With heading away to Angola and being stuck there for the foreseeable I decided to set myself a fifty fitba book challenge. After realising I read forty-one books(all subjects) while in lockdown at home between March 20th and June 8th, I decided to set this target. I do love fitba and reading after all. With reaching half way the day before I finally go offshore, I feel it is a good place to constellate the first twenty-five in a list (as requested by a few on twitter). So in a slothful cut and paste fashion here are my reviews from twitter mustered in one place.
If this piece gets a few people on to some of the twenty-five then it would be mission accomplished.
The following reads were powered by copious Cuca, Nocal, Angola sun, endless tunes from bands such as Tesla, Warrant, W.A.S.P, Guns n Roses and four long boring weeks of covid isolation.
1/50 – Europe United – Matt Willis (2018)
It becomes apparent quickly that we are similar people.We both love fitba, we both share a love of metal music and beer is the drink of choice.I felt attached right away. Starting in Georgia-ending in Croatia, Matt gives you a feel for the places visited and the history before talking about the fitba.Teams such as Ross County, Trabzonspor, Flamutari,Vardar, Brann and Ilves.The last two were coronad off for me in Jun/Jul. A book for groundhoppers and fitba fans a-like. It definately has the, “ach ill squeeze in another chapter” feel to it. I definatley have some new ideas now. I also miss fitba more than I did before I read it.A great way to start my challenge off. Highly recommended.
Also to note, I liked all the band name drops throughout, Def Leppard, Gorgoroth, Dead Kennedys, Burzum, Spinal Tap, Judas Priest, Entombed, Megadeth, Immortal. Also nipping to see Paradise Lost in Utrecht. A band I have also seen numerous times
2/50 When Friday Comes – James Montague (2013)
Similar to Europe United but the Middle East instead this time. Another history/fitba books. Bloody brilliant stuff which I should have expected from an author of numerous other good reads. Easily one of the best books I have read. From Egypt at Al Ahly v Zamalek(no derby like it) through the Middle East, chewing qat in Yemen, Batistuta in Qatar, bigotry in Israel, bigotry in Jordan, UAE and the Man City joke football club, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Jim Bett blootering an Egyptian at Pittodrie. Its gripping. The final chapter is the best(worst depending on how you look at it) Its back to Egypt where the horrific goings on in Port Said in 2012 took place.74 dead.Which led to uprising. I know a bit about it due to working in Egypt at the time and the following years with Al Ahly fans
3/50- An Enthusiasts Guide To The Football Grounds of the West of Scotland – Mark Jones (2020)
One for groundhoppers. Pics + brief history about the towns and clubs. Visits to my own favourites Pollock(no c was not realised by the author), Annan Athletic, Ayr United, Largs ikoiThistle, Fort William make this book bring the lack of fitba in recent times right home. If the already visited grounds didnt drive home the lack of fitba, the visits to some of my corona axed grounds from last season do. Girvan and Kilsyth R*****s to name a couple. Fine easy read that doesnt take too long. Good to see it goes further down than Juniors and into the amateur ranks. But there are many glaring errors. The Geography is all to pot. Some South Lanarkshire teams classed as Renfrewshire. Also Celtic are east end not west end. 4th oldest club in Scotland are who?Port Glasgow are in it twice and Vale of Leven same club ? Then the multiple Pollocks. Still, a good idea for a book none the less.
4/50 Bastard In The Black – Jeff Jacklin (2014)
Early laugh with some humerous stories. Reffing in Broadmoor, turning up to the wrong place for his first ever game, turning 50 as a ref, cardboard cut out refs, wrongful reds on other peoples word. What are the potential situations that may occur, cars driving over the pitch? Falling branches?, Runaway Alsations? Other Whistles? Runaway toddlers? All of the above. Gets a bit silly second half of the book.
I liked the Tommy Docherty quote – “thank god the referee and two linesmen were out there together today, otherwise the could have spoiled three games as opposed to this one”
5/50-Magical Magyars – David Bailey (2019)
A brilliant history lesson into Hungary and its fitba. Jimmy Hogan, players being shocked at being told to cut down their booze, fags and goulash intake, World Cup 38 fixed?, Communism, Ferenc Puskas, his friend Josef Bozsik. Famous teams of MTK, Ferencvaros, Honved and Ujpest, Bela Guttman, Sandor Kocsis, Nandor Hidegkuti, the 3 v 6, Zoltán Czibor pissed with Scots, the 7 v 1, the Battle of Bern, The Miracle of Bern, exiles and much much more. Great research that should be read by all.
