A quick look at the Thinkers bookshelf reveals around 250 books about football. These books cover a variety of topics – statistics, histories, biographies, books written by fans, books written by players, books written by refs. There are books about a variety of clubs from a number of different countries, books about tragedy, books about glory. I don’t pretend to have read every book about football but I have read a wide variety. Here’s a review of ten of the best. Its not an exhaustive list and of course its drawn from a mere 250 of the millions of football books in circulation. For simplicity i have broken the books down to 4 main areas.
The Encyclopedia of World Soccer Richard Henshaw 1979 828 pages
As the title suggests this is an encyclopaedia and as such is a listing of football related terms. It’s also – unusually – printed in the United States. But what sets this book apart is the sheer depth and obscurity of so many of the items. Published before lists of all time winners of tournaments became fashionable, the encyclopaedia lists past winners and results of many of the worlds tournaments. Ever heard of the Newton Cup? (Uruguay v Argentina) Who won the football tournament of the Far East games in 1934? (China) and did you know that according to the “Sheffield Rules” of 1857 a “Kick out” must not be from more than 25 yards out of goal?
Rothmans/Sky Sports Football Yearbook Editor Jack & Glenda Rollin 1000+ pages
First published in 1971 and now in its 39th year this is the ultimate annual record of events in the world game. Predominantly focusing on British football, everything you need to know is in the pages of these books – matches, results, scorers, appearances.
World Football Almanac Guy Oliver 1056 pages
Now in its 3rd year, this Almanac supplies the final tables and cup results for every country around the world. Also provides details of all confederation and world championships at all levels. As complete a world record that you can find.
And The Spurs Go Marching On…Phil Soar 1982 256 pages
As club histories goes this is as good as it gets. Spurs glorious history is covered at length and in great detail. It is easy to read with many anecdotes, photos and accounts of Spurs glory days. Complete with details of every match ever played by Spurs, this book is not just for Spurs fans but for fans of football.
Barca A Peoples Passion Jimmy Burns 1999 366 pages
Mes Que Un Club is Barca’s motto, More Than a Club. Barca is the flagship of the Catalan people and has been for over 100 years. This book is the story and an anatomy of Football Club Barcelona one of the worlds most loved sporting institutions – an international passion. Yet in many ways it is also the story of Catalonia and the battle against Royal Spain. A superb history, this is the story of 100 years of national pride.
Rhapsody In Green Great Celtic Moments Tom Campbell & Pat Woods 1990 370 pages
Celtic are the undisputed giants of Scottish football and according to FIFA have “the greatest fans in the world” This book examines 18 of the greatest results in the clubs illustrious history and places them in the context of the times. Its not just a history of a football club, its also a social history.
Managing My Life Alex Ferguson 1999 478 pages
So many football autobiographies are tame “we won this, we lost that” affairs. This is the opposite. One of the most forthright and honest autobiographies I have read. This is a revealing look at Ferguson from his playing days with the lesser lights of Glasgow to European success with Manchester United PLC.
All Whites ’82 John Matheson & Sam Malcolmson 2007 208 pages
Written 25 years after the greatest period in kiwi football, Malcolmson gives an insight to what really went on on the Road to Spain. Why did Grant Turner come home? Why did Richard Wilson not play in Spain? Malcolmson himself was one of the All Whites which put New Zealand football on the map and for Kiwis at least this is a wonderful trip down memory lane….
Only A Game? Eamon Dunphy 1976 184 pages
Rarely, if ever has there been a more self examining, honest and insightful autobiography. Dunphy kept a diary throughout the 1973-74 season. What makes this book so good is the honest reflection of himself when he reaches the lowest point in his career. His thoughts, his feelings….its great reading.
The Glory Game Hunter Davies 1972 346 pages
A football classic and unlikely to ever be repeated. During the 1971-2 season Davies followed Spurs closer than anyone ever had – he was allowed unrestricted access to the first team 24/7 INCLUDING the dressing room on match days. He told it like it is – or was back then – at a time when Spurs were one of the greatest teams in Europe – that season they won the UEFA Cup beating Milan along the way. He questioned the players at length. Whoever you support this is a MUST read.
All Played Out Pete Davies 1990 471 pages
This is the story of Englands 2nd most successful world cup ever – their road to the semi finals in Italia 90. Davies manages to capture the essence of the England squad – their hopes their fears methods dreams lives. Its England but its actually a great read – and they get beat in the end. I love a happy ending!
The Miracle of Castel di Sangro Joe McGinniss 1999 407 pages
In 1996 Castel Di Sangro (pop 5000) won promotion to Serie B – touching distance from the elite of the Italian giants. This book follows their first season in such company. Its a wonderful story full of drama almost a sporting miracle with the type of romance that only football can provide.
Football Against The Enemy Simon Kuper 1994 229 pages
Football is so much more than the most popular game in the world. It can – and has – started and stopped wars, it can fuel revolutions, it can keep dictators in power. Examining the often bizarre effects football can have on politics and culture, this book examines many of the fiercest rivalries in world football including Celtic v the 2nd best team in Glasgow.
Forza Italia The Fall and Rise of Italian Football Paddy Agnew 2007 332 pages
In many ways this is a history of Calcio from Maradona through to Berlusconi and the match fixing scandal of 2006. It is a tale of financial corruption, mafia influence, drug taking & fan power. It is the story of a country obsessed with football. Bellissimo!
Fever Pitch Nick Hornby 1992 247 pages
Arsenal. I hate Arsenal. This book is written by a fan of Arsenal and it’s about supporting Arsenal. But this book is superb. It is funny, clever, thoughtful & perceptive. It actually tells it like it is about being a football fan – an addict to a round ball. Its about obsession, class, loyalty, depression, identity and joy. Don’t watch the film – that was crap. Read the book. Superb.
So thats 2 books on Spurs and 1 on Celtic, New Zealand, Barcelona, Italy, Castel Di Sangro, Millwall, Man Utd, Arsenal & England The other 4 being about football in general. Okay so my top 10 books are actually 15….well you try and cut 250 books down to 10!!!!! A top 5? Try these….
All Played Out
Rhapsody in Green
The Glory Game
The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro