Jim Taylor’s obsession with football might well be about to cost him his job. The angry, youthful narrator of “Beastmouse” is mentally scarred by the injustices his favourite team has suffered. What if the Russian millionaire who flies in to rescue Leeds United is not who he seems?

Sports fiction is a relatively new genre and football writing is perhaps its best vehicle of expression since it is rooted in the lives of so many people. Although it is a truism that football reflects life, what makes the statement actually true in the case of Doolally is that the central viewpoint belongs to that of the supporter not player – and supporters feel the emotions more. The foreword is by Ardal O’Hanlon, renowned comedian with starring roles in “Father Ted” and “My Hero”, and an avid Leeds United fan. The book is centred around a passion for Leeds United, hence personal contributions from Neil Jeffries editor of Leeds, Leeds, Leeds, and Leeds supporters lan Payne of Sky TV and Peter Davies of Africa’s premier sports website Supersports.

Yet, although Doolally first developed out of the Leeds Football Writers group’s commitment to innovative writing, it is about much more than Leeds. The theme of football fans being doolally mad in some way or other is universal. A variety of pieces and genres tests again and again the stereotype of the average football fan and questions not just why people go to football matches but what really matters in their lives. The madness of the comeback by Liverpool in the 2005 Champions League Final is seen from a neutrals perspective and sits side by side with the Saturday ritual of a Newcastle United fan.

This book is sparky, quirky, and lively. An original anthology of writing which will appeal to all football fans.

Book details


Edited by David Gill

ISBN: 9781905519002

PDG Books Ltd

Review by the Editor

Category: Reviews | LEAVE A COMMENT

Book Review: And She Laughed No More by Stephen Foster

Danny Blanchflower once said “The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It’s nothing of the kind. The game is about glory. It’s about doing things with style, with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom

I had never seen this quote before Stephen Foster brought it to my attention in this book, and I am grateful to him for it. If anything encapsulates my view of the beautiful game then this is it. As Foster opines, if anything was the complete opposite of Tony Pulis’ approach to the game, this quote would be equally perfect. Here lies the quandary, here lies the paradox. How can a supporter of Stoke City dislike a manager so intently when he has just delivered the incredible – a return to the top flight of English football for the first time in 25 years, a feat which seemed less likely to many than finding the lost city of Atlantis? Indeed as a long suffering Stoke supporter of 22 years I have witnessed the worst era in the club’s history, dark days, and storylines so ludicrous a fiction writer would be hard pressed to make up, dismissed by his public as too unrealistic. But amazingly here we are about to face the most exciting season in 25 years, a season in the Premiership, the high point so far so in many supporters’ lives. Am I excited? Oddly not really, and Foster’s book goes a long way to explain why.

Several years ago I read Foster’s excellent “She Stood There Laughing: A Man, His Son and Their Football Club”, an account of Stoke City’s first season back in the Championship. Hard to put down I moved through the book at pace marvelling at the quality of poetic language used to describe so many bleak events. There was much laughter too; Foster’s observations are sharp, witty, and frankly accurate. This hilarious autopsy of Pulis’ first season saw me nodding my head in agreement and wishing I had the talent to express my near identical views in this way. In short it was spot on.

So it was with eager anticipation that I awaited “And She Laughed No More”. In the intervening years I had met the author, attended the weekend in Brussels recounted in the book, and was a regular recipient of the call to arms – the “Pulis out” text message. If anything this book is better than his previous account of the Stoke experience. It deals with the contrasting emotions of revulsion towards all that is wrong with the Premiership – greed, money, high ticket prices, prima donna footballers, silly transfer fees, and sycophantic media – and the opposite side of the coin, the joy of being there, the experience of competing against the best and not coming up short too often. His accounts of matches I attended capture the moment so wonderfully, be it on the pitch or general atmosphere, that I trust the descriptions of games I could not make in person. Indeed these are often the most enlightening, for Foster sums up so well, I might honestly think I’d been there. Again the author’s analytical nature and self-deprecating wit shine through the inebriated haze of the average supporter to deliver an entertaining and honest account of Stoke City’s first Premiership season. His inclusion of family and friends who endured the season with him adds colour and depth to the account. There is the human story as well as the football story. It would be enjoyed by football fans and Stoke fans alike.