“We should be alright here Stan, they havent even got proper kit”. Billy Wright 1953. Classic
6/50- A Game of Two Halves – Archie MacPherson (2009)
Archies life + celtic and rangers. I couldnt help but switch my inner monologue to Archies voice while reading. Starts off growing up in Shettleston and him and his communism. Chapter 3 takes you on to the first mention of what you want to read about. The fitba. His fledgeling fitba viewing started with his first visit to Hampden with his old boy and watching local side Shettleston juniors and occasionally Queens Park and the HI HI.The book is alot about earlier life from chapters 1- 7 especially. Politics, religion, teaching, family. Inevitably when talking about fitba it was the “celtic, rangers, celtic, rangers, rangers, rangers, celtic, celtic, celtic, rangers, celtic” I was expecting. With a bit of scotland thrown in to dilute it ever so slightly, which to be fair are good along with the Montford bits. It came as no surprise at all when he did mention Aberdeen he still managed to fit rangers into the sentence. This was not the “whoooooooooooof” I was looking for. I knew it wouldnt be to be honest.It was exactly what I thought it would be. Dissapointing.
7/50 – Diary of a Groundhopping Virgin – David Fuller (2019)
Good one for groundhoppers or fans of “lesser” fitba. Round the lower ends of English fitba.Visits to the likes of Hayward Heath Town, Bootle, Tonbridge Angels, Three Bridges, Montpelier Villa and Wick? and well away from the mercenary jamboree. In tournaments such as the FA Vase, the early FA Cup, Southern Combination League, Bostik league One South, David(and sometimes wife and kids) saw goals galore. High scoring battles like 4-3s and 3-3s and hidings 9-0, 6-0. With only a solitary 0-0 in the mix. If I lived in England I would be doing exactly the same. I give similar a good go in Scotland but its apparent its easier to get more games in England. I quite fancy crossing the border to get some of the northern clubs like Morpeth Town, Bishop Aukland, Penrith. This is Kindle only.
8/50- The Gaffer – Neil Warnock (2013)
His experiences here are very variable. The likes of stresses of administation with Crystal Palace, clearing dog shite of training pitches at Bury, lack of squad depth, meddling and troublesome chairmen, the sack, twat players. The book features stories from his days Gainsborough Trinity right through to Leeds United. But its mainly from Sheffield United, Palace, QPR and Leeds. An interesting read, funny, eye opening, serious.The end sounds like retirement. 6 years later, he still hasnt. One things for sure. Guardiola wouldnt cope with some of the issues Neil has had. He only does it where there’s money. Another thing for sure, Adel Taarabt is a cock. Top man is Warnock. I have alot of respect for him.
“Sam Allardyce likes to take teams to Dubai, I took a few teams to Scarborough “
9/50- Us v Them – Giles Goodhead (2003)
For starters, its named badly. Fitba rivalries across the globe. Using the word derby,no way, as thats more geographical and Barcelona is 390 miles from Madrid. More than a fitba book as the author dips into the cultures and more. It a travel journal really. The usual suspects are in there, examples, Inter v AC Milan, Fenerbahce v Galatasaray, Boca Juniors v River Plate and rangers v celtic. Also a few different games than usual too, Slavia v Sparta, America v Guadalajara. A poor read,the issue being theres not enough info. He attends 8 of the biggest games in the world yet the books not even 200 pages. The fitba isnt the most important thing in the book. Surely when writing a book on fitba rivalries the fitba needs to be a big part of it. Not getting food and drink. As I was getting further through I knew I had read it before. Stories of obtaining food and tickets rather than the matches were all too familiar. After checking my amazon purchases it turned out I had bought it years ago for my kindle.
10/50- The Next Big Thing – Ryan Baldi (2019)
The reasons the next big things dont make it. Very good read this. 15 players such as….
Andy van der Meyde
Cherno Samba(champ manager)
And ex Don Ben Thornley, who had a weird ending Pittodrie.
