Top 10 Football Book Publishers

The big trade publishers all have their few A-list football titles every year but for the best stuff you need to dig a little deeper. What you’re looking for are these great (mostly independent) sports publishers, working a little under the radar to bring you passionate, interesting books. This is a list for both aspiring writers and avid readers. So in no particular order:

1. BackPage Press

BackPage Press

Website: http://backpagepress.co.uk/

Twitter: @BackPagePress

Background

“BackPage began publishing world-class sports books in 2010. Today we produce great audio content, brilliant blogs, sold-out live events and we’re still publishing some of the best sports books out there.”

Books to read

 Barça by Graham Hunter

I Think Therefore I Play by Andrea Pirlo

 

2. Pitch Publishing

Pitch

Website: http://www.pitchpublishing.co.uk/

Twitter: @PitchPublishing

Background

“Pitch capture the real spirit of sport with entertaining and clever ideas. They work out what the aficionado would want to read, then deliver it with great verve.”

Paul Hayward, Chief Sports Writer, The Telegraph

Books to read

Eibar the Brave by Euan McTear

Fully Programmed by Derek Hammond and Gary Silke

 

3. DeCoubertin Books

deCoubertin

Website: decoubertin.co.uk/

Twitter: @deCoubertin

Background

“deCoubertin Books is a small publisher with big ideas. We use our experience from the worlds of journalism, web, publishing and design to produce beautiful non-fiction books that we passionately believe in.”

Books to read

Up There by Michael Walker

Touching Distance by Martin Hardy

 

4. Yellow Jersey Press

Yellow-Jersey-Press_0

Website: https://www.penguin.co.uk/search/?q=yellow+jersey&f=i%3AYellow%2BJersey

Twitter: @YellowJersey_ed

Background

“Yellow Jersey Press is a sports list with a distinctive literary edge and a particular passion for cycling. Four-times winner of the prestigious William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award, Yellow Jersey publishes some of sport’s greatest heroes including Sir Bradley Wiggins and Diego Maradona as well as some of the best and most respected sport’s writers in the industry – William Fotheringham, C.L.R James, Ned Boulting, Paul Kimmage and H.G Bissinger.”

Books to read

A Life Too Short by Ronald Reng

Promised Land by Anthony Clavane

One Night in Turin by Pete Davies

 

5. Ockley Books

Ockley

Website: http://www.ockleybooks.co.uk/

Twitter: @OckleyBooks

Background

“Ockley Books Ltd is a publishing company looking to carve a niche in the world of sports books and writing. We are only looking to bring you the highest quality books possible and give our writers as much help as we can to produce their finest work.”

Books to read

The Agony and the Ecstasy by Richard Foster

Juventus: A History in Black and White by Adam Digby

 

6. Tales From Ltd.

Tales From

Website: http://talesfrom.com/

Twitter: @TalesFromLtd, @TalesFromTheVic, @TFTheCity, @TFTRW

Background

“Tales From produces excellent sports books and live events. Lionel Birnie is a journalist, author and Watford fan and Adam Leventhal is a TV presenter, journalist and author.”

Books to read

Tales from the Vicarage (Watford)

Tales from the City (Norwich)

Tales from the Red & Whites (Sunderland)

 

7. Trinity Mirror Sport Media

sportmedia_0.png

Website: http://www.tmsportmedia.com/

Twitter: @SportMediaTM

Background

“Trinity Mirror is the biggest publishing plc in the UK and Sport Media is its award-winning sports publishing unit. We work with some of the biggest clubs, organisations and individuals in Britain and have years of experience across the area of sports publishing.”

Books to read

GoodFella by Craig Bellamy

I’m Still Standing by Fabrice Muamba

 

8. Floodlit Dreams

floodlit dreams

Website: http://www.floodlitdreams.com/

Twitter: @IanRidley1

Background

“Ian worked for many years on national newspapers, including The Guardian, The Observer and The Mail on Sunday, and was Sports Journalist of the Year in 2007. He is also the author of 11 sports books, including the best-selling Addicted with Tony Adams. His latest is A Dazzling Darkness, with the world champion boxer, Darren Barker. He is also a scriptwriter and has for television. Ian is the creator of Floodlit Dreams Ltd, publishers of sports books.”

