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Our Football Books guide for Christmas gift

There’s a common assumption amongst the general population that books about football tend to be, well, crap. And unfortunately, in most circumstances, that tends to be the case. But that isn’t to say that there haven’t been some fantastic football books written over the years, whether it’s an autobiography, a book about the history of a specific club or country or even a book on tactics or training.

So with little over a week to go until Christmas, here are some recommended titles that you can purchase for a friend or relative to put under the tree for the 25th. Perhaps the person you’re buying for is a bit of a football nut, or maybe they’re a bit of a know-it-all who needs to be put in their place and reminded that there’s a plethora of football knowledge out there that they’re yet to discover. Or maybe you may just want to treat yourself and simply enjoy a bloody good read over the holiday period.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t read the majority of the books listed below; a lot of it is based on the reviews and recommendations of others who seem know their stuff. I’ve tried to apply some sort of categorization to them, and with this being a Manchester United blog site, I’ve placed any United based books at the top. Enjoy!

Manchester – A Football History – by Gary James

A must have for any United (and even City) fan, this book has received rave reviews from the likes of When Saturday Comes and Four-Four-Two.

From Amazon: “The book provides the stories of Manchester’s greatest footballing achievements, while also answering questions such as: Why did football in Manchester develop the way it did? How do the Manchester sides compare in terms of local support, trophy success, and so on. Manchester – A Football History will prove to be the definitive story of football in the Manchester region.”

Available from Amazon (link here).

Football  – Bloody Hell!: The Biography of Alex Ferguson – by Patrick Barclay

Released on 14th October 2010, this biography of Sir Alex by Patrick Barclay of The Times has been quite the critical success. As the Football Fan Cast puts it:

“You’ll be hard-pressed to find a book that will tell you as much about the intimidating character and gives such a revealing insight into the legend of British football that is Sir Alex Ferguson.”

Available from Amazon (link here).

My Manchester United Years – by Bobby Charlton

From the great man himself, what more needs to be said? Being from a man who plied his trade in the 60’s, this book lacks the egotistical, self-obsessed, vacuous ramblings of the modern footballer’s autobiography. From the Daily Express:

“Sir Bobby’s autobiography begins with an indescribably moving chapter about the blackest day of English sport: February 6, 1958. They are the most powerful pages ever written in a football book”

Available from Amazon (link here).

The King – by Denis Law

Another autobiography from another 60’s United legend, this book is a riveting, compelling, funny and brutally honest read. Having read this myself, couldn’t recommend it enough

Available from Amazon (link here).

Cantona: The Rebel Who Would Be King – by Philippe Auclair

An incredibly well-written, captivating book on arguably Old Trafford’s most loved son, from his humble beginnings growing up in Marseille to the peak of his powers at Old Trafford. Take Time Out’s review:

“Few are as well placed as Philippe Auclair to write a biography as exhaustive and exhilarating… Auclair’s analysis of the world game is painstaking, perceptive and poetically conceived.. Give this book an index and it would be the all-time no.7 of football biography.”

Available from Amazon (link here)

Blessed – The Autobiography – by George Best

The autobiography from the final and arguably greatest member of the United trinity, a book by a man who lived life to the full is blatantly going to be a fantastic read. The Independents opinion:

“Fascinating-honest to the point of self-laceration-Best will always remain a breath-taking example of supreme talent and courage”

Available from Amazon (link here)

NB: Also recommend Scoring At Half Time by Mr Best (link here)

Keane: The Autobiography – by Roy Keane

Perhaps more famous at the time of its release for being the book that got Keane a five match ban and a £150,000 fine, in hindsight this is one of the finest autobiographies out there. Full of passion, honesty, and a great insight into Roy’s character and personality, just take this quote regarding the Haaland incident:

“I’d waited long enough. I fucking hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that you cunt. And don’t ever stand over me sneering about fake injuries.”

Available from Amazon (link here)

Inverting The Pyramid: A History of Football Tactics – by Jonathan Wilson

Nominated for the William Hill Sports Book Of The Year Award, I’m going to put my cards on the table and say that this is the best football book I’ve ever read. You think you know about football? You don’t know anything until you’re read this book. Starting from the humble beginnings of the 19th century and the 2-3-5 formation to the 4-6-0 of the Champions League winning United side of 2008, this book explains in unparalleled detail the evolution of football tactics throughout the history of the game, and why England have always been one step behind.

