The Football Book Calendar – August to November 2016

WilsonClavaneCruyffPerarnau

 

August

Angels With Dirty Faces: The Footballing History of Argentina – Jonathan Wilson

The Roar of the Lionesses: Women’s Football in England – Carrie Dunn

Ring of Fire: Liverpool into the 21st century: The Players’ Stories – Simon Hughes

Hope – Hope Powell

 

September

A Yorkshire Tragedy: The Rise and Fall of a Sporting Powerhouse – Anthony Clavane

The Bottom Corner: A Season with the Dreamers of Non-League Football – Nige Tassell

No Nonsense: The Autobiography – Joey Barton

Fearless: The Amazing Underdog Story of Leicester City, the Greatest Miracle in Sports History – Jonathan Northcroft

Bayern: Creating a Global Superclub – Uli Hesse

The Wenger Revolution: Twenty Years of Arsenal – Amy Lawrence

The Manager – Ron Atkinson

Martial: The Making of Manchester United’s New Teenage Superstar – Luca Caioli

 

October

My Turn: The Autobiography – Johan Cruyff

Jamie Vardy: From Nowhere, My Story – Jamie Vardy

Saturday, 3pm: 50 Eternal Delights of Modern Football – Daniel Gray

Tunnel of Love – Martin Hardy

The Man in the Middle: The Autobiography of the World Cup Final Referee – Howard Webb

The Football Ramble – Marcus Speller, Luke Aaron Moore, Pete Donaldson and Jim Campbell

 

November

Pep Guardiola: The Evolution – Martí Perarnau

The Illustrated History of Football – David Squires

Hail, Claudio!: The Man, the Manager, the Miracle – Gabriele Marcotti

Home and Away: Writing the Beautiful Game –  Karl Ove Knausgaard and Fredrik Ekelund

Pep Confidential

Pep Confidential: The Inside Story of Pep Guardiola’s First Season at Bayern Munich

By Martí Perarnau

BackPage Press, 2014

PepHaving read Another Way of Winning, Guillem Balague’s biography of Pep Guardiola, I felt pretty familiar with The Philosopher and his work. But Martí Perarnau’s Pep Confidential is another level of intimacy entirely; where Balague offered a well-focused panorama of Barcelona 2008-12, Perarnau delivers the equivalent of Team Cam. Bayern Munich 2013-14 – one year, one team, one very special manager. This is unrestricted access of the kind Castel di Sangro gave Joe McGinniss, combined with intelligent insight of the kind Philippe Auclair provided for Cantona and Henry. Rarely, if ever, has one season been so intricately and rigorously explained.

The detail is extraordinary, if a little overwhelming. Pages and pages are dedicated to training regimes and tactical minutiae. Rondos, pivotes, the False Nine, zonal marking – like the Bayern players, the reader is quickly immersed in Pep’s football ‘language’. Numbers, too, feature heavily – the law of 32 minutes, 4 second pressing, 40m running, 15-pass moves, the 16 ‘starter’ squad, the defensive line starting 45m from goal. There is even a stat for the average amount of time Pep spends gesticulating during a game (70% in case you wondered). And then there are the formations, many of which Pep and his staff invent in the early hours of the morning like mad scientists: 2-3-2-3, 4-1-2-3, 4-2-1-3, the successful 3-6-1 and the disastrous 4-2-4. In November’s 3-0 win over Borussia Dortmund, Bayern move through four systems in one game.

As well as Pep Master Tactician, Pep Confidential also showcases Pep Master Man-Manager. When his head’s not buried in game plans and video analysis, Guardiola is busy ‘squeezing’ the talent out of his players, whether that be developing his protégé Pierre Højbjerg, massaging the egos of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, consoling the injured, or teaching important new roles to Javi Martinez and the pivotal Philipp Lahm (pun intended). As a result of this generosity of spirit, players are quick to buy into his ideas. Dissenters are few and far between, with Mario Mandzukic the only named rebel. Rather than a stubborn visionary, Pep emerges as an open-minded lover of the game, eager to learn from German football and vice versa.

Pep Confidential feels like the kind of dossier Guardiola himself would love to read about each and every team he faces: exhaustive, repetitive, obsessive to the verge of insanity. 120 pages in and the season is just starting in early August; 300 pages in and the season-defining defeat to Real Madrid is mentioned for the first time. Perarnau opens the book with Guardiola’s fascinating conversations with Grandmaster Garry Kasparov, and chess proves a very apt point of reference throughout. ‘Patience and passion. Guardiola’s two main weapons’ – for Pep, perfect football is tac-tac-tac (never to be confused with the dreaded tiki-taka) then pam!, deft midfield dominance leading to incisive, goalscoring chances. The one time he betrays this principle, his team are beaten 4-0 at home by Ronaldo and co. and knocked out of the Champions League. As Karl-Heinz Rummenigge puts it, ‘he deserted the middle of the pitch and opted for much more direct football’. On this occasion, Perarnau loudly condemns Pep’s choice of tactics, but then Guardiola has always been his own harshest critic.

