Book Review – Troy Deeney: Redemption: My Story

For me, a great autobiography gives a reader a really authentic, honest insight into the individual and helps them understand that person more. When the subject of the autobiography is particularly complex and nuanced and someone you haven’t necessarily been able to connect with or relate to before, yet you come away from the book with recognition and perspective, that’s all the more telling of a successful autobiography, and in that respect Troy Deeney’s Redemption excels. Deeney is one of those players that is perhaps largely misunderstood, divisive and dismissed for those without a Watford affiliation and, certainly, I would be guilty of being drawn into this narrative, so I was really intrigued to read this book and came away from it with genuine renewed understanding for Deeney.

Across his career, the Birmingham-born striker has developed, or perhaps rather been tagged with, a persona as something of a rogue, a bit of a pest on the pitch and potentially disruptive off it, but as with any antihero story, there is a backdrop to it all, and Deeney’s is more telling than most in helping readers understand the people, places and events that shaped him, not least a tough upbringing after his biological father abandoned him and his mother and a stepfather not without serious flaws entered his life. The circumstances of Deeney’s younger years are truly eye-opening and, I think, do a lot to unravel Deeney’s character and personality, his bravado, his resilience and his tenacity. He speaks without censor about the challenges and adversity of his upbringing but conversely also with love and appreciation and it’s clear that his early years were both troubling and seminal in shaping, and continuing to shape, him.

Indeed, a large proportion of the book is given over to his life pre-football and even when football becomes a greater part of his story, it almost feels secondary in many ways to everything else that has happened. Football autobiographies can sometimes get bogged down in the minutiae of training, matches, dressing-room tales, but having come from where he’s come from, having been through what he’s been through, Deeney’s story is as much as, if not more so, about the journey, rather than the destination. That’s not to say, football is not central to his life, his passion, but it is part of a much bigger and more significant narrative. In many ways, this only makes Deeney’s rise to the footballing heights all the more miraculous and impressive.

He is the first to admit that he wasn’t necessarily the fastest, most skilful, most talented of footballers, but what he lacked in these areas, he made up for in graft, determination and drive. His is very much a success story for the hard-working, the underdog, the strong-willed. There is obviously talent there too, though perhaps underappreciated, but Deeney’s is above all a journey that underpins the argument that hard work pays off, that good things don’t come easy, that you have to make your own luck. This commitment to hard work, to fight against the odds, to battle his way to the top are attributes that have come to define Deeney the footballer as a tenacious, tough, tireless competitor. Qualities that have perhaps often been used against him, especially by opposition fans, yet qualities nonetheless that should be valued, and qualities that clearly stem from a tough start.

Deeney may be a menace on the pitch, he may antagonise and rile up defenders and fans alike, but being on the pitch, working hard to get there, to prove himself, to improve himself, to rise up from the challenges of his birthplace, of his upbringing, is a success story that shouldn’t be underestimated. He has his flaws, don’t we all, but what is so impressive is that he hasn’t allowed them to hold him back. If anything, he has channelled them, made the most of his attributes and compensated through hard work and determination. He refused to be defined by disadvantage, he refused to take the easy route, and that takes incredible conviction and dedication. It is easy to see that Deeney’s story could have been a very different one, if not for football and if not for his dedication to the game, and whether you love him or loathe him, reading his story, knowing his journey, you can’t take away how far he’s come and how much work that’s taken.

Jade Craddock

(Publisher: Cassell. September 2021. Hardcover: 304 pages)


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Book Review: Your Show by Ashley Hickson-Lovence

“You imagine most people have forgotten about you already. The impact you had. Forgotten the games you refereed, the big names you kept under control and, on occasion, man-handled.”

Newcastle fans, Alan Shearer and Kevin Keegan aside, it may well be the case that Uriah Rennie may not have a prominent place in most football fans’ psyches, but aside from the universally admired Pierluigi Collina, few referees perhaps do – unless it’s for the wrong reasons. Yet, Rennie is the subject chosen by Ashley Hickson-Lovence for a fictionalised depiction of his life in Your Show and far from being an odd or miscellaneous choice, Rennie is perhaps one of the most important, ground-breaking and significant people in the history of the game – the Premier League’s first and only black referee.

