Football books are more popular than ever right now, but it can be hard to pick the right one to spend your money on. So here's a few good ones you might not have heard of, writes Ste McGovern.
The Bottom Corner: Hope, Glory and Non-League Football
Non-league football is far removed from the glitz and glam of the Premier League, the prestige of the Champions League, and certainly the money generated by those two. But it is not lacking for meaningful stories, as Nige Tassell proves here.
Over the course of a season, Tassell follows the ups-and-downs of a number of clubs, such as FC United of Manchester, Tranmere Rovers and Dulwich Hamlet, discovering what it is that keeps these small clubs going. On each page the author is able to paint a picture of community, of an identity among fans and players that is so often lacking at the upper end of the game. It is hardly an idyllic painting, however, as the grimmer aspects of life below the Football League show it can often be full of hard graft and little reward.
Green Shoots: Irish Football Histories
This one’s a bit of a cheat, as the author has been on national radio and well-known podcasts to promote this book, but it’s curiously been left out of many people’s lists for the best sports books of the year. The work that has gone into Green Shoots is phenomenal, giving the reader a tremendous level of detail and insight. Aside from the Irish Soccer Split, there aren’t too many books that cover the game both sides of the Border like this one. In years to come this should be looked back on as an important source of historical information of the game on this island.
Hijacking La Liga: How Atlético Madrid Broke Barcelona and Real Madrid's Duopoly on Spanish Football
In his first book Euan charted the stunning rise of SD Eibar, the tiny Basque club who were more used to the lower divisions than the environs of the Bernabeu and Camp Nou, but thrive in LaLiga today. Now living and working in the Spanish capital, the Scottish writer turned his attention to a far more well-known, but no less compelling story.
Atletico Madrid’s success is not a secret; in recent years they have won the Copa Del Rey, Europa League and, of course, the Primera Division. Alas, rightly or wrongly, the majority of football coverage in Spain focuses almost entirely on Real Madrid and Barcelona. To get an insight into the inner workings of Diego Simeone’s charges is a real treat, but we should be demanding (and supporting) more works such as these on the game in Spain. Speaking of...
Listen to our interview with Euan McTear:
Working Class Heroes: The Story of Rayo Vallecano
Small clubs are very much in vogue in Spain right now. In recent years Eibar and Real Oviedo were able to raise much needed funds by appealing to football fans all over the world. Deportivo Alaves reached last season’s Copa Del Rey final. Leganes and Girona are flying this year, while so-called bigger clubs languish near the bottom of the table.
Rayo Vallecano are no longer in LaLiga, but they are a veritable hipster club. Through his time following the club as a reporter for Diario AS, Robbie Dunne tells the tale of Madrid’s forgotten club. “They’re ‘nobodies’ in Spain,” the author told The42 in November, yet their story is fascinating. And it’s one you should definitely read up on if you have any interest in Spanish football whatsoever.
Roy Hodgson: A Football Life
There are some characters in football that you would assume are naturally uninteresting, a backstory that would bore you to death. Roy Hodgson might be one of them, but you know what they say about those who assume. The Croydon-born manager is still going strong in his seventies as manager of Crystal Palace, making this book that bit more relevant.
With the recent spate of same-old English coaches taking up vacancies in the Premier League, there was (mostly fair) critique of Proper Football Men, such as Alan Pardew and Sam Allardyce. The former Fulham manager was unfairly lumped in with the PFM brigade, but he is most certainly set apart from the Brexit-ismo of his counterparts.
After all this is a man who plied his trade all across Europe in places like Switzerland, Finland, Denmark and Italy, before finally making his name in England in his sixties. It might not feature some of the craziness that marks out some of the best books on English football, but that doesn’t stop it from being a quality read.
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The Real Madrid Way: How Values Created The Most successful Sports Team On The Planet
Steven G. Mandis
The complete opposite stratosphere in terms of Spanish football clubs, The Real Madrid Way gives a fascinating insight into what makes the club tick. Why are they so successful? How are they such a money-making machine with worldwide appeal? Apparently community has an awful lot to do with it, which is quite surprising for a mega corporation.
Steven G. Mandis gains incredible access to the club thanks to his connections to the higher echelons of the company, but remains as impartial as humanly possible given the circumstances. Mandis also comes from a non-football point-of-view as a businessman, meaning the book comes across less as a sporting narrative and more of an academic text. Still, an easy read that remains eye-opening.