre tale after another. It’s an open and honest read, one in which he comes across as a thoroughly nice guy – even when he’s behind bars for 21 days.

This is essentially the tale of a funny, working-class Scouser who proved that there’s more to being a goal-scorer than being a super-fit athlete. Always more inclined to opt for kebab and chips over pasta or steamed veg, Quinn was an obvious target for opposing fans to mock due to his size.

He never let that get to him though, often having the last laugh himself by putting one in their onion bag.

MickQuinnBookQuinn’s recollections of his time under managers such as Alan Ball, Jim Smith, Kevin Keegan, Bobby Gould, Phil Neal and John Gregory are absorbing, mainly because he doesn’t hold back. For example; of John Gregory, his manager at Portsmouth, he says “If John was chocolate he would have eaten himself”.

At one point Quinn ended up at Watford on loan, it’s a spell he doesn’t look back on with great affection; “I wanted to play for a club full of passion and desire, not one with no ambition, few supporters and no future. The atmosphere at Vicarage Road is about as tame as one of Elton John’s slushy albums.”

Quinn reveals a more sensitive side to his usually outspoken nature when talking about the death of his brother at just 26 and the later loss of his mother, both of which are very moving to read about.

You certainly don’t have to be a fan of any of the clubs Quinn played for to appreciate this book. He is a real character, and this is an honest and funny read that football fans everywhere will thoroughly enjoy.

BB Rating 9/10

Alan Mullery
“Alan Mullery: The Autobiography”


Publisher: Headline
ISBN 978 0 7553 1482 9

Alan Mullery was the first player to be sent-off representing England.

It’s hardly how he would want to be remembered but Mullers doesn’t shy away from the incident when in the last minute of the semi-finals of the European Championship, which England lost 1-0 to Yugoslavia in 1968, he lashed out in retaliation after an opponent slashed open his calf with a crude studs up lunge.

“I lost control and deserved go. No doubt about it,” said Mullery. “As I walked off I felt ashamed. I’d let Alf ( Ramsey) down. I’d let my country down. And I’d let myself and my family down. I could forget playing in the World Cup (1970) that was for sure…”

Mullery tried to keep out of Ramsey’s way in the dressing room fearing the worst; a bollocking then being dropped.

“I felt a hand grab my hair and lift my head up. Alf was looking down at me. I braced myself this was it. But all he said was “I’m glad somebody decided to give those bastards a taste of their own medicine.”

Those were the days!

This read-in-a-day autobiography charts Mullery’s rise from the tough streets of post war Notting Hill (long before the Hugh Grant types pranced in and gentrified the area) to captaining Fulham and Tottenham, his England experiences as the player who took over the Nobby Stiles mantle and his roller coaster managerial career at Brighton, QPR and Charlton.

In summary it reads like you are sat at the bar with Mullers, and that is always good fun.

BB Rating: 8/10

Terry Venables
“The Making of the Team: Venables’ England”

VenablesTMOTTTerry Venables has had many books written by him and about him. Some are very good and others are bad and some are plain ugly. Venners even co-wrote a cult TV series in the 70’s called ‘Hazel’ which was a cross between Minder and Lovejoy.

In terms of literary merit, this one (which was written in collaboration with Jane Nottage, who was briefly Paul Gascoigne’s Girl Friday in Rome) is, well, pretty bland.

But given that it plots how Venables took over from Graham Taylor and shaped the Euro ’96 campaign, which for a while raised the status of the England team to near respectability, there are some fascinating insights into El Tel’s team building philosophy.

In that sense it explains why so many England players of a certain era swear that Venables was the best England coach they ever worked with.

Which is why Gary Neville, a Venables disciple, should suggest to current boss Roy Hodgson that he ought to go out and buy it now and learn a few things ……and quickly!

BB rating: 7/10