Book Review – When the Sky was Blue: The Inside Story of Coventry City’s Premier League Years by Rich Chamberlain

In the 1966/67 season Coventry City, then managed by Jimmy Hill, reached the top flight of the Football League for the first time in their history after winning the Second Division title, finishing a point ahead of Wolves. The Sky Blues stayed for 34 years amongst the English games elite and would be founder members of the inaugural Premier League in 1992/93. And that initial season of ‘a whole new ball game’ is the starting point for Coventry fan Rich Chamberlain’s look at the West Midlands Club time in the Premier League.

The book benefits from extensive interview with ex-players and management, so isn’t just a season by season trawl through every result. Rather, Chamberlain takes each manager’s reign as the focal point, with the interviews providing an honest and balanced assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the various men who sat in the Highfield Road hotseat and some of the high-profile players who pulled on the sky blue shirt.

In the Premier League years (1992 to 2001), The Sky Blues had four managers, Bobby Gould (for a second stint having managed the Club in the early ‘80s), Phil Neal, Ron Atkinson and Gordon Strachan. Strachan’s stint was the longest, managing more games than the other three combined. What is evident is that all four had very different approaches to the job.

Programme from Coventry’s opening game in 1992/93

Leading Coventry into the Premier League era was Bobby Gould who the author describes as “unorthodox”, a man known for using his contacts to seek out gems from the lower leagues, but who bled “sky-blue blood.” Gould not only managed the Club on two occasions, but also played for The Sky Blues, scoring 40 goals in 82 games before moving to Arsenal.

Gould resigned in December 1983 with Phil Neal taking permanent charge after initially being appointed as caretaker. Whilst some players took to the ex-Liverpool player, many others didn’t with Chamberlain observing, “no doubt in part due to him (Neal) being a far less charismatic frontman than Gould” with ex-player Micky Quinn adding, “Phil was a very good coach but as a manager it’s about making decision, team selections. I don’t think he was a very good manager.” For all that Neal led Coventry to 11th at the end of the 1993/94 campaign – their highest finish in the Premier League. 1994/95 started well, but an eleven game run without a win from the end of November saw Neal sacked as The Sky Blues dropped in the relegation zone, with home gates dropping to around 12,000.

Incredibly after the dour Neal, came the larger-than-life character that was Ron Atkinson walking through the Highfield Road gates. Not only did his presence get fans flocking back to the terraces, but also as ex-Coventry player David Burrows highlighted, “He (Atkinson) attracted higher-profile players. Players didn’t go to Coventry for the money. Most of the players…took a pay cut to play for Ron.” Big Ron brought the razzamatazz and with it national media coverage. Despite all this Coventry were in a relegation dogfight, but a signing that would have a long-term impact on the Club came in March 1995 as Gordon Strachan moved from Leeds United as player and assistant manager. Not only did the Scot’s influence ensure Coventry stayed up but showed his attributes as a talented tactical coach.

Having preserved their Premier League status in 1994/95, hopes were high that 1995/96 campaign under the Atkinson/Strachan combo would not be another one of battling against the drop. However, it was to be another difficult season with their top-flight status only assured after a nervous final day eventually surviving on goal difference.

In November 1996, the Atkinson era ended, but as the author explains it wasn’t quite as simple as that. “The original story was that he (Atkinson) had agreed to move into a director-of-football-style role while Strachan took over as manager. However…not all the boardroom were on the same page with the story.” Ex-Chairman Bryan Richardson hoped that with Atkinson’s father very ill, the manager could be moved upstairs without a loss of face. The decision was somehow leaked and seemingly Big Ron was the last to know. Indeed Atkinson reflected that an incident with board member Geoffrey Robinson was behind it, “the week after I was moved upstairs. There was no directive at all, I didn’t have any directives from the Club.”

Programme from game that relegated The Sky Blues in 2001

Strachan would preside over the Club from 1996 until 2001 as be battled season-on-season to maintain Coventry’s top flight status. Chamberlain says of the Scots era, “He (Strachan) took with him a relegation on his CV that undoubtedly tarnishes his Coventry legacy, despite having been at the helm for some of the most exciting football the club had ever seen.” This was seen in players such as Darren Huckerby, Dion Dublin, Noel Whelan, Youssef Chippo, Mustapha Hadji, Robbie Keane, Gary McAllister and Craig Bellamy, all pulling on the sky blue jersey.

