Commuting from work these days gives me plenty of time to get stuck into a good book. My journey is supposed to be just 12 minutes each way but thanks to the generosity of South Eastern Trains, they want me to get my money’s worth so it is regularly 20 minutes plus. 40 Minutes a day, 200 minutes a week. That’s about a book a week. Whilst not all of my reading habits are about the beautiful game, there is a fair few that are. So here are the top three books we’ve tucked into this year.
3rd Place – Danish Dynamite – The Story of Football’s Greatest Cult Team – Rob Smyth
Back in Mexico 1986 the Danes arrived with no expectations, no hope and a garish kit that made us all adjust our TV sets. They were in a “group of death” with a Francescoli-inspired Uruguay and the West German machine….oh and Scotland. Few people knew anything about skipper Morten Olsen, a very young and slim Jan Molby, a whipper-snapper called Michael Laudrup and maverick striker Preben Elkjaer. This fantastic book charts their development as a team during the early 1980’s, how they humiliated England at Wembley and qualified against the odds for their first World Cup in 1986. This book isn’t just about Mexico – it is about Danish culture and the rise of a team to world prominence, who were skin-tight nylon shorts. If you want to get an understanding of one of the most powerful footballing nations compared to their size then this is the book for you. For those of us of a certain age it certainly stirs up some great memories of football BPL (Before Premier League). My favourite line? “They were a team of rock stars in a polyester kit”.
2nd Place – Punk Football – The Rise of Fan Ownership in English Football – Jim Keoghan
OK, so I am a bit biased on this subject but I believe that fan ownership is the only route to save the beautiful game in England. Our national sport has become bloated with foreign ownership, all chasing the dream of Champions League football, spending more and more money on overpaid, over rated players who have no more interest in playing for the badge than a lost puppy. Keoghan’s excellent book gives us a background into the rise of Fan Ownership, the role that Supporters Direct have played and some of the more successful examples of clubs who have got it right such as AFC Wimbledon, Swansea City and FC United of Manchester. He also delves into Europe to see how the model differs there.
My one disappointment was that Keoghan didn’t go lower down the footballing pyramid to see how it works at the real grass roots level. I’m pleased to say that he has since popped along to the Dripping Pan to put that right! Nevertheless, this is a great book and should be read by every fan who is starting to doubt the motives of their club’s owners. There is inspiration in every chapter that the future can be bright and can be driven from the bottom up.
1st Place – Falling for Football – Adam Bushby & Rob McDonald
Put two football fans in a room who have never met each other and soon enough they will be swapping stories about how they love their clubs. Sometimes it is a family thing, the allegiance passed down from generation to generation, whilst others it is an act of rebellion. Some even admit the fact that they support X simply because they were successful. We could all take the easy route in supporting the team at the top of the table, or those who are always on TV but where is the fun in that.
Sooner or later everyone realises that football is a succession of ups and downs. Granted, for some clubs like Man Utd that “up” has been for nearly 20 years and now a new generation of fans are realising that teams like Swansea or Sunderland are allowed to come to Old Trafford and win. But what about those of us who don’t support City, United, Arsenal or Chelsea? What about the Weymouth fans who go through Chairman it seems once a month, or Tooting and Mitcham? Well this is the story of 44 fans and their love for their team.
What makes this book great is that it is essentially 44 different styles of writing ranging from seasoned writers to those making their debut in print and reasons behind why they love their club. This is a perfect book to pick up and delve into without losing any of a plot or story-line. As far as I am aware it is also a first in terms of its subject matter.
Of course I am slightly biased as my journey from an Arsenal fan, via West Ham to the Dripping Pan is documented here but what makes this a great read for me is getting a rare view into the minds of other football fans – and trust me…that is worrying. FIFA Five Stars from me
Tomorrow – Day 4 of our TBIR Christmas and our top three worst games of 2014.