The job of a referee is a largely thankless task; nobody wants to be a ref, the old adage goes. Whatever happens, the man or woman in the middle is always going to disappoint someone: if not the home fans, the away fans, if not one manager, the other, if not one player, another. Yet football wouldn’t exist without them (unless someone invents a fully-automated post-human VAR system, which, quite frankly, is the stuff of dystopian nightmares), and whilst it’s easy to pick apart their errors and call out their mistakes, to lambast their decisions and fling judgements their way, the job of a referee is a difficult one that often goes unappreciated. As with so much these days, we are quick to remember and point out the bad, but unwilling to flag (pun intended) the good. There’s also an irony in that when a referee does a good job, he’s all the more inconspicuous, it’s only when one is deemed to have made a poor decision (or decisions) that he becomes prominent. So, no wonder, we ask ourselves who wants this job. But amongst the annals of football history, alongside the names of clubs such as Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, of players such as Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry and Vincent Kompany, managers such as Sir Alex Ferguson, Bobby Robson and Jurgen Klopp, sits the name of Uriah Rennie, referee. It’s not a bad place to find oneself, despite the ignominy that goes with the turf. Neither, too, is stepping out at Wembley, Villa Park, Elland Road, keeping pace with Michael Owen, standing up to Roy Keane or watching Wayne Rooney make his debut, all of which Uriah Rennie can claim on his CV under the seemingly inglorious title referee. Hmm, who wants to be a referee?

It’s a long-standing taunt that referees are those who couldn’t play football, who were picked last in the playground, but Ashley Hickson-Lovence’s fictional account of Uriah Rennie’s story takes readers back to the very start, depicting a naturally gifted, all-round athlete, good at football, but who was captivated by the art of refereeing, a man who in his career at the top of the game would be cited as ‘the fittest referee we have ever seen on the national and world scene’. It’s a reminder of the physical demands on officials at the top level, and what this book does incredibly well is to make readers see refereeing through fresh eyes. Yes, referees are human and make mistakes, yes, decisions are subjective, but there is a skill, an art, a practice to refereeing. It’s not just a case of flashing a card, blowing a whistle and having a word, it’s about positioning, premeditating, peacekeeping. It’s not just about keeping up with some of the fittest athletes in the world for 90 minutes, but making sure you’re in the right place at the right time to make the best decisions for those 90 minutes. It’s not just about cautioning players for taking off a shirt in exuberance, it’s about upholding the laws of the game. And the book really puts the reader in the ref’s boots and gives an insight into this little-understood yet much-maligned world.

The depiction of Uriah is a rounded one; it is clear that Rennie, in Hickson-Lovence’s portrait, is ambitious and hungry to make his mark, but it’s equally as clear that he’s fair and honest, hard-working and disciplined. There is a very single-minded, pragmatic feel to the book, which is in keeping with the image of Uriah the referee throughout, but the finale especially goes behind this facade and uncovers more of the man – a man who is private, gracious, community-minded and generous. It is hard not to admire, respect and relate to Uriah Rennie in Hickson-Lovence’s depiction, although the emphasis on Newcastle United and Rennie’s perhaps unhealthy affiliation with them may not do much to temper Magpies fans. I found myself, though, really feeling for Rennie in his demotion, his struggles with injury and being overlooked for the biggest of matches and his failed FA Cup dream. Again, it’s a reminder that while playing in the top flight, stepping out for finals and gracing the world stage is a dream of football players, it’s also a dream for referees too, and far fewer make it, in reality. Like a footballer’s career, life at the top is short-lived, if lived at all, by the majority of referees and it doesn’t come with the perks or glamour of the stars. Referees fade into oblivion or remain in ignominy, but few, if any, are remembered and celebrated. Uriah Rennie’s rise to the top, then, is an achievement in itself, and one that the book celebrates. However, there is also no escaping the fact that Rennie remains the only black referee to have officiated in the Premier League. Another sad testimony to how little the game and society have progressed despite the continued lip service to do so.

