Year in Review – 2022 in sports books ⚾⚽🏀🏈🚴

As the year comes to a close and people are shopping for Christmas presents for the sports book lovers in their lives / themselves, it’s a good time to look back at the year in sports books.

It’s been an incredibly strong year for sports books, especially biographies across a wide number of sports. Below I talk about my favourite books published this year and some recommended by you guys. Also included a list of some of those sports books I haven’t managed to read yet but have been highly recommended.

Let me know your own thoughts in the comments or on twitter. Happy reading.

⚾🏈🏅Multi-sport icons

This year saw two fantastic biographies of iconic figures who excelled in more than one sport. Bo Jackson and Jim Thorpe came from very different eras but both achieved remarkable cultural status as a result of their unique sporting success.

🏈⚾The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson by Jeff Pearlman. Through extensive research and interviewing hundreds of people Pearlman brings to life Bo’s various triumphs and failures as well as capturing the lingering sense of what might have been. This is such an entertaining read I cannot recommend it highly enough. Check out my review.

🏅⚾🏈Path Lit by Lightning: The Life of Jim Thorpe by David Maraniss. The great biographer has taken a subject who is vaguely known by most Americans and brought him to life in vivid, fascinating detail. Thorpe is presented as both a fabulous athlete and a real person grappling with fame without the financial reward modern superstars enjoy today. An immersive, readable, book on a fascinating, complex and talented sportsman. Check out my review.

🏅Gems you might have missed

Some books are less obvious and visible when not about a popular player or team. Here are two books I really loved this year that aren’t easily categorised but deserve a wide audience.

🚣‍♂️Flares Up: A Story Bigger than the Atlantic by Niamh McAnally. Flares Up is the story of two ordinary men taking on an extreme challenge to row across the Atlantic Ocean. As an account of an interesting challenge undertaken by two relatively ordinary men this is a very good book, but as an examination of life it is a special one. The honesty of the book results in it being an incredibly gripping reflection on fatherhood, on marriage, on motivation and on passion. On who we chose to spend our time with and why we chose to do so. I can’t recommend this highly enough for anyone looking for a gripping, moving, exciting read. Check out my review.

🏅Unsung: Not All Heroes Wear Kits by Alexis James. Very interesting look at some of the behind the scenes roles that allow elite sport to take place. Captures the enthusiasm, passion and professionalism of some very fascinating people. From kit designers to athletics starters and makers of artificial snow, each chapter is fascinating by itself. Together they show just how much dedication and sacrifice is required by those outside the limelight to allow great sporting moments to happen. Unsung is a really well written and enjoyable book. Highly recommend it.

⚽Football

Another year with plenty of great football books. My personal favourites this year were:

⚽ Scheisse! We’re Going Up! The Unexpected Rise of Berlin’s Rebel Football Club by Kit Holden. Scheisse is an absolutely brilliant book. It tells the history and uniqueness of Union Berlin through the eyes of its fans. 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 existed. Check out my full review here

⚽ 1999: Manchester United, the Treble and All That by Matt Dickinson. Recounts Man Utd’s remarkable season in 1998/99 and the thrilling Champions League victory. Dickenson covered the team as a beat reporter that season and has spoken to most of the players again for the book. A really enjoyable read that gets behind-the-scenes and packed with plenty of great anecdotes.

⚽ Fit and Proper People: The Lies and Fall of OWNAFC by Martin Calladine and James Cave. OwnaFC promised to allow football fans the chance to become part owners of a club and have a genuine say in running it for a small up front cost. Sounds too good to be true, because it was. The OwnaFC fraud, and the story of how the authors tried to expose it, frame a broader reflection on the concept of owning a community institution like a football club and the failings of the powers that be, both sporting and political, to protect the interests of fans. This is a brilliant, important book on the value of clubs to their fans + community and the dangers posed by the variety of people seeking to exploit fans.

⚽ Messi vs. Ronaldo: One Rivalry, Two Goats, and the Era That Remade the World’s Game by Jonathan Clegg & Joshua Robinson. Above all this book is exceptionally readable. While many of the broad strokes will be familiar to long time football fans, there is enough insight and new reporting here to interest anybody. Highly recommended for anyone looking to relive their glory days during and after their swansong World Cup. Check out my review.