If fans thought back in 2001 that relegation was a minor blip, nothing prepared them for the years since which saw the Club sink to new lows. 2011/12 saw The Sky Blues relegated to League One and worse was to follow as in 2016/17 as they fell through the trapdoor into the basement division of the Football League. Off the pitch their beloved Highfield Road ground was left with residence at the then named Ricoh Arena in the 2005/06 campaign. This proved to be no smooth path, with major financial problems besetting the club, they found themselves having to play seasons at Northampton Town (2013/14) and Birmingham City (2019 to 21). Thankfully The Sky Blues have recovered in recent years, with a return to the Championship and residence back at the Coventry Building Society.

Coventry fans will hope that a return to the top flight is not too far away, but for now will have to make do with memories wonderfully recounted within Chamberlain’s book.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. August 2023, Hardcover: 224 pages)


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Book Review – Pilgrims’ Patch: The football grounds of…LINCOLNSHIRE by Steven Penny

Some sectors of the media would have you believe that football only started in the 1992/93 season with the formation of the Premier League, and that the only places the game is played are Liverpool, London and Manchester.

Thankfully as thousands of fans know there exists the rest of the professional game and the hundreds of clubs that are part of the National League System and their respective feeder leagues up and down the country.

Fortunately too there are writers out there who are willing to explore and promote the game in all its locations and levels. One such is Steven Penny, who includes amongst his previous books, The Mont: 125 years of the Mexborough Montagu Hospital Charity Cup – 1897-2022, Soap Stars and Burst Bubbles: A season of Yorkshire football, Towering Tales & a Ripping Yarn: Yorkshire Football’s Grassroots Legends and Island Hopping – The football grounds of…LANZAROTE

His latest addition Pilgrims’ Patch: The football grounds of…LINCOLNSHIRE, is identical in format to Penny’s Lanzarote offering, so readers will be treated once again to a book which at its core provides a colourful guide to the various clubs, not though this time in the sunny climes of the Canary Islands, but the more temperate fields of England’s second largest county. This major part of the book is organised according to the various teams place in the football pyramid starting with Lincoln City (Step 3) all the way through to Clubs at Step 12 and below, illustrating the depth and range of Clubs within the region. The information contained on the respective clubs, and which as many Groundhopper’s will testify is vital to their hobby, includes a location map of the venue, ground address, entry price, club badge and home shirt as well as a number of images of the venue itself. However for the section of Step 12 Clubs and below, there are just ground images.

Aside from the club listing section, there is so much more to enjoy, with a handy guide to the football pyramid, a brief history of football in Lincolnshire, a section on lost teams and grounds within the county, various programme covers and a page dedicated to various Lincolnshire football related facts in Did you know? My favourite from that section being, “the main (East) stand at Grimsby Town is the oldest in the Football League. It was built in 1902 and flaps leading to pigeon lofts in the roof can still be seen. The birds were used to ferry score updates to the local paper.”

Of course with this type of publication (i.e. data driven), some of it is out of date as soon as the book is released (in this case ahead of the 2022/23 campaign). However, this should not detract from what is a great reference guide for fans within the county and any visiting the plethora of Lincolnshire based teams.

(Publisher: Penny for Your Sports Publications. August 2022. Paperback: 166 pages)


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Book Review: LS65 (Eighties Leeds Series) by Billy Morris


Billy Morris was born in Leeds in 1966. He left Leeds in the late 1990s and has lived and worked in Europe and USA. He now lives mainly in South East Asia.

He wrote his first book Bournemouth 90 in 2021 and published the sequel, LS92, in 2022. The books form the Eighties Leeds series are dark, crime fiction set against the backdrop of a northern English city trying to reinvent itself, as its once famous football team emerges from a period in the doldrums to reclaim its position at the forefront of European football.

Morris’s third book Birdsong on Holbeck Moor is set during the tumultuous period at the end of the First World War. The Leeds Pals have been decimated at the Somme and the soldiers who survived return to find a city on the grip of a global pandemic, with food rationing, unemployment and a football team facing expulsion from the league due to financial irregularities during the war years. Throw in some corruption, inter-city gang wars and witchcraft and you have the makings of a gritty, Edwardian thriller.

LS65 Review

This fourth book from Billy Morris forms a third part of the Eighties Leeds series, and is a prequel set in 1965. The central focus is the back story of Alan Connolly, one of the main characters in Bournemouth 90 and opens with the teenager arriving in Leeds from Glasgow during the swinging sixties.

