A Fitbawbags Guide to Fitba Literature # 6 – The Fifty Book Challenge Part 2

Part deux. Offshore for these so the rate of churning out book after book slowed somewhat. Averaging more or less five a week, the target was still more than achieveable. More of the real books I had humphed to Africa were on the cards as the kindle is out of action when out in the sun at breaks. The second twenty five were mixed bag of autobiographies, history of the game, “groundhopping”, politics, fan accounts and more. So again in pure shiftless approach, here are the reviews lifted directly from my twitter account. A couple of rotters but on the whole a decent selection.

The following books were powered by copious cups of Yorkshire Tea, chilli peanuts, the south Atlantic sun and the glorious tunes of bands such as Killing Joke, Stiff Little Fingers, SNFU, Therapy? The Galactic Cowboys and New Model Army

26/50 – Graham Taylor : In His Own Words – Graham Taylor (2017)


A guy who I always had time for.A proper fitba man. Mocked alot but he wasnt thick when it came to fitba. Enjoyed his punditry.Dour voice but knew his stuff. The book opens with great words from his old mucker and boss Elton John. Taylor starts with his realisation he had less years to live than he had already lived and it was about time he wrote his memoirs. Sad but true as this was released posthumously. He started it at 72 and died at 72. It’s a good account, honest with some good anecdotes. What he did at Watford was some feat. 4th tier to top flight in five years and into the UEFA cup after coming second.FA cup final followed a year later.A great football story. England job,was it for him? He clearly missed the day to day of the club game. “Lonely” was his word for it. His career pretty much ended after that. Think he knew it too. However Scunny and Watford did alright when he was involved there. A bit like Sven, more emphasis is put on his England days rather than his sucesses. In Grahams case Watford.

Overall a good honest read.

RIP Graham. A good fitba man.

27/50 – Sober – Tony Adams (2017)


Honest stuff from Tony. This is the after the booze years. Still has look backs to the booze though. Treble brandies in Guinness to dilute the taste of the spirits just to get him steaming. Ditching Caprice and the booze worked wonders. His mission to help others through Sporting Chance is admirable.

His management days, not so, between Wycombe, Portsmouth, Gabala and Granada his win percentage is low. Maybe not cut out for it. However his building of Gabala FC as manager then DOF was decent with them reaching the Fairs Cup groups when he was there and increasing their fanbase. Not a bad effort for a team who were playing in front of as good as nobody. 20 years without a drink. Also a good effort. Need to read “Addicted” now.

28/50 – Can We Have Our Football Back – John Nicholson (2020)


Tremendous. A must for anyone who knows that fitba started before 1992. John Nicholson is a Middlesbrough fan and dislikes what fitba has become. This book dispells alot of the crap that comes along with the self proclaimed “best league in the world”. Starting with a brief bit on what fitba used to be to him in the Ayresome days he quickly moves on to having a pop at the mythical viewing figures, the propaganda, the brainwashing and lies to drum up interest, crowd number myths, the competitive league rubbish. John has the figures to back up what he is saying throughout this exceptional book too. Good chapters on the FA Cup. Gambling sponsorship (something I am dead against) and partnerships. Of course the riddiculous money involved is mentioned alot too. Nice nod to Aberdeen in regards to the Fairs Cup tie v Burnley. I also particularly liked this line “which is why the big money culture is anti-sport”. Sounds like what I would say. “The little fucking pissy darlings” bit. Quality. As Public Enemy said “DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE”

29/50 – The Aventures of the Fitba Nomad,The First Two Seasons – Adam Lawson Stalker (2019)


A similar story to my own since my fitba renaissance in 2015. Maybe for different reasons and the journeys are contrasting. I have a Wee Man with me most of the time meaning the pubs are traded for walks and points of interest. But the outcomes are akin. A book full of appeal. Full of great grounds. Full of pubs (I would pass on a certain chain though)which in turn leads to great pints. It’s chocked with good facts and would be handy if you plan on a random fitba jaunt in Scotland. Its well written and easy to get large chunks read at a time. The book is as much as a travel diary as it is a fitba book.The fitba covered has as much words as the pubs covered. Some of my own personal favourites are featured,Sauchie, Pollok, Camelon, Albion.There are even a few I have played at, Sunnybank, Banks o’ Dee, Linlithgow Rose.

