Authors and their football teams
The football season looms. So the Daily Telegraph gives us a slideshow of writers and their favourite football teams. Camus played goalie for Racing Universitaire Algerios, Arthur Conan Doyle was a goalie for Portsmouth, Salman Rushdie supports Spurs, J.K. is a Hammer, Roddy Doyle follows Chelsea, Julian Barnes supports Leicester City for his sins, Stephen Fry supports Norwich City, Michael Rosen and Melvyn Bragg are Gooners,
While we are talking football, I’ll give you five recommendations for football books.
My Father and Other Working Class Football Heroes by Gary Imlach is an excellent read. I interviewed Imlach a few years ago. He recounts a period when footballers had to have another trade, such as being a mechanic or plumber, in order to make ends meet. His father, Stewart, was a fleet-footed winger for Nottingham Forest in the 1959 FA Cup final and also represented Scotland four times in the 1958 World Cup – even though he was never awarded a cap as the appearances were not against ‘Home Nation’ countries.
AbeBooks: What prompted you to write the book?
Gary Imlach: “The realisation after my dad died that I knew scandalously little about his football life beyond the highlights of an FA Cup Final and a World Cup. I think growing up with those peaks of achievement as part of the family history handed down to me and my brothers lulled me into thinking that I knew far more than I did. And our conversations, like many I suppose between father and son, never got beyond the week’s football results and the state of his golf game.”
I also recommend A Season With Verona by Tim Parks, an Englishman who lives and teaches in Italy. Verona are a bit like the West Brom of Italian football, always struggling at the foot of the table. Parks goes everywhere with a bunch of bonkers fans but ends up delivering a fascinating account of what makes Italians tick. It’s more culture than sport. I didn’t want the book to end but the final few chapters are all football and truly exciting.
We are the Damned United by Phil Rostron is one of my more recent reads. It details Brian Clough’s 44-day tenure as manager of Leeds United between July and September 1974. You find yourself asking whether Clough is a genius or a nutter throughout this book. Lots of players from that mighty Leeds squad of that time chime in with their opinions. I tend to go for genius as he won with Derby County and Nottingham Forest, but just got it horribly wrong with Leeds.
I love Stan Bowles the Autobiography. Not because it’s well written, it isn’t, but because Bowles has such a remarkable story to tell. He gambled, he drank, he womanised, he played for England, he went to the games on the Tube with his boots in a plastic shopping bag. It’s a great insight into football in the 1970s when the stars shone brightly but everything was on a much smaller scale than today. I love the cover of Bowles reading the match programme as a corner is about to be taken.
Provided You Don’t Kiss Me by Duncan Hamilton is another insight into the wacky world of Brian Clough. Hamilton covered Forest for the local Nottingham paper and got to know Clough better than most. This is a brilliant account of how Clough built up that wonderful Forest team and won the Division One Championship and the European Cup, and yet remained a complete enigma. Hamilton’s description of Clough’s descent into alcoholism is a painful read.