Other 2022 football books well worth checking out:

⚽How Not to Run a Football Club: Protests, Boycotts, Court Cases and the Story of How Blackpool Fans Fought to Save Their Club by Nathan Fogg

⚽USA 94: The World Cup that Changed the Game by Matthew Evans. Read my review here.

⚽How to Win the World Cup: Secrets and Insights from International Football’s Top Managers by Chris Evans. Read my review here.

⚾ Baseball

Still sad about the Phillies falling short in the World Series but no better season to remind me how gripping the game can be. Three baseball books really stood out for me this year.

⚾💉Playing Through the Pain: Ken Caminiti and the Steroids Confession That Changed Baseball Forever by Dan Good. A brilliant account of Caminiti’s compelling, tragic life – a wonderful, heart-breaking, unputdownable book. Made me question how we should consider the lives and legacies of athletes who take PED. Full review here.

 Rickey: The Life and Legend of an American Original by Howard BryantDefinitive biography of Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, baseball’s epic leadoff hitter and base-stealer. A simply fantastic book.

⚾ 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. A fascinating biography of Murphy and baseball in the early 1900s.

Other 2002 baseball books well worth checking out:

Sho-Time: The Inside Story of Shohei Ohtani and the Greatest Baseball Season Ever Played by Jeff Fletcher. Check out my review.

The Saga of Sudden Sam: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of Sam McDowell by Sam McDowell with Martin Gitlin. Check out my full review.

🏀Basketball

It was an exceptionally strong year for basketball books this year. I’ve picked three favourites but plenty of great books that just missed the cut.

🏀 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 seven years, seeking the secret of his success and longevity. 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. A masterpiece of sports biography. Check out my review.

🏀Blood in the Garden: The Flagrant History of the 1990s New York Knicks by Chris Herring. Tells the story of the Knicks from the arrival of former Lakers coach Pat Riley in 1991 to the departure of coach Jeff Van Gundy in 2001. Herring brings the central cast of players, coaches, and executives to life in vivid detail but also builds the wider picture of a club, an organization and a wider league. The book strikes a perfect balance of insight, anecdote, game action, and narrative. Check out my review.

🏀Barkley: A Biography by Timothy Bella. As one of the more iconic figures in basketball both during and after his career, Charles Barkley has fascinated, entertained, annoyed and informed generations of basketball fans. This book is packed full of interesting anecdotes and insight and delicately balances the dual aims of being short enough to remain entertaining while also being long enough to capture the fullness of Barkley’s life. Check out my review.

Other 2022 basketball books well worth checking out:

🏀The Rise: Kobe Bryant and the Pursuit of Immortality by Mike Sielski. Reviewed here.

🏀Coach K: The Rise and Reign of Mike Krzyzewski by Ian O’Connor. Reviewed here.

🏀The Last Enforcer by Charles Oakley (with Frank Isola)

🏀Muggsy: Life from a Kid in the Projects to the Godfather of Small Ball by Muggsy Bogues (with Jacob Utitti)

🏈 NFL / American Football

🏈Walking Alone: The Untold Journey of Football Pioneer Kenny Washington by Dan Taylor. Kenny Washington is most famous for breaking the unofficial colour barrier in the NFL as the first black player to play in the league in 13 years. Walking Alone is a comprehensive and excellent biography shining a light on remarkable talent and the impact Washington had. Read my full review here.

🏈 Hometown Victory: A Coach’s Story of Football, Fate, and Coming Home’ by Keanon Lowe with Justin Spitzman. The story of a remarkable young coach who channeled his own grief into helping an underfunded, disadvantaged, high-school football team to find hope and purpose on the playing field and in life. A very enjoyable, inspiring book. Check out my full review here.

🏈Seventeen and Oh: Miami, 1972, and the NFL’s Only Perfect Season by Marshall Jon Fisher. Fifty years on from the Miami Dolphins historic perfect season, Fisher has recounted the story of the season, the players, the coach, the city and the country. Seventeen and Oh is a very enjoyable, entertaining read – sports writing at its very finest. Highly recommend it for any NFL fan. Check out my full review here.