Available from Amazon (link here)

The Anatomy of England: A History in Ten Matches – by Jonathan Wilson

Following on from Inverting The Pyramid, Mr Wilson brings us another masterpiece, explaining in 10 pivotal matches the highs and lows of English football, and the reasons behind our lack of success. Here’s the FT’s opinion of the great man:

“Wilson belongs alongside David Goldblatt and the daddy if them all, Brian Glanville, in the triumvirate of great British football historians. Wilson’s Inverting the Pyramid is the seminal modern work on football tactics. Anatomy of England is its companion volume.”

Available from Amazon (link here)

Why England Lose: And Other Curious Phenomena Explained – by Stefan Szymanski and Simon Kuper

Stefan Szymanski, the pre-eminent sports economist, and Simon Kuper, of the Financial Times, join forces to write football’s answer to Freakonomics. An economists look at the game of football, this book combines superb data-analysis and an amusing and informative writing style that will leave you looking at football in a completely new way.

Available from Amazon (link here)

Teambuilding: The Road to Success – by Rinus Michels

From the man who played arguably the biggest role in bringing the world Total Football (along with Jack Reynold’s and Johann Cruyff) is a book on how he believes a great team should be built. From betterfootball.net:

“An essential purchase from the coach who moulded the triple European Cup winning Ajax side in the 1960?s, the magnificent Holland teams of the 1970?s and created Total Football. More great insights into the development of a footballer and a team than anywhere else”

Available from Amazon (link here)

Football Against The Enemy – by Simon Kuper

Winner of the 1994 William Hill Sports Book of the Year award, this book is renowned throughout the football world. From Amazon:

“Simon Kuper travelled to 22 countries from South Africa to Italy, from Russia to the USA, to examine the way football has shaped them. At the same time he tried to find out what lies behind each nation’s distinctive style of play, from the carefree self-expression of the Brazilians to the anxious calculation of the Italians. During his journeys he met an extraordinary range of players, politicians and – of course – the fans themselves, all of whom revealed in their different ways the unique place football has in the life of the planet.”

Available from Amazon (link here)

A Cultured Left Foot: The Eleven Elements of Footballing Greatness – by Musa Okwonga

From betterfootball.net: “A beautifully written, thoroughly inspiring recipe book for the perfect footballer. Okwonga’s writing will have you jumping onto youtube to look up the moments he so brilliantly describes in this book.”

“A delight to read … an exuberant and intelligent footy book” – Simon Barnes, Chief Sports Writer, The Times.

“Probably the most intelligent football book of the year” – Independent on Sunday.

Available from Amazon (link here)

Every Boys Dream: England’s Football Future on the line: Britain’s Footballing Future – by Chris Green

From betterfootball.net: “Chris Green’s book is a worrying diagnosis of England’s football development future and a rallying call to action to save it. A fantastic and thought-provoking read for anyone involved in grassroots football”

‘Chris Green, takes a long hard look at the state of youth coaching and its findings are predictably grim. Green has uncovered a total disconnect between the game’s top brass and the kids at the sharp end.’ –When Saturday Comes

Available from Amazon (link here)

Broken Dreams: Vanity, Greed and the Souring of British Football – by Tom Bower

Winner of the 2005 William Hill Sports Book of the Year award: “Broken Dreams is Bower’s controversial account of how some of the sport’s most high-profile managers and chairmen have been getting their snouts in the trough at the expense of their clubs and the game.”

‘A devastating book, an indictment of football that all fans should read and understand’ – The Times

Available from Amazon (link here)

Cloughie: Walking on Water – by Brian Clough

The only non-United autobiography I’ve ever read, this is a brilliant book by one of the greatest managers in the history of football. His achievements in football speak for themselves: he took two lowly Midlands sides to the very top, winning two consecutive European Cups, with unfashionable Nottingham Forest, in a feat that will surely never be matched by a club of similar stature.

Available from Amazon (link here)

NB: Also recommend winner of the 2007 William Hill Sports Book of the Year award, Provided You Don’t Kiss Me: 20 Years With Brian Clough (link here)

My Father and Other Working Class Football Heroes – by Gary Imlach

Winner of the 2005 William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award, this book is a biography of the Stewart Imlach, the author’s father. From Amazon:

“Part social history, part family memoir, this is on one hand a son’s moving story of his father’s life and the ups and downs of a career largely spent outside the top level of professional football. On the other hand, the author uses football to trace social change over the last fifty years.”