Whether its injury, managers losing faith, being a twat, the drink, too much time on your hands, becoming disenchanted there are many reasons it just didnt happen. Some you feel sorry for Dick, Murray. Some you just think “bellend”. Cadermarteri, van der Meyde. A good insight. Sonny Pike didnt make the draft. Theres also a wee cameo appearance from David Preece in the Ben Thornley chapter.
11/50- Sven – Sven Goran Eriksson (2013)
Quality. A pleasant read from a successful manager remembered too much for his England stint. Always have had time for Sven. Hes a very well travelled man and a clever one too.Worked hard at his trade and to become IFK Gothenburgs manager at 30 says alot. Questionable morals when it comes to women but everyones got a vice or two. Thats his. Sven could arguably have the best XI managed. Great names such as Baggio, Gullitt, Nedved, Mihajlović, Rui Costa, Falcao, Nesta, Mancini, Veron, Cerezo, Dunga, Salas, Vierchowod, Boniek, Pagliuca.
As far as autobiographies go. This is a good one. Its a big read but worth it. It also has the most random line I have ever read “he also ran a support group for people who had been caught shooting moose illegally”. Good old Sweden
12/50- I Believe In Miracles – Daniel Taylor (2015)
Very good read. I have read Clough in his own words and there is no difference with someone else telling it. The guy was a legend and what he did at Forest was remarkable. Bit like Marmite, was liked or despised. Whats clear is, those who liked him really did like him. This book covers the Forest days only and is very well researched and written. Cloughie was a man management genius. There are some cracking insights into how his mind worked. Lets not forget he was pretty good at getting it right on the pitch too, tactics, signing and lineup wise. He was some man and took Forest from nothing. An unorganised mess to double Euro champs . A remarkable feat. Great book. I learned something in it. I have always wondered why John McGovern was never capped. What didnt help was Ally MacLeod didnt realise he was Scottish
13/50 Kicking Off In North Korea – Tim Hartley (2016)
I got this book as it was under fitba in the kindle store. It could easily have fit in the culture or travel section. The football is there but not in the amount I would have imagined by going by the title. Alot of this is about travel more than fitba. Yes there is the travel with the Welsh National team but some chapters are void of fitba content. Chapters on Cardiff City, North Korea and Serbia are the standouts.The rebranding of Cardiff which even I found moronic at the time is in detail, trying to get a game in North Korea, in with the Red Star ultras. All interesting. Not the book I thought it was but that doesnt take away from it being a decent read.
14/50 Ancients and Mariners – Andy Potts (?)
This was purchased for future reference purposes. I quite fancy nipping over the border to some of these clubs for a day out. (if they have scarves as they are foreign afterall). Surely this level of fitba will be up and running soon. This is the story of author Andy Potts who has moved back to the area after twenty years. This meaning he can get to games at these great wee clubs. Each chapter is a different match with a decent introduction and bit of history on the towns and clubs. Interesting and opened my eyes.Trips to Shildon AFC, Ashington CFC, Willington FC, Penrith FC, Bishop Auckland, Consett, Whitley Bay and Morpeth Town AFC are definitely on the cards in future. Good book for any groundhoppers.
15/50 The Bottom Corner – Nige Tassel (2016)
Quality stuff this. Its filled with good reading from the stories of non league international players from the Philippines, Sierra Leone and Gibraltar to some clubs in the set up like FC United of Manchester, Forest Green(now league), Eastleigh, Lewes. Also featured are ex pro players who love fitba and dropped levels Julio Arca, Barry Hayles. Then the life of a groundhopper. Theres definatley something appealing about the lower reaches of English fitba to me, A very well written book that fueled my theory more. I loved this line, actually written by Barney Ronay of the Guardian when describing Old Traffords megastore. “a sport that has turned itself inside out for television, marketing, profiteering owners and the rest” So true.
16/50 – Quiet Leadership – Carlo Ancelotti (2016)
Not a warts and all type affair. More about how he managed the different circumstances at the clubs. Reggiana, Parma, Juventus, Milan, Real Madrid etc etc. Interesting to hear from some of his old players, Ibrahimovic, Ronaldo, Beckham, they all love him. A book on how he managed big players, different types of egos, the suits up stairs, cliques and more. Another interesting thing was alot of media didnt like his quiet cool demeanour. Things learned from the book, Roman Abrahmovic is a dick. Paris St Germain are dicks.If you were looking to go into management it would be a good book for pointers. Its full of good advice. Unless you want to be a bawler. Then its not for you.It gives a great insight into the mind of a class act. Also it was the first book out of quarantine and corona free.
