On the second day of Christmas….The best book

On the second day of Christmas my true love sent to me…a few books to bring on the beach by the sea”

If last year saw some classic new titles, then 2011 saw the competition really hot up.  I read some poor books (no names), some mediocre books (no names) and some excellent books such as Daniel Harris’s On The Road and Jonathan Wilson’s Nobody Ever Says Thank You, which is the best biography of Brian Clough I have read. To pick three that were above all others was a difficult choice but these are the ones I have enjoyed the most and have no problem recommending them to others.

I have of course ruled out my own Dripping Yarns from this, although it is by far and away the best football read of the year.

3rd Place – 32 Programmes – Dave Roberts
The follow up from his incredibly successful Bromley Boys, which is now being made into a film, Roberts focuses on the games, or should I say match day programmes that have defined various stages of his life.  A football equivalant of HIgh Fidelity this is a rollercoaster of emotions as we get a tour through Roberts adolescence right the way through to his recent life and the problems he has had.  It will make you laugh out loud and may even make you cry.  But as with all of Dave’s books, they come from his heart and this is a really great read.

2nd Place – 92 Pies – Tom Dickinson
I am a bit biased on this one as I have known Tom for a few years and actively encouraged him to pursue his dream of a book of his incredible tale of where he managed to eat a pie at every single Football/Premier League ground in one season, and was overjoyed when he joined the Blackline Press couch along with myself.  But this isn’t just about the 92 pies, it is about a season in football.  The highs and lows of trying to get to games, relying on public transport, friends and relatives.  It is about one man with a mission, who never doubted he would fail in his task.  Superbly written and a book that will keep you engaged from page one.

1st Place – There’s a Golden Sky – Ian Ridley
Ian is one of the good guys in football.  He has written a number of books about the game, ranging from a couple of “co-written” autobiographies as well as the excellent warts and all account of his time as chairman of Weymouth FC.  But this book, his exploration of the game at all levels of the English game, tops the lot.  Premier League, football league, non league, Sunday league and the women’s game all get Ridley’s attention and he explores characters in depth such as Gazza.  If you only buy one football book this year, make it this one.

All is fair in love and football

You do feel for clubs that are penalised with points penalties through no fault of the current players or management team.  You feel even sorrier for the fans.  I know from bitter experience as a West Ham fan over the whole Tevez affair that your name can be dragged through the mud and the team suffer (yes, yes I know we should have been relegated but can we let that go now Blades fans) for years to come.

But what happens if the penalty happens to a promotion or relegation rival of your team?  What happens if the harsh penalty actually works significantly to your benefit? Where do you stand then?  Deep down you may feel sorry for the club, but outwardly are you not just walking around with a smile that the Mona Lisa would be proud of?

Just such an event happened yesterday, April Fools Day.  And whilst the FA are seen as a joke by many in the way they run our national game, especially at grass roots level, the decision was made after midday thus condemning them to another year of being the fool if it wasn’t true (as if they would need an excuse to continue their bizarre running of the game anyway).

You need a hand when you are down and out

St Albans City, fighting relegation from the Blue Square Bet South had their 10 point penalty for financial irregularities upheld.  The decision, relating back to events from over 3 years ago (!) has effectively relegated the team from the division.  They are now twelve points from safety with just six games to go.  If they do manage to get out of the situation then they deserve a spot in the Champions League.  It is hard to see where the club will go from here, as they have been on the brink of financial crisis for a few seasons now.  In fact on our last visit there in August 2009 saw them at odds with their programme printers and a simple A4 photocopied sheet was available (Another ridiculous FA rule – if a programme isn’t produced a club faces a fine or points penalties). Continue reading