Sports books coming in 2023

Time for my favourite post of the year – the list of sports books coming next year! It’s a long list with over 200 books and no doubt plenty more 2023 releases will be announced over the coming months. Some of these will inevitably be pushed back but so far the year is looking good!

For those who don’t want to read the entire list (although I don’t understand why not!) my pick of the 10 upcoming books I’m most excited for (or have read and loved) are set out first, followed by the entire list sorted by sport.

Let me know in the comments which books you are most looking forward to. Happy Reading!

2023 Releases I’m Most Excited For:

  1. ⚽ It isn’t Sunday Anymore: In Search of Roberto Baggio by James Horncastle. I loved Baggio and really looking forward to this book on the Divine Ponytail by the excellent Italian football writer.
  2. 🏀Magic: The Life of Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson by Roland Lazenby. The great basketball biographer on the legendary Magic.
  3. 🏀LeBron by Jeff Benedict. Promises to be the definitive bio of LeBron James by the co-author of the excellent Tiger Woods.
  4. 🏌️‍♂️Feherty by John Feinstein. Promises to be the definitive biography of enigmatic golfer and commentator David Feherty.
  5. ⚾ Baseball at the Abyss: The Scandals of 1926, Babe Ruth, and the Unlikely Savior Who Rescued a Tarnished Game by Dan Taylor. A look at how baseball recovered from betting scandal that threatened its place as America’s national pastime.
  6. ⚽We Play On: Shakhtar Donetsk’s Fight for Ukraine, Football and Freedom by Andy Brassell
  7. ⚽When Calcio Ruled the World: The History of Italian Football in the Eighties and Nineties by Emanuele Giulianelli. If I was to write a book it would be on this period of Italian football so I’m very excited to read this one.
  8. 🏃💉The Longest Race: Inside the Secret World of Abuse, Doping, and Deception on Nike’s Elite Running Team by Kara Goucher with Mary Pilon
  9. 🥊Lights Out The James Toney Story by Robert Anasi. Anything published by Hamilcar is sure to be one of the highlights of the year.
  10. ⚽ Phenomenon – Biography of the Brazilian striker Ronaldo by Dan Williamson.