An entertaining read that Groundhoppers(not my favourite term) should read it if they fancy a nipping to the good side of Hadrians Wall.

Dont start where Adam did though

And definitely dont call a chipper a fish tea.

This is a book that makes me think theres a book in me yet.

30/50 – There Used To Be A Powerstation Over There – Liam Thomson (2019)


A 25 year history of East Fife. I was expecting it to be more of a fans perspective after seeing the title. This was more of season by season guide of what happened on the pitch. Interesting all the same though. Some blasts from the past mentioned within. Mark Yardley, Andy Harrow, Rab Shannon, Jimmy Bone, Jerern Nixon. For some reason I always appreciated seeing and hearing names of old. The authour is also of a slight Dons persuasion which sees him alright in my book. The dreaded Dons out on pens at Pittodrie is in there and still gives me the boak. More for an East Fife fan than a fitba fan. Will be added to my ever growing Scottish fitba book collection though.

However an error found – a certain team did not make their way “back up” the leagues

31/50 – Tackled – Ben Thornley (2018)


Been in my kindle a while and I read his name in another book earlier so I thought I’d give it a bash. A tale of what could have been. According to some, the best in the Class of 92 Manure team. Made up of two intermingled halves. The Manure days and the after career.He tells his own story of his post Old Trafford career, he headed to Huddersfield, Aberdeen ( he was a fan of Ebbe Skovdahl), Halifax, Salford to Witton Albion. The MUFC days are told by himself, his family, Beckham, the Nevilles, Butt, Scholes etc. Fergie agreed but collapsed prior. Its a good enough read. I do feel sorry for him as the injury was brutal. Ruptured all his knee ligaments, diconnected his knee cap and his hamstring disconnected from his knee. All through a challenge from a player who he was tearing to bits (Nicky Marker of Blackburn). I enjoyed the informalness of the conversations in regards to the Man youth team. Not something you see alot of.

It would have been interesting to see how far he would have gone if the stars had aligned.

32/50 – Beastly Fury – Richard Sanders (2010)


The origins of fitba. Is it a British game. Doubtful. The central Americans were playing a similar games hundred upon hundreds of years ago as were the Chinese.This is the story of how the game we know came to being on British shores.Whether the rugby rules, the folk rules or even the North of England wrestling type rules the game started a long long time ago. Potentially as early as the 1300s and has evolved over time (into shite going by modern day rubbish). A complicated start for sure with all the codes. A journey through time from Eton and Rugby to the Sheffield rules to Queen Park being ace. PNE being ace. Arthur Kinnaird. The legalisation of professionalism, Corinthians and much more. It is a great read, the research and detail is first class.I would call it fascinating in fact. Not sure I needed to read about the Eton boys, the buggery and having “girlfriends” who were the pretty boys who were in turn used like prostitutes though.

And it all happened before 1992. Some may not believe that but fitba actually existed before then.

A beast of a book!

33/50 – Its More Than Just A Game – Chick Korr and Marvin Close (2008)


Another good one. Doing pretty well so far. This is the engaging story of the Makana FA. The unofficial association formed on Robben Island in South Africa and acted as the governing body of the prison league for 20 years. After petitioning for the chance to play football the prison finally let them. A pitch was flattened and drainage installed. This led to teams such as Raiders, Ditshitshidi, Bucks , Rangers(complete with royal blue kits and loved a statement) and the mighty Manong being born. I had heard of this before but had no clue how serious this was. An FA, Supporters, Club officials, disciplinary panel, the lot. This was a big thing which took the prisoners away from the day beatings and labour. It was the short getaway from prison conditions. It kept the inmates spirits alive and possibly the inmates alive in a literal sense too.An interesting story about unity and anti-apartheid. Football is a powerful tool.