The sub plot to the book is the relationship of the author with the manager Tony Pulis. Considered a dour, negative, cautious individual who has played for “respectable” 0-1 defeats in his time, one might expect that Pulis would be both out of his depth at this level and his dull brand of football could only be the complete opposite of what’s required to remain in the Premiership. Many of us thought so, including the author, and I definitely did! As if in a state of disbelief and denial, I still do, wondering how such an average manager with such a limited set of tactics and almost at times a contemptuous disdain for football could manage such a remarkable achievement. This book elaborates how. Foster set out to chronicle the Premiership adventure not knowing where it might lead, suspecting an instant return to the Championship like many more of us. However in the course of the season he describes the sometimes dire, sometimes lucky, and sometimes heroic way that a team of largely average footballers come together as a galvanised determined unit for their gaffer, and keep him and the club in the Premiership. The infuriating tendency to sit deep away from home and invite defeat was an insult to the hardy travelling supporters and for likes of Foster and myself, exiles living many miles from Stoke-on-Trent, the home matches were like going away too. But here the experience was different. Not always pretty, rarely in my view entertaining, the Britannia experience was a passionate one, and the willingness to compete and clinch hard working results proved enough for the majority of the fans. Foster captures this feeling within this book superbly, and it is this match day experience that sees his attitude to Pulis change. While I found Pulis’ negative style increasingly depressing, and had seen enough of it over the manager’s too long tenure to consider it predictable and less deserving of my time, Foster sees the unexpected competitiveness of the underdog team as unpredictable and increasingly engaging. Slowly Pulis earns his respect, and while there are deserved criticisms and cynicism along the way, Foster finds numbering the Premiership managers he’d actually swap for Pulis as very few. Football is about being there cheering on your side, the glory and flourish as Blanchflower said. Apart from Aston Villa and Arsenal at home there seemed little glory and flourish for me throughout the majority of the season, which resulted in my absence towards the tail end. It is a credit to Foster that his accounts of matches in the latter stages of season actually make me regret my decision to avoid them.

This book is a must for Stoke fans, whether Pulis is too your liking or not. Both can savour the fine and amusing account of Stoke’s first Premiership season, a tale of the unexpected, a memento of the roller coaster ride that led to unlikely survival. Both can perhaps re-evaluate their positions, a new grudging respect for the manager by the anti-Pulis camp, while his ardent fans might acquire an understanding and acceptance of justified criticism towards him. Those looking in from outside can enjoy a humorous and true depiction of Stoke City’s season far removed from the clichéd media and their lazy journalism. They might portray Stoke and supporting the club as simple and easy to summarise, but Foster demonstrates it is far more complex than that: the games, the heartbreak, the boredom, the frustration, the excitement, and the joy of supporting your team are skilfully detailed in this book. It is a story that any supporter could relate to. A story enhanced by the unlikely outcome.

What I’ve seen and listened to when Stoke play  has not altered my view of Pulis, the frustrations remain, the pleasures are not derived from his methodology but solely the result. When Tuncay signed there was some excitement at his coming to Stoke and it no doubt augmented further the ‘Pulis love” felt by the author, who described the Turkish international in the book as the second best player to grace the Britannia pitch that season. I might not fully agree with Foster’s change of heart towards the manager, but I heartily recommend this enjoyable and well written book. I would have given the book ten out of ten, if it wasn’t for Foster’s surprise admiration of BBC Radio Stoke’s John Acres, a man whose standing with me runs close to Pulis, and the author’s treacherous desertion from the anti-Pulis appreciation of the beautiful game in favour of graft, mediocrity, and single digit score lines – I’m still with Danny Blanchflower, but get yourself a copy any road.

Book details

And She Laughed No More: Stoke City’s (first) Premiership Adventure

Stephen Foster

ISBN  9781906021627

Short Books Limited

Review by Andrew Pointon

Book Review: 1966 and All That: My Autobiography (Geoff Hurst)



Many years on.

Dear Sir Geoff,

Firstly, I am very sorry for the long delay in writing. And secondly, please excuse my taking the liberty of writing to you when we have never met.

What has prompted me to write is your autobiography, since it made me think hard about football’s place in our lives. When I say ‘our’, I’m pretending to mean the lives of many people, as your World Cup winning hat-trick is becoming even more important and famous as the years go by, but I really mean mine and yours. I was 13 in July 1966 and was on a family holiday in Cornwall. We rushed to Perranporth in time for the Final and watched it with a group of strangers in the hotel’s lounge. By the end of the afternoon, we were all friends. It was a great occasion and I don’t think I would have ever forgotten it even if the goals had not been shown so many times since.

I don’t intend to bore you and I guess you have had tons of drunken old sots press your hand at functions, telling you all about what they were doing while you happened to be the centre of it all. So, no more of me – until the end.

What touched me deeply whilst reading your book was the negative affect it seemed to have on your family. There is more than a hint that your fame possibly led to your parents separating and then divorcing. As a boy, you idolised your dad. Why did he shun your child (and his granddaughter’s) wedding? What went wrong? It is touching to read of your puzzlement at it all because fame doesn’t seem to help us one bit with the age-old problem of human relationships, does it? For goodness’ sake, it wasn’t your fault that you were the key player in England’s finest TWO hours.

There must have been so much pain there which you hide with a skill typically English. Yet that pales in comparison with the tragic suicide of your younger brother, Robert. I see him in the holiday photograph, next to his big brother. How different the paths were for you two from then on.

It’s not fair and you take it, or appear to take it, in your stride, just the way you took Bobby Moore’s final pass and ran on for that goalbursting last kick of the match. I suppose the rewards of three lovely daughters, one of whom came back almost from the dead have helped to compensate in a way for what went wrong for your mum, dad and brother. That is part of the power of a real world which happens away from the television screen.

