⚽🇩🇪’Scheisse! We’re Going Up! The Unexpected Rise of Berlin’s Rebel Football Club’ by Kit Holden (2022)

German football has been incredibly well served by the quality of the books about it either written or translated into English.  In particular, Uli Hesse, Raphael Honigstein and Ronald Reng have brought the story of German football to English readers in a number of excellent books. ‘Scheisse! We’re Going Up!’, Kit Holden’s upcoming book on the Union Berlin football club is another wonderful addition to that list.

Up-to-date Bundesliga fans will know that Union have been on a remarkable run of form the past three years, reaching 5th place in the Bundesliga having only reached the top flight in 2019. Union Berlin has fast become the football hipster’s latest club of choice (sorry St. Pauli) thanks to their rise to the Bundesliga, their forest-surrounded stadium in East Berlin, their romanticized history of resistance to the Stasi, their fan-developed stadium, and their viral Christmas Carol sessions (yes, seriously).

The story of Union however is much more than a football club. It’s not however the story of a romantic past of resistance to authoritarianism. Holden, like the club itself, is careful to burst the bubble that the club was a hotbed of anti-Communist activity during the dark days of the GDR- rather it was a relatively safe space for normal citizens to vent and sing and the rivalry with Dynamo, the Stasi’s ream, a cathartic way to express disapproval for the repressive East German regime.

The book instead is about community, belonging, the meaning of football clubs, and the challenge of keeping what works while facing the inevitability of change. It’s also about the city of Berlin and the challenges posed by both its unique history of partition and by its vibrant future.

Holden tells the history of the club and the city through interviews with a variety of fans and officials. It’s an inspired choice and the narrative weaves excellently between personal recollections and the over-arching story of both the city and the club’s past, present and future. The book is packed with stories and recollections of fans and their passion oozes out of every page. It wonderfully captures the essence of the club and what makes it special.

Scheisse is an absolutely brilliant book. It captures the very essence of why sport matters, the importance of recognizing that clubs are more than simply entities to be commercialized, and the often overlooked fact that change, while inevitable, does not have to mean the loss of that which was special about what already exists.

Yes, Scheisse means what you think it means.

‘The Saga of Sudden Sam: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of Sam McDowell’ by Sam McDowell with Martin Gitlin (2022)

It’s rare that sports stars, if famous enough to publish an autobiography, wait until their late 70’s to do so. Sam McDowell is a rare man in more ways than one so it’s no surprise that his book, published at aged 79, is a cut above the average autobiography.

McDowell was the most recruited high school baseball player in America in 1959 – a shoe-in for no.1 draft pick if the draft had existed yet! He became a 6 time All-Star pitcher for the Cleveland Indians and was widely regarded as one of the best in the game. McDowell’s rise is a fascinating story in itself – the struggles of the high school phenom to learn how to play against the very best, the need to learn the art of pitching when his fastball alone couldn’t guarantee a win, the challenge of overcoming lack of faith and trust from his coaches.

Sam however might have been an all-star pitcher but he was also an all-world drinker – an alcoholic who eventually could no longer behave appropriately in his professional or personal life. As his life derailed he went deeper into his alcoholism and came close to ending it all.

As the book’s title, and the fact he’s still here to tell his story, suggests, this is ultimately a story of redemption as McDowell sought help, stayed sober, rebuilt his life, reconnected with his kids and trained as an addiction counselor to help other baseball players in need of help.

What makes the book stand out is McDowell’s ability to use what he has learned as an addiction expert to reflect and explain who he was as a younger man. It can be a bit jarring to read just how honestly and clinically McDowell writes about his past failings and feelings (or lack thereof) – to a degree I haven’t seen outside of Andre Agassi’s book Open. Unlike Agassi who paints his father as the villain in his tale, McDowelll has forgiven his parents shortcomings despite their lack of affection and instead focused on the simple reality that alcoholism is a disease. Until his recovery however, he had no concept of what it meant to be happy, or how to be satisfied other than through a desperate need for attention.

The book is a fascinating insight into baseball during the 60s and 70s, the job of pitching in the major leagues, and the perils of alcoholism and addiction in a sporting environment. It can be a difficult read at times, but as title tells us, don’t worry it ends with redemption!

Sports books coming later in 2022

It’s time for the updated list of sports coming out in the rest of 2022. Almost 150 titles below, sorted by expected publication date (based on my rudimentary research)!. Comment to let me know what book your most looking forward to:

From Kids to Champions by Jonny Brick @jonnybrick. Host of the Football Library radio show writes about the FA Youth Cup. (16 May)

In the Shadow of Benbulben: Dixie Dean at Sligo Rovers by Paul Little. The unlikely story of how one of football’s greatest players ended up playing for 4 months in the west of Ireland. A rare book covering Irish domestic football! (16 May)

Everyone Round My House For a Parmo! Middlesbrough’s Journey from Cardiff to Eindhoven by Phil Spencer. Boro’s remarkable run in Europe from 2003 to 2006. (16 May)

⚽ On the Border: The Rise and Decline of the Most Political Club in the World by Shaul Adar. A look at the history of Beitar Jerusalem (16 May).

⚽ Qarabag: The Team Without a City and their Quest to Conquer Europe by Emanuele Giulanelli @EmaGiulianelli. The story of the football team from Agdam that survived even after the city was destroyed in 1993 (16 May).

⚽ Brawls, bribes and broken dreams: How Dundee Almost Won the European Cup by Graeme Strachan (16 May)

⚽ Philosophy and Football: The PFFC Story by Geoff Andrew and Filippo Ricci

Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorised) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar by Alan Shipnuck @AlanShipnuck. A biography of golfer Phil Mickelson by long time golf writer Shipnuck which is being described as ‘juicy and freewheeling’ (17 May)

🤼‍♂️ American Hiro: The Adventures of Benihana’s Rocky Aoki and How He Built a Legacy by Jack McCallum. Potentially more a business book than a sports one, but Aoki was a world class wrestler before he became a businessman. And any book by author of the excellent Dream Team makes my list! (17 May)

On Account of Darkness: Shining Light on Race and Sport by Ian Kennedy. An examination of systemic racism in sport. (17 May)

⚽ Golden: Why Belgian Football is More Than One Generation by James Kelly. A look at the recent history of Belgian football. (23 May)

🏀 The Black Fives: The Epic Story of Basketball’s Forgotten Era by Claude Johnson @ClaudeJohnson. A history of the early days of Black basketball including the introduction of the game to Black communities and the racial integration of the NBA in 1950. @BlackFives (24 May)

Swing and a Hit: Nine Innings of What Baseball Taught Me by Paul O’Neill and Jack Curry. Memoir of All Star Yankee and five-time World Champion, Paul O’Neill (24 May).

🏏 Crickonomics: The Anatomy of Modern Cricket by Tim Wigmore and Stefan Szymanski. Really enjoyable look at cricket through a data powered lens. Lots of interesting insight on the sports past, present and future. (26 May).

Scotland’s Swedish Adventure: The Story of Scotland’s European Championship Debut by John Bleasdale. (30 May)

🎾 Dear John: The John Lloyd Autobiography by John Lloyd with Phil Jones. Autobiography of the former British tennis player (30 May)

💉Playing Through the Pain: Ken Caminiti and the Steroids Confession That Changed Baseball Forever by Dan Good @Dgood73. The story of the first MLB player, a respected MVP, to admit to taking performance enhancing steroids and the impact that confession had on baseball. @AbramsPress (31 May)

The Game: A Journey Into the Heart of Sport by Tadhg Coakley. A reflection on the importance of sport and its’ pervasive influence, good and bad, on humanity. (June)

⚾Charlie Murphy: The Iconoclastic Showman Behind the Chicago Cubs by Jason Cannon. Story of the the ebullient and mercurial owner of this historic franchise from 1905 through 1914 during which the Cubs won two World Series (1 June).