And now the full list sorted by sport

⚽ Soccer

  • 1992: The Birth of Modern Football by Rob Fletcher. The year the Premier League was formed.
  • Big Boots to Fill: The New Maradona, Riquelme, Messi and Beyond by David Nolan
  • When Calcio Ruled the World: The History of Italian Football in the Eighties and Nineties by Emanuele Giulianelli
  • The Match: The Story of Italy v Brazil by Piero Trellini. An in-depth look at the 1982 World Cup 2nd round match between the eventual winners and one of the greatest teams not to win the World Cup.
  • The Life of Total Football: The Origins and Development of Football’s Most Entertaining Philosophy by James Jackson
  • High Noon: The Falklands, the Hand of God and the Goal of the Century by Michael Gibbons
  • Phenomenon – Biography of the Brazilian striker Ronaldo by Dan Williamson
  • The Conquerors: How Carlo Ancelotti Made AC Milan World Champions by Dev Bajwa. I love seeing more books being written in English on 90’s and 00’s Italian football.
  • Espana 82: A Hazy Shade of Summer by Stuart Horsfield. A wider look at the tournament from the author of the excellent Brazil 1982.
  • The Dutch Masters: When Ajax’s Totaal Voetbal Conquered Europe by Gary Thacker.
  • When the Sky Was Blue: The Inside Story of Coventry City’s Premier League Years by Rich Chamberlain
  • It Isn’t Sunday Anymore: In Search of Roberto Baggio by James Horncastle
  • Mucky Boots: Triumphs, Trials and Tragedies of a Football Club Owner by Kevin McCabe
  • Revolution: The Rise and Rise of Wolverhampton Wanderers 2003 to 2023 by Paul Berry and Johnny Phillips
  • Duncan Edwards: Eternal: The family authorised autobiography of Manchester United’s lost genius by Wayne Barton. Barton has written tons of great books on United’s past and this promises to be a great read.
  • The Number Ten: More than a Number, More than a Shirt by Andy Bollen. A look at everyone’s favourite football position.
  • Soccer Grannies: The South African Women Who Inspire the World by Jean Duffy
  • Copa America: The History of the World’s Oldest Continental Football Tournament by Gideon Long
  • So Much More Than That: A British Journey of Football, Industry, War and Migration by Hannah Grainger-Clemson. A look at how ordinary people experienced life and the rise of football in the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • Thai Football Tales: A Beautiful Madness by Matt Riley
  • Erik ten Hag: The Biography by Maarten Meijer. Bio of the Man Utd manager.
  • Fortune’s Always Hiding: From Stratford to Seville by Paul Brand. A West Ham fan on the club’s recent history.
  • Scotland 42 England 1:An Englishman’s Mazy Dribble through Scottish Football by Mark Winter
  • Nowhere to Run: The trials of a non-league football club owner by Jonathan Sayer
  • El Ceramico: The Story of the Potteries Derby by Liam Bullock
  • Making Up the Numbers: 99 Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Players by Alex Cassidy
  • José Mourinho the Inter Years by Paul Rowe
  • Come and Get Me by Jim White and Kaveh Solhekol. No details yet but presume will be about transfers or transfer deadline day.
  • Mr Corinthian: Pa Jackson and the Casual Corinthians by Llew Walker
  • Echoes of an Italian Summer: Stories from Italia 90 by Paul Grech
  • Red Planet: How Manchester United Took Over the World by Luke Bainbridge. A history of the football club.
  • The King Takes Over: Liverpool and the Dalglish Years 1985-1991 by Shareef Abdallah.
  • A Tale of One City: The World’s Most Unique Single-City Derbies by Andrew Flint and Matt Gault
  • Match Fit: An Exploration of Mental Health in Football by Johnnie Lowery
  • Turncoat: How I Stopped Supporting Arsenal and Found a New Team by Matt Coughlan
  • Pretty Poly: The History of the Football Shirt by Alex Ireland
  • An Oral History of Football: From 1966 to the Modern Day by Les Scott
  • We Play On: Shakhtar Donetsk’s Fight for Ukraine, Football and Freedom by Andy Brassell
  • The A to Z of Sunday League Football: The Ultimate Guide to the Grassroots Game by Craig Hazell & Adam Parker
  • United with Dad by Simon Lloyd
  • Got That Lovin’ Feelin’: From Clark to Cooper, Nottingham Forest s Unique Story of Turmoil and Triumph by Warren Turner
  • A Nation Again: The Inside Story of Scotland’s Emergence from the International Wilderness by Andy Bargh
  • The Derby Game: A History of Local Rivalries by Ian Collis
  • Fear and Loathing at Goodison Park: Everton Under David Moyes by Louis Foster
  • Galvanised: The Footballing Tale of Brothers Chris and Tony Galvin by David Saffer
  • The Forgotten Cup: History of the Mitropa Cup, Mother of the Champions League (1927-1940) by Jo Araf
  • The System: What We Can Learn When Science and Reason Collide with Scottish Football by Graeme McDowal
  • Forgotten Football Clubs: Fifty Teams Across the World, Gone but Never Forgotten by Philip O’Rourke
  • Gary Speed: The Man Behind the Smile by Graeme Bell. A bio of the late footballer and Wales manager.
  • Field of Dreams: 100 Years of Wembley in 100 Matches by Nige Tassell
  • Inshallah United: A Story of Faith and Football by Nooruddean Choudry. A reflection of growing up a Manc and a United fan in an Islamic household.
  • The Men Who Made Manchester United: The Untold Story by Harry Robinson. A look at the men who founded Man Utd and the pre-war years before they became a global giant.
  • Crossing the Park: The Men Who Dared to Play for Both Liverpool and Everton by Peter Jones.
  • Spice Up Your Life: Liverpool, the Nineties and Roy Evans by Jonathon Aspey
  • Golden Generations: The Story of the 2006 FIFA Men s World Cup by Michael Gallwey
  • El M s Grande: The Story of River Plate, Argentina’s Biggest Club by Mark Orton
  • 81: The Inside Story of Our Iconic FA Cup Victory by Steve Perryman. Spurs player on their 1981 cup win.
  • England’s Calamity? A New Interpretation of the ‘Match of the Century’ by Chris Jones.
  • Fever Pitch: The Rise of the Premier League by Paul McCarthy
  • Where Legends Were Born: Melwood the Complete Story by Arngrimur Baldursson. A look at Liverpool’s youth academy.
  • When Dave Went Up: The Inside Story of Wimbeldon’s 1988 FA Cup Win by Gary Jordan. Jordan has written some other great books on the history of Wimbledon.
  • Unico Grande Amore: AS Roma in the 21st century by Marc Lamberts
  • Brave Enough Not to Quit by Millie Farrow with Katie Field.
  • Rovers Till I Die: The Story of Bob Crompton, Blackburn’s Most Famous Son by Harry Berry
  • Roy Massey: A Life in Football and a Coach to the Stars by Roy Massey
  • Amoruso Lets it Run: Hearts of Midlothian 1990-1998 by Scott McIntosh
  • The Great Days of Sunderland: Six League Titles and Two Fa Cups by David Potter. Hard to believe Sunderland were once good!
  • The Dundee Derby: Britain’s Closest Derby by Jeff Webb
  • Never Stop: How Ange Postecoglou Brought the Fire Back to Celtic by Hamish Carton
  • Glory, Glory, Gone: The Story of Tottenham Hotspur’s Regression, Relegation and Rebirth in the 1970s by Samuel Rooke
  • Season in Hell: British Footballers Killed in the Second World War by Nigel McCrery
  • Starting from Scratch Barry Kilby by Dave Thomas
  • NII Lamptey: The Curse of Pele by Joris Kaper. Biography of the Ghanian football wunderkid who became a cautionary tale for putting too much pressure on young players.
  • Hammer Time: Me, West Ham, and a Passion for the Shirt by Julian DicksBiography of the former West Ham player and cult legend.
  • ‘Green & Golden Boots’ by Jason Goldsmith. A look at the 12 Australians who have won Golden Boots in international leagues, covering countries such as England, Scotland, Norway, Belgium, USA, Japan, Malaysia and Iceland!
  • A book on the history of football terminology by FoFStrife
  • ‘They Played for David Pleat at Luton Town 1978-86’ by @Kitman_Phil
  • A whole bunch of books from great Australian publisher Fairplay Publishing, including:
    • When Mum & Dad See Me Kick
    • The Yawning Giant
    • Best in Australia
    • Hell for Leather
    • The First Matildas
    • Encyclopedia of Matildas World Cup Edition
    • Hear Us Roar

