WE’RE going all Nick Hornby on your ass now – no, not by slagging off Gus Caesar for 250 pages – but by coming up with the top five football books we’ve read recently here at OTFD towers.
Inverting the Pyramid by Jonathan Wilson
A book detailing the history of football tactics from Victorian Britain to the present day may sound like one of the stattos and anoraks out there, but Eastern European expert Wilson brings alive the developing forces that have shaped us with the game that we have today. Wilson takes the reader through the deep-thinkers of the 1920s Austrian coffee houses, Puskas’s Mighty Magyars, the suffocating Catenaccio, Valeriy Lobanovskyi’s scientific approach in the Soviet Union, Brazil’s samba-freestyling, Holland’s Total Football, English ‘pragmatic’ long-ball approach right through to what he sees as a centre forward-less future.
Read the thought-provoking study and hang your head in shame at how one-dimensional tactical football has been here in England ever since the rest of the world cottoned onto the beautiful game.
Football Against the Enemy by Simon Kuper
Remarkably, this William Hill Sports Book of the Year winner was Kuper’s first book, written in his early twenties. Looking at the game from an ‘anthropologic perspective’ he trekked across the world looking at football’s effect on politics, national and cultural identities, bringing us the skinny on the secret football mafia in the former Soviet Union, the shameful behaviour of the Argentine government when they hosted the 1978 World Cup, the internal bickering of the Cameroon team that came to prominence in Italia 90 and even has a stab at getting stuck into the Old Firm rivalry.
This book is the more incredible when you consider how much the game, and indeed the world, has changed since its publication in 1994. Any chance of a sequel Kuper? We’ve yet to find a better mix of football, politics and travel.
The Beautiful Game? By David Conn
If ever you need a slap in the face as to the direction that football has been heading for some time now, this is the book to read. Investigative reporter Conn delivers a stunningly in-depth look at how money, greed and failure from the game’s leaders is failing the average fan. Focusing on Hillsborough as football’s major turning point, Conn tells a tale of the rich clubs getting richer, while the wealth fails to trickle down and puts the very existence of the game’s lifeblood at risk. Among the doom and gloom stories from lower league-strugglers Conn restores your faith in the power of football to unite communities, particularly with his rousing story of York City being saved from property developers with designs on their ground. After reading this we firmly believe that Conn should be put in charge of football, rather than the collection of failed businessmen or politicians that are crowded around the buffet tables of the FA, Uefa and the sport’s other governing bodies.
The Ball is Round by David Goldblatt
An absolute beast of book, clocking in at nearly 1,000 pages and offering an epic story of how football has evolved from it’s Chinese origins over 2,000 years ago and into the world’s biggest form of entertainment. Tying in politics, economics, culture, Goldblatt has an acute eye for detail as he scours the planet leaving no stone uncovered, mixing in stories of the world’s greatest players, managers and those that have played their part shaped the game as it is today. Truly one to take away on that desert island with you.
Carra by Jamie Carragher
As the above selections can get a tad heavy at certain points, we thought it’d be rude not to include the old classic, the not-yet retired footballer’s autobiography. Normally we’d agree with Joey Barton’s critical musings (“‘We got beat in the quarter-finals. I played like shit. Here’s my book.’ Who wants to read that?”) on the genre, but Bootle’s finest son’s tome released in 2008 bucks the trend.
Carragher’s refreshingly honest look at his career brings up a good mix of amusing anecdotes such as nights on the lash with Didi Hamann or Sven’s dating advice and controversial confessions like him crunching Rigobert Song in training or calling off an attack on Lucas Neill in the Trafford Centre when his mates spotted the Blackburn defender soon after he broke Carra’s leg. Carragher isn’t afraid to offer his honest and blunt opinions about the game, singling out managers past and present for criticism.
Have you read any literary works of genius about the game we all love recently? Let us know your favourite reads below, and we can’t let this chance to plug our own OTFD book pass, so click yourself silly right here to get your copy.