It’s England’s all important semi-final against Croatia tonight, and whether the team win or lose, here are some books about football to get you in the World Cup mood.
The inside story of the England team and its fans during Italia 90 was one of the first books to set ‘the beautiful game’ in the context of popular culture. It was written in just eight weeks after the World Cup of that year, in order to hit the Christmas market.
Hornby was the first British writer to examine the psychological experience of being a fan. The book describes how he used Arsenal to escape from personal problems such as his parents’ divorce – regarding his fandom as a not altogether healthy addiction. Written with great skill and humour, Hornby’s book also reflects Britain’s social history, from 1960s to 1990s.
‘One day you’ll write a book about this club. Or, more to the point, about me. So you may as well know what I’m thinking and save it up for later when it won’t do any harm to anyone.’
The legendary Nottingham Forrest manager, Brian Clough, spent twenty years with the club – a rollercoster ride of success, failure, feuds and alcoholism, recorded by journalist Duncan Hamilton, who was there from beginning to end.
Another book about Brian Clough – this time a novel focusing on his eccentric decision to become the successor to Don Revie, his bitter adversary, at Leeds United. He lasted only 44 days.
Imagining himself inside the mind of the man himself, David Peace brings one of football’s most complex and fascinating characters to life. The acclaimed film of the book starring Michael Sheen is also well worth a watch.
Back in the 1990s, the author James Bannon, an ambitious undercover cop, infiltrated one of the most brutal gang of hooligans in English football – The Bushwackers, of Millwall F.C. The book shares the nerve jangling journey into the underworld of football hooliganism, introducing you to the hardest thugs, and describing the almost comical police operations that were meant to bring them down. The biggest mission of all proves to be getting out from the mob once accepted inside.
Winner of The Times British Sports Book Award 2014, the book looks into the little known world of football scouts in the UK. Scouts are everywhere, yet remain faceless and nameless, in spite of making the all important decisions worth millions for the footballers and their clubs.
A look at life in the lower reaches of the football pyramid – a totally different world of football from that of the multi-millionaires of the premier league.
The author, Nige Tassell, spent a season meeting the passionate fans of local clubs – some hoping to get promotion, some just hoping to get eleven players on pitch every week.
In Brazil football expresses the identity of a nation. Alex Bellos tells the tale of the mythical names, teams and matches that have made Brazil the ‘football country’ it is.
Why did the German national goalkeeper, Robert Enke step in front of a train to take his own life?
Ronald Reng examines his friend’s life, exploring the incredible pressures endured by professional sportsmen at the top clubs.
A history not just of the changing face of football – from a community game to a global entertainment industry – but also of states and markets, money and power. The book looks at the careers of the legends Pele and Maradona, Puskas and George Best as well as exploring the cultural meanings and political uses of football in Peron’s Argentina, Adenauer’s West Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mussolini’s Italy.
Do let us know of any other football books you’d recommend. And if you hate football…only a few more days to go. There’s always Wimbledon. Or it’s a great opportunity to do some writing away far away from the TV.