2011 British Sports Book Awards


The shortlists have been announced for the ninth British Sports Book Awards, organised by the National Sporting Club. The winners will be named at a ceremony at The Savoy Hotel on 9th May.
The number of categories rises to 10 this year with the introduction of ‘best racing book’ and ‘best sports book retailer’ in addition to best biography and autobiography, best football, cricket and rugby books, best illustrated title, best new writer and best publicity campaign.
After the awards are made, the winners in each category will be entered into a public vote to find the best overall sports book of the year -- a campaign that will be supported by booksellers throughout the country in the run up to Father's Day.
The Sports Bookshelf puts each nominated title under the spotlight, with links to selected reviews.

Today’s spotlight is on the Best Biography award, for which the candidates are:

Frankincense and More, by Robin Oakley (Racing Post)
A Last English Summer, by Duncan Hamilton (Quercus)
Trautmann's Journey, by Catrine Clay (Yellow Jersey)
Get In There!, by Tom Lawton Junior and Barrie Williams (Vision Sports)
The Grudge, by Tom English (Yellow Jersey)
Bill Nicholson: Football's Perfectionist, by Brian Scovell (John Blake Publishing)


Frankincense and More

Frankincense and More tells the story of Barry Hills, the son of a stable lad who rose to be one of the leading trainers of all time, saddling more than 3,000 winners. It all began with a bet on a horse called Frankincense in the 1968 Lincoln Handicap, the winnings from which set himself up with his own training yard in Lambourn, breaking rank in a world which, even in the 1960s, was still divided along the class lines of pre-war society, dominated by the turf establishment and aristocracy.  Helped by his son Charlie -- one of five sons in racing -- Hills senior has maintained his success despite a continuing battle against serious illness. Oakley, best known as a political commentator, became racing correspondent of the Financial Times and a close friend of his subject, allowing him unrivalled access.

‘Hard’, ‘brave’, ‘professional’, ‘exacting’ and ‘combustible’ are the terms in which [Barry Hills] is most often described. Those who know him best speak fondly of a mellow and even sentimental side, but if one wanted to picture a man who embodied a pre-Diana world of emotional privacy and ‘old-school values’ then one could do a lot worse than the trim, impeccably turned-out Barrington Hills.
-- David Crane, The Spectator.  Read more…

A Last English Summer

In the words of the publishers, A Last English Summer combines reportage, anecdote, biography, history and personal recollection. The mix has been enough for Duncan Hamilton‘s sharply observed reflection on cricket's past, present and future to be nominated in two categories, ‘Best Biography‘ -- which he won in 2010 for his life of Harold Larwood -- as well as ‘Best Cricket Book‘.  The 2009 season is the thread running through Hamilton’s eloquent narrative, which examines the state of the game against a backcloth of a county game struggling for direction, seemingly losing touch with an England team which took its best players away on year-long tours of international duty and sold the Ashes series exclusively to pay-TV, and at the same threatened by the irresistible rise of Twenty20, ironically a monster of its own making. Hamilton, twice winner also of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award, weaves the strands together in a deeply personal journey through the history and spirit of the game.

His passion and knowledge shine through as he decries the obsession with Twenty20 and sticks up for the Test format, yet he is convinced that cricket will survive.
--- Simon Redfern, The Independent. Read more…


Shortlisted in three categories -- ‘Best Biography‘, ‘Best Football Book’ and ‘Best Publicity Campaign’ -- Catrine Clay’s book takes one of football’s most famous stories as the starting point, tracing the life of Bert Trautmann, celebrated in this country for completing the 1956 FA Cup final with a broken neck, back to his roots in Germany, a country already in the grip of National Socialism. Clay explains how Trautmann, hero of English football, joined the Hitler Youth at the age of 10 and was fighting for his country at 17 but underwent a transformation when he was brought to England as a prisoner of war.  Bernhardt, a Nazi confined to a POW camp in Cheshire, becomes Bert, who plays amateur football while working on a bomb disposal unit in Liverpool, then joins Manchester City, whose fans ultimately forgive his past life as an enemy and take him to their hearts.