🏈 NFL / American Football

  • Round Zero: Inside the NFL Draft by Andy Phillips. Draft insights from the former Green Bay Packer turned sportswriter.
  • On the Clock: Kansas City Chiefs by Matt Derrick. A look at the Chiefs’ history in the NFL Draft.
  • Draft Day Confidential: A Fan’s Inside Guide to the NFL Draft by Thomas George
  • All-Pro Wisdom: The Seven Choices that Lead to Greatness by Matt Birk with Rich Chapman
  • Fifth Ward to Fourth Quarter: Football’s Impact on an NFL Player’s Body and Soul by Delvin Williams.
  • The NFL Off-Camera: An A-Z Guide to the League’s Most Memorable Players and Personalities by Bob Angelo and Ray Didinger
  • Never Ask ‘Why’: Football Players’ Fight for Freedom in the NFL by Ed Garvey
  • Don Perkins: A Champion’s Life by Richard Melzer. Biography of the former Dallas Cowboy
  • The Yards Between Us: A Memoir of Love, Life and Football by R.K. Russell
  • Four Quarters of History Ten Games That Define the Modern NFL by Sean Deveney
  • Dyed in Crimson: Football, Faith and the Remaking of Harvard’s America by Zev Eleff
  • Iron Tigers by David Neil Drews. A novel inspired by the team that conquered Dixie and launched Southern Football
  • How ‘Bout Them Dawgs: The Inside Story of Georgia Football’s 2021 National Championship Season by Kirby Smart and Loran Smith.

⚾ Baseball

  • Daybreak at Chavez Ravine: Fernandomania and the Remaking of the Los Angeles Dodgers by Erik Sherman. The story of the Mexican pitcher, Fernando Valenzuela, who became an instant icon for his performances as a Dodger.
  • Buffalo Braves: From A to Z by Budd Bailey.
  • When the Babe Went Back to Boston: Babe Ruth, Judge Fuchs and the Hapless Braves of 1935 by Bob Lemoine
  • From the Front Row: Reflections of a Major League Baseball Owner and Modern Art Dealer by Jeffrey H. Loria
  • Welcome to the Circus of Baseball : A Story of the Perfect Summer at the Perfect Ballpark at the Perfect Time by Ryan McGee. The writer looks back on his first summer post college interning for a minor league baseball team.
  • One Season in Rocket City: How the 1985 Huntsville Stars Brought Minor League Baseball Fever to Alabama by Dale Tafoya
  • The New Ballgame: The Not So-Hidden Forces That Shape Modern Baseball by Russell A. Carleton
  • Penguin Power: Dodger Blue, Hollywood Lights and a One in a Million Big League Journey by Ron Cey with Ken Gurnick
  • The 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys: The Worst Team in Pittsburgh Pirates History by John Dreker
  • Smart, Wrong, and Lucky: Scouting Baseball’s Unexpected Stars by Jonathan Mayo
  • Baseball at the Abyss: The Scandals of 1926, Babe Ruth, and the Unlikely Savior Who Rescued a Tarnished Game by Dan Taylor. A look at how baseball recovered from betting scandal that threatened its place as America’s national pastime.
  • Baseball’s Endangered Species: Inside the Craft of Scouting by Those Who Lived It by Lee Lowenfish
  • Pitching Democracy: Baseball and Politics in the Dominican Republic by April Yoder
  • Suds Series: Baseball, Beer Wars and the Summer of ‘82 by J. Daniel.
  • Gibby: Tales of a Baseball Lifer by John Gibbons.
  • Banana Ball by Jesse Cole. Book by the owner of a social media sensation sub-minor league baseball team in Georgia.
  • The 1998 Yankees by Jack Curry
  • The Tao of the Backup Catcher by Tim Brown with Erik Kratz. Chronicles the unsung journeymen of baseball.
  • Sons of Baseball: Growing Up with a Major League Dad by Mark Braff. Interviews with 18 men who grew up with father’s who played Major League Baseball.
  • Do You Believe in Magic?: Baseball and America in the Groundbreaking Year of 1966 by David Krell
  • Winning Fixes Everything : How Baseball’s Brightest Minds Created Sports’ Biggest Mess by Evan Drellich
  • Aaron Judge: The Incredible Story of New York Yankees’ Home Run Hitting Phenom by David Fischer
  • Baseball Memorable Misses: An Unabashed Look at the Game’s Craziest Zeroes by Dan Schlossberg
  • A Damn Near Perfect Game: Reclaiming America’s Pastime by Jim Kelly with Rob Bradford. The White Sox pitcher with an insiders look at Major League Baseball. Will it be the Ball Four of the modern era?
  • Mallparks: Baseball Stadiums and the Culture of Consumption by Michael T. Friedman
  • Ballists, Dead Beats, and Muffins: Inside Early Baseball in Illinois by Robert D. Sampson
  • Road to Nowhere: The Early 1990s Collapse and Rebuild of New York City Baseball by Chris Donnelly. A look at the turbulent years for the Yankees and Mets as they crashed and rebuilt in the early 90s.
  • Baseball: The Turbulent Midcentury Years by Steven P. Gietschier

