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Reviews by Paul Tomkins, Chris Rowland and Andrew Beasley
Liverpool: The Complete Record, by Gudmundur Magnusson and Arnie Baldursson
Written by the two Icelandic Reds who run the magnificent www.lfchistory.net, this nicely presented hardback book is a veritable treasure trove of stories and statistics. Every season since 1892 is covered in Part One (line-ups, league table, goals, etc, plus a write-up), and Part Two looks at the records of the players. An invaluable resource.
“Pepe – My Autobiography”, by Pepe Reina
Obviously a must-have for all Reds is the new biography from Pepe Reina; one of the must thoughtful, likable players in the club’s recent history. We’ve not had a chance to read it yet – but it’s on our own Christmas lists! (hint hint, Santa)
“EPIC SWINDLE – 44 months with a pair of cowboys”, by Brian Reade
This book by the Mirror columnist and author of ’43 Years with the Same Bird’ is an eye-opening account of the nightmare of the Tom Hicks and George Gillett era. The title is a quote from Tom Hicks just after being shafted in court, and as the sub-title suggests, Reade is no fan of theirs – he’s a lifelong Red, why would he be?
The book contains some startling quotes and records of behind-the-scenes conversations, and there are quotes-a-plenty from the owners to make your eyes shrivel in disbelief (including the toe-curling ‘our captain is a faggot?’ episode).
We may know the ending, but like ‘Titanic’ it does not prevent that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach as this wretched story unfolds. If you can tolerate the glibness that marks the book’s tone, this is a book all Reds fans should read – not least as a reminder of where we were oh-so-recently. It’s cause to be thankful.
“MY LIVERPOOL HOME”, by Kenny Dalglish
Kenny’s account of his close and longstanding relationship with the city of Liverpool and LFC begins with his trial under Shankly in 1966 and ends in 2010 with Rafa’s appointment of him as Academy Ambassador. [A new version includes the 2010-11 season]
It takes in all his playing and management career (first time around) at Anfield and includes a few interesting insights into how the manager/board relationship used to work.
Like most football autobiographies, it’s full of dressing-room argot and not especially-clever nicknames, but Kenny’s passion for Liverpool Football Club and his concept of its standards and expectations shines through. He describes the Kop as ‘my favourite sight in football’, and makes the unexpected observation that whilst he was living the Kopites’ dream out there on the pitch, he envied them for living his dream: ‘If only I could have joined them to share the atmosphere, jokes, stories and camaraderie. Just once.’
Heysel and Hillsborough are covered in some depth, and Kenny admits ‘Hillsborough changed me.’
“Joe Fagan: Reluctant Champion: The Authorised Biography”, by Mark Platt and Andrew Fagan
One of the problems I had when writing ‘Dynasty’ was the lack of quality material on Joe Fagan’s time at the helm. His tenure was brief, but remarkable – but until now, not well documented. That’s changed now, with this excellent tome.
He didn’t have time to make too many changes to Bob Paisley’s incredible side, but he did manage to take it to new heights in 1984, before the tragedy of Heysel in 1985. Two years of high drama. The true treasure of the book is the raft of Joe’s football/technical diaries that were discovered by his grandson, to provide genuine insight into the workings at the club. A great man and a great book.
Now a book that’s not been released yet, but is due out in December:
On the March with Kenny’s Army is a new, independently published book that tells how Liverpool FC overcame tragedy and despair to win the League and FA Cup Double – 1985/86
It’s priced £13.99 and will be officially launched at the Static Gallery in Liverpool city centre on Thursday 1 December 7-9pm.
Authors: Gary Shaw & Mike Nevin
Publication Date: Thursday 1st December
Format: Paperback RRP: £13.99
Then, of course, there are two of our own books. “Pay As You Play: The True Price of Success in the Premier League Era” (Reviews can be read at www.transferpriceindex.com)
“From Where I Was Standing: A Liverpool Supporter’s View of the Heysel Stadium Tragedy”
(Although it recently sold out its two print runs, it will remain available on Kindle)
Finally, TTT regular Andrew Beasley recently wrote a review of Simon Kuper’s new book, having spoken to the Dutch author.
“The Football Men: Up Close with the Giants of the Modern Game”
“I do believe that you can access truths about the game by speaking to Arsène Wenger, if he feels like telling you. I don’t believe you can access them by speaking to Wayne Rooney.” So says Simon Kuper, in the introduction to his new book, entitled [outside of the UK] – deep breath – ‘Soccer Men: Profiles of the Rogues, Geniuses, and Neurotics Who Dominate the World’s Most Popular Sport’, which features profiles and interviews with a variety of the game’s greats, both past and present.