Books to read

Added Time by Mark Halsey

There’s A Golden Sky by Ian Ridley

 

9. Vision Sports Publishing

vsp

Website: http://www.visionsp.co.uk/

Twitter: @SportsVsp

Background

“Vision Sports Publishing is the UK’s leading independent sports book publisher. We set up in 2003 to publish the kind of intelligent and innovative books that we, as massive sports fans, would like to read ourselves and we are extremely proud of our reputation as a publisher of high quality sports books.”

Books to read

The Unstoppable Keeper by Lutz Pfannenstiel

Thinking Inside The Box by Louis Saha

 

10. Birlinn/Arena Sport Books

arena

Website: http://www.birlinn.co.uk/Sport/

Twitter: @ArenaSportBooks

Background

“Arena Sport is Birlinn’s sport imprint and is designed for the general trade. The sport books range from football and rugby, to golf and cycling. Arena’s first titles were published in June 2013.”

Books to read

Diego Costa: The Art of War by Fran Guillén

Shocking Brazil by Fernando Duarte

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Tales from the Vicarage: Volume Four

Watford

Tales from the Vicarage: Volume Four

By Lionel Birnie

Tales From, 2015

Review by Jonathan Brick (@jonnybrick)

Lionel Birnie is the author of Enjoy the Game, the history of Watford’s ‘glory years’, or should they be ‘The Elton John Years’. Here, in ten great essays, Lionel reminds old fans of, and introduces new ones to, the glorious yesterdays. Watford Football Club, the case study in my own forthcoming book Saturday, 3pm about modern football, is more visible than ever before. Thanks to Sky Sports, the money of the Premier League and the winning mentality of its cosmopolitan squad, put together by Gino Pozzo’s money and Luke Dowling’s Football Direction, Watford FC is no longer a small-to-middling football league club, but months away from a massive payday should they/we stay in the top division.

It’s easy to love Barcelona, with the slick passing and world’s best attacker, but it’s harder to love a club like Watford, who have few truly great days and even fewer truly great players. Four interviews with Hornets of yore throw up some good quotes. John McClelland turned down Alex Ferguson at Aberdeen and gave his word to Graham Taylor; he played for Watford for six glorious seasons in the 1980s, and stayed with the club after relegation in 1988. His interview is worth reading for his tips on defending.

Allan Smart and Tommy Mooney, stalwarts of the second great Graham Taylor team who helped get Watford promoted in 1999, recall the club where fans still cherish their great goals. Mooney is a mentor to Troy Deeney, as well as being ‘Elton John’s mum’s favourite player!’ Smart signed for Watford on his wedding day, and scored the second goal at Wembley, yet feels as if that was ‘another life’. Smart is a regular at the Vic on matchdays, smiling alongside Luther Blissett, still Watford’s greatest-ever player.

Gifton Noel-Williams was the brightest prospect since John Barnes (the second greatest) and now, retired, coaches up the road from the ground. A father of seven, Gifton has also just pulled his son out of Watford’s academy, aware that his famous surname may hold him back. He speaks wisely about growing up with lots of mates at Watford FC, in Sunday football and at school, and points out that kids are mini-professionals in today’s academy-only development system.

Gifton’s story is inspirational: his resolve after being told he would be a cripple if he carried on playing, after a bad injury at 19, came from losing his father aged 13. Elton John paid for his treatment, and Graham Taylor had given him £1000 towards the cost of new fatherhood, and he speaks warmly of the two men who give their name to Vicarage Road’s biggest stands. Gifton played for Stoke and Burnley and knows Willy Caballero of Man City from his time in Spain, but he wants to become ‘part of the furniture’ at his first club, where he wants to be a manager.

Birnie has followed Watford for three decades, and with Watford’s squad at its best ever, he would love to go on a European tour. He was too young to see Watford’s UEFA Cup run of 1983/4, which ended in the last-16, but has seen scuzzy footage of the matches. He dedicates a chapter to Watford’s pre-season friendlies, and another to the host of foreign players to put on a yellow shirt. Did you know a Dutchman named Lohman actually captained the club in their first top-flight game before being afflicted by injury? Did you know Watford won the FA Youth Cup in both 1982 and 1989? I didn’t, and I call myself a Watford fan!