🏀Basketball

  • Magic: The Life of Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson by Roland Lazenby. The great basketball biographer on the legendary Magic.
  • The Education of Kendrick Perkins: A Memoir by Kendrick Perkins with Seth Rogoff. Autobiography of the NBA player turned ESPN analyst.
  • LeBron by Jeff Benedict. Promises to be the definitive bio of LeBron James by the co-author of the excellent Tiger Woods.
  • Hoop Muses: An Insider’s Guide to Pop Culture and the Women;s Game by Kate Fagan, Seimone Augustus and Sophia Chang
  • Role of a Lifetime: Larry Farmer and the UCLA Bruins by Larry Farmer and Tracy Dodds. Farmer was a key player on the legendary UCLA basketball teams under John Wooden before becoming the first black head coach at the school at age 30.
  • Black Ball : Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Spencer Haywood, and the Generation that Saved the Soul of the NBA by Theresa Runstedtler
  • The Sense of Wonder (A novel) by Matthew Salesses. A novel based on an Asian-American NBA star which seems heavily based on Jeremey Lin’s dramatic emergence in the NBA and the ensuing ‘Linsanity’.
  • The Blue Divide: Duke, North Carolina, and the Battle on Tobacco Road by Johnny Moore and Art Chansky

🥊 Boxing

  • Lights Out The James Toney Story by Robert Anasi. Anything published by Hamilcar is sure to be one of the highlights of the year.
  • Last On His Feet: Jack Johnson and the Battle of the Century by Youssef Daoudi and Adrian Matejka. An innovate take on the famous boxer combing poetry and illustrations.
  • Fight For Your Life: The Autobiography by Amir Kahn. Autobiography of the British boxer
  • Brick City Grudge Match: Tony Zale and Rocky Graziano Battle in Newark, 1948 by Rod Honecker
  • Untitled Andre Ward Memoir. Autobiography of the 5 time world champion boxer.
  • Henry Armstrong: Boxing’s Super Champ by John Jarrett
  • Muhammad Ali: A Humanitarian Life by Margueritte Shelton
  • A Boxing Legacy: The Life and Works of Writer and Cartoonist Ted Carroll edited by Ian Phimister and David Patrick
  • Glenn Catley Autobiography by Neil Palmer

🎽 Athletics / Olympics

  • The Long Run to Glory by Stephen Lane. The story of the first women’s Olympic Marathon.
  • The Longest Race: Inside the Secret World of Abuse, Doping, and Deception on Nike’s Elite Running Team by Kara Goucher with Mary Pilon
  • Silence All the Noise by Caster Semenya. Biography of the runner who has found herself at the center of discussions on sport and gender.
  • Untitled Donovan Bailey memoir. The Canadian sprinter’s story will be published by Random House Canada this Summer.
  • Nadia Comaneci and the Secret Police: A Cold War Escape by Dr Stejarel Olaru, translated by Alistair Ian Blyth. Promises to be a fascinating account of the life of the legendary gymnast.
  • The Tigerbelles: The American Team that Changed the Face of Women’s Sports by Aime Alley Card
  • We Share the Sun: The Incredible Journey of Kenya’s Legendary Coach and the Fastest Runners on Earth by Sarah Gearhart
  • Good for a Girl: My Life Running in a Man’s World by Lauren Fleshman
  • The Race Against Time: Adventures in Late-Life Running by Richard Askwith
  • Airborne by Shaun White. Illustrated biography from the American Olympic snowboarder
  • Victory in the Pool: How a Maverick Coach Upended Society and Led a Group of Young Swimmers to Olympic Glory by Bill GeorgeStory of the swim coach who led the US to 20 Olympic medals in the 1960s and 70s.
  • The Olympics that Never Happened: Denver ’76 and the Politics of Growth by Adam BergThe story of Denver’s successful Olympic bid which was then rejected by its own citizens.
  • Black Mercuries: African American Athletes, Race, and the Modern Olympic Games by David K. Wiggins, Kevin B. Witherspoon & Mark Dyreson
  • Choosing To Run: A Memoir by Des Linden
  • In the Spell of the Barkley: The Most Gruelling Ultramarathon in the World by Michiel Panhuysen
  • The Hard Parts: A Story of Courage and Triumph by Oksana Masters

🏌️‍♂️ Golf

  • Feherty by John Feinstein. Promises to be the definitive biography of enigmatic golfer and commentator David Feherty.
  • The Ball in the Air by Michael Bamberger. A love letter to amateur golf by the celebrated golf writer
  • Little Poison: Paul Runyan, Sam Snead and a Long Shot Upset at the 1938 PGA Championship by John Dechant
  • Troublemaker: A Memoir by Lisa Cornwell with Tucker Booth. The Golf Channel analyst hits out a misogony in sports media.
  • Tiger Woods Memoir – it’s been in motion for a few years and listed as a 2023 release but without a title yet it may not come next year.