17/50 Heysel, The Truth – Francesco Caremani (2015)
There’s a line in it right at the start. If the rampaging fans had stuck to this philosophy then…. “Football and violence have nothing to do with eachother and have nothing in common. Football means wellness, socializing and healthy competition”…… Made up of eye witness accounts, reporters and other media folks accounts.The story of this horrific and avoidable disaster is desribed in full and brought together by journalist Francesco Caremani. Harrowing stuff. But it was not just about the rampaging fans.There was the havoc and looting in Brussels its self, the destruction of sevice stations on the motorways leading to Brussels, UEFAs errors,lack of policing, lack of searches in section Y,no ticketed fans getting in section Y,the treatment of the dead,the aftermath. But at the end of the the day. No rampage, 39 would still be alive. A very good but emotional read covering the day, the night and the aftermath of one of fitbas worst episodes. Violence at fitba doesnt compute in my head. An act only carried out by vermin.
18/50 – Feet The Chameleon – Ian Hawkey (2012)
Eusebio, The Lions of Zaire, Crazy named teams like Venomous Vipers, Eleven Wise, Eleven Men In Flight and Cape Coast Ebusa Dwarves***. Nayim, Benjamin Massings Challenge, George Weahs Goal, Omam Biyik, Mohammed Aboutrika, Senegal v France. The book is made up of chapters on the separate countries and what they have brought to fitba in the club scene and Internationally with a bit of history thrown in the mixer. The South Africa and Zambia chapters are the highlights.Doing well for books this trip. Another very good read this, whats found in the book is good and informative.But its marked down due to the lack of countries involved. It seems awfully “big boys only”. Nigeria, Cameroon etc
***One of my favourite things to look up. Hours of fun.
19/50 – I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You – Greg Whitaker (2019)
A pleasant read. Im a big fan of peoples accounts of following their team and 75% of this is Gregs journey following his beloved Hull City. Starting in the bottom rung of the English fitba ladder and ending up in the Premiership. Theres alot to relate to for me in this book. Following an also ran team, following your local team, going to the fitba with your old boy, away days, the falling out with some of whats going on at your club, highs, lows and giving up the season ticket.. The other say 25% is made of his favourite matches he has seen over the years, from England to Real Madrid. I’m glad he chose to support his local team in the end. Enjoyable stuff
20/50 – Six Foot Two, Eyes of Blue – Colin Leslie (2019)
“Six foot two, eyes of blue…….” Even though his eyes were brown. Another quality Scottish player slipped through the net and never played in Scotland(celtics fault). Jims name is one I have read over and over again without ever really knowing much about him. What I do know now is he was a behemoth and being a centre half in my own playing days seems like the type of player who would have loved to watch. Big hulking hard as nails brut who took no prisoners.A hero to fans of Man United and Coventry and all his friends and team mates. A proper centre half in the days when when mannies were mannies. The consensus was he wasnt dirty. Just hard as nails. Only 15 caps for Scotland. Probablly testimony to the kind of players we were churning out in the 70s. A tragic end at a staggeringly young age of 42. A well put together book with the views and stories from his wife Jan, his friends from Lesmahagow, fitba reporters and ex team mates such as Willie Morgan, Alex Forsyth, Joe Jordan, the Lawman, Martin Buchan and more. Good book.
Interestingly. He was part of the Manure team that were relegated by Denis Laws backheel(urban myth klaxon sounds). Strange stats that season. 15 clean sheets,. Let in 2 or more only 4 times, 15/21 teams had a worse GA, drew 1/2 their games, Sack the offensive half of that team.