I was a loyal follower of Watford in 2012/3, which culminated in a loss at Wembley to Crystal Palace, but it’s so great to read an official account of Deeney’s Goal of the Century in that game against Leicester City. Jonny Hogg, the midfielder who got the assist ‘worth ten goals’ according to gaffer Gianfranco Zola, moved on from Watford after the Palace game. His contribution to the Watford story is recounted in his own words, alongside those of Deeney, Ikechi Anya and Marco Cassetti, that season’s right-wing-back, who reckoned the goal to be even more thrilling than scoring for Roma in the Champions League.

I was in a pub in North London watching Spurs on one screen and Watford on the other, two games Live on Sky Sports. The pre-Generation LoSS days were different, with only the FA Cup final showed live on TV and, writes Birnie, Watford games sold on VHS for £10 a pop (four times the ticket price to stand on the terraces!).

Today you can see goals seconds after they happen all the way around the world, and then grumble about them on social media while at the game itself! It’s almost too instant, prompting knees to jerk and fingers to pull triggers.

Reading this volume, and if you’re a Watford fan there is no reason not to read the previous three, I rejoiced above all in one man’s love of his club.

Buy it here

The Adventures of Darren Huckerby Finn

Maybe you don’t know about me, unless you read Feed the Goat: The Shaun Goater Story, but that ain’t no matter. That book was made by Mr David Clayton, and he told the truth, mainly, but there’s much more to tell. I was quick and I could run with the ball and I did well at Coventry City with Dion Dublin. When Leeds United paid £6million for me, I was rich.

But when you got into the squad you couldn’t go right to playing. First you had to wait for the manager to shake his head at Mark Viduka’s weight, Michael Bridges’ injuries and Alan Smith’s temper. It was deadly dull and I got fidgety. As I sat on the bench, Mr O’Leary would say, ‘Don’t hunch up like that Huckerby’. O’Leary kept pecking at me for not scoring enough goals and it got tiresome. All I wanted was to go somewheres and I warn’t particular about where.

Hucks - Leeds

When I couldn’t stand it no longer, I lit out for Manchester City. Alf-Inge Haaland, he hunted me up and said he was going to start a band of winners, and I might join if I could follow the rules. We had to swear an oath and write our names in blood. It swore everyone to play for the team, and never dribble blindly towards the corner flag; and if anyone was in space, whoever had the ball must pass it to them. Everybody said it was a real beautiful oath, but it had me worried. Then Stuart Pearce says:

‘Here’s Huckerby, he don’t know the offside rule – what you going to do ‘bout him?’

‘Well, hain’t he a striker?’ says Alf-Inge.

‘Yes, he’s a striker, but you can’t never find him onside,’ says Psycho.

They talked it over, and they was going to drop me, because every player must know the offside rule, particularly a striker. Nobody could think of anything to do and I was most ready to cry. So I offered to learn the offside rule and stay onside from time to time.

Everybody said: ‘That’ll do. Huck can come in.’

I made my mark on the paper and collected my things. I went tip-toeing along to the Leeds Central railway station, and sure enough there was Shaun Goater waiting for me.

Now the way that Mr Clayton’s book winds up is this: I fed The Goat and he scored, and so did I, and Man City were champions of the First Division. Old Mr Keegan said I was coming along slow but sure, and doing very satisfactory. I was pretty-well-satisfied with myself too.

Hucks - Man City

But then in the Premier League the old thing commenced again. We had Nicolas Anelka, Robbie Fowler and Jon Macken and I was back on the bench. It was kind of lazy and jolly for a bit, laying off comfortable all day, and no football to play. But how slow the time did drag along after a month. When I came on I couldn’t score a damn thing and I was offside most of the time. We had a mean young midfielder called Joey Barton and he liked to give me a good going-over.

‘Shucks, it ain’t no use to talk to you, Huckerby. You don’t seem to know anything – you’re a perfect sap-head.’