As brilliant a portrait of Guardiola as it paints, Pep Confidential is perhaps most significant in its study of a team’s momentum over a season. Following on from the treble success under Jupp Heynckes, it’s a story of Bayern Munich trying to maintain focus and desire in the face of exhaustion and complacency. Hot on the heels of the joys of March, come the woes of April. As Perarnau concludes, ‘a team is a living entity, not a frozen image. It grows and flows, retreats and advances – a team is the sum of all its successes.’

Buy it here

8 Autumn Titles to Look Out For

Now that the international fun is over, it’s time to return to the club game we all know and love. Here are 8 football books to read in the coming months:

1. A Season with the Honest Men by Gerry Ferrara (Pitch Publishing, 1st Aug)

I can think of no better preparation for the new club season than a Miracle of Castel di Sangro-esque story set in the glorious surroundings of the Scottish First Division. A life-long Ayr United fan, Ferrara takes us on an incredible, behind-the-scenes journey through scandals, pranks and tantrums as his team chase that all-important promotion. Great characters guaranteed.

2. Rock n Roll Soccer: The Short Life and Fast Times of the North American Soccer League by Ian Plenderleith (Icon Books, 4th Sept)

With the MLS now well-established and on the rise, it’s easy to forget that it was only founded in 1993. Before that, there was the North American Soccer League, home to teams called the Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Tulsa Roughnecks, and players called Pelé, Johann Cruyff and George Best. Rock ‘n’ Roll Soccer reveals in all its glory the colour and chaos of the world’s first truly international league’ – a must for all fans of cult sports stories.

3. Bobby Moore: The Man in Full by Matt Dickinson (Yellow Jersey Press, 11th Sept)

The only World-Cup winning England captain and a West Ham defensive legend – but what more do we really know about Sir Bobby Moore? Dickinson, The Times Chief Sports Correspondent, is a man well-placed to write this definitive biography. For the first time we get a ‘warts and all’ view of Bobby’s life both on and off the field.

4. Guardiola Confidential: The Inside Story of Pep Guardiola’s First Season at Bayern Munich by Martí Perarnau (BackPage Press, 2nd Oct)

From Andrea Pirlo to Graham Hunter, Glasgow-based publishers BackPage Press are building a great reputation and a brilliant football list. Their latest book, by Spanish football expert Martí Perarnau, looks at Guardiola’s high-profile return to management at Bayern Munich last season. If their other books are anything to go by, this will be packed full of excellent detail, analysis and insight.

5.#2Sides: My Autobiography by Rio Ferdinand (Blink Publishing, 2nd Oct)

This isn’t the first book that Rio has written but it looks likely to be the most outspoken and interesting. John Terry, Roy Hodgson and David Moyes will be just a few of the topics that the former Manchester United defender offers his opinion on. Plus if you needed any further persuasion, the brilliant David Winner is collaborating on the project.

Cover - #2sides Rio Ferdinand high res

6. The Second Half by Roy Keane and Roddy Doyle (Orion, 9th Oct)

What a fascinating prospect this is – one of football’s fieriest characters working alongside one of fiction’s funniest writers. According to the blurb, this book ‘blends anecdote and reflection in Roy Keane’s inimitable voice. The result is an unforgettable personal odyssey which fearlessly challenges the meaning of success.’ Something tells me Sir Alex won’t be the only person threatening legal action once this publishes.

7. My Autobiography by Luis Suarez (Headline, 9th Oct)

Fear not football fans – despite the Uruguayan’s big-money move to Barcelona, this explosive book will still be published this autumn. The Diving, the goals, the biting, the accolades, the racism – all will be covered in this candid account of the amazing highs and lows of Luis Suarez. ‘El Pistolero’ in his own words – not to be missed.

8. Ossie: My Autobiography by Leon Osman (Trinity Mirror Sports, 10th Oct)

From one side of Liverpool to the other, and from a man of controversy to a man of understatement. Now 33, Osman has played nearly 400 games for Everton and remains a pivotal figure in their ball-playing midfield. The first name on the team-sheet during David Moyes’ tenure, ‘Ossie’ also has 2 England caps and hopefully lots of stories to share with us.

Pep Guardiola: Another Way of Winning

Pep Guardiola: Another Way of Winning: The Biography

By Guillem Balague

Orion, 2013

255 games, 194 wins; 14 trophies out of a possible 19, including 3 La Liga and 2 Champions League titles. The statistics speak for themselves but do they speak for the manager? There remains a real mystique surrounding Pep Guardiola. This is a man who followed up a glittering playing career at Barcelona by becoming their most successful manager ever, all by the age of 40. Much has been written about his tactics (the false nine, tiki taka) and his players, but precious little about the calm, classy ‘Philosopher’ himself. This is largely his own doing; during his four managerial seasons at the Nou Camp, Pep refused all one-to-one media and all but one interview for publication.