Book 21/50 – CONIFA – James Hendicott (2019)
Nuked in one sitting. I’m very intrigued about CONIFA. Scotland? Brazil? France? Argentina? Japan? Mexico?Wrong place to look I’m afraid. Matabeleland, North Cyprus, Tuvalu, Padania, Chagos Islands, Tibet, Ellan Vannin and many more states and regions unrecognised by FIFA. The book tells the story of the Confederation of Independant Football Associations. The tournaments, the teams, the history of the organisation. I think it’s great theres a place where these sides are recognised and have the chance to play for something. Some of these “nations” are bigger than some FIFA recognised nations such as Andorra, Lichtenstein, Gibraltar and a bit of hypocrisy prevents some becoming members of FIFA. I would love to attend the World Cup. (Is this years in North Macedonia happening?)Really I would love to be involved in CONIFA in some shape or form. Match Reporter? This book kept that view alive. An alternative book to take you away from the mundane overhyped modern day drivel
22/50- Jamor – Felipe D’Avillez (2020)
9/10 and quickly elevated to one of my favourites
One mans travel through every round of the Portuguese Cup in 2018/19 culmimating at Jamor (Estadio Nacional, Lisbon Lions venue). One of the finest grounds I have had the privilege of being in, in that years League cup. This was hard to put down and made we want to go back to Portugal for a game. (Leixoes or Tondela sound good) The book is made up of the games, history of the clubs, the grounds and he mingles with the fans of the clubs. Informative it definitley is but it is written in such a way you lose track of time and how many pages you have read. At one point my coffee got cold as I forgot all about it due to the level at which I was engrossed. This did what I hoped it would and flooded back my memories of new year in Portugal 2019.
Starting with Graciosa the tour heads to…
Benfica & Sporting (2 legged semi)
Jamor for Sporting v Porto
The description of Jamor does the sensational stadium and its stunning surroundings justice. Overall a bloody fantastic book
23/50 No Smoke Without Fire – Dave Jones (2012)
Tough read from a guy who was clearly set up. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty. More reason to boycott papers. The headlines were a disgrace. The liverpool echo in particular. As were Liverpool fans who prompted an apology from LFC. Rupert Lowe and Southampton didnt shower themselves in glory, the FA were also pricks. But there were good guys too. Alex Ferguson stood by as did Alan Curbishley, Gary Johnson, Saints fans and alot of away fans. I cant even begin to imagine what being in that position must be like. Scary how easy it seems to go from hero to zero without any fault of your own.The book starts of with his joy at playing for his blue heroes then on to Coventry where his career was cut short buy a knee injury. He then turns manager at Stockport then Southampton,then the case.I cant believe people are evil enough to concoct such a story.Even harder to believe that the Crown Prosecution helped and were thankfully found out.The case collapsed in 4 days due to flimsy evidence, witnesses dropping and one witness admitting to lying and naming the CPS. A sad tale that makes you realise that world is full of vermin. A good read but its infuriating to find out how it all unfolded,how flimsy the evidence was and how people in power can be so corrupt. Low life in high places is apt. Justice won. More than a fitba book
24/50 – State of Play – Michael Calvin (2016)
A different kind of read from Michael Calvin. Touching on subject that don’t usually spring to mind when talking about football. Every chapter brings a different issue to your attention, with people who have been there telling bits of their story. Starting off with a topic close to home Alzheimers. Dawn Astle speaks about her Dads horrible demise, there is also jail, depression and Dele “im too tired” Ali who can bugger off. I cant take him seriously, but it moves on to other parts of the game faced by managers, clubs etc. The book is set out in parts-Players, Managers, Clubs, the People.Interesting chapters with Sean Dyche, Chelsea Ladies boss Emma Hayes, MK Dons, Ryan Atkin (gay referee) and the aforementioned Dawn Astle. Informative stuff and not the usual fitba book that’s for sure.
25/50 – The Card – Steve Hill (2018)
A full season following an unfashionable team. (Chester) . Sounds right up my street” is what I said and I was correct in my assumption.What a quality piece of fitba literature.”The Card” is going to every match in a season. Steve sucessfully does this and tells every detail of achieving it while only dedicating a few sentences to the games themselves. But this does take away that it’s humerous, relatable and keeps your attention.A trip to see your team being knocked out of the FA Cup at Southport via 4 trains,2 cars and a bout of the flu doesnt sound like fun, funny to read though as is the rest. Mocking, sarcastic but serious and admirable at the same time. It’s the journal of the forgotten fitba towns. From Borehamwood to North Ferriby to Bromley to Guisley this is a book for fitba fans, written like a fitba fan by a fitba fan. Quite fancy a Chester v Wrexham game now.