⚾Lefty and Tim: How Steve Carlton and Tim McCarver Became Baseball’s Best Battery by William C. Kashatus. Dual biography of the Hall of Fame pitcher and catcher. (1 June)

Unsuitable for Females: The Rise of the Lionesses and Women’s Football in England by Carrie Dunn (2 June)

Year of the Robin: Watching It All Go Wrong for Charlton Athletic and the World by Jen Offord. Covid and relegation should make an entertaining mix! (2 June)

Scoring Goals in the Dark by Clare Shine with Gareth Maher. The former Irish soccer international tells her story of addiction and recovery. (6 June)

The Franchise: New York Yankees: A Curated History of the Bronx Bombers by Mark Feinsand (7 June)

Rickey: The Life and Legend of an American Original by Howard Bryant @hbryant42. Definitive biography of Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, baseball’s epic leadoff hitter and base-stealer. When a great writer writes about a great player a great book should be expected! (7 June)

🏀 Game: An Autobiography by Grant Hill. Promises to be an interesting read from the Hall of Fame basketballer who has also been successful off the court. (7 June)

Willie Horton: 23: Detroit’s Own Willie the Wonder, the Tigers’ First Black Great by Willie Horton with Kevin Allen. Autobiography of the World Series winning Detroit Tiger. (7 June)

🏊‍♂️🏅 The Watermen: The Birth of American Swimming and One Young Man’s Fight to Capture Olympic Gold by Michael Loynd. Story of the first American to win swimming gold at the Olympics in 1908 (7 June).

🥊 The Last Dance: Tyson, Lewis, Holyfield, Bowe & Heavyweight Boxing’s Last Great Era by Brian Doogan @doogan_brian and Ron Borges @RonBorges. Each of these 4 heavyweights was a fascinating character and their fights between them were global events (8 June).

⚽ Johan Cruyff: Always on the Attack by Auke Kok @AukeKok. A comprehensive biography of the legendary Dutchman. Different aspects of Cruyff’s life have been extensively written about. This promises to be the first comprehensive English language bio since his death to try and capture his immense impact on the global game. (9 June)

🚴 Jan Ullrich: The Best There Never Was by Daniel Friebe @friebos. Biography of the always interesting 1997 Tour de France winner looking at his rise and his remarkable career that, despite his success, somehow never quite hit the heights that seemed possible. (9 June)

🚴🇫🇷 Le Fric: Family, Power and Money: The Business of the Tour de France by Alex Duff. Really looking forward to history of the behind the scenes organisation of cycling’s most famous race. (9 June)

With Flag on Their Chest: The Story of Norway’s Golden Generation by Ben Wells. A look at the emerging Norwegian footballers promising a bright future on the international stage. (15 June)

The Long Golden Afternoon: Golf’s Age of Glory, 1864 – 1914 by Stephen Proctor (16 June)

⚽ The Cornerstone Collection: Sculpting The Premier League’s Past, Present and Future by Stuart Quigley. A history of the Premier League in 45 players. (20 June)

🥊 Muhammad Ali: Fifteen Rounds in the Wilderness by Dave Hannigan. A third book on Ali by Hannigan (the other two are excellent) looks at the years between his last fight and the moment at Atlanata Olympics when he remerged as a global figure. (20 June)

🎾 Rafa Nadal: The King of the Court by Dominic Bliss. Comprehensive bio of the tennis player. (21 June)

⚽ My Greatest Save: The Brave, Barrier-Breaking Journey of a Hall-of-Fame Goalkeeper by Briana Scurry. Autobiography from the goalie on the first great US women’s soccer team. (21 June)

🚴 Climbers: How the Kings of the Mountains Conquered Cycling by Peter Cossins. (23 June)

⚽ When Asia Welcomed the World: The 2002 World Cup Revisited by Danny Lewis. A look back at the World Cup in Japan and South Korea (I’ll always maintain Ireland could have won it!). (27 June)

⚽ The Beautiful Game and the Ugly Truth: Football’s Tragic Link with Dementia by Kieran Gill. Gill has written extensively on this topic in his journalistic career. (27 June)

🏀 The NBA in Black and White: The Memoir of a Trailblazing NBA Player and Coach by Ray Scott with Charley Rosen. Memoir of Ray Scott, Piston’s legend who went #4 pick of the 1961 NBA draft, and became the first ever black man to win Coach of the Year as the Piston’s Coach in 1974. (28 June)

💉 Doping: A Sporting History by April Henning & Paul Dimeo (28 June)

🏀 Basketball 2.0: 3x3s Rise from the Streets to the Olympics by Tristan Lavalette. A look at the emergence of 3 x 3 basketball as an Olympic sport. (4 July)

Unico Grande Ameore: AS Roma in the 21st Century by Marc Lamberts. A look at the Roman football team. Looking forward to this after reading Totti’s excellent autobiography. (4 July)

💉 Synthetic Medals: East German Athlete’s Journey to Hell by Joseph Tudor. The notorious Government run doping of East German athletes should make a fascinating book (4 July).

🏏 The Nine Waves: The Extraordinary Story of How India Took Over the Cricket World by Mihir Bose (4 July).

🏒 When the NHL Invaded Japan: The Washington Capitals, the Kansas City Scouts and the Coca-Cola Bottlers’ Cup, 1975-1976 by Steve Currier (6 July)

🚴 Beryl: In Search of Britain’s Greatest Athlete by Jeremy Wilson @JWTelegraph. A biography of legendary British female cyclist Beryl Burton. There was a previous bio of Beryl last year by William Fotheringham highlighting how this legendary figure is beginning to receive long overdue credit. (7 July)

🏏 An Island’s Eleven: The Story of Sri Lankan Cricket by Nicholas Brookes. Any cricket fan will be interested in this deep dive into one of the more interesting cricket cultures. (7 July)

It Was Always a Choice: Picking up the Baton of Athlete Activism by David Steele @David_C_Steele. A look at athlete activism for social causes in the post-Kaepernick era. (8 July)

Unsung: Not All Heroes Wear Kits (Behind the Scenes With Sport’s Hidden Stars) by Alexis James. Shines a light on the lesser talked about personnel professional sports. (11 July).

🏈 Figure It Out: My Thirty-Two-Year Journey While Revolutionizing Pro Football’s Special Teams by Mike Westhoff (12 July). Autobiography of former Jets and Dolphins coach who was regarded as a Special Teams genius.

🥊 Blood, Brawn and Broken Noses: Puglism, a Very British Art by Chris Sykes. A broad exploration of boxing’s past and present. (12 July)

Sho-time: The Inside Story of Shohei Ohtani and the Greatest Baseball Season Ever Played by Jeff Fletcher. A bio of baseball’s new superstar and a broader look at the links between US and Japanese baseball. I’ve read this and really enjoyed it. (12 July)

🏈 Seventeen and Oh: Miami, 1972 and the NFL’s Only Perfect Season by Marshall Jon Fisher @MarshallJFisher. A look back after 50 years at the legendary Dolphin’s team by the author of the excellent A Terrible Splendor. A great book that I reviewed in the newsletter previously. (12 July)

⚽ An Economist Goes to the Game: How to Throw Away $580 million and Other Surprising Insights from the Economics of Sport by Paul Oyer @pauloyer. An economist’s take on sports phenomena such as corruption, ticket scalping, child prodigies, the Olympics, and many others. (12 July)

Roll Red Roll: Rape, Power, and Football in the American Heartland by Nancy Schwartzman @fancynancynyc. A difficult but important subject, the book will look at an incident where a sixteen year-old girl incapacitated by alcohol was repeatedly assaulted by Steubenville, Ohio high school football stars. Sounds similar to Jon Krakauer’s powerful Missoula. (12 July)

🏐🏅 If Gold is Our Destiny: How a Team of Mavericks Came Together for Olympic Glory by Sean P. Murray. The story of the 1984 Men’s US Olympic Volleyball team and their quest for gold at the LA Olympics. (13 July)

🏈 Walking Alone: The United Journey of Football Pioneer Kenny Washington by Dan Taylor. The story of African American trailblazer Kenny Washington, the first black player in the NFL. Taylor examines the legendary player who at the time was considered one of the greatest and popular to ever play the game. (13 July)

🏈 Spies on the Sidelines: The High-Stakes World of NFL Espionage by Kevin Bryant @kevbryantauthor. Shines a shines a light on the shadowy world of NFL espionage and exposes the full range of collection techniques teams use to spy on their opponents, as well as the defensive countermeasures that are used to defend against them (13 July)

🥊 Joe Louis vs Billy Conn: Boxing’s Unforgettable Summer of 1941 by Ed Gruver @EdGruver. One of the most anticipated fights in history that more than lived up the hype and the fascinating men who squared off (15 July). I’ve read this and it’s very good.

⚽ When Two Worlds Collide: The Intercontinental Cup Years by Dan Williamson @winkveron @intlcupyears. Book on the annual match between Europe and South America’s champion football teams by the author of the excellent Blue and Gold Passion. Williamson is also writing a bio of Ronaldo (the real one) which is top of my 2023 list!

