Between the Lines

"Of all unimportant subjects, football is the most important" – Pope John Paul II

Après Hornby, le deluge

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.

One Response to “Après Hornby, le deluge”

  1. The Gaffer said

    I think you got your top 10 correct, but Inverting the Pyramid is a terrific book and maybe it could have been higher. In my opinion, Jonathan Wilson’s book would have made it in my top 5. But still, if I were to do a list it would be pretty similar.

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