Monday, December 27, 2010 by Paul Grech
It could be my impression but 2010 hasn’t been a particularly good one as far as football books are concerned; especially if like me you don’t happen to be particularly fond of biographies. Meaning that selecting what has become my annual roundup of best books read during the year was a bit tricky. But, having jogged my memory a bit to see which books I’ve read over the past twelve months, I’ve managed to draw up a list of four must read books.
Top of the list has to be Pay as You Play. Paul Tomkins is someone I’ve known for quite some time; initially through his articles and subsequently through e-mail conversations. He is, by all accounts, among the most prolific Liverpool FC writers around and even if you don’t agree with his writing it is hard to argue that whatever he says isn’t backed up.
Indeed, over the years that desire to have some form of proof over what he’s saying has apparently increased to the extent that he is now looking for solid ways to gauge the true worth of a manager’s signings. That quest is at the basis of Pay as You Play where he evaluates any manger who has spent at least two seasons working in the Premiership.
It is in many ways a ground breaking piece of work because it sees three people who are, essentially, fans offering a real contribution to the world of football in the form of a way through which you can essentially judge the quality of a manager.
Pay as You Play is the last (football related) book I’ve read this year, Outcasts United the first. And, if pressed, I’d probably point at this one as being the best one of the year. Here I have to make a relatively important qualification in that although I read it this year, this book was published last year. But that shouldn’t stop me from recommending Warren St. John’s story about a woman’s quest to set up and keep going a kids’ football team from a refugee community.
It is a powerful and inspirational story brilliantly relayed by St. John, one that won’t fail to impress on the ability of sport to bridge gaps and build character. On a less positive note, it also shows how racism doesn’t look at the age of those who are being discriminated.
A much lighter read is Will You Manage by Musa Okwonga. As the name hints, this book deals with football management and what are the core ingredients for one to be successful at this. There isn’t any deep analysis of tactics but instead the focus is largely on character considerations which still makes for an interesting and thought provoking read.
Finally a book that isn’t strictly about football but one that really impressed me. Bounce by Matthew Syed deals with the myth that there is regarding talent and how this is handed through some form of divine intervention.
In a highly intelligent – and controversial – book, Syed argues that there are a number of factors behind the most successful sportspeople such as opportunities early on in life, motivation and good coaching. There will be many who won’t agree with Syed’s claims – and the response to a recent article by him on Four Four Two magazine proved as much – but my personal views on the development of good sports people mirror Syed’s so it was impossible for me not to get excited whilst reading it.
So that’s it for the year. There are a couple more which I should probably include (Kenny Dalglish’s biography for instance) but as I already hinted, I only rarely read so can’t really comment on them. In the meantime there are a couple of books I’m looking at such as ‘Scouting for Moyes’ by Less standfest but again there isn’t much quality coming through. In any case, here’s hoping that 2011 provides plenty (and better quality) reading material
Category Book Reviews