Lovence-Hickson’s book is a real breath of fresh air, not just in his chosen subject matter – who wants to be a referee? – but in its style and delivery too, which is short, sharp, punchy and poetic – echoing both the pace and passion of the beautiful game. And there is no denying that the book gives pause for thought, about the man or woman in the middle. It’s so easy for them to become the dehumanised antagonist, the one at whom the finger is pointed, blame is attributed, vitriol is flung, but they’re just people doing their job, people who’ve worked hard to get to where they are and who have pride and professionalism. It’s easy to sit on the side-lines and pick fault, but it’s not so easy to stand in the middle and make the important decisions.

Who wants to be a referee? Those who have the determination and discipline to reach the top, those who have the courage and conviction to make the hard decisions, and yes, those who perhaps have a little bit of ego and eagerness to put some of the biggest characters in the world in their place. Uriah Rennie, Ashley Hickson-Lovence’s book suggests, was such a man, and he and those who’ve gone before him and those who follow in his footsteps should not be so easily dismissed or forgotten. After all, love them or loathe them at times, without them, a football match simply couldn’t be played. So the next time, a ref makes a clanger, just serenely ask yourself who wants to be a referee… unless, of course, it’s against your team!

Jade Craddock


(Publisher: Faber & Faber. April 2022, Hardcover: 336 pages)


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Book Review – Deadline by Erkut Sogut

Erkut Sogut is a football agent with Mesut Ozil (currently at Fenerbahce), Kieran Gibbs (formerly of Arsenal but now with Inter Miami CF) and Kerem Akturkoglu (playing at Galatasaray) amongst his clients. He has used his knowledge of the game and the ‘world’ of football agents to produce a football crime thriller titled Deadline.

The premise as the book title suggests, focuses on events around transfer deadline day, with two agents, Ander Anaia and David Miller both looking to make a major deal happen. For Anaia this would mean him obtaining his much coveted seat at ‘The Table’ a secret group of super agents whose sphere of influence goes beyond the football pitch into a murky world of gangland and criminal activities. Meanwhile for Miller it would be his first major deal and one that would threaten to scupper that of Anaia.

Throughout the book and as the events reach a climax on deadline day, Sogut uses all the usual plot devices typically found within the crime thriller genre to tell the story. And to that end it does its job as far as it goes. Overall the impression is that Deadline is as an easy read, and one that is ideal material for taking on holiday.

Without spoiling the ending, some plotlines reach a conclusion, however the conclusion also hints at another book picking up from Deadline. If this is to be the case, then any follow-up book needs much more vigorous and thorough proofread, as the number of typos within Sogut’s debut novel proved an irritation that could so easily have been avoided.

(Publisher: CA Publishing House Ltd. February 2022. Paperback: 285 pages)


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Book Review – Towering Tales & a Ripping Yarn: Yorkshire Football’s Grassroots Legends by Steven Penny

This is not Steven Penny’s first book looking at football in Yorkshire, as he took a look at the soccer scene in the White Rose county with, Soap Stars and Burst Bubbles, featuring the 2002/03 season. Penny had hoped to revisit many of the Clubs featured in that book, but COVID put pay to that as football at non-league level was effectively shut down, with the 2019/20 and 2020/21 campaigns in many divisions made ‘null and void’. As a result the author had to rethink his plans as the country and football, stopped and started, around the various lockdowns.

What Penny has produced is a record of the game as it learned to live with the restrictions that COVID brought. This saw socially distanced sitting and standing, temperature checks for players, officials and spectators, e-tickets, face masks, hand sanitiser stations and in some instances playing behind closed doors the new ‘normal’. It seems strange some two years on since the first lockdown that the game and indeed life in general has pretty much returned to as before, therefore this book is a good reminder of the hoops that needed to jumped through for players and fans alike to get their football fix.

