Archived entries for Books

I am The Secret Footballer

I am The Secret Footballer

Of all the many football books that have been released over the years the magic ingredient from someone inside the game is always insight, from Steve Claridge’s training sessions in Tales From The Boot Camp where Harry Redknapp was fixing the stopwatch to win a bet with his player to Martin Peters retelling in his autobiography how he was once asked play at right-back for Norwich as he was the only player intelligent enough to exploit the space available that day.

Every morsel of the previously unknown can become interesting, including the reasoning of Glenn Hoddle’s choice of Kenny G to ease the nerves of his players ahead of them finding out if they made the cut for the 1998 World Cup in his diary to the revelation that Bob Dylan’s Positively 4th Street was Roy Keane’s favourite song in the Appendix of his own autobiography.

From the little observations within the dressing room environment to the tactics on a matchday, via some cracking anecdotes about nights out and trips abroad, I am The Secret Footballer has insight aplenty. And in addition to the detail, the Secret Footballer has a knack of constantly hitting the nail on the head like Lionel Messi does of finding the net. Continue reading…

VSP’s 2012 Tottenham Hotspur Books

Ahead of Christmas, the independent sports publisher, Vision Sports Publishing have released a couple of books about Tottenham Hotspur that are tailor made for fans with an interest in immersing themselves in the history of the club.

The Glory Glory Nights by Martin Cloake and Adam Powley is a genuine thing of beauty. An update of a book that had press cuttings, brief match summaries and facts from every European tie up until English clubs were expelled from Europe in the mid-eighties, it now comprehensively covers the first fifty years of the club’s European exploits with stunning photographs, insightful interviews, and most importantly, context across six decades. Continue reading…

Left on the Bookshelf

Mark Perryman latest end-of-year book review looks at some of the best from the left from 2012

Christmas time, not much peace in large parts of the world, precious little goodwill for the 99% either. A time for turbo-driven commercialism to drive up retail’s footfall. Bah Humbug? Or if you prefer just put the Historical Materialism on one side for the season and embrace the Hopeful Materialism of looking forward to what might be wrapped up and waiting under the tree for 25 December. Continue reading…

Cycling Books 2012

Accompanied by an exclusive illustration of Victoria Pendleton by the artist Lilly Allen for The Substantive, Mark Perryman declares Cycling ‘Sport of the Year’ and chooses his favourite books from 2012 inspired by life on two wheels. Details of The Substantive t-shirt with a Lilly Allen design at the bottom of this piece.

Never mind the BBC hyped-up hoopla of ‘Sports Personality of the Year’, for most successful British sport of 2012 surely nothing comes close to cycling. An extraordinary first, and second, places for British riders in the Tour de France, a hatful of medals in the Olympic velodrome, more on the road too, and by the autumn a new generation of winners breaking through on the track in the World Cup series too. The achievements, matched by an explosion of popular participation is truly breathtaking. Continue reading…

Football Books – Christmas 2012

Mark Perryman, co-founder of Philosophy Football, on a batch of football books for Christmas.

Twenty years on from the 1992 publication of Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch it might be assumed that there wouldn’t be any subjects football-wise remaining to write a half-decent book about. It’s true there’s a lot of dross (personally I avoid almost all ghost-written player biographies like the plague) but there’s also enough fine writers – some new, some vintage – to still provide a literary football sparkle. Continue reading…

Britain’s Outside Right

Mark Perryman reviews Daniel Trilling’s new book on the British far right.

Daniel Trilling has been for some time one of the few mainstream political journalists to take the British Far Right seriously. While at various moments anti-fascism has been a galvanising force for wide sections of the Left, the centre ground has too often been dominated by the wish that if only the BNP’s opponents would ignore them then the BNP and others like them would go away. Trilling’s achievement is to confront the dangers of this passivity and reveal the frightening consequences of leaving the Far Right to their own hateful and violent devices.