Other American Football books well worth checking out:

🏈 Freezing Cold Takes: NFL: Football Media’s Most Inaccurate Predictions—and the Fascinating Stories Behind Them by Fred Segal. Reviewed here.

🏈 The Rise of the Black Quarterback: What it Means for America by Jason Reid

🏈 Spies on the Sideline by Kevin Bryant.

🥊 Boxing

Boxing, with its cruel, brutal, beautiful nature, lends itself to great writing. My favourite boxing books this year were:

🥊The Duke: The Life and Lies of Tommy Morrison by Carlos Acevedo. Morrison may be best known to many as the guy who played Tommy Gunn in Rocky V. Ultimately, Morrison’s life and career would twist and turn is ways both unexpected and tragic. The Duke is above all an exceptional work of biography. Acevedo’s achievement is to tell the story in a way that is riveting but not lurid, gripping but not eulogizing. The Duke is unputdownable in a way non-fiction rarely is. It grips you and submerges you in a narrative that is riveting, comic, and ultimately tragic. Check out my review here.

🥊Muhammad Ali: Fifteen Rounds in the Wilderness by Dave Hannigan. A brilliant look at Ali’s post-boxing life. Captures both his unique fame and his charisma and courage in the face of declining health. The third of three great books on Ali by Dave Hannigan. Full review here.

🥊Fighting for Survival: My Journey Through Boxing Fame, Abuse, Murder, and Resurrection by Christy Martin with Ron Borges. A passionate, heartbreaking and compelling autobiography from the pioneering boxer. Much like Martin’s fighting style, ‘Fighting for Survival’ is powerful and holds nothing back. She writes as she fought – by laying all her cards on the table and scoring a knockout success. Full review here.

🥊 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. I’ve only just started this but I’m confident enough in it’s quality already to include it in the list.

🚴Cycling

Two cycling books really stood out for me this year (and are reviewed in more detail here).

🚴Jan Ullrich: The Best There Never Was by Daniel Friebe. Ullrich may be best remembered these days as the guy who kept finishing second, usually to Lance Armstrong, on the Tour de France. This is a comprehensive, gripping biography of a fascinating athlete. Friebe has gotten as close as possible to presenting a comprehensive portrait of an athlete and a man who, despite his flaws, has always been compelling and strangely likeable. The Best There Never Was is an exceptionally good biography and a very enjoyable read for any cycling fan.

🚴Le Fric: Family, Power and Money: The Business of the Tour de France by Alex Duff. An entertaining and comprehensive history of the Tour’s ownership, its business model, and the family that controls it. Le Fric is a fascinating work of history but it is also strong when reflecting on more modern changes to the Tour as a business and wider, so far largely unsuccessful, attempts to reform cycling’s structure more generally. An excellent addition to any fan’s cycling library.

⛳ Golf

⛳ ‘Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar’ by Alan Shipnuck. Packed full of anecdotes which present two contrasting sides of Mickelson – money obsessed yet incredibly generous, trash talker yet supportive of new pros, self-obsessed yet capable of great empathy. Overall ‘Phil’ is a very entertaining and enjoyable read.

Books I haven’t managed to read yet but I’ve heard are great

Sadly even I can’t read every sports book I want to in the year. Here are a bunch of books that I haven’t gotten to yet but have heard great things about. Most are on the Christmas book wish list.

⚽ Johan Cruyff: Always on the Attack by Auke Kok. The first comprehensive English language bio of the legendary Dutchman since his death.

⚽ Two Brothers by Jonathan Wilson. A dual-biography of Jack and Bobby Charlton, World Cup winning brothers in the 1966 England team.

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. Hugely positive reviews from readers whose taste I trust very much.

🏈 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.

⚽ When Two Worlds Collide: The Intercontinental Cup Years by Dan Williamson. Book on the annual match between Europe and South America’s champion football teams by the author of the excellent Blue and Gold Passion.

⚽ When the Circus Leaves Town by David Proudlove. A look at the what happens when football teams move. Most recommended by my twitter followers.

🏉 Unforgettable: Rugby, Dementia and the Fight of My Life by Steve Thompson. A lot of love for this book on my twitter feed.

🚴‍♂️God is Dead: The Rise and Fall of Frank Vandenbroucke by Andy McGrath. Story of the handsome mercurial Belgian cycling prodigy Frank Vandenbroucke who won a number of prestigious races but ultimately lived faster than he raced.