🏏Cricket

  • The Tour: The Story of the England Cricket Team Overseas 1877-2022 by Simon Wilde
  • All-India and Down-Under: Peace, Partition and the Game of Cricket by Richard Knott
  • This Too America: Philadelphia’s Era of Cricket by Tom Melville
  • Turning Over the Pebbles: A Life in Cricket and in the Mind by Mike Brearley
  • It’s Not Banter, It’s Racism: What Cricket’s Dirty Secret Reveals About Our Society by Azeem Rafiq. The Yorkshire cricketer who spoke out about racism in the game.
  • From Darkness into Light: The Australian Imperial Forces XI 1919 by John Broom and Anthony Condon

🏉Rugby

  • The Men in the Arena: England, Australia and the Battle for the Rugby World Cup by Peter Burns and Tom English. Any book by Burns and English is usually well worth reading.
  • Le Coq: A Journey to the Heart of French Rugby by Peter Bills
  • The Extra Mile by Kevin Sinfield. Autobiography of the rugby league player.
  • Hope and Glory: Rugby League in Thatcher’s Britain by Anthony Broxton
  • World in Union: The Rugby World Cup, 1987-2019 by Matthew Bazell
  • The Art of Winning: Lessons learned by one of the world’s top sportsmen by Dan Carter. Autobiography from the legendary New Zealand rugby out-half
  • Edgar Mobbs: Rugby International, Sportsman, Soldier, Legend by Jon Cooksey & Graham McKechnie. Biography of the rugby player who died during World War I.

🎱 Snooker

  • Deep Pockets: Snooker and the Meaning of Life by Brendan Cooper
  • The Natural: The Story of Patsy Houlihan, the Greatest Snooker Player You Never Saw by Luke Williams
  • Snooker’s Bad Boys: The Rebels of the Green Baize by Matt Bozeat

🚲Cycling

  • Full Gas: Inside Road Cycling by Kristof Ramon. A look behind the scenes with the teams and riders at all the major cycling tours and classics through the lens of world-class pro-cycling photographer
  • Coffee First, Then the World by Jenny Graham. The author’s attempt to beat the around-the-world cycling record.
  • The Art of Cycling: Philosophy, Meaning, and a Life on Two Wheels by James Hibbard. Already out in the UK but out in USA in May.
  • 1923: The Mystery of Lot 212 and a Tour de France Obsession by Ned Boulting. The author bought a piece of film from the 1923 Tour de France and becomes obsessed with tracing the story of that year’s race.

🎾 Tennis

  • My Dream Time: A Memoir of Tennis & Teamwork by Ash Barty
  • Althea: The Life of Tennis Champion Althea Gibson by Sally H. Jacobs
  • Queen of the Court: The Many Lives of Tennis Legend Alice Marble by Madeleine Blais

🏒Hockey

  • Freedom to Win: A Cold War Story of the Courageous Hockey Team Who Fought the Soviets for the Soul of Its People—And Olympic Gold by Ethan Scheiner. A look at the Czechoslovakia ice hockey team and their battles with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
  • Down and Back: On Alcohol, Family and a Life in Hockey by Justin Bourne
  • The Game that Saved the NHL: The Broad Street Bullies, the Soviet Red Machine, and Super Series ’76 by Ed Gruver

