Football Books 2015

The football season is drawing to a close and the holiday season is just beginning. For those that can’t bear to leave the beautiful game behind, there’s only one solution: beach reading. With the help of the best sports publishers around, we’ve collated the best football books around so you don’t have to…

BackPage Press

Neil White: We’re working with Arena Sport on ‘DIEGO COSTA: The Art of War’, translated and updated from Fran Guillen’s Spanish edition of last year to include the World Cup, Costa’s transfer to Chelsea and this season’s dramas. Due out 16th July, more info here


We’re really excited about ‘The Five-a-Side Bible’ which we’re developing with Freight Books and for an October release. That’s going to have lots of funny stories from the world of 3G, as well as tips from the best fives players in Britain, a five-a-side bucket list and much more. If you play short-sided football, this is the book you’ve been waiting for.

Around the same time, we should have ‘PUSKAS: Madrid, Magyars and the Amazing Adventures of Football’s Greatest Goalscorer’ done. We’re working with Freight Books on that, and it’s written by Gyorgy Szlossi, who heads up the Puskas Academy in Budapest, founded the Puskas Award with Fifa and remains a close friend of the Puskas family.

Pitch Publishing

Paul Camillin: The first half of 2015 sees a variety of titles being added to Pitch Publishing’s ever-growing football list​, including biographies, autobiographies and club-specific titles.

For those who lament the modern game, and feel somewhere along the way football took a wrong turn, losing touch with fans. The Ugly Game by Martin Calladine is a passionate, funny book of essays, and sets out to put football right by comparing it, often unfavourably, with American football, a sport, perhaps surprisingly, that’s showing how money need not destroy fairness and competition.

Ugly Game

Soccer in Stilettos by Liam Newman is a definitive look at the rise of women’s football, telling the inspirational story of how the female sport has slowly but surely stepped out of the shadow of its male counterpart to become the truly beautiful game that it is today. With the future of the sport looking brighter than ever, how did football finally show sexism the red card?

Of the club titles, one is already proving popular with Leeds United fans, and flying off the shelves. Jon Howe’s The Only Place For Us is the A to Z history of Leeds United’s Elland Road home, revealing the stories behind its past uses, famous features and characters – plus fires, gypsy curses and escaped pantomime horses. Using archive research, insiders’ insights and fascinating photos, Jon Howe retraces the intriguing historical journey of one of Britain’s most iconic football grounds.

Then on the autobiography front we have Moody Blue, the self-told-tale of former Rangers legend Marco Negri and Luggy, the story of journeyman manager Paul Sturrock.

Ockley Books

This Yorkshire-based publisher’s small but finely-crafted football list is one of the best around. Current highlights include Adam Digby’s Juventus: A History in Black and White and Roger Domeneghetti’s From the Back Page to the Front Room: Football’s Journey Through the English Media.

I think the best, however, may be yet to come. It’s pretty rare these days that you hear of a football book and think ‘Wow, why has no-one written about that before?’ The Agony & The Ecstasy: A Comprehensive History of the Play-Offs by Richard Foster is definitely one of the most exciting ideas I’ve heard in a long time. You can read an extract here.


Trinity Mirror Sports Media


Danny Higginbotham Rise of the Underdog, RRP £16.99

Danny Higginbotham has always been honest. What he lacked in natural ability as a footballer, he made up for in raw passion and commitment.

He started his football education under the greatest – Sir Alex Ferguson – at his beloved Manchester United. After a headline-making loan spell in Belgium, he embarked on an eventful career journey, taking in stops at high-flying Derby County, Southampton, Sunderland and Stoke City.

Sharing Premier League dressing rooms and pitches with some big names, he experienced both sides of the modern game – from the gut-wrenching agony of relegation to the champagne moments of reaching Wembley. Along the way, he worked under charismatic bosses like Jim Smith, Harry Redknapp and Roy Keane – who delivered the most bizarre team talk he’s ever heard. At Stoke, he learned about the team-bonding tricks of Tony Pulis.

As honest and whole-hearted as his career on the pitch ‘Rise of the Underdog’ is the entertaining inside story of how an ordinary lad worked his way up the professional ladder, learning the lessons it takes to survive at the highest level of the English game.



Sergio Aguero Born To Rise, RRP £8.99

‘A must-read for any football fan’ Daily Mirror

Sergio Aguero is one of the top strikers in world football, but his rise to superstardom hasn’t always been smooth. Born into poverty, his life story Sergio Kun Agüero: Born to Rise is fascinating and a real story of talent, desire and the guidance of good people helping him to overcome adversity.

The book features a foreword from his best friend, Lionel Messi, and includes colourful dressing room revelations about his fellow countryman and other stars he’s encountered on his journey. This is a book every Manchester City fan will want to read, but also any football fan who is fascinated by that elite group of world greats who were touched by destiny and born to rise.