Get Up, Baby!: My Seven Decades with the St. Louis Cardinals by Mike Shannon with Rick Hummel (19 July)

⚽ The Working Hands of a Goddess: The tactics, community and culture behind Gasperini’s Atalanta B.C by Tom Underhill @tomd_underhill. Looking at the creation of one of Europe’s most exciting sides, where they and their coach have come from, and where they sit within a city’s identity. (22 July)

🥊 Warrior: A Champion’s Incredible Search for His Identity by Tris Dixon. A biography of boxer Matthew Saad Muhammad by the author of the excellent Damages. Can’t wait for this one. (25 July)

🏉 Scrum Queen’s: The Story of Women’s Rugby by Ali Donnelly (25 July)

🏃‍♂️🏅 Catch Me if You Can: Revolutionizing My Sport, Breaking World Records and Creating a Legacy for Tanzania by Filbert Bayi and Myles Schrag. Autobiogrpahy of the middle distance Olympic medalist who was famous for his assertive style in the days before pacemakers. (25 July)

🚣‍♀️🎿🏅 The Hard Parts: From Chernobyl to Paralympic Champion – My Story of Achieving the Extraordinary by Oksana Masters @OksanaMasters. Autobiography of a 10 time Paralympic medalist. (26 July)

⚽ A Woman’s Game : The Rise, Fall and Rise Again of Women’s Soccer by Suzanne Wrack (26 July)

⚽ The World’s First Football Superstar: The life of Steve Smith by Owen Arthur (30 July)

⚽ How Money Changed Football: From the Premier League to Non-League by Philip Woods (31 July)

⚽ Kit and Caboodle: Football’s Shirt Stories by Matt Riley @TalesThai (1 August)

⚽ Buzzing: The Story of Brentford’s First Premier League Season by Nick Brown (1 August)

⚽ From Beauty to Duty: A Footballing History of Uruguay, 1878-1918 by Martin da Cruz. First English language history of football in the smallest country to win the World Cup. (1 August)

🏈 The Rise of the Black Quarterback: What it Means for America by Jason Reid @JReidESPN. Building on a series by ESPN’s The Undefeated, Reid will delve into the history of black quarterbacks in the NFL. (2 August)

🏎️💉 Survival of the Fastest: Weed, Speed, and the 1980s Drug Scandal that Shocked the Sports World by Randy Lanier with A.J. Baime (2 August)

⚽ Futsal : The Indoor Game That Is Revolutionizing World Soccer by Jamie Fahey. The story of the story of futsal’s politics, tactics and personalities. (2 August)

Coming Home: My Amazin’ Life with the New York Mets by Cleon Jones. Autobiography from the player who caught the final out of the Miracle Mets’ World Series victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

⚽ Red on Red: Liverpool, United and the Fiercest Rivalry in World Football by Phil McNulty and Jim White (4 August)

🥊 Fighting for Survival: My Journey through Boxing Fame, Abuse, Murder, and Resurrection by Chrissy Martin with Ron Borges. (8 August)

⚽ City of Stars: The Controversial Story of Paris Saint-Germain by Tom Scholes. A history of French club PSG and its rise to the (almost) top of the European game. (8 August)

🏈⚾🥇 Path Lit by Lightning: The Life of Jim Thorpe by David Maraniss. A biography of the legendary Thorpe by the writer of the impossibly good When Pride Still Mattered. I’ve read this and it’s as sensationally detailed and fascinating as you would expect. A big, brilliant book. (9 August)

🏈 Freezing Cold Takes: NFL: Football Media’s Most Inaccurate Predictions—and the Fascinating Stories Behind Them by Fred Segal @Frizz527. A look back at 20 spectacularly bad predictions by the creator of the popular @OldTakesExposed (9 August)

🏈 Bronko:  The Legendary Story of the NFL’s Greatest Two Way Fullback by Chris Willis (10 August)

⚽ Carmen Pomies: Football Legend and Heroine of the French Resistance by Chris Rowe (14 August)

⚽ An Ode to The Chosen Few: Football’s Piano Players by John McNicoll. A look at football’s most gifted players from author of An Ode to Four Four Two. (15 August)

The Longest Winter: A Season with England’s Worst Ever Football Team by Mark Hodkinson. A social history of the turbulent early 70s through the lens of a Rochadale team regarded as the worst in British football league history. (15 August).

🏈 Surviving Washington by Robert Griffin III. RG3 gives his take on his all too brief NFL QB career after a spectacular college football career. (16 August)

⚽ 1999: The Treble and All That by Matt Dickenson @DickensonTimes. The Chief Sports Writer for the Times recalls Manchester United’s historic Treble campaign in 99. Hard to believe that was more than 20 years ago! (18 August)

⚽ Scheisse! We’re Going Up: The Unexpected Rise of Berlin’s Rebel Football Club by Kit Holden. A history of Union Berlin. (18 August) Have read this and it is absolutely brilliant. A history of the team through told through its’ relationships with its fans. A reflection on the power of narratives, community, and the dangers of success.

🏒 The Series: What I Remember, What it Felt Like, What it Feels Like Now by Ken Dryden. Former Hockey goalie and author of the classic The Game writes about his memories of the famous 1972 Summit Series (quite a few books on this topic this year but this one is by a participant and great writer! (23 August)

🏈 Fear No Man: Don James, the 91′ Huskies and the Seven Year Quest for a National Football Championship by Mike Gastineau (23 August)

⚽ Made in Argentina, Mastered in Madrid: How Diego Simeone Awakened a Sleeping Giant by Ashwin Reuben Ballal (29 August). A look at the tactical approach used by Athletico Madrid under their Argentinian manager.

⚽ Something in the Water: The Story of England’s Football Talent Hotbeds by Callum Murray (29 August)

🏈 The Hot Seat: A Year of Outrage, Pride, Occasional Games of College Football by Ben Mathis-Lilley @BenMathisLilley. The Slate writer taking a look at college football coaches – the book is ‘about why college football makes people so crazy—and, in a longer nutshell, hypothesizes that it does so because its programs and, especially, their coaches, are representatives of personal and cultural identity and status to a degree that is unlike any other sport in USA”. (30 August)

⚽ The Beautiful Poetry of Football Commentary by Charlie Eccleshare (1 September)

Branch Rickey and the Gospel of Baseball: Righting the Story of America’s Pastime by James E Dillard. Bio of the Hall of Fame baseball exec who opened opportunities for black and Hispanic players. (5 September)

⚽ The Making of the FIFA World Cup: 75 of the Most Memorable, Celebrated, and Shocking Moments in the History of Football’s Greatest Tournament by Jack Davies (5 September)

⚽ An Armchair Fans Guide to the Qatar World Cup: The Story of How Football Came to the Desert by Jon Berry (5 September)

🏈 The Special Relationship: The History of American Football in the United Kingdom by Andrew Gamble (5 September)

Flares up: A Story Bigger than the Atlantic by Niamh McAnally. Story of a grueling 70 day crossing of the Atlantic ocean.

🏀 Sixty-One: Life Lessons from Papa, On and Off the Court by Chris Paul with Michael Wilbon. The NBA star on his life, the game and mentorship. (6 September)

🎾 Queen of the Court: The Extraordinary Life of Tennis Legend Alice Marble by Madeline Blais (8 September)

Over the Line: A History of the England v Germany Football Rivalry by Dr Alexander Gross (12 September)

🏒 Ice War Diplomat: Hockey Meets Cold War Politics at the 1972 Summit Series by Gary J. Smith (12 September)

⚽ USA 94 – The World Cup That Changed The Game by Matt Evans @the_mevs @USA94Book. Very much looking forward to this book. For an Irish kid born in 1984, nothing will ever compete with USA 94 for my affection! (12 September)

⚽ Espana 82: A Hazy Shade of Summer by Stuart Horsfield (12 September)

Inaugural Ballers: The True Story of the First US Women’s Olympic Basketball Team by Andrew Maraniss

⚽ Calling the Shots: How to Win in Football and Life by David Dein. The former Arsenal executive who worked so well with Arsene Wenger finally writes a book. I just hope its better than Wenger’s awful cash-grab book! (15 September)

🏄‍♂️☘️ Cold-Water Eden by Richie Fitzgerald. Memoir by Ireland’s first professional surfer. (15 September)

🏉 A Very Tall Story by Martin Bayfield. The former British and Irish Lion recounts rugby’s roller-coaster ride in the 90s as the game turned professional (15 September).