Luckily, La Liga expert Guillem Balagué is a very well-connected man. Not only does Another Way of Winning have a foreword from Sir Alex Ferguson and countless quotes from the likes of Johan Cruyff, Lionel Messi and José Mourinho, but it also contains the all-important musings of MisterGuardiola. ‘Talking to Pep for this book’, Balagué explains, ‘was the only way I could open up a hitherto closed window on his private world; to reveal what motivates him, what took him to where he is now, what fed his intuition to make the right footballing decisions.’

Another Way of Winning takes an end as its beginning, using Pep’s surprise resignation as the point at which to stop and reflect on his phenomenal career to date. This is Pep’s Greatest Hits; there’s no filler in sight as Balagué takes us from the early successes of his playing days (6 La Liga titles, 1 European Cup, 1 Olympic Gold), through the glory years of No. 1 after No.1 as Barcelona manager (the coverage of the two Champions League finals in particular is incredibly detailed), before the inevitable tensions, rivals and disappointments, and finally the tearful goodbye and the new direction. What he may lack in eloquence and style, Balagué certainly makes up for in zip and punch.

And insight. Although little of the character sketch is groundbreaking, the many details and anecdotes do add up to a clearer vision of both the manager and the man. Any football fan could tell you that Pep is obsessed with tactics, but Balagué offers up the bigger picture. A player who began preparing for management under Cruyff, then Rexach, Robson and van Gaal, growing increasingly confident in his ideas and communication; a player who left the comfort of the Nou Camp at 30 to study the different footballing cultures of Italy, the UAE, Mexico and Argentina; an ex-player who rejected the chance to run the world-famous academy that raised him, choosing instead to gain hands-on experience with Barcelona B, a team in turmoil, newly relegated to Spain’s fourth division; and finally a record-breaking manager with an incredible 24 assistants who still spent hours alone in his office watching video footage, honing the perfect strategy to defeat the next opponent. About Guardiola’s team-talk prior to the 2011 Champions League final, an awestruck Javier Mascherano says, ‘Everything that he said would happen, happened as he said it would.’

As with Arsene Wenger, Guardiola is presented as less a football manager than a football teacher, a genius with a singular vision for his pupils: ‘Total Football’ with a Spanish twist. Brave but ordered attack in the form of flowing, possession football, built upon a base of hard work and togetherness. But it’s one thing to have a philosophy and quite another to implement it successfully. Luckily, Pep had a largely receptive audience (most notably, of course, La Masía graduates new and old, from Xavi, Iniesta and Puyol through to Messi, Busquets and Pedro), and as Balagué demonstrates through a series of invaluable team-talk insights, ‘his ability to communicate is perhaps his greatest talent’.  ‘The coach makes us understand football’, Gerard Pique corroborates.

Many did, however, fall victim to Pep’s strict ‘my way or the highway’ policy. The considerable talents of Ronaldinho, Deco, Eto’o, Bojan, Yaya Touré and of course Ibrahimović were all shown the door; ‘the affection lasted as long as the player’s desire to be a part of the vision’. The Brazilian duo were rightly seen as a disruptive influence (particularly on a young Messi) but in discussing these last two players, Another Way of Winning for the first time questions Guardiola’s perfect judgement, and specifically his unyielding favouritism towards his home-grown talents. Talking of Barca’s ever-increasing reliance on La Pulga as the supreme focal point, Balagué asks, ‘Had Guardiola created a monster in Messi? The Argentinian had absolute power in the coach’s final season, and his behaviour was sometimes out of place.’ As they would soon find out against Chelsea, no matter how good Plan A is, you need a Plan B.

The pressure to succeed took its toll on Guardiola, ‘that need to continue to fuel a competitive group under any circumstances’. What Another Way of Winning brilliantly captures is the sensitivity of the man. In the difficult transition from player to manager, Pep was keen to distance himself from the dressing room itself, but that didn’t prevent a deep ‘emotional investment’ in the lives of his players. As he himself articulates so astutely, ‘The closer I get to players, the more I get burned, I need to distance myself.’ But nowhere was Pep’s emotional fragility more evident than in his intense battle with Real Madrid manager and former friend Jose Mourinho. Balagué sums up their rivalry nicely; ‘Pep took it all personally. For José it was all part of the job’. With his mind games and barbed comments, the Special One wore away at Pep’s principles until he retaliated and soon afterwards surrendered. Mourinho may have outlasted his foe but a vulnerable genius makes for much more compelling reading.

Buy it here