🏅Running and Jumping: Three Olympics, Two Men, One Rivalry by Steven Kedie. Fictional account of two athletes rivalry.

Hope the list has given you some good reading suggestions / Christmas present ideas. Let me know in the comments what your favourite 2022 sports books were. Happy reading!

‘Dark Goals: How History’s Worst Tyrants Have Used and Abused the Game of Soccer’ by Luciano Wernicke (2022)

The interaction of sports, especially football, and politics is a growing topic for sports books to cover. The hosting of two consecutive World Cups in countries with authoritarian political systems and questionable human rights records has presumably led to this wider interest in the history of the interaction of football and politics.

Dark Goals examines this issues with a particular focus on early 20th century dictators and their interaction with the game. It takes a deep dive into how these tyrants used football as well as their broader relationship with the game. Each chapter stands alone as a fascinating historical snapshot but the real power is combining them to see both how political leaders try to use football and how the game itself doesn’t always let them. Given the author is Argentinian, I found the chapters on his home country particularly interesting and insightful – who knew Eva Peron tried to fix the outcome of the Argentinian league because an underdog victory could boost national morale!

Deeply researched, packed with interesting insight, and full of sources not typically seen in English language football books, Dark Goals is a fascinating, informative and engaging read. A great book to accompany the upcoming World Cup – or to read instead of watching if you can’t stomach the latest authoritarian regime to try and use football’s greatest showcase as a propaganda exercise.

‘Messi Vs. Ronaldo: One Rivalry, Two GOATs, and the Era That Remade the World’s Game’ Jonathan Clegg and Joshua Robinson (2022)

Everyone knows Messi and Ronaldo. Most readers of this review will know their origin stories, their achievements and their legends. Many, like me, will have been fortunate to see them both play in person. Some will have read bios of both or even previous dual-bios of the pair (like the enjoyable 2018 book by Jimmy Burns).

Given all that, I was a little hesitant to pick this up, but did so based on the quality of Clegg and Robinson’s previous book The Club which examined the business story behind the founding and success of the English Premier League. I hoped they would take a similar approach to examine the impact of Messi and Ronaldo on the sport off the pitch as much as on it and I was not disappointed. This is a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting read.

Messi v Ronaldo avoids retelling the details of the players careers in any level of detail. Instead it tells their story with a focus more broadly on how football and individual clubs evolved both as a sport and a business during their careers. It zooms in on the key actors – Jorge Mendes the agent, Messi’s own father Jorge, and Real Madrid chairman Florentino Perez especially – looking at how they shaped the changing football landscape and how these changes arose because of, or were shaped by, Messi and Ronaldo themselves. Of most interest is the behind the scenes insights into how certain transfers happened or how people reacted to well known events.

Clegg and Robinson ultimately present the two players as hugely powerful entities in their own rights who impacted the entire operations of the clubs they played for. While they won buckets of trophies, the ultimately didn’t leave clubs in positions of long term strength and their enduring legacy may be their part in the rise of the idea that a superstar can be bigger and more powerful than any one club in the social media age.

The strength of the book is the author’s journalistic talents and their eye for telling a compelling story. It is clear a vast amount of research went into the book which ensures it is packed with insight. The ability to zoom in on specific moments or trends helps the book to avoid being a conventional (dual) biography.

Above all the book is exceptionally readable. While many of the broad strokes will be familiar to long time football fans, their is enough insight and new reporting here to interest anybody. Highly recommended for anyone looking to relive their glory days ahead of their swansong World Cup this winter.

⚽👕’Kit and Caboodle: Football’s Shirt Stories’ by Matt Riley (2022)

I love football jerseys (or shirts as most seem to call them). The older, the rarer, the randomer, the better. A classic jersey is a pure nostalgia hit, an instant teleportation to a beautiful memory or moment of football goodness. I have 10 old Ireland jerseys in my closet and I’m smiling just thinking about them. So, full disclosure, I’m not objective in reviewing a book about football shirts.

Kit and Caboodle is Matt Riley’s love letter to football shirts and football in general. It’s his reflection on the beautiful game told through the prism of football shirts and many fascinating stories that show how football shirts can be, and should be, more than just fabric that exposes how fat we are all getting in middle age.