And even if some people thought it was all over, it has become clear that it was actually just beginning for us all. You say that on balance the good outweighs the bad and I think you are right. I was, like you, touched by the Englishman’s gesture in that Portuguese restaurant when he ignored you throughout the meal as he sat opposite you and your wife, then secretly paid for your wine as a thank you for the joy your hat-trick had given him. For all your pain, and with all your joy, he did it on our behalf.

Kindest regards,

Graeme Garvey

Book details

1966 and All That : My Autobiography

Geoff Hurst

ISBN  9780747241874

Headline Book Publishing

Book Review: Soccer’s Happy Wanderer by Don Revie

It’s amazing what a wander around old book shops can turn up. Whilst in Alnwick, Northumberland, I came across a slim volume titled “Soccer’s Happy Wanderer” written by Don Revie. I have to be honest and say that I knew nothing of his playing career and was surprised to learn of his details:

Years Club Appearances Goals
1944-1949 Leicester City 96 25
1949-1951 Hull City 76 12
1951-1956 Manchester City 162 37
1956-1958 Sunderland 64 15
1958-1962 Leeds United 76 11
TOTAL 474 100
International Career
1954-1955 England 6 4

This book isn’t as one might expect written at the end of his playing days, but in 1955 during his spell at Maine Road. One of the first things to say and stands out is that he book is very short and divided up into numerous chapters which are in many cases 2 to 3 pages long and rather frustratingly, left me wanting to know more. Overall, the language does have a dated feel about it, as illustrated when Revie talks about the “chaps”. But life was so much different then and so was the English language and you have to realise that this was written over half a century ago.

Interesting though is the use of the term “soccer”, in that here in England, we blame the USA for the use of the term. However, it appears in the title of this book, and is used consistently throughout in preference to the word football. So are our American cousins really to blame? The answer is “No”, as soccer is allegedly the abbreviation of Association Football. Anyway, back to the book…..

If I’m brutally honest it is hard to describe “Soccer’s Happy Wanderer” as a genuine autobiography, in that much of the tome is devoted to “…the Revie Plan…” (based on the principle of a deep lying centre forward) with some reference to Revie growing up and his career at Leicester and Hull, prior to Manchester City. What is remarkable for me is the tactical detail and diagrams contained in this volume. You’d be hard pushed to think of any autobiography by the current crop of Premier League “stars” that would show such insight and interest in the machinations of the game. However, is that because as a reading public we are not interested? Is it the publisher doesn’t think it would sell? Or do the players of today not have any view or input to team tactics? However, this book does show the seeds of Revie’s belief (expressed later as a manager) in the principles of the basics around ball control, accurate passing, teamwork and tactical know-how. The idea of being prepared through practice is evident in this book and provides an early pointer at the legendary dossiers that Revie used with great success at Elland Road.

Throughout the book, Don Revie shows himself as a very modest man and gives credit for any success to his team-mates and managers rather than himself. However, he must have been doing something right, in that the style of play introduced at Maine Road in the fifties carried Don’s name, in 1954/55 he was named “Footballer of the Year” and he also played for England.

There are however, times that you feel that Revie’s career was cursed (up to the time this book was written). Major injuries, the missing of the FA Cup Final in 1949, the 1955 FA Cup Final loss and regrets over some of the clubs he played for, are features of his story. And although as a player he won a FA Cup medal in 1956, the aspect of Revie being unlucky does have a symmetry when you look at some of the misfortune that Leeds United suffered under his leadership.

Away from the tactics, there are some nuggets of facts. For instance, Revie overcame some serious injuries, one of which nearly killed him. Whilst playing for Leicester City, he suffered a nose injury which caused severe blood loss and resulted in Revie missing the 1949 FA Cup Final. The blood loss was so bad that he ended up in hospital for life saving transfusions. Another little gem, is that Don nearly signed for Arsenal, but ultimately didn’t because he believed he wasn’t good enough for the Gunners. Lastly, one which seems very odd, some 55 years later, is his view about the use of substitutes and comes about as a result of Manchester City having to play the 1955 FA Cup Final with 10 men (due to injury) for the last hour of the game. Revie claims that he supported not having substitutes, as teams might abuse it by bringing on fresh players for people who weren’t even injured.

Reading Don’s words some 55 years on was quite strange in some ways. As generally with an autobiography the reader is sharing the full career with the writer, in this case I knew what life had in store for Don Revie. He had no idea what the future held. In 1955 he knew nothing of the seven more years of playing (at Sunderland and Leeds United FC) he had to come, the glory of his Elland Road years as manager, the controversy of his England and UAE travails and the tragedy of the illness that cruelly disabilitated and eventually killed him. A player and manager that was a visionary, but yet someone who didn’t get the credit he deserved. I’m intrigued to know why this is, I want to fill in the gaps from those innocent days of 1955 and life as “Soccer’s Happy Wanderer”.

Book details

Soccer’s Happy Wanderer

Don Revie

Pre ISBN (Published 1955)

Museum Press Limited

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Soccer’s Happy Wanderer