⚽ Alchemy: Brian Clough & Peter Taylor at Hartlepools United by Christopher Hull (15 September)

🏈 The Mosquito Bowl: A Game of Life and Death in World War II by Buzz Bissinger. The tale of an American Football game between college football stars who served in the Pacific during WW2. Any book from the author of Friday Night Lights is likely to be a classic. (20 September)

⚽ How to Win the World Cup: Secrets and Insights from International Football’s Top Managers by Chris Evans (20 September)

🏈 My Football Life and The Rebirth of Chiefs Kingdom by Tim Grunhard with Carl Peterson. Autobiography from the former Kansas City Chiefs center. (20 September)

⚽ The Roaring Red Front: The World’s Top Left-Wing Football Clubs by Stewart McGill and Vince Raison ( 26 September)

🏒 Ed Sneider: The Last Sports Mogul by Alan Bass. Bio of the founder of the Philadelphia Flyers and legendary businessman. (27 September)

🏈 The Idealist: Jack Trice and the Fight for a Forgotten College Football Legacy by Jonathan Gelber (27 September)

Her Game Too: A Manifesto for Change by Matt Riley (1 October)

🏈⚾ The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson by Jeff Pearlman. Bio of the two-sport star who was gifted beyond comprehension but whose career was cut short due to injury. I cannot wait for this one. (4 October)

🥊 Kellie Harrington – an Autobiography written with Roddy Doyle. Legendary Dublin writer helps legendary Dublin Olympian tell her story. How can it not be great? (6 October)

⚽ Bring Me the Sports Jacket of Arthur Montford: Adventures Through Scottish Football by Aidan Smith (6 October)

⚽ Men in Blazers Present Gods of Soccer : The Pantheon of the 100 Greatest Soccer Players (According to Us) by Men In Blazers (11 October)

⚽ Football Murals: A Celebration of Soccer’s Greatest Street Art by Andy Brassell (13 October)

⚽ How to be an Ex Footballer by Peter Crouch. A 3rd book from @petercrouch, the former footballer whose first two books were very entertaining. (13 October)

⚽ From the Ground Up: Thirty Years of Irish Influence in the Premier League by Gareth Maher (14 October). Not certain if this is confirmed as can only find one reference to it online!

⚽ Football with Wings: The Tactical Concepts Behind the Red Bull Game Model by Lee Scott @FMAnalysis. Another book on tactics by Scott who makes difficult tactical concepts understandable. (17 October)

🏀 In the Blink of an Eye by Abdul-Rauf Mahmoud. Autobiography of the former NBA player who may be best remembered for refusing to stand for the US national anthem for social justice reasons back in the 1990s. (18 October)

⚽ Diego Maradona: The Last Interview and Other Conversation pub. Melville House. A series of interviews with the late, great Argentinian (18 October)

⚽ Football in the Land of the Soviets by Carles Viñas. A look at the history of football in Russia from a champion of the sports radical history.

🏉 Full Time by Nigel Owens @nigelrefowens. The story of the second half of Nigel’s career as one of the most famous referees in World Rugby (27 October)

⚽ The Rodfather by Roddy Collins with Paul Howard. After playing for 16 clubs and managing 12, Collins autobiography with the help of the excellent Howard promises to be interesting! (27 October)

⚽ Kicking Back by Nedum Onuoha. Autobiography of the former Man City player (27 October).

🏒 A Miracle of Their Own: A Team, A Stunning Gold Medal and Newfound Dreams for American Girls by Keith Gave and Tim Rappleye. Story of Team USA’s 1998 Olympic upset victory in women’s hockey.

⚽ England Football – The Biography: The Story of the Three Lions 1872-2022 by Paul Hayward @_PaulHayward. Veteran sportswriter Hayward telling the history of the English national soccer team. (27 October)

⚽ The Game by Micah Richards. Autobiography from the Man City footballer turned football pundit. (27 October)

⚽ How to be a Football Manager by Ian Holloway. The former football manager tries to mimic the style of Peter Crouch’s books focusing on management rather than playing.

⚽ New Kids in the World Cup: The Totally Late ‘80s and Early 90s Tale of the the Team that changed American Soccer Forever by Adam Elder (1 November)

⚽ The Voyageurs: The Canadian Men’s Soccer Team’s Quest to Reach the World Cup by Joshua Kloke (1 November)

🏀 Spaced Out: The Tactical Evolution of the Modern NBA by Mike Prada. A look at how the 3 point revolution has changed basketball. (1 November)

🏈 Five Laterals and a Trombone: Cal, Stanford and the Wildest Ending in College Football History by Tyler Bridges. (1 November) 

🏀 Barkley: A Biography by Timothy Bella. Bella worked as lead researcher with Armen Keteyian and Jeff Benedict on their excellent books so this promises to a comprehensive bio of Charles Barkley. (1 November)

⚽ Messi vs. Ronaldo: One Rivalry, Two GOATS, and the Era That Remade the World’s Game by Jonathan Clegg and Joshua Robinson. From the authors of the excellent The Club. (1 November)

🎾 Ash Barty – an untitled memoir from the tennis world number 1 who shocked the sport by retiring this year at just 26. (1 November)

⚽ Nil Lamptey: The Curse of Pele by Joris Kaper @CaposdeCapos. Biography of the former Ghanaian footballer, best known in England for his spells at  Aston Villa and Coventry City. Explores the challenges of living up to unrealistic expectations and hype surrounding young talented footballers. (7 November)

⚽ Two Brothers by Jonathan Wilson @jonawils. A dual-biography of Jack and Bobby Charlton, World Cup winning brothers in the 1966 England team. As an Irish football fan, Jack will always have a special place in my memory and this promises to be a fascinating book from the always excellent author of Inverting the Pyramid and The Barcelona Legacy (10 November).

🥊 Gloves Off: The Autobiography by Tyson Fury. The boxer is back with a second autobiography less than two years after he published his first one! Hard not to be a but cynical! (November)

🏈 Swagger: Super Bowls, Brass Balls and Footballs – A Memoir by Jimmy Johnson with Dave Hyde. Memoir from the Hall of Fame football coach. (20 November)

🏈 This is Our City: Four Teams, Twelve Championships, and how Boston became the Most Dominant Sports City in the World by Tony Massarotti (24 November)

🏈 Moving the Chains: The Civil Rights Protest that Saved the Saints and Transformed New Orleans by Erin Grayson Sapp. The untold story of the backroom deal that gave rise to the New Orleans Saints. (30 November)

Emancipation for Goalposts: Football’s Role In The Fall Of Yugoslavia by Chris Etchingham.

Running and Jumping by Steven Kedie @stevenkedie. A fictional story about an Olympic rivalry set between Beijing 2008 and Rio 2016.

Yet to be titled book on Cleveland Sports History by Budd Bailey @WDX2BB (a brilliant reviewer of sports books btw) and Larry Pantages

Soccer and Society in Dublin: A History of Association Football in Ireland’s Capital by Conor Curran

Slab Life 3. The third in a series of books following the fortunes of Aldershot Town FC by Nick Cansfield @life_slab

🏏 Talented, Tormented, and Tragic: The Life of Ronald Frank Vibert, a Cornish Cricketer by John G Butler

Martin McHugh – Born To Save by Jason Byrne. Bio of former Longford GAA goalkeeper

🏀‘Coach K: The Rise and Reign of Mike Krzyzewski’ by Ian O’Connor (2022)

As a non-American, I’ll never quite understand the passion and pride generated by collegiate sports in the US. I really enjoy watching college football and basketball, but the reverence and status given to the games and especially to the coaches suggests a strange miscalculation of priorities for academic institutions!

The constant turnover of players provides a fascinating dimension to the sports. No other leagues give you an absolute maximum of four years with any player while also preventing the signing of experienced players to help guide the young players (who are almost exclusively under 23). Longevity and culture is therefore primarily provided by the coach and supporting staff.

It’s in this context (and overlooking the ludicrous salaries relative to other employees of the college or State!) that I find the careers of successful college coaches utterly fascinating. The reverence for successful coaches across the US is remarkable and is evident across sports media and popular culture. As one the most successful coaches in college basketball, arguably no coach is quite as revered as Mike Krzyzewski (universally referred to as Coach K).

Coach K was a player and subsequently coach for the US Army’s college team (talk about an educational institute with odd priorities!) and a protégé of world class coach and bully Bobby Knight. Krzyzewski ultimately, and surprisingly to most observers given his limited success at the time, became head coach of Duke University, a perennial basketball powerhouse. Over the ensuing decades he would amass one of the most successful records in the sport’s history.

