Exclusive: deCoubertin Books to publish Ron Atkinson memoir

Ron

I might have my finger firmly pressured on the football book pulse but I don’t get many exclusives, let alone really juicy ones. However, today I can reveal that deCoubertin Books will publish Ron ‘Big Ron’ Atkinson’s autobiography on 15th September and yes, a certain controversial commentating incident may just get a mention or two. As might Dion Dublin, fingers crossed. The Independent’s Tim Rich will be Ron’s sidekick and if the book jacket and title are anything to go by, this book is destined to be a timeless classic. 

Read the full press release below:

deCoubertin Books will publish the memoirs of legendary football manager, Ron Atkinson, this autumn.

Atkinson is one of English football’s most recognisable and popular characters, having been involved in management for a quarter of a century.

He remains the only Englishman to have won major trophies with three different clubs: Manchester United, Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa. At West Bromwich Albion, he was one of the first managers to promote black footballers, including Laurie Cunningham, who went to Real Madrid, Cyrille Regis, who became an England international, and Brendon Batson MBE.

After retiring from management, Ron evolved into one of the most familiar and popular commentators on football. Yet that career came to an end in April 2004 with a single, unguarded comment about the Chelsea defender, Marcel Desailly. Atkinson was labelled a racist and driven from the game he loves.

In The Manager Ron Atkinson delves into the highs and lows of an extraordinary career that took him from non-league football to Old Trafford’s theatre of dreams in the space of seven years. He almost managed two Midlands clubs – Aston Villa and West Brom – to the league title. But behind the familiar image of the bling and one-line quips Ron Atkinson was – and remains – a deep observer of football and footballers.

Ron Atkinson said: ‘I thought this was the right time to be telling the story of my life in football. It began in 1954 when I was a ground staff boy watching in awe as Ferenc Puskas trained in the rain at Molineux when foreign footballers were looked on as alien beings. Football has changed completely and in a sense my career in the story of that change.

‘I wanted to give a proper portrait of the people I have worked with; men like Laurie Cunningham, Bryan Robson, Paul McGrath and Paolo di Canio and those I’ve commentated on, the likes of Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo. I also want to go into not just the fabulous stories from my time managing the likes of Manchester United, Aston Villa and Atletico Madrid but to analyse where they are now.

‘This is also an opportunity to discuss the Marcel Desailly affair and my fight to prove that I am not a racist.

‘I have collaborated with books before but this is my full autobiography, the story of my life.’

deCoubertin Books founder and principal James Corbett said: ‘We’re thrilled to have Ron on board and we hope that his book re-asserts his reputation as one of the finest and most innovative managers of his generation. The book transcends the clichéd version of Ron and shows him as a serious, thoughtful individual with trenchant views on a game he has given so much to.’

Atkinson has collaborated with the Independent’s Tim Rich on the book, which will be published on 15 September. Four signed special limited edition versions of 250 copies commemorating his time at West Brom, Manchester United, Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa will also be available in October.

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The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Comprehensive History of the Football League Play-Offs

The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Comprehensive History of the Football League Play-Offs

By Richard Foster

Ockley Books, 2015

AgonyI have a vivid memory of sitting glued to the 1998 First Division play-off final. As an entitled Premier League fan, I knew nothing about either team but I soon declared my allegiance. I chose Charlton – Richard Rufus, Saša Ilić, Clive Mendonca – and cheered with glee as they beat Sunderland on penalties after an incredible 4-4 draw. The play-offs were an alien concept to me but I was sold straight away on the downright drama. It never crossed my mind that they might only be as old as me.

The Agony and the Ecstasy by Richard Foster is ‘A Comprehensive History of the Football League Play-Offs’. As the Martin Tyler endorsement on the front cover suggests, it is amazing that this is the first book on the subject. ‘Nerve-shredding, gut-wrenching tension’ tends to be a popular choice for literature, as do heroes, villains and financial gain. The Championship play-off final is now the single most lucrative sports match in the world, with £134 million resting on it. Mistakes are costly and goals are glorious.

The Agony and the Ecstasy begins its journey in the mid-1980s with the Heathrow Agreement, where the play-offs were included as a temporary, American-inspired measure to offset changes in the Football League structure. From this inauspicious start, few could have foreseen the role that they would have as a ‘significant catalyst in the rebirth of the game’. The play-offs offered something positive and engaging for an English public disillusioned by a spate of football-related disasters. Where before seasons had petered out for most teams with months to go, suddenly there was cause to hope and strive until the death. As Foster puts it, the play-offs offer ‘a much more varied tale of success and a distinctly fresher feel’.

The book goes on to chart the relatively few changes over the years – the rejection of the inter-division model, the shift to a one-leg final, the move to Wembley – and also to discuss the seismic impact of the Premier League boom and broadcasting revenues on the fight for promotion from the Championship. While the financial figures showing the widening gap between the top flight and the lower leagues aren’t particularly new, the particulars of the £134 million payment plan make very interesting reading, as do the increasing parachute payments for relegated teams.

In most respects, The Agony and the Ecstasy is incredibly comprehensive. There are 200 pages of dense text, plus an array of graphs, tables, photos and statistics. The book is a trivia buff’s dream. The level of research is excellent and the infographics are a fun, creative way of presenting the facts. While the Championship play-offs receive the most attention, Leagues One and Two are far from ignored. Foster makes good use of original cameos from the likes of Tony Cascarino, Steve Claridge and Ian Holloway, as well as extracts from autobiographies and memories from club bloggers.

The only aspect that seems underdeveloped is the actual match coverage. The structure of the book – ‘part chronology and part thematic’ – leads to repetition, with several sections labouring over the same points: the special nature of the play-offs, the contrasting fortunes for players and fans, and the rise of the play-offs coinciding with the decline of the FA Cup. More economy here could have allowed more room for ‘The Clubs: The Cursed, The Blessed, The Unfortunate and The Blighted’, the brilliant final section of the book that explores a selection of the best and worst team records. It would be nice to read more about the best games, the best goals, the best and worst individual performances – perhaps these could feature in a second edition.

Foster’s conclusion that the play-offs now represent ‘the true climax to the season’ and the ‘most successful innovation in post-war football’ is well argued throughout. Their impact and legacy are difficult to dismiss. However, as a history of the play-offs, The Agony and The Ecstasy too often tells of the drama and spectacle, rather than really showing it.

Buy it here

Football autobiographies that should be translated into English

  1. Se uno nasce quadrato non muore tondo by Gennaro Ivan Gattuso (Biblioteca Univ. Rizzoli)

Gattuso.jpg

  1. La mia vita normale by Pavel Nedved (Add Editore)

Nedved

  1. Simeone partido a partido : si se cree, se puede by Diego Pablo Simeone (Plataforma Editorial S.L.)

Simeone

  1. Giocare da uomo by Javier Zanetti (Mondadori)

Zanetti

  1. En Kamp Til by Claus Lundekvam (Cappelen Damm)

Lundekvam

  1. Der Wahnsinn liegt auf dem Platz by Jens Lehmann (Kiepenheuer&Witsch)

Lehmann

  1. Erfolg kommt von innen. by Oliver Kahn (Goldmann Verlag)

Kahn

  1. Der feine Unterschied by Philipp Lahm (Droemer Knaur)

Lahm

  1. Capitaine by Marcel Desailly (Stock)

Desailly

  1. La parole est à la défense by William Gallas (Editions du Moment)

Gallas

  1. Bleu ciel by David Trezeguet (Hugo Sport)

Trezeguet

  1. Tout Simplement by Claude Makelele (Editions Prolongations)

Makelele