I was six years older and I had an England B cap but that didn’t mean a thing to him. Joey warn’t never in a good humor; that was just his natural self, especially when the liquor took him. I warn’t scared of him worth bothering about but he was always cussing me.

‘You know one season you was caught offside 98 times. You think you’re better’n the First Division, don’t you? I’ll take it out of you.’

I was dog-tired of everyone pecking at the same old problems – my hunchback run, the way I couldn’t never stay on my feet. No-one tried to understand what it was like to be in my shoes. It was dreadful lonesome warming the bench with Kevin Horlock and Carlo Nash.

Mr Keegan sent me on loan to Nottingham Forest and I did ok back in my home town. I felt kind of sore about everything at Man City but I knew it was time to move on for good. Mr Worthington at Norwich City wanted me and that was good enough for me. I just needed to find a way to leave before Joey knew I was gone.

One night, I took my two First Division winners medal and my England B cap and I put them in a suitcase; then I done the same with my signed Shaun Goater shirt, one of Jason Wilcox’s judo black belts and a prototype ‘Dube’ that Dion gave me. It was about dark, now; so I walked down to Manchester Piccadilly, and waited for the first train to Norwich to come.

I was pretty tired when I got to my seat. The first thing I knowed, I was asleep. When the ticket collector woke me up I didn’t know where I was. I set up and looked around, a little scared. Then I remembered. I was free from Joey and free from the Premier League with all its mean linesmen and decent defenders. I knowed I was all right now. I felt powerful lazy and comfortable, like when Mr Keegan left me on the bench for a few games.

When I got to Carrow Road I warn’t feeling very brash. I’d never been to Norfolk and didn’t know nobody there. I catched a glimpse of a man going into the changing room. I went for it, cautious and slow. It was Marc Edworthy!

‘Hello, Marc!’ I says and skipped out.

He ran up and stared at me wild. I was ever so glad to see my old Coventry teammate. I warn’t lonesome now.

Hucks - Norwich 1

It was a mighty nice squad, and a mighty nice stadium, too. I practiced hard every day to get the hang of things, and by-and-by I could do pretty well up front with Paul McVeigh, Leon McKenzie, Matthias Svensson and Iwan Roberts. Mr Worthington said I must quit running offside all the time. I took notice, and done better. We won four games in a row and I even scored a goal. I wanted to win the First Division again but Marc didn’t believe we could go that far. I said come on, we’re better than the Tractor Boys, and West Ham and West Brom. So on we prowled.

‘I wish Dion was here,’ I says to Marc in January. ‘He’d call this an adventure and he’d score goals all day long. And wouldn’t he throw style on it?’

Marc manned the defence and I struck the goals. I judged Mr Keegan would have been proud of me as we went a-booming towards my third First Division title. The Norwich fans loved me and that was a special feeling I must say. They were taken with my style – the big shirts, the beach blonde mullet, the dives in the penalty area.

Hucks - Norwich 4

Marc had an uncommon level head. He judged that 40 points would fetch us to mid-table in the Premier League and then we’d be out of relegation trouble. Well, after 13 games we didn’t have one win to our name. We were in an awful peck of trouble. The league table made me so sick and scared I couldn’t budge from Ceefax. If you think it ain’t dismal and lonesome down at the bottom, you try it once – you’ll see.

I almost just give up, then. I scored more goals but even signing Dean Ashton warn’t gonna save us. Late one night Marc called me and he started talking wild about how we were relegated already.

‘You been a drinking?’ I says. ‘You’re a tangle-headed old fool, Marc. You did dream it, because there didn’t any of it happen.’

‘We’re still in the Premier League?’

‘Of course we are!’

If we worked hard enough, I told him, we would get out of the zone and be free. We beat Manchester United, Newcastle, Charlton and Birmingham but it warn’t no use in the end. We went down but the Norwich fans said I warn’t to blame. They said I could have a home there as long as I wanted it. I won the Norwich player of the season award and they voted me into their Hall of Fame, too. That was a beautiful night.