O’Connor is a masterful biographer grappling with the challenges of competing narratives and telling the story of a complete life in a limited amount of space. Capturing 50 plus seasons of action requires a delicate touch and wise judgment in where to focus and no-one does it better. The book is especially strong in telling the story of Krzyzewski’s youth and identifying how his early days and playing career helped to shape the man and coach he would become. It also rightly delves into greater detail on some of his most famous teams – none more so than the era of Bobby Hurley, Christian Laettner and Grant Hill.

Coach K’s more recent seasons however feel somewhat out of character as he embraced the one-and-done superstar era. O’Connor explains this approach as a combination of the coaches his own adaptability and his growing taste for coaching the very best players acquired during his stints coaching Team USA.

The best biographies are those that realize every life story can only be properly told through the person’s relationships. Most obviously Krzyzewski’s ever-changing relationship with his mentor Knight stands out. Coach K is often described as possessing many of Knight’s best qualities but much less of his ridiculous, fiery temper.

The other key relationship in Krzyzewski’s life is, unsurprisingly, his marriage. A major failing across lesser sports biographies (and all biographies really) is a failure to capture the role that spouses play in athlete’s and coaches professional lives. O’Connor avoids this mistake and highlights Mrs’ Krzyzewski and the wider family’s role in Coach K’s success and thought process.

O’Connor ultimately paints the picture of a man who combined a relentless desire for success with a genuine affection for other people. This is an excellent biography of a fascinating basketball coach and highly recommended for any college basketball fan.

🏀‘The Rise: Kobe Bryant and the Pursuit of Immortality’ by Mike Sielski (2022)

The cover quote from Jeff Pearlman on this book sums it up perfectly – every superhero needs an origin story. The Rise is very much the origin story of Kobe Bryant, a singular talent and force of personality who shot to prominence as a high schooler and eventually became one of basketball’s modern greats.

The Rise seeks to navigate a path through the myths and urban legends that have sprouted about Kobe as the last great high school phenom of the pre-internet / smart phone era. Kobe finished high school at a time when holding a press conference to announce your next step seemed like an absurd indulgence rather than the routine event it is now.

The book ultimately paints the picture of a kid with a rare talent but an even rarer level of determination and commitment to make it to the top. It also captures the more relatable human side of the teenager – his shyness, his friendships and his desire to win a high school basketball tournament. The book is all the more powerful knowing how Kobe’s story ultimately developed, both on and off the court – the journey from phenom to villain to champion to ‘girl dad’ to legend.

Sielski has carried out a huge amount of research and spoken to over 100 people who knew Kobe during his childhood. He also had access to previously unpublished interviews with Kobe from his high school days. It’s a hugely impressive work of biography and a unique addition to the growing number of Kobe books since his untimely death.

If you like this book, also check out: Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant by Roland Lazenby.

Sports Book newsletter

I’ve set up a free newsletter for distributing my sports book reviews and lists of upcoming sports books – I find it a better way to receive content so hoping others like the approach too. I’ll still be posting some reviews here but more timely content on the free newsletter.

If you are interested, you can sign up here – https://allsportsbookreviews.substack.com/p/new-year-new-sports-books-issue-1

Thanks for reading!

‘The War: Hagler-Hearns and Three Rounds For The Ages’ by Don Stradley (2021)

A whole book about 8 minutes of boxing? Yep, and it’s one of the best books I read in 2021.

The era of the Four Kings continues to occupy a revered place in boxing lore. A large part of that reverence stems from the willingness of the contenders to fight each other but also the personalities and achievements of Leonard and Duran in particular. Not all crowns are equal and Hagler and Hearns are undoubtedly somewhere below Leonard and Duran in their place in the boxing pantheon. However, they both elevated their legacy and the sport when they faced each other in April 1985.

Hagler v Hearns took place at a time when boxing was struggling to recover from Sugar Ray Leonard’s retirement and a growing focus on the dangers of the sport. The book tells a number of stories all centered around three rounds of boxing that are simply unforgettable in their intensity and drama.

At it’s heart, the book is a character study of two fighters seeking fame, fortune and recognition. Two men who had enormous talent but lacked the natural charisma of Leonard, the compelling energy of Duran and who just couldn’t seem to break through the barrier that separates champion from superstar. Above all, it’s about two men who were searching for greatness and were willing to leave everything behind in the ring to achieve it.

It also tells the story of boxing in the 1980’s, it’s rise with Leonard, and it’s fall before Iron Mike Tyson would again draw US TV audiences in the same kind of manner. It captures the politics, the money, the frustration, the marketing and above all the audacity of Bob Arum in promoting a fight that wasn’t as natural a sell as Leonard v Anybody but which proved a huge success using any metric.

And of course it’s also a story about 8 minutes of boxing. The first round in particular has gone down as one of the greatest rounds of all time. The second and third offer no less drama, intensity, and passion. Stradley captures this through commentary and reflections of many of those present and paints the scene in Vegas, the glitz and glamour, the danger and the risk, in wonderful compelling detail.

The Hagler–Hearns fight played a significant role in cementing the legacy of the Four Kings. The War tells the story of the fight and the fighters but also captures what the fight meant to the sport and the sport meant to America at a time when boxing, and even middleweight boxing, could bring the country to a standstill.

Read the book, watch the fight, pick up Four Kings by George Kimball and watch the recent Four Kings Showtime documentary. Then thank me after.

What an amazing painting on the cover by @kelley_AK

Gladiator by Francesco Totti with Paolo Condo, and tr. by Anthony Wright (2021)

I’ve long commented on the lack of availability of translated versions of non-English sports books. So many interesting stories and insights that those of us who sadly don’t speak French, German, Spanish etc. miss out on. Thankfully this seems to be changing with a growing number of Italian football books getting an English translation – perhaps building on the success of Pirlo’s excellent book a few years ago.

2021 saw two such books which were of massive interest to me. Firstly, and I’ve tweeted repeatedly about this one, Arrigo Sacchi’s book on the great Milan ‘Immortals’ team was published in English by the excellent Backpage Press. A brilliantly interesting and enjoyable book, it shed a light on his tactics, his players, Berlusconi and Italian football of the late 80’s.

Even more recently, deCoubertin Books has published the autobiography of the A.S. Roma and Italy legend Francesco Totti. The uncrowned 8th King of Rome, Totti played and scored for the Gallorossi more times than any other player (indeed he even got more Serie A goals than any other footballer since the 1940s). He was club captain for 20 years and played a pivotal role in Italy’s World Cup win in 2006.

Totti was a player who could make anyone fall in love with football. A number 10 in the most perfect sense of the phrase. In an era of great playmakers in Italian football, he stood out for his consistency, the quality of his passing and his demeanor on the pitch. He operated as a world class playmaker, a world class goalscorer and a scorer of world class goals. On top of this, his commitment to Roma at the expense of even greater fame and fortune endeared him not just to the red half of Rome but to fans around the world. Players who stay at single club for their whole careers, particularly international stars, are so rare that they achieve a unique place in fans’ imaginations.

A montage of ridiculous moments of skill

Gladiator is a relatively typical autobiography in terms of format and structure, recounting Totti’s life story and peppered with insights into players, managers and others who played a big role in Totti’s life. The book dives deeper into some select areas including Roma’s Scudetto victory, Antonio Cassano’s entertaining time at the club and Italy’s World Cup win in 2006. It also highlights specific times in his career when his destiny nearly changed – being offered a contract first at Milan, Bianchi trying to sign Litmanen and rejecting the chance to become a Galactico in Madrid. Unsurprisingly his departure from Roma as a player (he remains as a director) is also covered in depth The choices of areas to focus on are well made and the book remains interesting throughout.

Most fascinating to me is Totti’s own description of his talent. From an early age he knew just how good he was. At each point of his early career, his experience reinforced to him that he was in fact better than almost any other player in Italy. Yet somehow this knowledge didn’t lead to his destruction but instead gave him the confidence to emerge as a leader and club captain at a very young age. In the book he manages to capture this understanding of his ability without the arrogance of a Zlatan Ibrahomivic but without displaying false modesty either.

The book also captures what he means to the city of Rome (the red half at least) and the price that love had on Totti personally. Repeatedly in the book he laments (but doesn’t whinge) about not being able to enjoy living in one of the world’s great cities because to walk around outside is to be inundated by hundreds of fans. He shares some funny anecdotes which capture the intensity of his celebrity in the city.

For any fan who smiles when remembering Totti at his peak, this is a must-read. If you made it this far without watching the YouTube video montage of his greatest pieces of skill scroll back up right now. The book is coauthored by one of Italy’s foremost sportswriters, Paolo Condo, and translated by Anthony Wright and published (in English) by deCourbtin books.