Riley worked in Thai football for a number of years and is heavily involved in a range of football organisations. His passion for the sport of football shines through on every page. His disdain for the football business is equally apparent with the less pleasant side of football sponsorship and ownership . The book is packed full of interesting anecodotes and stories, most of which were new to me. It touches on a wide range of topics from using football shirts as a means of doing good, to the perils of gambling sponsorship, to Atalanta sending free shirts to every baby botn in Bergamo, to those clubs like St Pauli and Forest Green that look to project a very different ethos and image.

A beautiful colorful book packed with pictures of iconic football shirts, Kit and Caboodle is designed to be savoured as much as to be read. It’s also literally impossible to not at some point put the book down to google how much some of the shirts pictured might cost you. My Maradona themed Napoli jersey should be arriving any day now. I don’t think I can blame the book for the USA ’94 hat I also bought though!

All royalties from the book go to Exeter City Women’s football team. It is being published by Pitch Publishing on August 1st.

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

⚽ The O’Leary Years: Football’s Greatest Boom and Bust by Rocco Dean (2022)

The O’Leary Years recounts the four seasons during the late 1990’s and early 00’s when Leeds United returned to the top echelon of English and European football. A side blessed with talented young players and a host of big money signings briefly challenged at the top of the table and in famous stadiums across Europe. There was plenty of off the pitch drama too before the financial recklessness of the owners brought the club crashing down to depths it has only recently recovered from.

Dean recounts the story through his own memories and match reports from the time as he grew from a 14 year old travelling the country with his dad, to an 18-year-old equally fanatic adult. It’s very much a book about the nature of fandom, about nostalgia and the relationships that following sport can bring us. It’s a love letter to a unique team at a special time in the author’s life. It’s very much aimed at Leeds fans who will bask in nostalgia and their own reminisces as they read it.

I would still love to read a more detailed book on the rise and fall of that Leeds team. One that goes behind the scenes and captures the recollections of the key protagonists and sheds more light on where it all went wrong.

⚽ ‘Fit and Proper People: The Lies and Fall of OWNAFC by Martin Calladine and James Cave (2022)

OwnaFC promised to allow football fans the chance to become part owners of a club and have a genuine say in running it for a small up front cost. Sounds too good to be true, because it was.

Very soon it became apparent that the project was in trouble. Calladine and Cave investigated and became the leading critics of the scheme. The book recounts their investigations and the violent reactions of its instigator as his lies became more and more unbelievable.

The OwnaFC fraud, and the story of how the authors tried to expose it, frame a broader reflection on the concept of owning a community institution like a football club and the failings of the powers that be, both sporting and political, to protect the interests of fans.

This is a brilliant, important book on the value of clubs to their fans + community and the dangers posed by the variety of people seeking to exploit fans. Reporting like this, which came at a steep personal cost as told in the book, is vitally important. It reduces the chances of repeat schemes succeeding, increases pressure on authorities and refuses to simply accept that football and football fandom are fair game to be exploited.

I’d recommend the book to any believer in the importance of football and sport more generally as a way of uniting communities and people.

‘Europe United: 1 football fan. 1 crazy season. 55 UEFA nations’ by Matt Walker (2019)

I love going to random football matches whenever I’m abroad.  It has always been hard to explain that the real highlight of a 2 week holiday in Eastern Europe was the 0-0 Champions League second qualifying round 1st leg match between Ferencváros and Sparta Prague.  Little did I realise there is a huge football subculture of ground-hoppers who travel the world solely to go to football games of teams they have no particular connection to.

Matt Walker, a British civil servant, took the idea of ground-hopping to a whole new level and spent a year travelling Europe to attend a league game in all 55 UEFA nations.  Why, you ask?  Why not!  As soon as I saw the book I was immediately jealous and curious to see how he got on.

Europe United is Walker’s account of his travels.  Essentially it’s the story of more than 70 different random football matches in 55 different countries.  As a statistician Walker couldn’t help but keep detailed notes of every game, goal, yellow card etc.  But the heart of the book is the conversations he had along the way.