Miscellaneous

  • Unfair Play: The Battle For Women’s Sport by Sharron Davies and Craig Lord. Former swimmer Davies has been outspoken on the issue of transgender participants in women’s sport.
  • An American Aristocrat: How the Sporting Obsessions of J. B. Thomas Defined the Age of Excess by Christopher Oakford and Glenye Cain
  • Game of Edges: The Analytical Revolution and the Future of Professional Sports by Bruce Schoenfeld
  • The Right Call: What Sports Teach Us About Leadership, Excellence, and Decision-Making by Sally Jenkins. A reflection on the various coaches and athletes Jenkins encountered during her career as a sportswriter.
  • Straight Shooter: A Memoir of Second Chances and First Takes by Stephen A. Smith
  • The Black Athlete Revolt: The Sport Justice Movement in the Age of #BlackLivesMatter by Shaun M. Anderson
  • No Pie, No Priest: A Journey through the Folk Sports of Britain by Harry Pearson
  • Box! Box! Box!: The Inside Track of the 2022 Formula One Season by Gary Jordan. Look at an incredible season of Formula 1 from author of excellent books on AFC Wimbledon and the 1982 World Cup.
  • Bounce Out: The Fall of the British Darts Organisation by Andy Moore
  • 24 Hours by Richard Williams. The story of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of the world’s most iconic motorsports events, which celebrates its centenary in 2023.
  • Power Players: Sports, Politics, and the American Presidency by Chris Cillizza. A colorful look at how modern US presidents play sport and have used sport as part of their politics.
  • Kings of the Cage: How an Unlikely Group of Mogels, Champions, & Hustlers Transformed the UFC into a $10 Billion Industry by Michael Thomsen. The origin story of the UFC.
  • Money, Power, Respect: How Women in Sports are Shaping the Future of Feminism by Macaela MacKenzie
  • Remember Their Sacrifice: Stories of Unheralded Athletes of Color by Arif Khatib and Pete Elman
  • When Women Stood: The Untold History of Females Who Changed Sports and the World by Alexandra Allred
  • Ringmaster: Vince McMahon and the Unmaking of America by Abraham Riesman
  • Strong Women: Inspirational athletes at the top of their game by Suzanne Wrack. A feminist history of sport. A look at the stories behind 50 pioneering female athletes.
  • Isaac Murphy: The Rise and Fall of a Black Jockey by Katherine C. Mooney
  • Max Verstappen: A New Era: The Ultimate Biography of the F1 Sensation by Mark Hughes
  • Fearless: Extraordinary Adventures with Courageous Women by Louise Minchin
  • Goodbye Oakland: Winning, Wanderlust, and a Sport’s Town’s Fight for Survival by Andy Dolich and Dave Newhouse
  • An Autobiography from Phil Quinlan

‘The Away Game: The Epic Search for Football’s Next Superstars’ by Sebastian Abbot (2018)

I’m not sure spoilers are a thing for non-fiction books, but this review feels a bit spoilerish to me.  Ultimately, it’s impossible to talk about the book without reflecting on what happened the young players in broad terms.  If you want to read the book with absolutely no knowledge of what happens, just know it’s well-written and tells an important story.  Well worth picking up.

The Away Game tells the story of an attempt by Qatar to undercover the next Leo Messi by searching for hidden gems of potential in Africa.   In 2007, Josep Colomer, a former youth coach at Barcelona, was hired to organise trials for 13 year old boys across Africa in what the book describes as the largest sports talent search in history.  Those successful at trials would be brought to Qatar to train in the Aspire Academy with the ultimate aim of becoming a professional footballer.

Abbot zooms in on a few select players with seemingly endless potential and details their journey from local trial, to the Aspire Academy and beyond. At first glance, it appears to be a story of hope and opportunity.  Abbot lure the reader in with this hope, and almost expectation, given how talented the players appear.  Unfortunately, it soon emerges that this isn’t a story with happy endings.  Initially, I felt annoyed that the book had led me on, but I suspect this was a deliberate choice to mirror the journey the players and coaches travelled of unrealistic hope ultimately being crushed by the realities of life and modern football.

So why did it not work out?  Most obviously, the players simply were much older than they claimed and therefore not phenom 13 year olds but decent 17 or 18 year olds.  Secondly, the inability for the Qatari’s to use the players in their national team following FIFA rule changes, clearly dampened some enthusiasm for the project.  The ends arguably no longer justified the means for the Qatar backers if it couldn’t ultimately bring glory to the state.

I really enjoyed the book and it tells an important story about exploitation in youth sports on a global level.  Abbot presents these young men as individuals with their own personalities and dreams whose  own happiness matters, not just pawns in the global business of football.  Ultimately, they all take different paths with various degrees of heartbreak along the way.

The coaches and others who run the Football Dreams aren’t painted as villains however.  They seem to believe in their mission and are passionate about developing players. I felt Abbot may have been a bit gentle on the ultimate backers of the programme (the Qatari state) but that may been journalistic reserve to not infer negative motivations that aren’t provable.

The Away Game is  well written and highly readable.  There is probably a bit too much repetition of the players backstory each time they are reintroduced which is unnecessary if you read the book in a reasonably short period of time.  Notwithstanding this, it grips you from beginning to end as you root desperately for the players despite knowing ultimately the Dream is unlikely to come true.

The Away Game

‘The Gaffers: Mick Mc Carthy, Roy Keane And The Team They Built’ by Paul Howard (2002)

When a writer decides to select an ongoing event or situation to cover for a non-fiction book, there’s always the unknown question of what happens if the situation changes radically?  The coach gets fired, the team turns out to be crap, the player gets a drugs ban etc. etc.

Howard decided to write The Gaffers in 2001 looking at how the awkward double act of Mick McCarthy’s management and Roy Keane’s captaincy had driven Ireland to the 2002 World Cup in Japan & Korea.   Little could Howard have known that the dynamic of their relationship would become the biggest story in world sport as Keane ultimately ended up leaving the squad in the incident that will forever be known simply as ‘Saipan’.  Howard ultimately ended up writing about a relationship that was dissected over in immense detail – I’ve no idea whether it was good or bad for sales but it certainly made it a different book than would have been intended.

handshake

The Gaffers has sat in my ever expanding to-read pile for about 10 years.  McCarthy’s re-appointment as Ireland manager (as Keane departs as assistant manager) has led me back to books from that era of Irish football.

