(*) I continue to define ‘Scottish Football Books’ here under the ‘granny rule’ – even if they’re not Scottish but they mention Scotland, they qualify.
“The Hope That Kills Us” – Adrian Searle (Editor)
Part of the reason Fever Pitch was so good is because Hornby nails the fact that it’s partly because we hate it all that makes us love it. The title of this book alludes to the same.
It’s a collection of short stories (“the first ever anthology of Scottish footballing fiction”) from some quality Scottish writers – including one of my favourites, Gordon Legge, who names his entry “The Hand of God Squad”.
The stories range from Denise Mina’s surreal tale, “The Bigot”, about a group of bank robbers who meet before an Old Firm game to carve up the loot – and end up watching the match with a dead body on the floor; to “The Cherrypicker” by Jim Carruthers, recollections of the author’s dreamlike encounter with Shankly. If you like football, get this book.
“Flat Back Four” – Andy Gray (yes, that Andy Gray)
Most of us don’t really know what the fuck we’re talking about, do we? This book attempts to educate us a little on the tactics of the game; you’d think there’d be a lot more of this type of book around, but you’re either looking at dry coaching manuals or, well, not much else. The book is a surprisingly good read, and charts the history of tactics from the early days (earliest tactical formation: 9 up front and 2 at the back, no goalie) through the split between the codes and on to 1950s Hungary, England’s cheating 1966 4-4-2 team, and beyond (my copy is from 1998).
All throughout, Gray refers to real people and real teams to explain how tactics evolved, and also draws on his experience both on the field and on Sky TV to bring in many points of view. There’s a whole chapter on England’s 0-0 draw in Rome under Glenn Hoddle to qualify for the 1998 World Cup; fascinating stuff. Having said that, I was a 4-4-2 man before I read the book and I’m still a 4-4-2 man.
“Football Grounds of Britain” – Simon Inglis
I admit it; I am a groundspotter. I’ve never reached the heights of the 92-club brigade, but I do make an effort wherever I pitch up to catch a match, or at least have a look round the stadium. I was in Buenos Aires for five days – ticked off La Bombonera and El Monumental. Berlin – got told off for walking on the grass of the Olympicstadion. Munich – took a picture of their Olympicstadion from the TV tower (couldn’t get in, they were setting up for a Michael Jackson concert).
Closer to home – Twerton Park, Bath, for many Bristol Rovers games in the early 90s; Ashton Gate and the County Ground for local derbies. Craven Cottage on a weekend in London, back when it was fourth division. I’ve driven past Firhill (does that count?), I’ve been into the offices at Livi… if your heart skips a beat when you’re on a train and you see floodlights in the distance, here’s your Xmas present.
“Football in our Time” – Stuart Clarke
Another picture book, this one a bit more global, covering 1989-2003. Despite the annoying habit of giving every picture a cheesy title, this is another coffee-table effort with some great moments captured in colour. My favourite: maybe “…On Love Street”, with a heart drawn underneath the “Love Street” sign, and inside the heart, the words “Fuck Off”. Well, it wasn’t far from Feegie Park, was it? And on the opposite page, Dalbeattie Star graffiti: “Jonathon Paynter HAD Nicola Patterson up against the goal posts.” Lovely.
I’ve just put that quote on a google database somewhere; but with many of these pictures, if they were black-and-white you’d think you were in the 19th century.
“Flowers of Scotland” – Ken Gallacher (Editor)
You’ll be lucky to find this one, so make me an offer for “The Official Book of Scotland’s World Cup Squad” – go on. How much would you pay for a book littered with quotes like the following:
• “Peru must be treated like Brazil!” – title of a chapter by Archie Gemmill
• “I’m glad that we meet the Peruvians first. It’s not easy going in against an unknown team like the Iranians” – Bruce Rioch
• “We will cause them problems… particularly at our set-pieces” – Rioch again, on the Peruvians
• “There could be a few tins of baked beans because some of the players like that as a pre-match meal” – trainer Hugh Allan
• “Our hotel is some thirty miles outside the town and apart from the official interpreter I could be the one person who can help the rest of the lads get what they want” – Spanish-speaker Martin Buchan
• “Looking at Danny McGrain I see a genuinely world class right back… there is no-one in the world I would place ahead of him… there is one other candidate in Europe… Berti Vogts of Borussia Monchengladbach” – Stuart Kennedy
Oh, what an innocent time.