No one sends me these things anymore, so I’ve purloined a book one and turned its head towards football to fill the time before the transfer deadline passes:
1. One book that changed your life – It was a late ’50s paperback, published at roughly the same moment that George’s parents were fleeing Hungary. Called something like the “Boy’s Book of Cricket and Football”, it featured articles by Matthews, Di Stefano and others of that ilk. It’s central message – skill is all – has yet to make its way into the English game, but Hungary is now a capitalist democracy.
2. One book that you’ve read more than once – my copy of “Winning!” by Sir Clive Woodward is fairly well worn, but I’d have to put Tony Adams’ “Addicted” in front of it as the best single sports book of the last twenty years and one I’ve re-read eight to ten times.
3. One book that you’d want on a desert island – Jack and Bobby by Leo McKinstry. Everything that Crick’s Ferguson biography isn’t.
4. One book that made you laugh – Nobby Stiles, After the Ball. The scene in question is one where Stiles is taking his coaching badges, and the supervising trainer attempts to teach him how to tackle – this is some time after the ’66 World Cup, and Stiles’ colleagues on the course mutiny at his shoddy treatment.
5. One book that made you cry – Bob Wilson, My Autobiography. Et in arcadia, ego, for real this time. His account of his daughter’s cruel, early death is one of the most painful things I’ve ever read about one individual.
6. One book that you wish you had written – England Managers – And the Men Who Should Have Been; James Hamilton 200? Now you know why I’m bothering you with all that stuff about Herbert Chapman.
7. One book you wish had never been written – Michael Crick’s biography of Sir Alex Ferguson, “The Boss“: it will be the primary text on its subject for many years to come, but Crick has no sympathy or understanding for anyone who isn’t a journalist, and his book is lacking any understanding of his subject.
8. One book that you are reading at the moment – Bob Paisley, Manager of the Millenium by John Keith. Paisley breaks just about every single one of my rules for great coaches, and I really want to know how he managed it, as it were.
9. One book that you’ve been meaning to read – Bryon Butler’s History of the Football Association (1991). I want to know if he takes the Hunter Davies line on the pre-Great War Association (flannelled fools who didn’t understand salt of the earth types) or if he has any sympathy for their efforts to restrain the financial corruption professionalism brought in its wake.
10. Five others that you’d like to do this – David Beckham, Jaap Stam, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Roy Keane and Jim Leighton.