Marc was awful disappointed. I said never mind, we’d be back, I reckoned. But Marc went to Mr Worthington’s office and bullyragged him about the relegation. The numskull said things he never should have said, and so he had to quit for Derby County. I was real sorry to see him go.

‘Head up, Huckerby!’ Mr Worthington shouts at me in training.

I didn’t understand. I warn’t so miserable; the First Division was my home, after all.

‘Huckerby, git your head up when you run! That way you might pass to a teammate one time.’

They was tough times for all of us. Then in the middle of the season, Robbie Earnshaw arrived from West Brom. Earnie was tiny, gentle and sweet, like a dove, but they said he was a grown man. Together we scored a nice number of goals but Reading and Sheffield United was miles away at the top. Earnie warn’t at all happy with ninth place but I never said nothing about his days in the Third Division. If I never learn nothing else out of Joey, I learnt that the best way to get along with people is to keep peace.

The new season was started when a voice not twenty-five yards from me, says ‘Is that you, Huckerby? I’d know that hunchback anywheres.’

Hucks - Norwich 2

It was Dion’s voice – nothing ever sounded so good before. He grabbed me and hugged me, we was so glad to see one another. One thing was dead sure; me, Earnie and Dion would form a merry gang. Against QPR we all scored but the problem was the fools in our defence. Something was a-brewing, for sure. Then they sacked poor old Mr Worthington. We was in relegation trouble for a bit but we escaped thanks to our goals. I won the player of the season award again, and Dion was second. I done found a home where they loved me even if I couldn’t hit double figures no more.

Earnie headed for Derby County and in October we was bottom of the First Division. It made me shiver and so I kneeled down to pray. I knew I was full of goals, full as I could be, but why did they just trickle out from time to time? Why, it was astonishing, I felt as light as a feather, right straight off, and my troubles all gone. I would go to work and steal Norwich out of the relegation zone again.

We warn’t all right and safe until the last game of the season. That day we got too satisfied and we lost 4-1 to Sheffield Wednesday. Deon Burton scored two we played so bad. I scored our goal and the fans they was so proud and joyful. Norwich was free for another season and I had loved the adventure of it. As me and Dion waved goodbye, I was happy and satisfied, like a jug goggling out butter-milk. If I’d a knowed what a trouble it was to make a book I wouldn’t a tackled it and ain’t agoing to no more. I’ve got to light out for the United States now, because Mr Roeder will have me warming the bench next season and I can’t stand it. I been there before.

THE END. YOURS TRULY, DARREN HUCKERBY FINN

Hucks - Norwich 3.jpg

Dougie Brimson Interview

Photo Alexey Shlyk

Photo Alexey Shlyk

In 1996, Dougie and Eddy Brimson wrote a groundbreaking, insider’s account of British football violence. 20 years on, Everywhere We Go remains an era-defining, bestselling book. Dougie has since written another 14 titles, both fiction and non-fiction, as well as 4 films including the huge hit Green Street, starring Elijah Wood. With another hectic year ahead of him, Dougie was kind enough to pause and answer our questions on his amazing career so far.

1. How did your first book Everywhere We Go come about? Did a publisher approach you to write it or did you write it and then look for a publisher?

The short version is that during the build up to Euro 96, my brother and I realised that there was a gap in the market for a book which countered some of the rubbish that was being spouted in the media about the culture of hooliganism. But we also realised that if we were going to be the ones to fill that gap, we would have to write something which would capture the interest of both sides of the debate.

So we began to jot down some thoughts and when we had about 10,000 words we simply picked a publisher at random and sent them a sample to see what they thought of the idea. That publisher was Headline, they loved it and Everywhere We Go was published in early ’96. It really was that simple.

Everywhere We Go

2. Your first books were landmark, non-fiction accounts of British football violence. What was the hardest part about writing about the world you knew? And how much danger did these books put you in?

Well that’s very nice of you to say! The truth is that we actually found them quite easy to put together because they are, in essence, our opinions on various issues surrounding the culture of fandom peppered with anecdotes obtained from people we knew or who contacted us. The reason they worked so well is that not only were our opinions pretty much on the same wavelength as many of the people involved in the so-called Saturday scene, but because they were written in a style that was very easy to read.