What Morris has established through his previous books is a winning formula. And as the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Reassuringly in LS65 readers will find the usual heady mix of dark gritty menace, the underworld, and football set against a convincing background of the time – a culture of coffee bars and clubs, drugs and dance halls, Mods and their mopeds.

Once again the research is spot-on with great detail about the city of Leeds and places still familiar today, but reflecting also many that have long gone, yet synonymous with a city much changed since the sixties.

Additionally, what Morris also demonstrates is his ability to provide a full back story to his characters, that in this instance go a long way to understanding the Alan Connolly that features in Bournemouth 90.

There is also some homage or influence of David Peace’s writing, with the flashback sequences within LS65 reminding this reader of the style adopted in parts of The Damned Utd.

In Bournemouth 90 the football storyline was one of a pivotal moment as Leeds United regained their top division status, leading to them becoming Champions of England once more in 1991/92. In LS65 the football backdrop is once again an important moment in the Club’s history, with the Elland Road team, after only having been promoted the season before, missing out on the First Division title on goal average and then losing in the FA Cup Final 2-1 to Liverpool. However, despite those disappointments in 1965 it was the start of what was to be a Golden Era under Don Revie as Leeds United became one of the best sides in England and Europe.


(Publisher: Independently published. September 2023. Paperback: 217 pages)


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Book Review: The Shirt Hunter: One Man’s Ceaseless Pursuit of Classic Football Kits by Perris Hatton

When I was first standing on the terraces of my beloved Fulham as a child, replica kits just weren’t a thing, but all this changed when Admiral came on the scene in the 1970s. With their bold designs and colours Admiral were the pioneers that led to the creation of the multi-million pound business in football kits that exists today.

The story of the Leicester based company is superbly told in another of Conkers Editions, fine stable of books, Get Shirty: The Rise & Fall of Admiral Sportswear and provides context for Perris Hatton’s The Shirt Hunter: One Man’s Ceaseless Pursuit of Classic Football Kits. Admiral not only provided the catalyst for the replica shirt market of today, but also could be said to have sparked the start of the collectables scene.

Fulham Osca remake 1981/82

One thing reading this book did was to look back at my own teams recent shirt history. Fulham, of recent years have been a Premier League club and is reflected in the fact that since 2013/14 have been with Adidas. Those of us though that remember the days of life in the lower echelons of the Football League will recall, that we had kits manufactured by companies such as Osca, Scoreline, DMF and Vandanel – companies mostly long since gone. Interestingly though, that whilst finding original replicas of those shirts will cost a small fortune, a retro market in remakes has taken place, so for Fulham for instance there are some great versions which pay homage to the Osca kits worn between 1981 and 1984.

Hatton is a major football shirt collector and dealer and uses all his knowledge and experience in the field to produce an interesting and entertaining book that will be a great read for anyone interested in football shirt memorabilia. Not only does he provides some hints and tips on buying, collecting and selling, but also various amusing anecdotes as he trawls the country for hidden treasures.

The largest part of the book, however, is given over to an A-Z of football kit manufacturers past and present, where you’ve find details and facts about the modern day big-guns of Adidas, Macron, Nike, Puma and Umbro, side-by-side with lesser known names lost since lost to polyester heaven – all as ever in true Conker Editions fashion, colourfully and lovingly illustrated.

(Publisher: Conker Editions Ltd. October 2023 Paperback: 184 pages)


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Book Review: Blue was the Colour: A Tale of Tarnished Love (Football Shorts) by Andy Hamilton

Football Shorts are a series of books created in a collaboration between award-winning journalist and author Ian Ridley’s own publishing company Floodlit Dreams and renowned sports book publisher, Pitch Publishing. Ridley details in the Notes and Acknowledgments of the first in the series, Pantomime Hero: Memories of the Man Who Lifted Leeds United After Brian Clough, that the inspiration came about during lockdown and his desire for a short sporting read.

The intention was that there would be three books in 2023, and this outstanding hat-trick of the written word has been achieved, with the first, Pantomime Hero: Memories of the Man Who Lifted Leeds United After Brian Clough by Ridley, released in January 2023, the second The Homecoming: The Lionesses and Beyond, from Jane Purdon in May 2023 and finally from comedian and writer Andy Hamilton with Blue was the Colour: A Tale of Tarnished Love  out in September 2023.


