The 10 Greatest Football Books, part 1

Ollie Irish

20th, March 2007


Why waste your money on dull, cliché-ridden, ghost-written autobiographies by the likes of Fat Frank & Stevie G, when you could invest in a proper football book. Like this brilliant lot (in no particular order):

Fever Pitch, by Nick Hornby

I’m no Arsenal fan, but I still remember the first time I read Hornby’s brilliant and powerful memoir. Fever Pitch is as much about the author as it is Arsenal, and that’s exactly why it manages to get to the heart of what it is to be a dedicated football fan – specifically the blind loyalty, encompassing both triumph and despair. The wonderfully poignant passage about Gus Caesar’s rise and fall, in particular, sticks in my mind to this day. A stone-cold modern masterpiece. BUY IT

All Played Out: The Full Story of Italia ’90, by Pete Davies

The perfect tribute to a truly memorable World Cup – Gazza’s tears, Platty’s remarkable swivel finish against the Belgians, Bobby Robson’s smart grey suit, Gary Lineker’s awesomely un-English tan, the typically ruthless Germans doing us on penalties. All Played Out drips with nostalgia; you can almost hear New Order’s World In Motion playing on a loop as you read it. BUY IT

The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro, by Joe McGinniss

Engrossing account of a small Italian town’s first ever season in Serie B, with more twists than your average soap opera. What makes the book special is the way the community and team adopts McGinniss as one of their own. The (American) author occasionally gets carried away and starts to think he knows more about the game than he does (he even offers tactical advice to Castel’s manager!), but generally this is a cracking read. BUY IT

The Greatest Footballer You Never Saw: The Robin Friday Story, by Paul McGuigan and Paolo Hewitt

Friday, Reading FC’s greatest cult hero (he played for them between 1973-1976), was the archetypal flawed genius. He probably had enough talent to play for England, but he loved a drink and… you already know the rest (see G. Best). Friday was once sent off for kicking Mark Lawrenson in the face. Friday then took a protest shit in Lawrenson’s kit bag. A classic tale of a colourful character who wasn’t prepared to play by the rules and ended up paying th price. BUY IT

Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football, by David Winner

Everything you need to know about the country that gave the world total football and the genius of Johan Cruyff. Winner really gets to the heart of Dutch football culture and its neurotic, intellectualising mentality and discovers how it contributes to the nation’s consciousness as a whole. Fascinating stuff. BUY IT

Check back next Tuesday to read part two of this list

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  1. Sheps says:

    u guys better have stamping grounds in the next 5 or i lose complete faith in this blog!

  2. Ollie, Pies Ed. says:

    Ah, wait n see Sheps!

  3. Tom says:

    Glad to see Pete Davies’ brilliant little book recognised.
    I’ll be checking back next week as you’d better list David Goldblatt’s ‘The Ball is Round’ and Eduardo Galeano’s ‘Soccer in Sun and Shadow’: the two best general football histories written.

  4. SFGooner says:

    Interesting list. Hoping the next part contains one of my personal favorites is “How Soccer Explains The World” by Franklin Foer.