However, we always knew that we were going to upset people along the way and that proved to be the case. There was certainly a price on our heads at one point but if you’re going to put anything in print, you have to be prepared to back it up and we were.

3. In 2001 you published The Crew, your first of many novels. Football violence was still at the heart but how did you find the switch from non-fiction to fiction?

Well it helped that I had the incentive of developing a basic plot outline for the writer Lynda La Plante who wanted to use football hooligans in one of her TV series. However, once I was up and running, I actually found it extremely easy.

Of course by this time, I had a good handle on my readership and so had a fairly reasonable idea of what they wanted to read and just as importantly, how they wanted to read it. After all, unless they’re on holiday the average bloke generally reads in bed, on trains or in the loo. So I always write in 15 minute chunks which ironically, made things easier with fiction than non-fiction. The hard bit was persuading my publisher to take it on although they were pretty good in the end.

Top Dog

4. Wings of a Sparrow was more football fiction but this time you replaced grit and violence with comedy and dreams. Was it fun writing something a little lighter?

Oh absolutely. One of the main reasons we go to football is because essentially, it’s a lot of fun and after years of writing about the darker side of it, I wanted to write something which made not only me, but the readers laugh about the daftness of local rivalries.

I’d actually written some comedy stuff before, first with The Geezers Guide to Football and then Billy’s Log but Wings is targeted much more directly at the sport and the reasons why we love it. After all, it’s essentially based on one of those questions which fans around the world have bandied about since the birth of the game. Wings really was a joy to write and I hope that comes across on the page.

Wings of a Sparrow

5. Football fiction isn’t a genre with a particularly strong literary reputation. Why do you think that is and do you think it’s unjustified? How would you describe your audience?

That’s a great question and in all honesty, it’s a genuine mystery to me. Maybe you should ask some publishers!

Personally, I think that there is no single answer, just a lot of different factors. It’s certainly true that mainstream publishers are afraid to take any risks these days and it’s also safe to say that football as a subject matter is a huge turn off for those commissioning editors who handle fiction and there seems to be two reasons for that. First, despite its success in non-fiction, the game is still regarded very much as ‘down market’ by the fictional side of the publishing fence and secondly, football books are generally targeted at a male readership and since ‘Lad-Lit’ as a genre doesn’t really exist, even if a writer came up with a marketable storyline, where would it sit?

Ironically, the market is certainly there and it’s gagging for stuff. Fever Pitch still sells strongly decades after its initial publication whilst my first novel, The Crew, has sat at number one on the Amazon football download chart for over four years! Even the sequel Top Dog still sells well and I’m always being asked for more.

That said, I think I’m fairly odd in that I write very much for my market as opposed to the market if that makes sense. I always keep in mind that the most important person in the publishing game is the reader and so have always tried to give my lot what they want as opposed to what I think they might like. Thus far, thank goodness, it seems to be working!

6. You’re perhaps best known for writing Green Street, the big football hooliganism film starring Elijah Wood. How was that to work on? What differences did you find between screenwriting and book writing?

Screenwriting is a very different writing discipline and it’s one which has its good and bad points. For a start, it’s very much a collaboration which is great if you’re working with good people, not so great if you’re working with idiots. Equally, with books a writer is in control of pretty much everything whereas in film, it’s out of your hands pretty much from the moment you hand over the first draft of a script.

Green Street

7. What’s your favourite football book (fiction or non-fiction) and why?

I’m a big fan of Left Foot Forward by Garry Nelson because I think it captures the life of an average footballer pretty much perfectly and it’s also brilliantly written. The Tales from the Vicarage series by Lionel Bernie are also pretty awesome reads but that’s because I’m a Watford fan!

8. And finally, what does 2016 have in store for your busy self?

I’m currently writing In The Know which is the third novel in the The Crew, Top Dog trilogy and I’m also working on two films. One about the war in Afghanistan and the other, a screen adaptation of Wings of a Sparrow which is proving to be great fun. Aside from that, Watford are keeping me pretty occupied at the moment. Long may that continue!

For more info on past and present projects, visit http://www.dougiebrimson.com/