Not a bad looking chap to be fair

‘The Great Nowitzki: Basketball and the Meaning of Life’ by Thomas Pletzinger (2022)

For any basketball fan, Dirk Nowitzki, the former 2007 NBA MVP and 2011 NBA Champion needs no introduction. It is not an exaggeration to call him a basketball revolutionary, a 7 footer who played like a guard and a man who helped make the sport more variable, creative and smarter.

Pletzinger, a German novelist and sportswriter, traveled with the Mavericks superstar Dirk Nowitzki for seven years, seeking the secret of his success and longevity. Most interestingly he spent this time with Nowitzki in the later years of his career – the period between his 2011 NBA title and his 2019 eventual retirement after a remarkable 25 years as a Dallas Maverick.

As a result, like a normal biography, the early years of Nowitzki’s career are told through the memories of the vast number of people Pletzinger spoke to. However, at no point does this feel like a typical biography as the time Pletzinger spends with the player himself and his personal coach Holger Geschwinder, leads to an openness that is both refreshing and rare.

Central to Nowitzki’s career, and his life since turning 15, is the fascinating figure of Geschwinder. Described alternatively as a shooting coach, master coach, manager, psychologist, janitor, clairvoyant, consultant and friend, Geschwinder was the mentor who helped Nowitkzi turn his potential into world beating talent. Together player and coach identified the importance of sacrifice, discipline, and to work without compromise with the book capturing their legendary personal workouts to hone Nowitzki’s body and shooting. It’s impossible to do justice to their relationship without capturing the minutiae of their dynamic as Pletzinger so excellently does.

Trailer for ‘Nowitzki: The Perfect Shot’ a 2014 feature length documentary on Nowitzki’s career (available free on Roku in the USA)

The strongest parts of the book are those which capture Pletzinger’s personal interaction with Nowitzki and the surrounding ‘Dirkmania’. They capture Nowitzki’s life, his personality, his way of carrying himself in an intimate manner denied most biographers. They also cover the most interesting part of any player’s career, those post peak years when Nowitzki is both an active player and a legend. As Pletzinger says, the book is his ‘quest to find the significance of Nowitzki… [his] attempt to make sense of Dirk Nowitzki’. The Nowitzki he ultimately finds is remarkable for his ordinariness while living, and making the sacrifices required to live, an extraordinary life.

This is a special book. A really great read that captures the uniqueness of Nowitzki, his impact on basketball & Dallas and the sacrifice & dedication required to play at the top level for so long. It works not just as biography but as a story of sporting fame and fandom. Of the symbiotic relationship between a superstar and his city, country and the broad range of people touched by his feats of sporting greatness. Comparison’s to The Breaks of the Game, David Halberstam’s masterpiece of sport’s writing are valid in how engrossing, engaging and special this book is – and there is no greater praise I can give a book than that.

The book was published in German a couple of years ago shortly after Nowitzki’s final game. However the translation has been done very carefully – Pletzinger describes it as a ‘cultural translation’ with parts being edited, added and removed to suit the intended US audience. It is clearly a successful approach from how readable the book is.

Sports Books coming in 2022

This list was originally published in December 2021 – for a more up-to-date list of books being published over the second half of 2022 check out this page (published on 14 May 2022) – https://allsportsbooks.reviews/2022/05/14/sports-books-coming-later-in-2022/

It’s time for my annual list of sports books coming over the next 12 months that I am looking forward to. The twitter thread is always my most popular of the year and this post contains the same list but sorted by sport. So here goes:

Boxing

  • The Duke: The Life and Lies of Tommy Morrison by Carlos Acevedo @CruelestSport. The tragic story of the boxer whose lifestyle spiraled out of control. Acevedo is the author of the excellent A Sporting Blood and this looks to be a great combination of author, subject and publisher @HamilcarPubs. One of the books I’m looking forward to most in 2022.
  • Joe Louis vs Billy Conn: Boxing’s Unforgettable Summer of 1941 by Ed Gruver @EdGruver. One of the most anticipated fights in history that more than lived up the hype and the fascinating men who squared off.
  • The Last Dance: Tyson, Lewis, Holyfield, Bowe & Heavyweight Boxing’s Last Great Era by Brian Doogan @doogan_brian and Ron Borges @RonBorges. Each of these 4 heavyweights was a fascinating character and their fights between them were global events.

Rugby

  • Unforgettable by Steve Thompson @Tommo33s. The World Cup winning front row writes about his career and the brutal toll the injuries, and eventual early onset dementia, has taken on him and his family.
  • Full Time by Nigel Owens @nigelrefowens. The story of the second half of Nigel’s career as one of the most famous referees in World Rugby.

Soccer

  • Two Brothers by Jonathan Wilson @jonawils. A dual-biography of Jack and Bobby Charlton, World Cup winning brothers in the 1966 England team. As an Irish football fan, Jack will always have a special place in my memory and this promises to be a fascinating book from the always excellent author of Inverting the Pyramid and The Barcelona Legacy.
  • Johan Cruyff: Always on the Attack by Auke Kok @AukeKok. A comprehensive biography of the legendary Dutchman. Different aspects of Cruyff’s life have been extensively written about. This promises to be the first comprehensive English language bio since his death to try and capture his immense impact on the global game.
  • USA 94 – The World Cup That Changed The Game by Matt Evans @the_mevs @USA94Book. Very much looking forward to this book. For an Irish kid born in 1984, nothing will ever compete with USA 94 for my affection!
  • The Last Busby Babe: The Autobiography of Sammy McIlroy (with Wayne Barton @WayneSBarton). Autobiography of the former Northern Ireland, Manchester United and Stoke City player. McIlroy also managed the GAWA after winning 88 caps and appearing in the 1982 World Cup.
  • When Two Worlds Collide: The Intercontinental Cup Years by Dan Williamson @winkveron @intlcupyears. Book on the annual match between Europe and South America’s champion football teams by the author of the excellent Blue and Gold Passion. Williamson is also writing a bio of Ronaldo (the real one) which is top of my 2023 list!
  • Glorious Reinvention: The Rebirth of Ajax Amsterdam by Karan Tejwani @Karan_Tejwani26. A look at the Dutch club’s return to the heights of European football by the author of the excellent Wings of Change.
  • On Football by Jorge Valdano. I think this a reprint of the previous book by the former Real Madrid player and executive. Valdono’s writing on football is always interesting so looking forward to getting this new version.
  • England Football – The Biography: The Story of the Three Lions 1872-2022 by Paul Hayward @_PaulHayward. Veteran sportswriter Hayward telling the history of the English national soccer team.
  • 1999: The Treble and All That by Matt Dickenson @DickensonTimes. The Chief Sports Writer for the Times recalls Manchester United’s historic Treble campaign in 99. Hard to believe that was more than 20 years ago!
  • Rooney: Teenage Kicks: The Street Footballer Who Ruled the World by Wayne Barton @WayneSBarton. A look at the former Everton, Man Utd and England star’s early years when he burst onto the English football scene as the next great superstar aged 16. Barton is the leading writer of books on Man Utd and continuous to churn out interesting, engaging books each year.
  • Nil Lamptey: The Curse of Pele by Joris Kaper @CaposdeCapos. Biography of the former Ghanaian footballer, best known in England for his spells at  Aston Villa and Coventry City. Explores the challenges of living up to unrealistic expectations and hype surrounding young talented footballers.
  • Fields of Wonder: The incredible story of Northern Ireland’s journey to the 1982 World Cup by Evan Marshall. The author of Spirit of ’58, tells the story of Northern Ireland’s unlikely journey to the 1982 World Cup during a the height of the Troubles.
  • High Noon: The Falklands, the Hand of God and the Goal of the Century by Michael Gibbons @mikewgibbons. The story of the famous World Cup quarter-final in 1986 between England and Argentina at Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium. Set amid a tense political situation, and featuring Diego Maradona at his mercurial best, the game remains among the most famous ever played.
  • Fit and Proper People: The Lies and Fall of OWNAFC by Martin Calladine @uglygame and James Cave @againstleague3. Sports fans must seem like an easy target for shady tech-linked businesses with the likes of the now defunct Football Index seeking to cash in on novel concepts of fandom. In 2019, an app called OWNAFC hit the market promising football fans the chance to buy and run their own club. Just a few months later it collapsed, leaving customers hundreds of thousands of pounds out of pocket.  The complete tale is told here.
  • The O’Leary Years: Football’s Greatest Boom and Bust by Rocco Dean @roclufc. A look at a fascinating period in English football where Leeds splashed the cash and looked to return to the summit of the game before the house of cards came crashing down.
  • A History of European Football in 100 Objects: The Alternative Football Museum by Andy Bollen @nirvanadiary. An interesting looking take on European Football history by the author of the excellent Fierce Genius.
  • A New Formation: How Black Footballer’s Shaped the Modern Game by Calum Jacobs. Features contibutions from past players including Ian Wright and Andy Cole. @MerkyBooks
  • Football’s Great War: Association Football on the English Home Front, 1914-1918 by Alexander Jackson. The curator @DrAlexJack1 of the Football Museum in Manchester explores how conflict reshaped the People’s Game on the English Home Front.
  • My Untold Story by Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The legendary, ageless, Swede’s first book was very enjoyable and the second promises to be just as entertaining. It is already published in Italy and Spain with English edition expected in 2022.
  • How Money Changed Football: From the Premier League to Non-League by Philip Woods.
  • Kit and Caboodle: Football’s Shirt Stories by Matt Riley @TalesThai
  • The Cup: A Pictorial Celebration of the World’s Greatest Football Tournament by Richard Whitehead @RWhitehead61. As the FA Cup turns 150, this book should be a nostalgia fest for any English football fan.
  • From Kids to Champions by Jonny Brick @jonnybrick. Host of the Football Library radio show writes about the FA Youth Cup.
  • Essential Practice Sessions: The Ultimate Program for an Entire Season of Training by Carl Wild. For any soccer coaches out there.
  • Football with Wings: The Tactical Concepts Behind the Red Bull Game Model by Lee Scott @FMAnalysis. Another book on tactics by Scott who makes difficult tactical concepts understandable. Of particular interest now that the mastermind of the Red Bull approach is the Man Utd manager!
  • Post Punk Football by Jim Keoghan @Jim_Keoghan. New book from the author of ‘Is it Just Me or is Modern Football is S**t’, ‘How to Run a Football Club’.
  • The Working Hands of a Goddess: The tactics, community and culture behind Gasperini’s Atalanta B.C by Tom Underhill @tomd_underhill. Looking at the creation of one of Europe’s most exciting sides, where they and their coach have come from, and where they sit within a city’s identity.
  • The Dundee Derby by Jeff Webb. @DerbyDundee From the author of Scotland’s Lost Football Clubs.
  • Radical Football: Jürgen Griesbeck and the Story of Football for Good by Steve Fleming @RadicalFooty. Story of a collective mission to unleash the power of football for the benefit of people and the planet. Fleming presents a hopeful vision for football’s future.
  • Get it On: How the ’70s Rocked Football by Jon Spurling @JonSpurling1. The fascinating inside story of how commercialism, innovation, racism and hooliganism rocked English football in the ’70s.
  • Fields of Dreams and Broken Fences: Delving into the Mystery World of Non-League Football by Aaron Moore @aaron_moore25.
  • Ain’t Got a Barrel of Money: Sheffield United by @JasonHolyhead. Charting United’s dramatic fall from the edge of Europe in the mid 1970’s.
  • 71/72 Football’s Greatest Season by Daniel Abrahams. @71Season