Walker managed to drum up some media attention for his adventure which led to meeting local fans in almost every destination to share the journey with.  He met a variety of different people along the way all united by their passion for their local team. The book therefore becomes a love letter to football’s place in communities across Europe. Each of the teams he watched are a significant part of their many fans’ lives.  Each game matters to a select group of people who share a common, irrational but wonderful love of their football team .

There is always a risk of a book like this getting repetitive as games and countries blend into each other.  Wisely, Walker broke up the chapters with general collective observations from his travels.

Overall, I really loved this book.  The football team in my hometown folded very recently (RIP Limerick FC) and football more widely in Ireland is on the verge of financial collapse amid corruption and incompetence. If ever a reminder was needed of the importance of the beautiful game, Europe United provides it.

Europe United

‘The Next Big Thing: How Football’s Wonderkids Get Left Behind’ by Ryan Baldi (2019)

Every football fan remembers those prodigies they pinned their future dreams on only for their apparent potential to never be realised.  As an Ireland fan, I was overly excited when Anthony Stokes scored nine goals in just four games for Falkirk and again when 16 year old Terry Dixon was called up to the senior Ireland squad.  Even now I can’t resist getting giddy at the potential of young strikers Troy Parrott, Michael Obafemi and Aaron Connolly all of whom I’ve barely seen play yet whom I am certain will be world beaters.

So while we are all familiar with the hope, hype and unrealised dreams, little consideration is given by most to the fact the the young men who don’t make the big time have to find a way to get on with their lives. The Next Big Thing tells the stories of 15 highly-touted players who never quite reached the levels that was once predicted for them.  Some enjoyed decent careers, others were out of the game by the end of their teens.  The book covers a fascinating mix of players including Championship Manager legend Cherno Samba, Dutch international winger Andy Van der Mede and one time Beckham-rival Ben Thornley.

Baldi conducted interviews with the 15 players profiled and many others who knew them or coached them during their formative years.  Each one brings an interesting perspective as to why they didn’t quite make it at the highest (or in some cases, any) level.  The reasons range from injuries to changing managers, from ill-advised transfers to simple bad luck, from addiction to poor attitude.  Each player is fairly forthright and honest in accounting for their failures (to the extent that not making it against ridiculously long odds can actually be considered a failure!).  There may be some self-selection to this – those willing to talk to the author for a book like this may be those who have best been able to come to terms with how their career panned out.

Each chapter would work well as a stand-alone article as each is an entertaining and interesting story in its own right..   The book broadly lets the stories stand on their own with some attempt to tie the pieces together in the concluding chapter.  If, like me, you read the book over a very short space of time it can get a little repetitive but that in itself is indicative of how similar the players’ stories ultimately are.  It think it may work best as a book to dip in an out of and read a chapter at a time.

The book ultimately serves as a reminder of the perils of forgetting that young footballers are children or young adults first and footballers second.  It also suggests that, while improvements have definitely been made over time in how clubs treat their youngsters, a lot of care is needed to ensure that the end of professional football career does not result in significant life problems.  Overall, The Next Big Thing is well written, well researched and a welcome addition the English football library.

Baldi

 

‘Done Deal: An Insider’s Guide to Football Contracts, Multi-Million Pound Transfers and Premier League Big Business’ by Daniel Geey (2019)

Done Deal is an interesting, comprehensive and well written overview of the business and legal side of the beautiful game.  Its author Daniel Geey is a lawyer and a regular online commentator on the legal side of the football business.  It covers contract deals, television rights negotiations, club takeovers, and all the legal and commercial sides of football.

It’s clear that Geey is very knowledgeable and experienced in his field.  The book also shows he is an excellent communicator as he presents what can be dry or technical information in a very clear and engaging manner.

For the nerdier among us who regularly read about the business side of sport or who regularly read blogs like the excellent Swiss Ramble, a lot of the material in the book will be quite familiar.

Overall, Geey does a very good job of communicating a lot of information.  However, it’s easy to imagine that a lot of readers will ultimately find the in-depth nature of some of the subject matter boring or uninteresting.   It’s not a book to read through in a few sittings but rather one worth dipping into chapter by chapter.   What is clear is you won’t find a better book on the finer details of the commercial and legal aspects of professional football.  An interesting and informative book.

done deal