As with Soap Stars and Burst Bubbles, Penny uses a diary format to record each game, with details about the Clubs taking part, some interesting associated storis about past players and some brief match details. In terms of the time-line, August 2020 marks the starting point with chapters through to December 2020 before lockdown and a resumption of games in April 2021 through to June 2021. Whereas Penny focused on the steps taking in the Northern Premier League, Northern Counties East League and the like in 2002/03, in Towering Tales & a Ripping Yarn, he has to step down even further in the English football pyramid, where COVID restrictions allowed the playing of games in non-enclosed ground. As a result readers are introduced to the grassroots levels of the Yorkshire Christian League, Humber Premier League and Doncaster Saturday League amongst others, as well as the cup competitions of the Huddersfield League and Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior League.

Once again Penny finds points of interest at all the games he attends, making links between the fixtures he attends and tales of ex-players such as England World Cup winner Gordon Banks and Manchester United legend Dennis Law, as well as renowned musician Paul Heaton and even Michael Palin from the classic Ripping Yarns tale of Golden Gordon shown on the BBC in 1979. This is another winner from Penny to follow-up on the success of Soap Stars and Burst Bubbles, taking readers back to a time, we hope we don’t have to endure again.

(Publisher: Victor Publishing. January 2022. Paperback: 248 pages)


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Book Review – LS92 by Billy Morris

What can you say about a book that you read cover to cover in one session? There’s almost no higher praise than that.

LS92 the sequel to Bournemouth 90 is simply gripping from start to finish.

This follow-up from Billy Morris picks up two-years after events down on the south coast when Leeds United clinched promotion from the old Second Division. Readers are reacquainted with many of the central characters from the first book as the fall-out from events at Bournemouth resurface.

As with the first instalment from Morris, LS92 has both fictional and non-fictional elements in a compressed timeline which contributes to the books urgency and immediacy. In terms of the fictional storyline this centres on the Leeds underworld and the gangland warfare whilst the non-fictional follows Leeds United attempts to clinch the League Championship. And as the two worlds collide there are cameo appearances from Eric Cantona and another real-life person who readers of a certain age will be able to identify.

Morris uses the same (and successful) formula of Bournemouth 90 with the wonderful depiction of Leeds city centre venues and landmarks that have been lost in recent years, brought to life with his dark, grim and gritty language.

As history tell us, Leeds United would eventually clinch the title in a highly dramatic run-in, completing the journey from the old Second Division on that Bank Holiday day in Bournemouth back in 1990. Is there a similar conclusion for central character Neil Yardsley? That is for readers to discover in this fast-paced must read, “from a time when it was still grim up north.”

(Publisher: Independently published. January 2022. Paperback: 176 pages)

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Book Review – 101 Manchester City Matchworn Shirts: The Players – The Matches – The Stories Behind the Shirts by Mark McCarthy

Football shirt collecting seems to have grown in popularity in recent years with this reflected in the  number of books recently published around the subject. These have included amongst other, The Arsenal Shirt: The history of the iconic Gunners jersey told through an extraordinary collection of match worn shirts, The Spurs Shirt The Official Book History of the Tottenham Hotspur Jersey, and The Leeds United Collection: A History of the Club’s Kits. This has been added to by Mark McCarthy’s 101 Manchester City Matchworn Shirts: The Players – The Matches – The Stories Behind the Shirts.

Whereas the Arsenal, Spurs and Leeds United editions are in a large format (i.e. what is commonly known as coffee-table book size), this Manchester City offering is A5 in size. What it means is that although all the books have similar information, such as images and description about the shirt, the larger versions offer more detailed text for readers. So whilst this might be a ‘nice to have’ it certainly shouldn’t dissuade any potential buyers wanting to purchase the book.

Mark McCarthy began his interest in football as a nine-year-old in 1983 after a visit to his grandfather’s house, when he was told that his cousin Mick McCarthy was joining Manchester City. Mark’s intention was to one day own one of Mick’s City shirts, however, by 2021 when this book was published the collection had grown to over 400 original matchworn or issued shirts.

