Saturday, 10 August 2013

More Football Book Reviews


The Miracle Of Castel Di Sangro- Joe McGinniss

This is a really charming book about football at a lower level, about a team who plays with a deep passion and love for the game.  The team Castel di Sangro, is based in a smallish Italian town called L'Aquila in the Abruzzo region of Italy. The team had a meteoric rise to the second division of Italian football- Serie B.  The author, McGinnis is most known as a writer of true crime novels and more recently, the biography of Sarah Palin.  He is a big sports fan, laterally a football fan.  He writes with humour and takes you, the reader on the journey with him.  It is clear that he is not a lifelong football fan but it does not have too much of an affect (well apart from perhaps he thinking himself an expert).  He travels to Italy and becomes the clubs chief writer.  He has fantastic access and in time becomes part of the club and with that part of the local community.  He gets to know the players, management and other associates at the club.  He encounters and introduces you to some great characters.  He also provides a fantastic insight into Italian football and culture of both the game and Italy as a country.  A football season is a rollercoaster ride, it is the 1996/97 season which he follows them.  There is so much in the book, it seems like it is about more than just one season. 

It is a novel about more than football.  It is about something good, in a game that is derided.  No mistaking there is a-lot wrong with football,  from the overpaid stars, to the power hungry and plastic icreasingly commercial side of the game. More than any other football book I have read, it emphasises why we fans love the game so much, often to the point of obsession.  There is something so pure and good about this book and Castel's story.  The enthusiasm of McGinniss certainly contributes.

This Is The One- Daniel Taylor

The publication of this seen the Manchester based chief writer of the Guardian's football section banned from Old Trafford by Ferguson.  No more press conferences for an extended period for Taylor!  The book is not at all damning though and is very fair, it doesn't go out to paint Ferguson in a bad light- certainly not.  Taylor later got back into the lair as it had been a bit reactionary to ban him in the first place.  As much as it being about Ferguson, found that it was far more informative regarding the media side of football, Ferguson's interactions and Taylor's experiences.  It was a great look into the life of a journalist and let you see situations from their perspective.  Famously Ferguson has a prickly relationship with the nations press and Manchester United's training ground, is something of a fortress.  Few secrets left and it was very private.  It had not always been the case that United were so stand offish with the media and that was true of Ferguson too.  In his early days the media had more access and he and his players gave more time to them.  The Cliff was very different to Carrington also.  United also grew as a club and their own in house media setup expanded. 

I quite enjoy reading Taylor's writing, there are many times I don't agree but largely he is a fair writer.  A good one too.   I wish there had been more insights than simply Taylor's opinions in the book.  It did give you information on the public facing Sir Alex Ferguson, what makes him tick and how he handles pressure.  It was a good period to be set in and was written over the course of the 2006/07 season.  United were coming out of a bad patch and could not compete against the rich Chelsea managed by Jose Mourinho.  His team dominated and broke records.  Ferguson was under pressure to get his team back where they belonged, the pressure so strong he even considered leaving altogether.  Fans were deeply unhappy with the team, lack of quality and most of all it was the time that the club was bought by the Glazer family.  That move sickened the supporters, some even stopped following United as a result.  Other problems occurred such as the massive fall out that seen hero and captain Roy Keane depart the club.  The book finishes at the end of the the season in which United come back, the glory days returned and they became league champions.  The recovery, fight and desire are all crucial aspects of Sir Alex Ferguson and his United, Taylor's book does well to convey this.

I Am The Secret Footballer

I never did follow his column in The Guardian and I am sorry that I didn't, particularly now.  There are various sites and groups that emerged in the bid to find out who he was, these have picked out clues from his column to decipher this.  Found this a very good read.  An honest and unapologetic glimpse into the life of a Premier League footballer.  Very damning some of the things mentioned and it opened eyes to other areas of the game.  Personally, was not so interested in the business side but could see that many people would be.  Was really surprised at just how tactical things are.  The admission that most things we fans see and think are impromptu, are most likely rehearsed.

It is a great exclusive and unflinching look at the life of a pro-footballer, a job so many of us dream of.  It is not always as glamorous as perceived but it is no secret they are rewarded richly for the job they do.  In many instances, aspects of his and fellow players lives sounded empty.  The outcome of very young men earning thousands and thousands of pounds and what they do with it, did not make for great reading.  There is plenty of humour in the book and some fantastic stories from matches and plenty from the dressing room (as you'd expect).  He reveals what it was like to come up against certain teams and players.  Interesting, John Terry is unsurprisingly picked out for criticism. 

  The issue of mental illness, namely depression is discussed in the final chapter.  It is a big issue,  a current one and more is needing to be done to support those in the game.  Quite brave for the author to be so open about his own experiences.  I liked getting an insight into the relationships with teammates and managers, the being part of a team is certainly an appealing aspect.  Though, as the book reveals, relations are not always harmonious and players are often at the mercy of the club they play for.  Managerial changes, transfers can impact on a players place in the ream and they can be sold against their wishes.  Their position not always secure and that uncertainty must be difficult to deal with .  Overall, I recommend this book highly to all football fans, it is a very easy to read book and is really short.  The author has been approached to publish a second book.

I wrote up a post previously, reviewing Glory, Glory By Andy Mitten and the autobiographies of Sir Bobby Charlton and Ally Mccoist plus others -

Further Football Book Reviews