Basketball

  • Muggsy: My Life from a Kid in the Projects to the Godfather of the Small Ball by Tyrone ‘ Muggsy’ Bogues @MuggsyBogues with Jacob Uitti @jakeuitti. Autobiography from the 5 ft 3 point guard, famously the shortest ever player in the NBA. Muggsy got a lot of praise in Scottie Pippen’s recent book Unguarded too.
  • Magic Johnson by Roland Lazenby @lazenby. The author of excellent biographies of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant amongst others focusses this time on Magic Johnson.
  • The Great Nowitzki: Basketball and the Meaning of Life by Thomas Pletzinger. Pletzinger, a German novelist and sportswriter, traveled with the Mavericks superstar Dirk Nowitzki for more than seven years, seeking the secret of his success and longevity.  Promises to be a fascinating read.
  • Coach K: The Rise and Reign of Mike Krzyzewski by Ian O’Connor @Ian_OConnor. The author of the excellent ‘Belichick’ and ‘The Jump’ examines the career of the legendary Duke basketball coach.  
  • The Last Enforcer: Outrageous Stories from the Life and Times of one of the NBA’s Fiercest Competitors by Charles Oakley @CharlesOakley34 with Frank Isola @TheFrankIsola. This promises to be a fascinating book from one of the most interesting players from the 90’s era NBA.
  • The NBA in Black and White: The Memoir of a Trailblazing NBA Player and Coach by Ray Scott with Charley Rosen. Memoir of Ray Scott, Piston’s legend who went #4 pick of the 1961 NBA draft, and became the first ever black man to win Coach of the Year as the Piston’s Coach in 1974.
  • Blood in the Garden: The Flagrant History of the 1990’s New York Knicks by Chris Herring @Herring_NBA. It’s hard to remember the Knicks used to be wildly popular. I’m looking forward to this history of how Pat Riley, Patrick Ewing, John Starks and Charles Oakley resurrected the iconic franchise through oppressive physicality and unmatched grit.
  • The Rise: Kobe Bryant and the Pursuit of Immortality by Mike Sielski @MikeSielski. A new biography of the late basketball star which benefits from access to a series of recorded interviews from his senior high school season and the start of his NBA career.
  • Hoops: A Cultural History of Basketball in America by Thomas Aiello @thomasaiello. A cultural history of the sport from the street to the highest levels of professional competition. The book argues that the game has existed in a reciprocal relationship with the broader culture, both embodying conflicts over race, class, and gender and serving as public theater for them. 
  • Black Market: An Insider’s Journey into the High-Stakes World of College Basketball by Merl Code. From a former college basketball player and shoe rep for Nike, this explosive insider’s account into the dark underworld of college basketball exposes the corrupt and racist systems that exploit young athletes and offers a new way forward

NFL / American Football

  • Surviving Washington by Robert Griffin III @RGIII with Gary Myers @GaryMyersNY. The much anticipated tell-all from the former Washington Quarterback who was briefly the most famous and exciting star in American sport.
  • Seventeen and Oh: Miami, 1972 and the NFL’s Only Perfect Season by Marshall Jon Fisher @MarshallJFisher. A look back after 50 years at the legendary Dolphin’s team by the author of the excellent A Terrible Splendor.
  • Playmakers: How the NFL Really Works (And Doesn’t) by Mike Florio. A wide ranging look at how the NFL really operates and continues to thrive despite constant scandals.
  • The Hot Seat: A Year of Outrage, Pride, Occasional Games of College Football by Ben Mathis-Lilley @BenMathisLilley. The Slate writer taking a look at college football coaches – the book is ‘about why college football makes people so crazy—and, in a longer nutshell, hypothesizes that it does so because its programs and, especially, their coaches, are representatives of personal and cultural identity and status to a degree that is unlike any other sport in USA”.
  • Hometown Victory: A Coach’s Story of Football, Fate, and Coming Home by Keanon Lowe @KeanonLowe and Justin Spizman. Lowe was working in the NFL when he chose to return home after losing a friend to opioids to coach a team of high school kids from broken homes on a 23-game losing streak to victory.
  • The Rise of the Black Quarterback: What it Means for America by Jason Reid @JReidESPN. Building on a series by ESPN’s The Undefeated, Reid will delve into the history of black quarterbacks in the NFL.
  • Draft Day Confidential by Thomas George. A behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of the NFL Draft.
  • Walking Alone: The United Journey of Football Pioneer Kenny Washington by Dan Taylor. The story of African American trailblazer Kenny Washington, the first black player in the NFL. Taylor examines the legendary player who at the time was considered one of the greatest and popular to ever play the game.
  • The Road to the Horseshoe and Beyond: How a Small-Town Athlete Benefited from Ohio State Football to Build a Life by Rex Kern. A memoir of the former Ohio State football star who has been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and spent 4 years in the NFL.
  • Freezing Cold Takes: NFL: Football Media’s Most Inaccurate Predictions—and the Fascinating Stories Behind Them by Fred Segal @Frizz527. A look back at 20 spectacularly bad predictions by the creator of the popular @OldTakesExposed.
  • Spies on the Sidelines: The High-Stakes World of NFL Espionage by Kevin Bryant @kevbryantauthor. Shines a shines a light on the shadowy world of NFL espionage and exposes the full range of collection techniques teams use to spy on their opponents, as well as the defensive countermeasures that are used to defend against them.
  • From Gold Teeth to Gold Jacket: My Life in Football and Business by Edgerrin James @EdgerrinJames32 with John Harris. Autobiography of the Hall of Fame running back Edgerrin James.
  • Watch My Smoke: The Eric Dickerson Story by Eric Dickerson @EricDickerson with Greg Hanlon @GregHanlon. Autobiography of Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson which is getting a lot of praise for its openness and coverage of the racism he experienced.
  • Cotton Davidson, the Rifleman of the AFL. Memoir of former Baylor, Colts and Oakland Raiders quarterback who also played as a punter and placekicker before a 20 plus year career coaching quarterbacks.
  • Through the Banks of the Red Cedar: My Father and the Team that Changed the Game by Maya Washington @imayawashington. A memoir of Gene Washington’s football career by his daughter. This story was first a documentary which is now being published as a book.