What links all three of these wonderful books is that they are personal stories written with genuine passion for the ‘beautiful game’ and its past, present and future. All three writers are respected figures in their particular fields, but at the heart of their writing is the overwhelming ability to let readers know that they are football fans.

In the case of Andy Hamilton’s, Blue was the Colour, the book looks at his changing relationship with Chelsea and indeed the game from his childhood to adult life, with the subtitle, A Tale of Tarnished Love, more than a clue as to how this has changed down the years.

For those wondering about the title of the book, Blue was the Colour, it is a play on words taken from the title of the single that the Chelsea players released in 1972 called, Blue Is the Colour (although on my occasional visits to the Bridge I was more of a fan of Liquidator by The Harry J Allstars). And like the book sub-title, reinforces the idea of Hamilton’s reassessment of his feelings and connection to the Stamford Bridge club.

As you’d expect from a man of his writing talent, Hamilton’s reflections here are witty, thought provoking, yet balanced – filled with joy and at times sadness, as well as disappointment and regret – a bit like watching your team really.

He uses the device of two Chelsea v Newcastle United fixtures (62 years apart) to bookend his journey supporting the club as he grows from boyhood to manhood, with observations about changes in the game thrown in for good measure. And these two fixtures tell you much about how Hamilton’s feelings have changed, when he details:

The (first) match back in 1960 was the first game I ever saw. I was six and a half years old and I watched from the terraces in a state of all-consuming, heart-thumping, knee-jiggling, bladder-squeezing excitement and wonder.

I did not watch the second match. I only listened to the closing moments of the game on Radio 5 Live as I pottered around the kitchen trying to find some scissors.

This book is my attempt to map the distance between those two states of mind – from a world where Chelsea v Newcastle was, at that moment, the only thing that mattered ‘in the entire universe’ to one where it was less important than scissors.

Of course as Hamilton acknowledges, that has as much to do with him growing up as it has to do with the game as it is today.

The sport that he fell in love with still had players on the maximum wage of £20, with some still travelling to games on public transport and were still accessible and relatable to the working class fans who filled the grounds. Kick-offs were on a Saturday at 3pm and the FA Cup held pride of place of the football calendar. However, before you think this is maybe some sentimental less than subjective view of the game Hamilton first watched, he admits that the violence on the terraces, racism within the game and the poor conditions within stadiums were also a reality of football in his formative years.

So what has lessened his love for the game today? Well, as someone a little younger than Hamilton it is for reasons I completely understand. It feels like he is speaking for a generation of supporters who have no love for what the Premier League stands for and what the billionaire owners and Sky have done to the game. Also, getting a bashing – deservedly – are FIFA and VAR amongst other things.

Despite this, Hamilton hopes that in another 60 years there will be six year olds as giddy as he was back in 1960 excited at going to their first game in stadiums will be full and still played on a Saturday.

Now that’s a thought that shouldn’t leave us blue.

(Publisher: Football Shorts. September 2023. Paperback:? 184 pages)


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Book Review: League One Leeds – A Journey Through The Abyss by Rocco Dean

I first visited Leeds United’s Elland Road home on 19 September 1970 when they hosted Southampton. A rite of passage allowing me to witness the most successful Leeds side to grace the LS11 turf. An overcast autumn Saturday seeing a John Giles penalty claim both points (spoils for a victory back then) for Don Revie’s warriors in white.

Talking of points, during that decade entertainer Bruce Forsyth spent Saturday evenings advocating (via catchphrase) “Points wins prizes.” Although Leeds managed to lift the Division One trophy twice in that era, too often they just failed to accumulate enough points to prevail as champions in English club football’s foremost league.

Instead, Jim Bowen’s 1970s gameshow catchphrase of “Have a look at what you could have won.”  was too often written on Leeds United’s end of season report card… Oh, and do not get me started on that era’s domestic and European cup finals, times witnessing the club play bridesmaid on more occasions than a Nolan sister.

In a further reference to points, the fifteen deducted from the club for entering administration (in 2007) play a major part in the initial chapter of Rocco Dean’s skilfully documented and absorbing book League One Leeds- A Journey Through the Abyss.

This a journal of the club’s fortunes during an ignominious three seasons in the third tier of English football, between 2007-2010. Revealing the writer’s recollections of that first drop into League One, the Administration process, the team’s galvanisation borne from the point deduction and the subsequent trinity of winters in the abyss.