34/50 – The Man Who Kept The Red Flag Flying – Wayne Barton (2018)

Good book made up of his story in the game plus a quotes here and there from his son and ex players. Worth a look even if you dont like Man Utd

I hope Jimmy is held in high regard at Old Trafford. He deserves to be in the upper echelons of legends there. The man who took on the unenviable task of stepping in for Matt Busby after the Munich air disaster. No easy task. Busby potentially saved his life by telling him to with Wales (his other job) for a vital WC qualifier instead of the fateful trip to Belgrade. In his place on the plane went Bert Whalley, his best friend who perished. The Busby Babes were his and Berts team, he was the man in charge of youth. Similar to Eric Harrison in Fergies day. But he was also Matts assistant. A post that Whalley took that night. A very good read but an equally sad one. I didn’t know alot about him bar his name prior to this. Now have a alot of respect for the man. Through his youth team he developed 2 European player of the years, 9 European cup winners, over 25 internationals and 6 international captains. Good book made up of his story in the game plus a quotes here and there from his son and ex players. Worth a look.

I hope Jimmy is held in high regard at Old Trafford.

35/50-From Delhi to The Den – Stephen Constantine (2017)


Bloody hell hes well travelled, Nepal, India, Milwall, Malawi, Sudan the APEP, Nea Salamis, Ethnikos Achna(All Cyprus), Apollon Smyrnis(Greece), Rwanda and back to India. Then on top of that he travels the world as a coach for FIFA. Not a bad read, interesting to hear the ups and downs of managing in different countries at different standards.Well travelled as a kid, did this have a bearing on his future career? Just a guy who loves fitba but has yet to make it to a dream job. To be a manager in England. Wouldnt put it up there as classic but its a good time filler if you have a long train journey or whatever

36/50 – Biting Talk – Norman Hunter (2005)


The man nicknamed after a banner caught on telly. I had high hopes for this. Didnt quite live up to them though. It was too short and it wasnt detailed enough. Trophy wins were a couple of pages and too brief. What was in it was good but he could easily have elaborated. He also didnt really go into the “dirty Leeds” tag. The only reference was when he talked about planting one on Franny Lee for diving to win a pen. I enjoy reading about that Leeds gang and I know enough to suggest this book could have been more in depth on himself and the team. Not a bad book just, lacking something. My real book I have on the go is a biography Gary Sprake. I hope it doesnt suffer from the same issue.Still, a player I would have loved to have seen and that will never change. I just wish I had Docs time machine.

RIP Bites Yer Legs min

37/50 – Careless Hands -The Forgotten Truth About Gary Sprake – Stuart Sprake (2005)


Part 2 of a classic Leeds consecutive books double header. A man remebered for mistakes rather than being a pretty decent keeper.500+ apps for the great Leeds gang is testament to the fact he was actually good at his job. Retired at 30 too. A great appearance record. Randomly he judged many Miss UK contests, developed a drink problem after retirement, smashed his car into an estate agents shop, tried to rundown a parking attendant who gave him a ticket and even died when his operation to fix his back (injury the retired him)caused bloodclots. After Leeds he claimed to the Daily Mirror that Revie had offered bungs but refused to tell the same stories under oath. This episode tarnished his reputation at Leeds and prevented him being invited to reunions and such like as “influential ex players” had spoken. I know I have said it alot but I would have loved to have seen that Leeds team. A decent read about a decent player.

Old fitbas brilliant.If you havent seen it. Youtube Gary Sprake punches Bobby Gould. Its legendary and some hit. Here is the refs view.”Not serious enough to merit a red card”.Amazing.

38/50 – Mourinho – Patrick Barclay (2015 updated edition)


I got this as I have enjoyed some of Patricks books in the past. This is no different as it kept my attention. Like him or not Jose is some character and thats what this book is based on. Its more about his mind more than his management career.Its a good read from start to finish. Even for someone like me who has a distinct aversion to the English Mercenary Jamboree. A man who realised early on he wouldnt make it as a player and turned his attentions to learning the management game and this book tells of the rise. No football minded person could doubt he paid his dues whether at Barcelona as “The Translator”, Estrella da Amadora or Ovarense. He worked tirelessly to learn his craft. 25 trophies in a 20 year management career says alot about him and proves hard work and determination pays. The book features quotes from people in the know. People such as Bobby Robson, Louis van Gaal, Andy Roxburgh and eh……… Tosh McKinlay who tell little storys about Jose from time spent with him. The guy deserves respect for coming from obscurity to one of the best of his generation.

