Showing posts from September, 2011

Festival platform as Clavane and Cowley explore football and culture

Having done much to highlight the cultural significance of football in his fine book, Promised Land, it seems only fitting that Anthony Clavane has been given a literary platform from which to expand on the theme. He and Jason Cowley , the editor of the New Statesman, will be appearing at the Ilkley Literature Festival on Sunday (October 2nd) to explore football and culture in an event entitled Promised Land. Clavane’s book, the paperback version of which is subtitled A Northern Love Story sets the history of a football club -- Leeds United -- alongside the evolution of a city and its communities in a wonderfully crafted narrative that deservedly won a number of awards. Named Football Book of the Year in the National Sports Book Awards , it was subsequently awarded recognition as the overall Sports Book of the Year after a readers’ vote.  Promised Land was also selected as Sports Book of the Year by the Radio Two Book Club . Cowley, former editor of Granta and of the Obse

Writer Crace recalls bleak days when football became therapy

By Jon Culley John Crace is a feature writer and satirist for the Guardian newspaper best known for Digested Read, the column in which he sums up the content of a book in a few carefully constructed paragraphs and then, by way of a punch line, in one pithy sentence.   You might see it as a kind of service to the time-poor -- ‘we read the books so you don’t have to’ -- albeit one delivered with tongue firmly in cheek.  Often it is brilliantly funny. For the first time, in a book, Crace has written about football.   Vertigo: One Football Fan's Fear of Success  (published by Constable & Robinson) is about being a Tottenham supporter.  But it is not Nick Hornby in a Spurs shirt.  The occasional highs and frequent lows of following the boys from White Hart Lane are described in ways with which his long-suffering fellow fans would identify but there is another, more personal element to the narrative. Crace suffers from depression.  Not all the time but regularly enough for it

Engage: a harrowing story brilliantly told

By Jon Culley No one can know whether Matt Hampson would have played in a Rugby World Cup but he was established on a path towards full international recognition when a commonplace incident on the training field changed his life forever. It was March 15, 2005 and Hampson, a 20-year-old tight-head prop from the Leicester Tigers club, was in a practice session with an England Under-21 team that included Ben Foden, Toby Flood and James Haskell, who was directly behind Hampson in the second row.  All are currently in New Zealand with Martin Johnson’s England squad. The forwards, under the supervision of Tony Spreadbury, an international referee, were in full, contested scrum practice. Not unusually, during such sessions, the scrum would collapse from time to time. Thankfully, despite the risks inherent when 16 hefty men engage in a head-first shoving match, such collapses seldom result in serious injury.  This occasion, however, was different. By some freak of physics, the full

The Colourful Story of Donald 'Ginger' McCain: 1930-2011

by Jon Culley The death of racehorse trainer Donald “Ginger” McCain two days short of his 81st birthday brings down the curtain on one of horse racing’s enduring fairytales. McCain, a former taxi driver and used car salesman, is the only trainer to have won the Grand National three times with the same horse and one of only two to have won the race four times in all. He won for the first time in 1973 with Red Rum, a bay gelding whom he bought at auction for just 6,000 guineas on behalf of Noel le Mare, a businessman who was a regular ‘fare’ in his cab.  Red Rum won again in 1974 and 1977 as well as twice finishing second. Red Rum, who had been bred to run mile races on the Flat, arrived in McCain’s yard, behind his car showroom, with a degenerative foot condition but was famously nursed back to health by being galloped on Southport beach. His story helped save the Grand National after a period of declining attendances and the real possibility that the famous Aintree course -

Will Red turn the studio air blue when Neville teams up with old boss Hoddle?

by Jon Culley Gary Neville’s just-released autobiography, Red, has jumped to the top of the Amazon sports bestsellers’ chart, which will not surprise anyone who saw the queues that formed as the former Manchester United and England full back signed copies at London’s Canary Wharf on Thursday afternoon. It is probably fairly safe to assume, however, that Glenn Hoddle, one of six managers for whom Neville played during his 85-cap England career, will not be requesting a personally inscribed edition when the two sit alongside each other in a Sky television studio on Friday evening. Indeed, if Hoddle has read the book he might want to talk to Gary about matters other than England’s performance against Bulgaria in Sofia, when both will be Sky pundits. A touch of controversy is almost essential if a football autobiography is to attract any worthwhile publicity and Neville has made sure he fulfils that obligation in Red.  Unfortunately, Hoddle is one of his targets. Neville critic