The above quote is the key theme of the book; players have very little, if anything, of interest to say.
“Twitter demonstrates the problem,” Kuper told me in an interview to promote the book. “Players are constantly getting into trouble for things they have tweeted. In many countries, players have less freedom of speech now than they would have had in the Soviet Union. Players learn over time to say nothing.”
Indeed, there’s an amusing line in the profile of Freddy Adu (the only American player featured in the book) where Kuper states that the fourteen year old ‘spoke with more articulacy than I have heard from any adult England player’. But why are the English superstars so tongue-tied?
“I think it’s partly because they get teased by their peers if they sound too clever-clever or too middle-class. Their goal when speaking in interviews is to say nothing, because any interesting thoughts are liable to get them into trouble, and so inarticulacy becomes a sort of self-defence”.
The book is inspired by ‘The Football Man’, a 1968 book by Arthur Hopcraft, which Kuper admitted is “a little bit dated now”. But he felt the idea behind that book is still valid: “Portraying a series of individuals and thinking about what they have in common”.
It’s interesting then to see that the people in this book don’t actually have all that much in common. Besides being good at football and very career orientated (“In the end almost everyone in football is out for themselves” Kuper told me), there isn’t all that much that binds them based on the information that is presented here.
A chapter on a boasting Edgar Davids is followed directly by one about a shy Rivaldo; the likes of Jari Litamen and Thierry Henry are shown as being football obsessed, whilst it barely seems to register with Johnny Rep and Bernd Holzenbein (in a joint chapter) that they played in the World Cup final at all. The World Cup final!
The literary pretensions of the players themselves are entertainingly mocked in a chapter that looks at the autobiographies of England’s ‘golden generation’. Kuper confessed that no-one had ever asked him to write one, and I suspect few players will be asking him in future, if they have read this section of the book at least.
“I’d vaguely thought I’d be interested in doing it for Dennis Bergkamp but that won’t ever happen” Kuper revealed, and I wonder if, as the author of Soccernomics, he feels a connection with the Dutch legend who (as the book reveals) was teased as the dressing-room geek at Inter Milan.
Aside from looking at the players themselves, the book also covers the football cultures of different countries, which proves interesting. For example, we learn about the Argentine concept of the pibe, and that Dutch children often follow players rather than teams.
“If you grew up in Holland, you were taught an extreme interest in the actual game itself and in its tactics. So you learned to appreciate, for example, Bergkamp or Van Basten no matter which club they played for”. As an English fan of football, with all of its tribal rivalries and hostilities, this certainly seems an alien concept to me.
As the profiles date from 1997 to the present, it’s interesting to see which predictions Kuper made in his original articles came to fruition and which did not. I won’t spoil it here, but the author is honest enough to admit when he was off the mark.
It’s not just players in Kuper’s sights though; there are profiles of managers and ‘some other soccer men’ (as Part III of the book is titled).
Amongst these, there’s an interesting comparison between Glenn Hoddle and Tony Blair, from when one was England manager and the other the Prime Minister (the two most difficult jobs in the UK according to most of the natives). But who is soccer’s Barack Obama?
“Lilian Thuram is a very politically engaged man. They have something of the same aura: tall cerebral men who exude a great calm”. There you have it; look out Nicolas Sarkozy!
There’s also a fascinating portrait of Billy Beane, star of the book (and now film) ‘Moneyball’ who, it is revealed, is a soccer obsessive. With his analytical mind, I wonder if Beane could cross the divide and become a success in soccer. Kuper thinks so:
“I suspect it’s going to happen one day, that he’s going to make the leap to soccer, just because he has such passion for it and spends so much time thinking about it. Not soon, but one day”.
Whilst I very much enjoyed the book, as a fan who struggles to get tickets to see his own favoured team play, it does sometimes seem that Kuper is complaining a little too much about a life spent trying to interview players whilst going to every game imaginable, including the World Cup final itself in 2010. Want to swap places Simon?
But that’s a minor gripe. The book is very readable, obviously well written and researched, and you learn some incredible and occasionally startling facts about the stars of the game.
If nothing else, the book is worth reading to find out which World Cup winner showed his testicles to Luis Chilavert. You’re wondering now, aren’t you?