39/40 – Football and Gangsters – Graham Johnson (2006)


Complete crap. A badly named book. It should have been called “Twat Football Players Getting Caught Up With Twat Two Bit Gangster Wannabes”. Tabloid reporter writes book on his scoops. Rooney shags hookers, Gerrard is a ned and keeps bad company and more crap.Thought this would be about Ultras, Drug Cartels and Russian Mafia and the likes. Real criminal undercurrents in Fitba. Instead pish. It’s not even about fitba. It’s about daft players who have had their names in the red tops. Avoid

40/50 – Footballs White Feathers – John Litster (2014)


Read in a oner while on monitoring duties. What happened in Scottish fitba during the outbreak of World War 1. Fitba was heavily scrutinized from all angles for carrying on. This despite no challenges on theatres, golf, horse racing, curling etc etc doing the same. Fitba grounds were to be seen as good recruiting grounds for enlistment. But the opposers thought fitba was stopping the volunteering of fit men to enter the war on the Western Front. The SFA never backed down. A high percentage of players were married which ruled out enlisting. The outcry continued throughout the war while other “entertainment” were still left alone. Off the back of the uproar came McCraes Battalion or “the Football Battalion” mainly made up of Falkirk, Raith and most famously Hearts players. Most of whom signed up never made it back. Interesting but maybe a bit short. Looking for a good book on McCraes Battalion if anyone can help. Had to laugh at the bit about Hearts not opening Main Stand on time in 1914. They clearly have form.

41/50- The Names Heard Long Ago – Jonathan Wilson (2019)


A second book on Hungarian fitba in the 50s. Also another great read as was the Magical Magyars. Jonathan Wilson never fails to be honest. One of my favourite fitba writers on the go just now. I have a couple more of his to read with me. The book is a history lesson not only on fitba but also on Hungary the nation.The Nazis, the Communists, the revolution and the destruction of arguably the best team in the world. Expertly researched as always by JW and a great piece of hybrid history/fitba journalism. My favourite type of book. Obviously the Hogan’s, Guttmans, Hidegkutis, Bozsiks, Erbsteins make appearances as do the hammerings of England, the Miracle of Bern etc. But the most interesting part is the WWII years. Despite the in depth descriptions of the horrible epoch in history you just cant imagine. OK it was a subject I have already been over recently but its was a good follow on. A cracking book from a cracking author.When all this pandemic crap is done and dusted Hungary is a must visit. Famous teams like Honved, MTK and Ferencvaros await.

42/50- Watching The Match – Brian Barwick (2015)


What a charming book. Brian Barwick tells the story of how fitba started out on the box until present(ish) day. From Arsenal V Arsenal Reserves in 1937 as a test match for the cameras to the modern day multiformat, multichoice type malarkey we have today. Highly enjoyable read and highly engrossing too. The book is littered with classic names Kenneth Wolstenholme, Dickie Davis, Brian Moore, Saint and Greavsie, Gerald Sinstadt, David Coleman. But is also chocked full of enjoyable stories and fantastic old photos.Fitba on the box has come a long way from the days where managers didn’t want their teams on as it gave other teams a chance to spy on them. Long gone are the days when part games were shown because of darkness or goals missed due to reel changes. But that doesnt mean better. There’s definately a certain romance about the old days and I found myself imagining watching the black and white games by the way Brian described them.Tales of World Cups, Euro finals, great matches, picking up George Best, Grandstand, and much more. Not too much on Football Italia which was surprising as it was very influential and brought us foreign fitba without resorting to the German channels in the high numbers of old Sky that were usually only viewed for porn. But sometimes games like Kaiserslautern v Karlsruher or Duisburg v 1860 Munich. If you see this pick it up. It is a grand wee read.

For the record Peter Brackley and Ian Darke, the best commentators in my time watching

43/50 – Modern Football Is Rubbish – Nick Davidson and Shaun Hunt (2009 third revision)


Highly amusing stuff here. The kind of book you want to read when you are pissed off stuck away from home.A pick me up thats for sure. The sadly lost aspects of fitba and the unwanted modern day pish. Some of this book sounded like my inner monologue on full rant mode.

