Posts

Showing posts from October, 2010

How a defeat for England on the football field was a metaphor for national decline

Image
A review by Anthony Clavane When I was a history teacher, I would have killed for a contemporary historian like Dominic Sandbrook. Or a contemporary history book like State of Emergency . The likes of Eric Hobsbawm and Arthur Marwick would often produce great masterpieces, but they failed to engage with popular culture. And they particularly failed to engage with the sporting events that shaped people's lives. So three cheers for Sandbrook who, entirely predictably, has been labelled "middlebrow" by that breed of earnest, high-minded academic who once dismissed the mighty AJP Taylor as a populist. AJP, of course, would never have dreamed of viewing popular culture through the prism of sport. Nor of describing an England football defeat, as Sandbrook does, as summing up the country's "wider economic and political decline". The defeat in question was the first leg of the 1972 European Championship quarter-final against West Germany. The following year&

As an Ashes series beckons, England's greats recall The Toughest Tour

Image
Having broken Australia’s stranglehold on the Ashes with two consecutive home wins, England’s cricketers will board the long flight Down Under this Friday confident they can return in the New Year with the famous urn still in their possession. Much newspaper space will be given to assessing the relative strengths of the rival nations between now and the first Test in Brisbane on November 25th but in terms of raw statistical history England’s prospects are easily measured. Based on results in the 16 Ashes series completed in Australia since the war, England’s chance is one in four. Four wins in 16 attempts -- an uncomfortable record that demonstrates why the title chosen for Huw Turbervill’s history of England’s post-War adventures in Australia is only too apt. The Toughest Tour , published on October 26th by Aurum Press , charts the story of all 16 Ashes series -- as well as the extra non-Ashes Tests of 1979-80 -- through the eyes of those who took part. As is inevitably the

Hamilton in hunt for William Hill treble -- but Clavane a surprise non-runner

Image
Duncan Hamilton is in the running to land an unprecedented hat-trick of William Hill Sports Book of the Year awards after his musings of the state of cricket in A Last English Summer was named on the long list for the 2010 prize. The former Nottingham Evening Post and Yorkshire Post journalist won in 2007 for Provided You Don’t Kiss Me: 20 Years With Brian Clough and again last year with his biography of Bodyline fast bowler Harold Larwood. Hamilton’s latest was among 13 titles chosen by the award organisers from an entry of more than 130.  A shortlist will be announced on October 26th. Andre Agassi’s tennis confessional Open, Zimbabwe cricketer Henry Olonga’s Blood, Sweat and Treason and former boxer Errol Christie’s No Place to Hide , a disturbing tale of growing up as a black person in the Britain of the 1970s and 80s, are likely to be leading contenders. The standards are high and competition tough but the absence of Anthony Clavane’s brilliant sociological sports history

Start shopping for Christmas

Image
Okay, the clocks haven’t gone back yet and it’s still light at 6pm but that doesn’t mean it isn’t nearly Christmas.  Which means, of course, there are presents to be bought.   A good sports book under the tree is always welcome, so to help you choose -- or help someone else who might need to know what’s on your wishlist -- here is The Sports Bookshelf’s selection of new releases from the last week or so. Football - Bloody Hell!: The Biography of Alex Ferguson Patrick Barclay’s penetrating biography of Sir Alex Ferguson, written with the insight of those who know Ferguson best -- fellow managers, former players, colleagues and commentators -- whom Barclay has interviewed to reveal Ferguson to be a relentless character whose ability to intimidate, control, cajole and encourage has driven his unparalleled success. Only now, as Ferguson nears the end of his career, can conclusions can be drawn about an extraordinary career. Thanks, Johnners: An Affectionate Tribute to a Broadc

Engaging tale of Kiwi heroics

Image
A review by Andy Wilson In this lull between the summer and the Ashes, the intriguingly-titled What Are You Doing Out Here? is a diverting, informative and enjoyable read. Norman Harris, who I first encountered as a sub-editor at the Observer and in recent years has become a regular and welcome presence in the Durham press box, has detailed a remarkable sporting story of which I suspect most readers would have been completely unaware - I certainly was. It surrounds the Christmas Test of 1953 between New Zealand and South Africa in Johannesburg, and a brave last-wicket stand between Bert Sutcliffe and Bob Blair. What's so remarkable about that? First, Sutcliffe had been forced to retire hurt, and taken to hospital, after being struck on the head by Neil Adcock early in the New Zealand innings, but insisted on resuming - fortified by a glass of whisky, and with bandages resembling a turban - as they struggled to avoid the follow-on. Blair, meanwhile, had discovered in th

Is Kenny ready to manage Liverpool again?

