Posted by hakanrylander on October 9, 2009
This book combines the skills of a top journalist with those of “Britain’s foremost sports economist” in a very successful way. Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski give us the rare pleasure of an enjoyable read about academic subjects.
Among the topics they cover are “How to avoid silly mistakes in the transfer market”, “Why football clubs don’t make money”, “The country that loves football most” and, amazingly, “Are Manchester United really a problem?” (The answer is no.) Some of the questions they answer very convincingly, others less so, but most of the time you have fun reading their explanations.
The best part is probably the chapter dealing with England’s lack of success. The authors start by listing eight phases to describe the traditional pattern of an England World Cup campaign. A pattern that looks very familiar to any football fan looking at England from the outside.
- Certainty that England will win the World Cup
- During the tournament England meet a former wartime enemy
- The English conclude that the game turned on one freakish piece of bad luck that could happen only to them
- Moreover, everyone else cheated
- England are knocked out without getting anywhere near lifting the cup
- The day after elimination, normal life resumes
- A scapegoat is found
- England enter the next World Cup thinking they will win it
Having beaten Croatia is of course more than enough to now place us firmly in phase eight.
Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski: Why England lose & other curious football phenomena explained (HarperCollins)
Posted in Reviews | Tagged: Football, Simon Kuper, Stefan Szymanski | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hakanrylander on October 2, 2009
I think it’s probably fair to credit Nick Hornby with starting the avalanche of football books that is now upon us. You can now find books looking at football from just about every perceivable angle; biographies, tactical analysis, academic research etc. To guide you through this maze we have decided to publish the Official Between the Lines List of the Top Ten Football Books Ever Written:
1. Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby. Still the undisputed champion. He perfectly captures the feelings of an Arsenal supporter during a season with the most perfect of endings (if you’re an Arsenal supporter). But what really sets this book apart is the sheer quality of the writing. All toiling blog editors should envy his seemingly effortless style. I know I do.
2. Brilliant Orange by David Winner. Winner tries, very successfully, to capture the the essence of the distinguished and sophisticated football culture of the Netherlands, and explains why Total Football was born there.
3. The Damned Utd by David Peace. An absolute page-turner relating the story of Brian Clough’s brief spell as manager of Leeds United in 1974. The book is very elegantly structured, with the Leeds story told in parallell with Clough’s career as a player at Sunderland and very successful manager at Hartlepool and Derby County. Well-researched and well-written.
4. Why England Lose by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski. A happy marriage between a top journalist and a sports economist gives us the rare pleasure of an enjoyable read about academic subjects.
5. My Father and Other Working-class Football Heroes by Gary Imlach. An unusal book about football in the 50′s that shows how totally different the life of a top footballer was then compared to the present. Given extra depth by the fact that a son is writing about his father.
6. The Miracle of Castel di Sangro by Joe McGinniss. The story of how a smalltown club rises from regional amateur football to the Italian Serie B. Very well-written.
7. She stood there laughing by Stephen Foster. This is the best of a number of books trying to follow closely in the footsteps of Fever Pitch. But Foster supports Stoke City which means that most of the time the best he can hope for is not to be unjoyful at the end of ninety minutes.
8. Cantona – The Rebel Who Would be King by Philippe Auclair. The French journalist Philippe Auclair sheds light on several aspects of Cantona’s complex personality, and the book therefore rises head and shoulders above the average football biography.
9. My Favourite Year, Ed: Nick Hornby. A collection of stories with contributions from Roddy Doyle and Nick Hornby among others, each focusing on a particular club during a particular season. My favourite is Olly Wicken’s account of Watford during the season 1974/75.
10. Inverting the Pyramid by Jonathan Wilson. A history of how the development of football tactics spread around the world, and how important steps in this developmet were taken in Italy, Brazil, Holland and the coffee-shops of Vienna.
Please let me know if I’ve missed a book that should be on the list.
Posted in Reviews | Tagged: David Peace, David Winner, Gary Imlach, Joe McGinniss, Jonathan Wilson, Manchester United, Nick Hornby, Philippe Auclair, Simon Kuper, Stefan Szymanski, Stephen Foster | 1 Comment »