Any book that has a chapter on dog shit making you blind will always be good in my view. There are much more relatable topics too. Quagmires, floodlight pylons, lost smells, Saint and Greavsie and a cracking Subbuteo chapter. Its a bit dated and could have many more entries now. VAR, champions league over silverware, Neymar, half/half scarves, one up front, obscene transfer fees, Derek McInnes, the English Mercenary Jamboree, talk of summer fitba, players moaning about schedules, full kit wankers all for starters.A fine easy quick read but well worth it.

Back on the topic of dog shit and your sight. Exactly which kind was it that made you blind. The white ones that turn to dust when kicked? the wall nut whip? The cocktail sausage?

44/50 – The Manager – Ron Atkinson (2016)


Big Ron is quite the character. A well travelled one at that too. This was boring. A bit run of the mill-ish. Being the larger than life character Ron was, this lacks the ooomph I thought it would have. It just kind of trundled along through his career without much interest. The stages of his career come at you fast too. Then there was his race row which I genuinely believe he regrets.

Random facts learned.

He tried to sign Hans Gillhaus from the Dons when at Villa. He ended up with Dean Saunders instead. Also there a bit in the Coventry chapter where it sounds like he thinks Alex Millers a dick. Never a bad thing.I liked his sign off……

“Football is a contest but it should always be a contest that entertains”

Someone I know needs to hear that

45/50 – The Deal – Jon Smith (2016)


Not too sure about this, I found it really boring more often than not and the authors a bit up his own ass. Self proclaiming himself as a “super agent” should have set alarm bells ringing.Also agents are a scurge on fitba. To be honest I don’t know why I got this. Illian Kirakovs deal to the Dons gets a mention. He was sold to Anorthosis Famagusta to qualify for a Euro visa which he would not get in Bulgaria. This meaning a year there and he was ready to head to Pittodrie.

Other interesting bits include…… Well not much really

A vanity project if anything. One that brings on yawns and doesn’t make you feel the stories.

46/50 – Inverting The Pyramid – Jonathan Wilson (2018 revised edition)


This somehow passed me by, Jonathan Wilson again. This time the history of tactics. A magic read about the trailblazer clubs and managers throughout the world. From the beginnings in England the book passes through, Austria, Hungary, Brazil, England again, Russia, Argentina etc. Famous names of Herbert Chapman, Bela Guttman ( popped up alot in the 50 ), Jimmy Hogan (as has he), Stan Culis, Helenio Herrera, Valeriy Lobanovskyi, Alf Ramsay and many more. All innovaters in their own right. It’s a shame I had to work as I probably would not have put it down. It’s a moreish book that’s for sure. But I’m a sucker for the history of the game. The mad formations get you thinking, the 1-2-7, or the 1-3-3-3 or the 2-2-6 (sounds Jimmy Calderwood-esqe). It gets the brain going trying to picture teams lined up in these age old formations. A very good book, the evolution of the game is well researched and why you see the bibliography you will see how well. (Jonathan sets the bar high in those stakes).The selection of countries, clubs and managers is fantastic and gives a great look into the great game from all over. Chapters on Helenio Herrera and Arrigo Sacchi are highlights. I need to find a book on Herrera, proper bastard and ego maniac by the sounds. A book that I recommend to any fitba fan with a penchant for the history of the sport. Some awesome old photos found in it too. Surprised to see a nice early mention of Lugar Boswell Thistle in it. I learned something new too. Shingaurds were invented by Nottingham Forests captain Sam Widowson in the late 1870s.

Dont let Mr McInnes near this book or he might get some even wackier ideas on the pitch(if he has players).

47/50 – Forever Young – Oliver Kay (2016)


Better than and outshone Ryan Giggs in the youth set up at Manchester United. Ryan Giggs even alludes to it himself. This is the story of a Adrian Doherty. A story I knew a bit about. But this went more in depth.