Howard paints a picture of both McCarthy and Keane through the eyes of the other members of the Ireland squad.  McCarthy was the former captain who showed great loyalty to players and knew how to handle nervous young stars.  Keane was the champion who refused to settle for second best and resented time away from home if it wasn’t being put to maximum use.

Howard’s thesis is that the combination of a supportive manager and a driven demanding captain inspired a team of mixed talents to outperform their individual abilities.  In hindsight, it seems obvious that the relationship could only continue for so long, but all logic suggested they would make through a few more weeks till the end of the World Cup.

The book takes us through the background to their relationship and the qualification campaign that saw the memorable 1-0 win vs. Holland in Landowne Road. By necessity, the later stages of the book become a retelling of the Saipan story and an overview of Ireland’s World Cup games.  Unfortunately the great ‘what-if’ remains whether the Keane/McCarthy dynamic could have driven Ireland further in what remains the weakest World Cup in years.

The book was an enjoyable nostalgia trip and a good insight into the dynamics behind the Irish team in the later stages of McCarthy’s first spell in charge (it also brought back much more painful memories of Ian Harte’s spell as a starting international centre-back). It’s a short and well written book that any Irish football fan would enjoy.

As McCarthy takes the reins again, it will be fascinating to see whether he can recreate the team spirit and dynamism in a team that no longer has the world class talents of Robbie Keane, Damian Duff, and the one and only Roy Keane.

  The Gaffers

 

 

And here’s 12 I prepared earlier

Before starting this blog, I very occasionally reviewed books on Goodreads.  This post captures 12 long ago, and in many cases forgotten, musings on a wide selection of sports books.  Some of these are in the re-read pile and will get a fuller, updated review when I get to enjoy them again.  These 12 cover a range of topics including: Boxing’s 4 Kings, Brazilian and German football, Irish cycling and drugs in sport.

Ringside.jpg    Drama     fifa.jpg  brazil

1) ‘A Ringside Affair: Boxing’s Last Golden Age’ by James Lawton

A Ringside Affair is a love letter to boxing from one of the UK’s great sportswriters. Each chapter covers one of the great fights or fighters that Lawton had the immense pleasure of witnessing throughout his career. It’s clear that the era of the Four Kings
(Leonard, Hearns, Hagler and Duran) stands out as the golden age of the title, but it’s the career of Iron Mike Tyson which clearly shines through in the book. Lawton’s admiration for young Tyson’s talent is only topped by his disappointment at the Tyson’s eventual troubles and crimes.

Lawton’s accounts really bring the fights to life as well as placing them clearly in their time and place. His passion and love for the sport shines through. Its a work of remembrance and of celebration as Lawton reflects on his career.

For all fight fans the book is a fantastic summary of 30 years of top level boxing. It’s excellently written and will make you want to pull out the you tube videos and track down the great boxing books.  I highly recommend it.

2) ‘Drama in the Bahamas’ by Dave Hannigan

An entertaining and in-depth look at Ali’s last fight and the sad spectacle it was. The book is best enjoyed by someone well versed in Ali’s life story – it paints some characters a bit too thinly for anyone coming to Ali;s story without a reasonable knowledge of the cast of characters that surrounded the Champ.

Hannigan paints a picture of an Ali who is his own worst enemy.  It is apparent that there is no is villain guiding Ali to fight one last time. It really appears to be Ali himself and his own desire for attention and love that motivates him to take one more totally unnecessary and disproportionate risk.

Like all Hannigan’s work, it’s an enjoyable read and a welcome addition to the library of Ali books.

3) ‘The Fall of the House of Fifa: The Multimillion-Dollar Corruption at the Heart of Global Soccer’ by David Conn

I greatly enjoyed this book on FIFA’s troubled history. Its extensively researched and well written. As a follower of David’s writing in the Guardian the book lives up to expectations.

Its a sad reminder of the scale of corruption and the breath of individuals involved. Blatter emerges as not quite the villain but rather the enabler and master politician. There is plenty of new material even for those following FIFA closely, especially a fascinating interview with a post retirement Blatter.

The only criticism is that it is a bit too detailed at times. Sometimes the narrative could be shortened and there is a bit of repetition at times.

All in all its a highly recommend for anyone interest in football politics or just good journalism.

4) ‘Shocking Brazil: Six Games That Shook the World Cup’ by Fernando Duarte

Very enjoyable history of Brazilian football. Examining the most successful team in history by focusing on their lowest moments, Durate paints a convincing narrative of the impact each of these games had on shaping the team.

One of many books to come out in the lead up to the Brazil World Cup, Durate captured a lessor seen angle of the 5 times champions.   Considering that the worst defeat of all was yet to come – who will ever forget that 7 – 1 – its a timely book and one that will remain relevant as Brazil try to rise again in Russia.

The writer is also a very entertaining journalist and great as a guest on football podcasts.

Das reboot   Match  vol  nowehere

5) ‘Das Reboot: How German Football Reinvented Itself and Conquered the World’ by Raphael Honigstein

A really enjoyable read with great insight into the rise and rise of German football.  At times the narrative jumps between time periods and between the national team and domestic games in a confusing manner.   A good companion piece to ‘Tor! The Story of German Football’ by Ulrich Hesse to complete the picture of how the world champions became the world champions.