The author provocatively touching on the enduring admin episode; events sullying an already murky set of circumstances. A plotline seemingly elongated by club chairman Ken Bates’ ‘canniness’ when it came to negotiate recompense for creditors. Cuddly Ken’s opening gambit of offering a pound of Leeds United fans flesh for every pound owed given short shrift by creditors.

A keen supporter, Dean insightfully reminds us of the unsavoury shenanigans surrounding the protracted takeover and attempts at retrieving the docked points as the 2007-2008 season progressed. His book providing an interesting and informative portrayal of Leeds’ plight over three seasons in League One. A period where the side, as usual, encountered capricious fortunes on and off the field. A journal recollecting the serious of key incidents strongly driving the narrative towards eventual redemption… Well, eventual promotion back to the Championship.

Chapters reminding the reader of long forgotten team personnel who shared the odyssey. Players like Kishishev, Da Costa, Westlake, Flo, Carole and Michalik whose names send an ethereal shiver through my spine. A stark time I’d subconsciously shut away in a neurological folder called ‘Kishishev My Arse’.

Reading this book, a catalyst to opening a metaphorical Pandora’s Box, evoking stark recollections into my conscious mind. Re-igniting times which, although galling at that juncture, in hindsight reminding me I did have many good memories between 2007-2010… Not many of them were football related, but I did have some good times!

Seriously, though, the author’s insights proved an engaging read. Amongst the perkier bits, fond recollections raised from reading the names of players who contributed huge amounts towards the clubs rebuild from the ashes.

Witnessing the names Beckford, Becchio, Snodgrass, Delph, Howson, Naylor, Ankagren, Hughes, Prutton, Johnson, Gradel and Kilkenny raising a smile. This band of footballing misfits a mix of academy products and shrewd purchases who all went on to achieve cult status of varying degrees.

The author, as would be expected, addressed the seasons chronologically. Reminding readers of a first season when Leeds fans adopted a chant of “Fifteen points, who give a f*ck? We’re super Leeds and we’re going up.” A defiant message aimed at Football League administrators for their point stealing skulduggery.

As I had younger kids at the time, after a Leeds win, I adopted a sanitised version around the house of ““Fifteen points, who give a flip? We’re super Leeds and we’re going to the Championship… My rubbish defiling of the brisk original made under the guise of responsible parenting. Unsurprisingly my version was not adopted as a tribal calling card by fans on matchday… Or, indeed, my kids.

Anyhow, Dean touches on specific games which were turning points to this rollercoaster trinity of seasons. Not only from a match reporting perspective, but his experiences before, during and after games with buddies.

Amongst his prose, tales of close scrapes with opposition fans at Millwall and Swansea, thoughts on the team being managed by an ex-Chelsea player, and his heightened brio levels with the separate managerial appointments of former Leeds players Gary McAllister (in 2008) and Simon Grayson (in 2009).

In the 2007-2008 season the 15-point deduction depriving Leeds of automatic promotion, along with losing both coach Gus Poyet and later manager Dennis Wise after a wonderful start to the season. A remarkable achievement bearing in mind the side was only thrown together days before the season started because of the late approval for Leeds to leave Administration.

Reading Dean’s evocative journal recalling the League One rollercoaster took me back to a time of many mixed emotions. Double play-off heartache, the stoic team spirit borne from the 15-point deduction, beating Manchester United away in the FA Cup, commentary moved to DAB on Yorkshire Radio commentary and ultimately the joy of promotion back to the Championship.

Amongst the many thoughts taken from Dean’s absorbing book, I left it with the retrospective feeling that perhaps those times weren’t as bad as I originally thought.

One thing for sure is my post-match beer tastes just as appealing after a Leeds United win irrespective the place within the football pyramid… Well, unless I accidentally order a Carling.

Reviewed by Gary Strachan

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. August 2022. Hardcover: 256 pages)


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Book Review: One Game at a Time by George F. Brown

The blurb on the back of a book is the opportunity to summarise the plot and lure in potential readers, letting them know what to expect. For George F. Brown’s debut novel, there were three phrases from that information that leapt out.

  1. One Game at a Time is a love letter to the lower sometimes forgotten, tiers of the English football pyramid.
  2. Gifford [the Bucknall manager] discovers that management is not just about what happens on the pitch and has to deal with the darker side of the game.
  3. George [F. Brown] has created a narrative that celebrates the tactics and spirit of the world’s most beloved sport.