Big fan of this book. Very well written and keeps your attention for long periods of time. Growing up during the troubles in Strabane, Derry he was a whizz with a fitba. Small and waif like but fit as a fiddle,he was away to sign for Arsenal, Man United snapped him up.He was the talk of the Cliff and the next big thing. The next George Best. Then similar to a previous book read in the 50, Ben Thornley. Injury struck and disaster unfolded. Was he diagnosed incorrectly. Sounds like it. Did this cost him his career and millions. Most certainly. Adrians story could make a great. Film. Its more than just fitba. He was introverted and very much artistic. He wrote poetry, he sang with his guitar. He busked. He read philosophy and about all religions. He was big into his Catholicism. And tried to write a book.Not the typical fitba player. After being released by Man United he tried to play for Derry which didn’t materialise.Then he was done jumping from job to job

A sad story of what may have been but a very very good book

48/50 – The Hope That Kills Us – Various (2002)


Not really my thing fiction. Still isn’t to be honest. Can’t say I enjoyed that. Went through the motions a bit reading it. Glad it was a quick read. I’m not here to slag it off though. This might be right up some people alley. But unfortunatley my brain isn’t wired up for stories. But on saying that I’m sure some of what’s found in these short stories are based loosely on real experiences. It actually started of OK with “The Thing About Brazil” and “A Belfast Memory” but I wasn’t really in to the others. “Football Scarves and Richard Kimble” a celtic fan who didn’t want to support his local team Aberdeen. I know too many of them unfortunatley.

Anyway. Not really for me

49/50 – Fathers, Sons and Football – Colin Schindler (2002)


I got this on reviews only. Some said it should have been sports book of the year. Nae quite book of the year material but definitely worth the read. It’s the story of the Summerbees and their generational career in professional fitba and its pretty good. Starting with George in the 30s and 40s. Struggling to break into the Preston side,moving to Chester, Barrow and Cheltenham.Surviving working at the Portsmouth docks during the war.The man lacked luck thats for sure.Not just in fitba but in life in general.Dying at 40 summed it up. Then it was Mike, Swindon, Man City, scrapping, George Best, drinking, Burnley and who could forget Escape to Victory. Sound like he was quite the player. Also sounds like Man City could have went alot further if not for infighting upstairs. Then came Nicky, Swindon to Man City like his old boy. Sunderland then became a bit of a wanderer Bolton, Forest, Bradford. Didn’t hit the heights of his old man and probably sufferered because of the surname at Man City. However, he pulled Melanie Sykes. Nice work. Good book. It’s good to see three different fitba eras in one place. Three completely different stories as well. Entirely mixed fortunes. Mike’s part is the highlight of the book. He was the better players, the scrapper, the boozer so it goes without saying really. One gripe. It states that Mike played in the game at Old Trafford where Denis Laws backheel relegated United. FITBA MYTH KLAXON. No it didn’t. United were going down anyway. Big Duncan Shearer gets name checked too. Magic

Changed days at Man City these days since Mike rocked up in the 60s. Not for the better.

50/50-Arthur Kinnaird – Andy Mitchell (2011)


A proper history lesson about fitbas first ever star. 9 FA Cup final appearances which is a record to this day. Winning 5 which is only bettered by Ashley Cole (7). Playing for Old Etonians and Wanderers and a solitary Scotland appearance Kinnaird helped shape the game as a player and then in his after career when he stood as, committee member, treasurer then President of the FA for 33 years untill death.Despite his great skills and warrior attitude he holds the unwanted claim to fame of scoring the first ever recorded own goal (1877 Cup final v Oxford for Wanderers).His love for sport was not just football he was also a decent runner, tennis player and also swimmer.The book is pretty much the history of his career from start to finish which appealed to me. A long read which might bore others. There are other books about footballs forefathers which shorten the man’s life into a more palletable size. A very important part of fitbas fabric. In a day and age where fitba is unappealing, full of mercenaries, half and half scarves, totally ruined by money and sugar daddies. In an age where history has been forgotten pre EPL and Champions League by people who fall for the hype and “support” teams from miles away they never see. Its important that the likes of Arthur Kinnaird are remembered because without him and his lifes work. Saturdays would be rubbish. They just wouldnt be the same without him and his contemporaries

He was rightly given the original FA Cup to keep when a new model was sanctioned.

Published by pacman1903

Once a football fan. Now a football nerd

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