Baseball

  • Playing Through the Pain: Ken Caminiti and the Steroids Confession That Changed Baseball Forever by Dan Good @Dgood73. The story of the first MLB player, a respected MVP, to admit to taking performance enchancing steroids and the impact that confession had on baseball. @AbramsPress
  • The Black Fives: The Epic Story of Basketball’s Forgotten Era by Claude Johnson @ClaudeJohnson. A history of the early days of Black basketball including the introduction of the game to Black communities and the racial integration of the NBA in 1950. @BlackFives
  • Broken Game: The Rise of the Dodgers in a League on the Brink by Pedro Moura @pedromoura. An inside look at how the Dodgers won their first MLB championship in more than 30 years. The book also charts the relentless focus on winning in the post-Moneyball era and the extent to which changes have sent TV ratings and attendance numbers in long, slow decline.
  • Rickey: The Life and Legend of an American Original by Howard Bryant @hbryant42. Definitive biography of Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, baseball’s epic leadoff hitter and base-stealer. When a great writer writes about a great player a great book should be expected!
  • The Real Hank Aaron: An Intimate Look at the Life and Legacy of The Home Run King by Terence Moore @TMooreSports.
  • Charlie Murphy: The Iconoclastic Showman Behind the Chicago Cubs by Jason Cannon. Story of the the ebullient and mercurial owner of this historic franchise from 1905 through 1914 during which the Cubs won two World Series.
  • In Scoring Position: 40 Years of a Baseball Love Affair by Bill Chuck and Bob Ryan. A love letter to the game of baseball.  
  • Mantle: The Best There Ever Was by Tony Castro @Tony_Castro. A bio of the Yankees legend which makes the case for him being the greatest ever to play the game.

Cycling

  • Jan Ullrich: The Best There Never Was by Daniel Friebe @friebos. Biography of the always interesting 1997 Tour de France winner looking at his rise and his remarkable career that, despite his success, somehow never quite hit the heights that seemed possible.
  • God is Dead: The Rise and Fall of Frank Vandenbroucke by Andy McGrath @Andymcgra. Story of the handsome mercurial Belgian cycling prodigy Frank Vandenbroucke who won a number of prestigious races but ultimately lived faster than he raced.
  • Beryl: In Search of Britain’s Greatest Athlete by Jeremy Wilson @JWTelegraph. A biography of legendary British female cyclist Beryl Burton. There was a previous bio of Beryl last year by William Fotheringham highlighting how this legendary figure is beginning to receive long overdue credit.

Golf

  • The Cup They Couldn’t Lose: America, The Ryder Cup, and the Long Road to Whistling Straits by Shane Ryan @ShaneRyanHere. A look at the most recent Ryder Cup which was more dramatic in the build up than the Cup itself!
  • Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorised) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar by Alan Shipnuck @AlanShipnuck. A biography of golfer Phil Mickelson by long time golf writer Shipnuck which is being described as ‘juicy and freewheeling’.
  • Tiger and Phil: Golf’s Most Fascinating Rivalry by Bob Harig @BobHarig. Before there was Brooks v Bryson there was Tiger v Phil. Mickelson’s career and public image have been defined by the contrast with Woods. Robotic and reticent versus affable and extroverted, ruthless efficient vs everyman ordinariness. Promises to be an interesting book.

Miscellaneous

  • College Spots on the Brink of Disaster: The Rise of Pay-for-Play and the Fall of the Scholar Athlete by John Lebar and Allen Paul. First published as Marching Toward Madness this is being updated and republished. It argues for radical reforms to college sports but strongly opposes paying the players. An easier case to make when you’re an author and not a 19 year old playing on national television for room and board!
  • A Delicate Game: Brain Injury, Sport, and Sacrifice by Hana Walker-Brown @HWalker_Brown. A look at sport, brain injury and CTE by the creator of The Beautiful Brain, an award-winning podcast.
  • Roll Red Roll: Rape, Power, and Football in the American Heartland by Nancy Schwartzman @fancynancynyc. A difficult but important subject, the book will look at an incident where a sixteen year-old girl incapacitated by alcohol was repeatedly assaulted by Steubenville, Ohio high school football stars. Sounds similar to Jon Krakauer’s powerful Missoula.
  • The Hard Parts: From Chernobyl to Paralympic Champion – My Story of Achieving the Extraordinary by Oksana Masters @OksanaMasters. Autobiography of a 10 time Paralympic medalist.
  • If Gold is Our Destiny: How a Team of Mavericks Came Together for Olympic Glory by Sean P. Murray. The story of the 1984 Men’s US Olympic Volleyball team and their quest for gold at the LA Olympics.
  • An Economist Goes to the Game: How to Throw Away $580 million and Other Surprising Insights from the Economics of Sport by Paul Oyer @pauloyer. An economist’s take on sports phenomena such as corruption, ticket scalping, child prodigies, the Olympics, and many others.
  • It Was Always a Choice: Picking up the Baton of Athlete Activism by David Steele @David_C_Steele. A look at athlete activism for social causes in the post-Kaepernick era.
  • Dynamite & Davey: The Explosive Lives of The British Bulldogs by Steven Bell @steven_bell1985. Biography of two larger than life British wrestlers that anyone growing up in the 90s will remember well.
  • Rise: My Story by Lyndsey Vonn. A memoir from the most decorated female skier of all time.
  • The All-rounder: The inside story of big time cricket by Dan Christian. The Aussie cricketer has been a gun for hire for team’s around the world.
  • Different Class: The Untold Story of English Cricket by Duncan Stone @StoneDunk. A social and cultural history of cricket in England which the author reckons will ruffle a few feathers. @RepeaterBooks
  • Loserville: How Professional Sports Remade Atlanta – and How Atlanta Remade Professional Sports by Clayton Trutor @ClaytonTrutor
  • Running and Jumping by Steven Kedie @stevenkedie. A fictional story about an Olympic rivalry set between Beijing 2008 and Rio 2016.
  • Path Lit by Lightning: The Life of Jim Thorpe by David Maraniss @davidmaraniss. The author of the impossibly brilliant When Pride Still Mattered (and other amazing books) turns his pen to the life of Jim Thorpe, probably the greatest all-round athlete of all time.
  • The Mosquito Fleet by Lachlan Waterman @lahlan_waterman. Tells the story of the all-conquering Carlton Aussie Rules football side from the last 70s/early 80s.

Books with limited details

  • In addition to the bountiful list above we can expect a range of books whose titles aren’t known including
    • Jeff Pearlman’s @jeffpearlman next book will be on the legendary Bo Jackson – a two-sport star who was gifted beyond comprehension but whose career was cut short due to injury. I cannot wait for this one.
    • A 3rd book from @petercrouch, the former footballer whose first two books were very entertaining.
    • The first ever family authorized biography of Duncan Edwards, the Man Utd player who was tipped to become an all time great before he died tragically at just 21 in the Munich Air Disaster. Written by Wayne Barton @WayneSBarton.
    • A new book from Chris Lepkowski @chrislepkowski, former WBA media head and author of From Buzaglo To Balis.
    • A new book in Autumn from John McNicoll @theWishyman80, the author of An Ode to Four Four Two.
    • A new book by Chris Lee @CMRLee, the man behind the Outside Write podcast and the author of ‘Origin Stories: The Pioneers Who Took Football to the World’. @outsidewrite
    • A book by Stu Horsfield @loxleymisty44, author of the excellent Brazil 1982. Topic and Title yet to be revealed.
    • Book on Middlesboro’s first trophy win and European adventure by @PhilSpenc23
    • Biography of Bronko Nagurski, a pro football Hall of Famer who was also a Wrestling World Heavyweight Champion by Chris Willis @cdwillis83.