Bloody Nasty People is an ambitious mix of journalism, investigation and political analysis. The journalism mainly consists of spending time with a number of key figures on the Far Right. The culture of those drawn to Fascism remains largely a mystery to their opponents, and more particularly the milieu of casual support and voters that the BNP in particular at its height was able to mobilise. In an earlier period, the mid to late 1970s, Martin Walker produced the definitive account of the resistible rise of the National Front. Brilliantly written, Walker’s book The National Front read like a spinechilling thriller as he detailed how a neo nazi fringe moved into a position of becoming a mass movement focussed on anti-immigration and repatriation. Trilling seeks to equal the to-date unmatched achievement of Walker’s book and he comes admirably close. Continue reading…

Back To School

As the nights draw in and we enter the last week of August, in her latest series on Book Themes for The Substantive, Joanne Sheppard writes on school in literature.

September’s nearly upon us, bringing falling leaves, shorter days and  Keats’ ‘mists and mellow fruitfulness’ – but more importantly, endless ‘Back To School’ promotions in the shops and, despite being 36, an almost primeval urge to buy smart new black leather lace-ups and a new pencil case. I can only assume that spending thirteen years of my life at school has left an indelible impression on me, and I don’t think I’m alone: in the world of literature, stories about school are by no means confined to the children’s section of the library. Continue reading…

Historical Fiction

In the latest in her series on Themes for The Substantive, Joanne Sheppard writes about Books on Historical Fiction, including works by Hilary Mantel, Michel Faber, Diana Norman and AS Byatt.

Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up The Bodies, a sequel to her Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall, has recently arrived in bookshops in a flurry of hype. I haven’t read it yet, so I couldn’t say whether the excitement about its publication is justified, but frankly, if it’s even half as compelling a read as Wolf Hall, it will be worthy of any praise heaped upon it.

James Wood, a professor of literary criticism at Harvard University and also a reviewer of books for the New Yorker, recently claimed that the historical fiction is “a somewhat gimcrack genre not exactly jammed with greatness.” I don’t know anything about James Wood, and based on that statement I don’t believe I want to, but I rather wonder what his definition of “greatness” is.

In fairness, Wood did like Wolf Hall, at least – and rightly so. Wolf Hall is one of those historical novels that manages to be both intimate, minute in focus and yet also broad in scope. Continue reading…

Arthur Rowe

An extract from ‘Arthur Rowe’, the latest in the Spurs Shots series of ebooks by Martin Cloake and Adam Powley, gives a flavour of the man who quietly brought an early version of Total Football to England, in N17. 

When the great managers of football are listed these days, Arthur Rowe rarely gets a mention. He comes from an age of football that predates television’s grip on the game, from an age where personality had not yet elbowed its way to the fore. True, the game was a mass obsession and Rowe was revered in his time. But he seems to have slipped from the collective memory. If the absence of mass media and the cult of the sporting personality is to blame for this, how come Stanley Matthews and Nat Lofthouse are still names that could trip off the lips of the most cursory student of football? Maybe it is because players have greater status in the collective consciousness than managers. But if this is so, how can the status of Herbert Chapman and Stan Cullis be explained? Rowe was never a man to court the limelight or make extravagant claims for what he did. Like the greatest of the greats, he genuinely saw what he did as simply the best way to do the job. And he got on with it with the minimum of fuss as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Which to him it was.

Not only was Rowe a great manager in the English game, he was a great manager for the English game. Because arguably, without Rowe the English game would have stayed constrained and oblivious inside its self-satisfied cocoon of assumed superiority for far longer than it did. And maybe Rowe is not afforded the status he deserves because the game does not fully understand what it is he did. Continue reading…

An Alternate Olympics Manifesto

Joanne Sheppard reviews Mark Perryman’s book, released ahead of London 2012: ‘Why The Olympics Aren’t Good For Us, And How They Can Be ‘.

I’m very excited about the London Olympics. In fact, I get excited about any Olympics, regardless of the host city. I even get excited about the winter ones where we only stand a chance in curling and that event where people slide down a hill on their bellies while lying on a tea-tray. I’ll happily sit for hours watching people I’ve never heard of compete in a sport I know nothing about. Taekwondo? Archery? Fencing? Bring ’em on. Continue reading…



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