Leon Osman My Autobiography, RRP £8.99

“Fascinating” Liverpool Echo

LEON OSMAN has been at Everton FC since he was ten years old and in that time has witnessed major changes at the club and within football. A fixture in the Blues’ team for the past decade, Osman’s humour and thoughtful nature shines through in his revealing and entertaining autobiography.

Osman provides a unique insight into Moyes – the man and his methods – as well as many of the big personalities he has played alongside, such as Duncan Ferguson, Wayne Rooney, Tim Cahill, Thomas Gravesen, Mikel Arteta and Phil Neville.

Filled with entertaining tales and anecdotes from his life at Everton, Osman’s story is fascinating and inspiring.

Best of the Rest – top 5 new releases

  1. Living on the Volcano: The Secrets of Surviving as a Football Manager by Michael Calvin
  2. Matchdays: The Hidden Story of the Bundesliga by Ronald Reng
  3. Money and Football: A Soccernomics Guide by Stefan Szymanski
  4. Eibar the Brave: The Extraordinary Rise of La Liga’s Smallest Team by Euan McTear
  5. Balotelli: The Remarkable Story Behind the Sensational Headlines by Luca Caioli


Best of the Rest – top 5 paperback releases

  1. Thirty-One Nil: On the Road with Football’s Outsiders by James Montague
  2. Twelve Yards: The Art and Psychology of the Perfect Penalty Kick by Ben Lyttleton
  3. ¡Golazo! : A History of Latin American Football by Andreas Campomar
  4. Louis van Gaal: The Biography by Maarten Meijer
  5. In Search of Duncan Ferguson: The Life and Crimes of a Footballing Enigma by Alan Pattullo

Twelve Yards

The Game of Our Lives

The Game of our Lives: The Meaning and Making of English Football

By David Goldblatt

Penguin, 2014 

GoldblattDon’t be fooled by the St George’s cross and three lions on the paperback cover; The Game of Our Lives is high-brow, academic stuff. In seven chunky chapters, Goldblatt explores English football from a range of social science approaches – economics, sociology, urban studies, politics, anthropology, race studies, gender studies. With a reference section spanning seventy pages, this truly is an exhaustive look at our nation’s favourite past-time.

‘How has English football changed in the last 25 years?’ Despite dips into deeper history, this is the central question in The Game of Our Lives. Goldblatt is interested in ‘the intersection, where Britain’s deep-rooted cultural relationship with football met the arrival of new media and new money’. His findings, as you’d expect, evoke a unique blend of pride and shame. Cosmopolitanism, collective ownership and crowd safety fight to float above a murky world of greed, mismanagement and sexism.

While the early chapters on the financials of the Premier League era (player/agent power, club ‘growth without profits’) and the fight against racism may feel like fairly well-trodden territory, they’re written with the finesse and detail that you’d expect from the author of The Ball is Round. ‘Keeping it Real? Match Day in the Society of the Spectacle’, meanwhile, makes nice use of the blow-by-blow live football experience to theorise on the ‘longing for the communal and the public in an individualized and privatized world’.

The later chapters offer up more distinctive insights. ‘English Journey: Football and Urban England’ delivers an absorbing lesson in cultural geography. Bristol, Goldblatt argues, ‘perhaps more than any city cleared its inner urban neighbourhood of football’s traditional working-class social base.’ Working from north to south and from east to west, the conclusions are hard to refute. ‘Football at Twilight: Britain’s Endgame’ is a fascinating look at the ‘domestic fragmentation’ through the lens of football. Goldblatt starts with the shifts in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland before moving on to discuss ‘the English football nation’ and the fans’ rejection of the Union Jack in the late 1990s.

Perhaps even better is ‘Last Man Standing? English Football and the Politics of Gender’. ‘Is there any other realm of public life where prominent figures proclaim the essential, enduring maleness of their world?’ Goldblatt asks rhetorically. What follows is a study of both the slow, fettered progress made by women in the game but also the rise of the sophisticated foreigner and in particular the metrosexual man, embodied by David Beckham.

As you’d expect from what is essentially a series of intellectual essays, The Game of Our Lives can feel a little dry at times. However, there are certainly moments of crackling wit from Goldblatt, such as the description of TalkSport as ‘the saloon-bar bear pit of sports radio’ and his character assassination of the FA in Chapter Six (‘a hybrid of the punctilious provincial town hall and the clannish rotary club’).

As the sum of its scholarly parts, The Game of Our Lives puts football where it belongs – at the very forefront of our society. ‘The Church, the theatre, festivals and soap operas – football has acquired a place in British culture that exceeds them all, for it alone is the equal of each in their domains of ritual, performance, ecstasy and national narrative.’ At times, Goldblatt may seem a little serious, but his point is that the role and meaning of modern British football is no joke at all.

Buy it here