And for this review these are the starting points to discuss.

First up, the book as, a love letter to the lower…tiers of the English football pyramid. The author has created a fictional team, Bucknall, playing in the National League, the top division of the non-league game, and from which clubs can progress to the ranks of the Football League. And whilst the opponents that appear within the book are ‘real’ clubs who have or are playing in the National League (aside from the other fictional team within the book, Trosley United), there is little else within the narrative that is really typical and indeed illustrates the reality of the lower tiers of the game. The National League is one dominated by full-time clubs, many with Football League experience with grounds and budgets to match and as such aren’t representative of the rest of the non-league pyramid. Indeed it is a league which sees and wants to align itself more with the Football League than the rest of the non-league pyramid.

Next, Gifford discovers that management is not just about what happens on the pitch and has to deal with the darker side of the game. Brown does indeed explore through a number of plotlines, genuine issues with the game at all levels, which includes racism and gambling, as well as the impact that a career in football can have on an individual’s personal and homelife.

And lastly in terms of the third highlighted points, George has created a narrative that celebrates the tactics and spirit of the world’s most beloved sport. The author certainly does this and displays a coach-like quality in the description of the training and match action as well as getting across the highs and lows of the beautiful game for owners, management and players alike.

What else can readers expect? Well, the main story focuses on the appointment of Gifford an ex-player of Bucknall, who with no experience of managing at senior level tries to change the fortunes of the club as it languishes at the bottom of the National League. Along the way he signs the talented but wayward and ageing forward in Tommy Pearce to resurrect both the players and Bucknall’s fortunes.

Not every game is detailed as the season progresses, instead certain fixtures are described all with an impact on the team and crucial to the plotlines.

At less than 200 pages this is not an overly long book or taxing read, and with 45 short chapters moves quickly through the season to its conclusion.

Football fiction or indeed, Sports fiction in general, is not an easy genre to get right. George F. Brown in this book demonstrates a passion for the game and an easy writing style, however, this reader was left with the feeling that the greatest stories and drama still come from the real-life football of the past, the present and indeed the future.

(Publisher: DB Publishing. September 2023. Paperback: 192 pages)


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Book Review: The Little Book of Casuals – Football fashion from the 1980s by Scottie

Growing up in the 1970s the I-Spy books were something I collected. They covered all sorts of topics from the sights of London, various forms of transport, nature and science, to sports including football. The purpose was to spot the various objects listed within the book so ticking them off. In today’s high-tech, digital age, this concept wouldn’t excite many youngsters, but back then it passed as something both entertaining and educational.

What, you might ask, has this got to do with The Little Book of Casuals? Well, quite simply this 144 page book, measuring just 4 inches by 6 inches (no metric here for this old timer), reminded me of those childhood I-Spy books. However, the only problem being that you would need a time-machine to go through author Scottie’s journey from 1981 to 1986 ticking off the changing look of the Casuals during those years.

There will be those who turn their nose up at this offering, citing that the books featuring the Casuals scene is nothing but glorification and glamorisation of some of the worst years of football hooliganism in the UK and abroad. And yes whilst there are many books out there that do precisely that, that is not something that can be aimed at this latest release from the excellent Conker Editions stable.

Instead Scottie, based on his own experiences during the early part of the 1980s has put together a neat guide to the changing hair, clothes and footwear that became part of terrace culture during that time. The illustrations that accompany the text are wonderful in showing the constant switch to new brands and styles that swept through the ranks of any self-respecting Casual.

So be prepared for a trip down memory lane as tennis, golf and other sporting brands as well as established fashion names, that became de rigueur in and around the grounds of the Football League such as Fred Perry, Slazenger, Pringle, Lyle & Scott, Fila, Lacoste, Ellesse, Sergio Tacchini, Adidas, Kappa, Armani, Burberry and Benetton, are all detailed in glorious colour within the pages of this tiny gem.

And whilst you may think that every transition in the ‘clobber’ and the price tag they afforded provided the Casual with an appearance of coolness, think again as Scottie highlights some of the oddities of the period. Take for instance the 1982 phase of dungarees and fisherman’s jumper, the 1983 appearance of the Sherlock Holmes inspired deerstalker hat, or indeed the 1985 penchant for half-and-half ski hats.