Available from Amazon (link here)

Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football – by David Winner

Shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award in 2000, this superb book, searching for the reasons why such a tiny country has produced some of football’s most intelligent, enigmatic and unfulfilled teams, looks at the development of football in the Netherland from the 1960s onwards, and how the footballing culture refelcted changes in wider Dutch culture.

Available from Amazon (link here)

Tor!: The Story of German Football – by Ulrich Hesse-Lichtenberger

From Amazon: “Tor! The Story of German Football does exactly “what it says on the tin”. As the author explains, his aim was to write an entertaining history of the German game. He has certainly achieved his goal, or “tor” as they would say in Germany. Hesse-Lichtenberger sets out to prove that football in Germany is not necessarily the efficient, predictable machine that those of us believing in the German stereotype might think.”

Available from Amazon (link here)

Morbo: The Story of Spanish Football – by Phil Ball

From Amazon: “English writer Phil Ball has put the history of Spanish football into the context of the epomymous Morbo. Hard to pin down in translation (though the author manfully spends a chapter trying to explain the term in its fullest sense), “morbo” encapsulates the fierce rivalry across a club scene fragmented by history, language and politics.”

Available from Amazon (link here)

Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life – by Alex Bellos

From Amazon: “Alex Bellos’s study of football in Brazil, its history, its players, supporters and legends, works from the standpoint that Brazilian football is one the modern wonders of the world, “the beautiful game” being an art form in itself and a universally recognised trademark and brand. From such a view, he is able to entertain the reader not only with stories about great players and matches well known by the followers of world football, but also about the unique position of the game in the world’s fifth largest country.”

Available from Amazon (link here)

Calcio: A History of Italian Football – by John Foot

From Amazon: “Calcio: A History of Italian Football” reveals more about the national character than any dry study of politics or economics ever could. This is a hefty work but there is so much going on that the pace never slackens. Foot is a meticulous and knowledgeable guide to his complex subject and leaves the reader wanting to investigate further.”

Available from Amazon (link here)

The Italian Job – by Gianluca Vialli and Gabriele Marcotti

Co-written by arguably my favourite football journalist out there, this book is, “A journey to the heart of two great footballing cultures.” From Amazon:

“Uniquely positioned across both the English and the Italian games, they provide a fascinating and highly controversial commentary on where football is now and where it’s headed. And they have invited some of the biggest names in the sport to join in their discussion. Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger, Sven Goran Eriksson, Fabio Capello and Marcello Lippi, amongst others, add their not inconsiderable weight to the highest-profile symposium on football ever convened. Gianluca Vialli and Gabriele Marcotti explore every aspect of football, be it tactical and technical or cultural and sociological. Stuffed full of controversial opinions and gripping revelations, The Italian Job takes you on a journey to the very heart of two of the world’s great footballing cultures.”

Available from Amazon (link here)

The Ball Is Round: A Global History of Football – by David Goldblatt

From Amazon: “992 Pages on football. …..flippin heck. David Goldblatt has written an exhaustive absorbing examination of football and its impact on the world in the context of social, cultural and economic change. As well as serving as a potted history of the game , including overviews of the careers of some of the greats -Pele, Maradona ,Best, Puskas , Lampard( only joking)- it more accurately and assiduously traces the game from it’s original working class roots ( or as a ill disciplined ritual) to the mass marketed global phenomenon it is today.”

Available from Amazon (link here)

European Fields: The Landscape of Lower League Football – by Hans van Der Meer

As the title subtly implies, this book is a collection of photographs by renowned Dutch photographer Hans van Der Meer. From Amazon:

“At the beginning of the 1995 football season, Hans van der Meer set out to take a series of football photographs that avoided the cliched traditions of modern sports photography. In an attempt to record the game in its original form – a field, two goals and 22 players – he sought matches at the bottom end of the amateur leagues, the opposite end of the scale to the Champions’ League. And he avoided the enclosed environment of the stadium and tight telescopic details and hyperbole of action photography.”

And if you’re not convinced, you can take a look at some of his pictures at his brilliant website (link here)

Available from Amazon (link here)

Have you read any great football books that you’d like to share with everyone? If so, please make your recommendations in the comments section below!

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