This vast array of shirts is whittled down to 101 in the book, which range from a 1926 FA Cup Final shirt to a Champions League top from 2020/21. The selection is dominated by shirts from the 1980s onwards, reflecting both the modern trend for new shirts being released year on year and the fact that prior to that kits were recycled through the first-team, reserves etc. until they ultimately fell apart and were thrown away.

Whilst fans from the blue half of Manchester will pore over each and every shirt, for neutrals (and perhaps indeed for collectors themselves) the interest lies in those rare and quirky shirts which have a story to tell. As a result amongst the pages of the book there is an unused and unnumbered spare long-sleeved shirts from the 1981 FA Cup Final, a Nicolas Anelka shirt from the last Manchester ‘derby’ at Maine Road and a 1953 one-off top made from a shiny, silky material (which was supposed to help players see each other under floodlights) worn in friendly against Hearts. It was good also to see that goalkeepers were well represented within the book, with classic plain green shirts from Joe Corrigan included, all the way through to the luminous colours favoured by modern day incumbents such as Ederson.

This is a great addition to the growing list of titles about football kits and shirts in particular, which is undoubtedly aimed at City supporters, but will appeal to anyone interested in shirts and their history.

(Publisher: Conker Editions Ltd. October 2021. Paperback: 192 pages)


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Book Review – Fit and Proper People: The Lies and Fall of OWNAFC by Martin Calladine and James Cave

With the advent of the Premier League in England from the 1992/93 season, football was changed forever. This didn’t just relate to events on the pitch, as overtime players and coaches from abroad came in and brought with them better dietary habits, different training methods and tactical knowhow. Off the pitch with the league awash with Sky’s TV revenue and sponsors willing to be associated with this ‘Whole New Ball Game’, business people from across the globe wanted a piece of the action. Suddenly it wasn’t enough to be a millionaire owner to compete, with the result that now Premier League clubs are the possession of billionaires. As a result many fans more than ever feel distant and without influence from the club they support.

And it is against this background that there have been attempts down the years to create a different type of ownership – one where fans own the club, make the decisions, and do the hiring and firing. The first real scheme of this type to hit the headlines saw MyFootballClub (MYFC) launch in 2007 promising on-line fans the chance to “own the club, pick the team”. By 2008 with sufficient interest and financial support MYFC bought a 75% controlling interest in Ebbsfleet United. It was to last until 2013, as with the club in financial trouble the remaining 1,300 MCF members (down from a peak of 32,000) voted in favour of handing two thirds of their shares to the Fleet Trust, and the other third to one of the club’s major shareholders. KEH Sports Ltd, a group of Kuwaiti investors.

In an article in The Guardian in 2017, Will Brook, who was the man behind MYFC, reflected that, “I never want to call it a failure. It had a bit of everything really – positive and negative. But I suppose the fact that it’s not still going means it didn’t achieve its ultimate aim. In some ways I think we might have been ten years too early. Had this been happening now, as a fresh idea, I think we’d have a lot more members simply because of the way social media works.”

Picking up on Brook’s point about MYFC not working partly because of social media limitations at the time, OWNAFC was an app launched in 2019 aimed at capturing on-line fans offering once again the chance to own and run a football club. Hitting the headlines after a BBC Sport on-line article on 28 February 2019, OWNAFC Stuart Harvey acknowledged the MYFC scheme mirroring Brook’s view of two years earlier, “the difference is theirs (MYFC) was 10 years too early. It was before iPhones became popular, before apps, and they were not using the technology we have today.”

Excited by this prospect users paid £99 or a later point £49, with founder Harvey claiming 3,500 sign-ups. However, just 18 days after the launch story by the BBC, the same broadcaster put out an on-line story that many who had invested were asking for refunds. How could such a turnaround occur in such a short space of time?