Trautmann's Journey shows our hero to be a perfect Third Reich prodigy – blue-eyed, blond, stupidly tough, unquestioning in his loyalty. As a young boy in the Hitler Youth, he despised his father's weakness for drink and compromise, and venerated the Führer for rebuilding the economy, championing sport, and marshalling a master race.
-- Simon Hattenstone, The Observer. Read more…


Get in There!

Co-written by former Nottingham Evening Post editor Barrie Williams and Tommy Lawton’s son, Tom junior, Get In There! recalls the football career of England's greatest goalscorer, whose record of 44 goals in 43 internationals is unmatched. Were he a player today, Lawton would be among the richest after scoring an astonishing 635 goals in 731 games for Burnley, Everton, Chelsea, Notts County, Brentford and Arsenal. But, by the 1970s. Lawton was bankrupt, drinking heavily and on the dole after a succession of failed managerial posts and business ventures, and facing jail after numerous court appearances. In Get in There! -- recalling the shout with which Lawton would celebrate as one of his bullet headers hit the net -- Williams and Lawton junior have pieced together an exclusively personal account of the centre forward’s extraordinary life.

Packed with memories and anecdotes, the book brings the story of Tommy Lawton, the footballer, to life…it also tells the moving, human story of Tommy Lawton, the man. How the idolised star's life descended into a cruel morass of debt, poverty, drink, shame and scandal before a chance encounter put him back on top.
--- Ray Yeomans, Nottingham Post.  Read more…


The Grudge

Also shortlisted in the ‘Best Rugby Book’ category, The Grudge is Scotland on Sunday journalist Tom English’s gripping account of a rugby match that became the focal point for a clash of political cultures, as Will Carling's England, the embodiment of Margaret Thatcher's Britain - snarling, brutish and all-conquering -- took on Scotland, the underdogs, the second-class citizens from a land that had become the testing ground for the most unpopular tax in living memory, Thatcher's Poll Tax.  At stake at Murrayfield, on the face of it, are the Calcutta Cup and the Five Nations Grand Slam, the biggest prize in northern hemisphere rugby. But what happens in the stadium will resound far beyond the pitch. This is the real story of an extraordinary conflict, told with astounding insight and unprecedented access to key players, coaches and supporters on both sides.

The finest book written on the tournament ... English has produced an absolutely outstanding work, weaving in the strands of history, politics, sociology, dislike and tactical nous, which makes the game probably the most remarkable ever played in the grand old tournament. The insights provided into the minds and roles of Jim Telfer and Brian Moore are worth the price alone
- Stephen Jones, The Times. Read more…

Bill Nicholson: Football's Perfectionist

Bill Nicholson, revered as one of the most honest football managers in the business, turned Tottenham Hotspur into the finest team in Britain in the early 1960s.  Veteran journalist Brian Scovell’s book, the first biography of Nicholson, commemorates the 50th anniversary of Tottenham's pioneering 1961 Double, which Nicholson followed up in 1963 by becoming the first manager to win a European trophy. By moulding players such as Dave Mackay, Danny Blanchflower, John White, Cliff Jones and Jimmy Greaves into an almost perfectly balanced team, he set new standards of attacking play. Born in Scarborough in 1919, Nicholson took the night train to London at the age of 17, signed for Spurs on £2 a week and spent the rest of his life with the club as player, coach, manager, scout and President, until his death in 2004. Also shortlisted for 'Best Football Book'.

With its unpretentious style and fund of good stories, it does justice to the architect of Tottenham's claim to greatness by outlining the standards he set and traditions he built that his 16 successors to date have so far failed to match.
-- Rob Bagchi, The Guardian. 

See the shortlists for Best Autobiography, Best Football Book,  Best Cricket BookBest Rugby BookBest Racing Book and Best New Writer.



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