6)’Matchdays: The Hidden Story of the Bundesliga’ by Ronald Reng

Ronald Reng is the author of the heart-breaking, beautiful book ‘A Life Too Short’ about the late Robert Enke.

His second book to be translated to English, Matchdays, is a biography of Heinz Hoher – a real journeyman of German football – a bit of a Wes Hoolihan as a player (talented but often stuck as a flair player in second division) and a bit of an Alan Pardew as a manager (decent at bottom half/middle table teams) but a complete ****.  Hoher is quite the character – quitting jobs on a whim, drinking to the point of collapsing on first day of a new job, just missing out on Dortmund job to Hitzfeld.

Reng uses Hoher’s story to tell the story of the Bundesliga from its inception in the 60’s to current day – how it has changed and how the German public’s attitude towards it evolved.

All round an enjoyable, if slightly overlong, read.  The style takes a bit of getting use to – although I’m not sure if it that is the author’s style or a result of the translation.

7) ‘Living on the Volcano: The Secrets of Surviving as a Football Manager’ by Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin is modern footballer’s great chronicler.  He examines the less beautiful side of English football shining a light on the real life experiences of those who live and breath the game.  Living on the Volcano focuses on the stresses of football management – showing the cost, the emotion and the real lived experience of managers at almost every level of the game.  It is an interesting and enjoyable read that offers a unique perspective of the job we all love to try on a computer game.

The book does suffer from Calvin at times being a bit too close to some of the subjects.  Its hard not to get the sense that he lets the fact he grows to like many of his interviewees/subjects as people get in the way of his objectivity as a football journalist.

8) ‘The Nowhere Men’ by Michael Calvin

Before data, analytics and youtube, talent needed to be scouted. Calvin’s book offers a fascinating insight into the enclosed world of football scouts in the UK

It chronicles a profession teetering on the edge – slowly being replaced by technology (and those who use it) yet a profession that continues to prove that data alone can’t tell you everything.

Above all, the love of football some of the scouts who work for mileage only is amazing, inspiring and heart-breaking all at the same time.

roche   Race   Running with Fire   Nike

9) ‘Born to Ride’ by Stephen Roche

Very interesting and enjoyable book. A chronicle of a time when Irish cyclists ruled the world.  Roche really was some rider had an incredible career and I wish I had been older in 1987 to have been swept up in the Roche/Kelly era.  Roche’s book is well worth a read for any cycling fan.

As with all cycling books, the issue of drugs hangs over every story like a bad smell.  Roche does at least address the drugs controversy which emerged after he retired.  His position is not entirely convincing and it is very hard not to believe his accusers.  Roche may have been part of the problem, and is definitely not willing to be part of the solution, but his achievements should not be underesimated.  If he was clean, its doubtful there has ever been a greater Irish sportsman.

Hunger by Sean Kelly is a very good companion book to give Kelly’s perspective of days that Irish cycling will never see again.

10) ‘The Dirtiest Race in History’ by Richard Moore

Moore is better known as a cycling journalist and writer.  Here, he moves away from cycling to the other sport dominated by drugs.  He crafts the story of the 1988 Olympic 100m final where Ben Johnson smashed the world record then dramatically failed a drug test.  Will there ever be another Olympic final where so many competitors had their legacies tarnished as the testers caught up with the cheats?

The book provides an in-depth look at Johnson’s rivalry with Carl Lewis and both of their journey’s to Seoul.  Johnson’s assertion that, while he was on lots of drugs, he never actually took the drug that the test found creates a bizarre and intriguing story.

It is well written, well researched and entertaining.  It provides an interesting look at drugs in sport in general – although Moore’s eagerness to believe in Team Sky over the years totally unfairly taints his comments on drugs in sport in my eyes.   Highly recommend.

11) ‘Running with Fire: The True Story of Harold Abrahams’ by Manterrk Ryan 

Very enjoyable biography of the 100m Olympic gold medalist and legend of athletics officialdom. Charts the prejudice he faced for being Jewish, his fantastic athletic career and even more successful (and interesting) administration career after he retired.

A must read for any fans of Chariots of Fire.

12) ‘Shoe Dog’ by Phil Knight.

Every long lasting company needs its origin myth.  What is unusual is the founder telling his story so long after the fact. Shoe Dog is both a sports book and a business book.  It is much better than I would have expected.

Knight tells the story of the founding of Nike and its early years before it broke into the big time.  It ticks the usual boxes of near disaster, dramatic recovery and eventually incredible growth.

What becomes clear is that for Knight, the early years are where is heart remains. It is a loving reflection on the days before he became a bazillionaire and a love letter to Steve Prefontaine.

I would have liked it to go a little further and look at the signing of Jordan and the groundbreaking nature of that change for Nike and for sport.

Bowerman and the Men of Oregon by Kenny Moore is a great companion piece to round out the story of the technical genius that combined with Knight’s business brain to change the sporting world.