The Casual scene is part of the history of the game in this country, which has a continued influence on what we see today. Some of the clothes and footwear of that period continue to be popular in a significant retro market with Adidas Gazelles or Samba and Fila Settanta polo part of many a wardrobe. And whilst Scottie’s book comes to a stop in 1986, the subsequent years have seen the fashion changes continue with various labels coming and going, although no longer on the terraces, but the safe standing and seats in the stadiums of the 21st Century.

(Publisher: Conker Editions Ltd. September 2023. Paperback: 144 pages)


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Book Review: FOOTBALL>ANYTHING – How football has brought out the worst in so many for the sport they “Love” by Chris Roberts

First and foremost, this is a book with good intentions and a positive purpose, and readers will come to see that:

  • It has been cathartic in the authors battle with mental health since the loss of his father.
  • Roberts hope is that the book can also help others.
  • The book demonstrates that he enjoys the research side of writing, which provides him with the ability to focus away from the dark thoughts that he is unfortunately plagued with.
  • Proceeds from the book will go to the organisation Sean’s Place based in the Liverpool area which has provided Roberts with support during a difficult time in his life.

Football is obviously a major part of the authors life with his love coming from his dad introducing the young Roberts to the world of non-league football and the realities at this level of the game, which then as now is a million miles away from the professional level and the monster that has become the English Premier League. Nevertheless, Roberts reflects in the books Introduction how the pressures of winning games is stressful for players, managers and owners alike whether at Anfield or Avro.

With this in mind Roberts provides his views backed up by a range of statistics in looking at how the game has become affected by the pressures of a win at all cost mentality and the impact on the game and those involved in it both on and off the field. In doing so he looks at the darker aspects of the sport in terms of gambling, drugs, as well as corruption that exists within the top echelons of the governance of the beautiful game.

Unfortunately like many independently published book, it suffers from a lack of editing and proofreading, to the point that the typos become a point of distraction and do take away from the experience of the read at times.

Despite this however, Roberts should be applauded for taking on such ‘big’ topics within the global game and that whilst football means so much to him, ultimately his message is that LIFE>ANYTHING.

(Publisher: Independently published. February 2023. Paperback: 252 pages)


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Book Review – Moments that could have changed football forever. What if? by Peter Prickett & Peter Thornton

At the end of ninety minutes across the world fans will invariably ask, “What If?” As fans, we’ve all done it. And it doesn’t just confine itself to the action on the pitch. Many will ask the same question, whether about managerial appointments, player transfers than never materialised, or indeed any situation which had a bearing on their beloved team.

Content wise, the book contains 28 What If scenarios and has the authors justifying their selections on the following basis: “We tended to go for moments that, when projected further, had real knock-on effects that would have changed the course of football history.”

The various scenarios selected for the book will no doubt be up for debate as every fan will have their own which would have changed the history of their club. Readers will also have their own opinions on the outcomes the authors deliver, however, as Prickett and Thornton say in the books Introduction,If you have disagreed with them then it means our writing has achieved its goal”.

Each chapter is essentially in two parts, the first is a factual summary in respect of the What If question, with the second part, the authors taking the reader through their view of how a situation could play out. What is just as important as to the ‘new’ outcome that Prickett and Thornton detail, are the things that never do come to pass, since the timeline and those in it now go down a different path – football v science fiction.

There is a good mix of situations that the authors come up with and includes three chapters which pit some notable teams down the years against each other, with Brazil 1970 v Spain 2008-2012, Hungary 1954 v Holland 1974 and Real Madrid Galacticos 1960 v Real Madrid Galacticos 2002. Prickett and Thornton both have a coaching background and they use this to good effect in detailing how the contrasting styles, eras and players might have matched up.

Elsewhere this reader has three favourites from the book, The first is the What If an African Team Win the World Cup, which sees Nigeria lift the trophy in 1994 with a potentially seismic impact on the French national team. The second is What If Brian Clough Had Managed England, with the mercurial manager taking over in 1977 after Don Revie’s resignation and how this would have shaped England’s fate on the European and World stage. Lastly, What If Technology Took Over From the Referee, which is a thought provoking, yet chilling view of how the game could change as technology and social media could take and split the beautiful game. A great way to end the book.

Overall an intriguing read which quite simply takes football fantasy to its extreme with some interesting conclusions.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. June 2023. Hardcover: 320 pages)


Buy the book here: What if?

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