Image
Those with an eye for coincidence among the Liverpool fans hoping to see Kenny Dalglish reinstalled as manager at Anfield will already be seeing the first Merseyside derby of the season in a portentous light. It was only hours after an extraordinary FA Cup match with Everton in February 1991 that Dalglish stunned the Liverpool board by submitting his resignation. Liverpool had not lost.  The match, a fifth-round replay, ended 4-4. But Liverpool had been in front four times and Dalglish, his health already suffering through the stress of the job, blamed himself for the result. In the present circumstances, Roy Hodgson might happily take another 4-4 when the rivals re-engage at Goodison on Sunday. Anything worse and the signs of faltering terrace support that surfaced in the embarrassing home defeat to Blackpool will surely gather momentum. Dalglish recalls his decision to quit in My Liverpool Home , a new autobiography published last month, some 14 years after he and collaborat

Ecclestone invites Bower spotlight

Image
Tom Bower, famous for unearthing dark secrets in the corridors of politics and business, is turning his attention to sport for the second time in his career. The renowned investigative journalist, who won a William Hill Sports Book of the Year award for Broken Dreams , his study of corruption in football, has been working on an authorised biography of Formula One motor racing supremo Bernie Ecclestone. The UK and Commonwealth rights to No Angel: The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone have been bought by Faber , who plan to publish in March 2011 to coincide with the start of the 2011 F1 season. Bower, 64, has earned a fearsome reputation for doggedly uncovering every aspect of his subjects’ lives, favourable or otherwise. He focused his attentions on spies and Nazis in the early part of his literary career before finding fame with his exposĂ© of Robert Maxwell, the now disgraced and deceased former owner of the Daily Mirror. He went on to get his teeth into former Lonhro businessman Ti

Ferguson -- the greatness and the flaws

Image
Sir Alex Ferguson is not known for taking a temperate view in the face of disapproving comment and it is fair to say that author Patrick Barclay will not be expecting a case of the Manchester United supremo’s favourite red win to arrive on his doorstep after his biography of Britain’s most successful football manager is published later this month . In Football - Bloody Hell! , the widely respected Times journalist attempts to make an evenhanded assessment of Ferguson’s qualities and achievements and inevitably some of his observations are less than favourable. “I think it is quite a balanced book although some things do not reflect on him so well as others,” Barclay told The Sports Bookshelf.  “I tried to be fair and if he reads it -- and I think he will -- I think there will be a grudging acceptance that it is fair.” To a certain extent, Football - Bloody Hell! sets out to be an antidote to Ferguson’s 1999 autobiography, Managing My Life, which was a comprehensive and pow

Gould takes to the road to witness birth of his life story

Image
Novelist John le Carre once compared writing a book to giving birth to a child and while there may not be many mothers who would identify with that description (particularly at the end of a long and painful labour), it probably strikes a chord with Bobby Gould, the former Wales football manager. Having thrown himself with enormous enthusiasm over the last 10 months into writing the story of his life, the 64-year-old celebrated the first print run by making a 300-mile round trip so that he and wife Marge could be in the delivery room, so to speak, as the first copy came off the press. Although published by the Shropshire-based Thomas Publications , Gould’s 272-page autobiography is being printed by T J International in Padstow, Cornwall.  And even though Gould is based in Portishead, where his home overlooks the Severn Estuary, the journey to the fishing town made famous by Rick Stein still takes the best part of three hours each way. Undaunted, Gould said: “My attitude is that I