Martin Calladine and James Cave take on investigating how this happened in their book, Fit and Proper People: The Lies and Fall of OWNAFC. The research carried out by the pair is highly impressive, following the saga from launch to the collapse of OWNAFC, with the failed takeover of Hednesford Town along the way. The pair are single-mindedly tenacious in their attempts to discover the truth about founder Harvey and a scheme which ultimately left many of those that invested out of pocket. The story is more shocking given that both Calladine and Cave and their respective families suffered intimidation in looking to establish the realities of the claims of OWNAFC.

However, the authors also take on a wider remit within the book as they highlight the flimsiness of the Football ‘fit and proper person test’ and look at examples in recent years at clubs such as Bury FC, Chesterfield and Wigan Athletic who have suffered owner mismanagement. As a balance to the sorry tales of mishandling also included is a look at alternative models such as AFC Wimbledon, a supporter-owned club, who have shown there is an alternative in achieving success whilst ensuring engagement with both fans and the local community.

The book is a must read for anyone interested in the running of our National Game, and in truth does not paint a pretty picture of the majority who run it or indeed those who own our Clubs. Calladine and Cave must be commended for their work in the face of intimidation to tell the story of OWNAFC and as they conclude, if at a point down the line there is another way for fans to own a club, that it is done in the right way. Only time will tell.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. January 2022. Paperback: 352 pages)


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Book Review: The Uncomfortable Truth About Racism by John Barnes

Growing up in the nineties and coming to football in the new millennium, I had the impression – naively – that racism in the beautiful game was a thing of the past, that it was consigned to an era of hooligans and hostility and would nary tarnish the sport again. How wrong, how ignorant, I was. Two decades into that new millennium and football – and society – is still marred by disgusting instances of racism. Who can forget the way three of England’s heroes of summer 2021 were racially vilified after defeat to Italy on penalties in the Euros? When the vitriol spewed out, for many it was shocking; but, sadly, for many others, there was also a degree of inevitability. The real questions over age, experience and game time which should have been central to the analysis of that penalty defeat, as well as a celebration of England’s best tournament since 1966 which should have rounded off the Euros, were lost to racist abuse and discrimination that proved just how endemic racism is in society and, consequently, football. It has never gone away, as John Barnes points out in his book The Uncomfortable Truth About Racism as he spotlights these uncomfortable truths and debunks myths about progress and equality.

Books by footballers tend to be in a certain vein: autobiographies discussing their life in and around the game. Whilst some books in recent times have begun to tackle more difficult subjects and footballers have also begun to speak out more on social and welfare issues, Barnes’ book represents a significant departure. He may be a former footballer – and one of the best of all time for England and Liverpool – and this book may touch on football, but this is a book of social and political commentary by a man who has experienced and understands racism first-hand. It is hard-hitting, frank and, as the title suggests, uncomfortable, as Barnes really gets to grips with and tackles one of the biggest social problems in history. Anyone expecting a football-focused commentary or reflection specifically on racism in football will find something rather different as Barnes offers a much more nuanced perspective, looking at football not as the problem but rather probing instead the environment and society that shapes those that go on to racially abuse others, be it in football stadiums, in the supermarket or any other place or space. Indeed, Barnes scrutinises the social and political roots that have fixed discrimination firmly into society, making racism both endemic and ingrained and superficial efforts to challenge it largely fruitless.

Barnes offers a thoroughly thought-provoking and engaging perspective and readers will certainly be made to question, challenge and confront their own beliefs and opinions. Even when there may be stances the reader takes issue with, Barnes, to borrow his own phrase, does not shy away from ‘putting his head above the parapet’. Nor does he avoid taking the counterargument in some existing debates. He confronts the issue of racism head on and in doing so seeks to ‘open up the discussion’. And there are without doubt some really interesting, thoughtful and challenging points throughout that force the reader to engage. Indeed, I found myself thinking a lot about the idea of social conditioning and unconscious bias and querying the role of the individual, in as much as whilst society may shape and condition a person, there comes a point when each person knows right from and wrong and has the power to shape themselves. There are no quick and simple answers to the questions posed in this book or, indeed, the challenge of racism, but what the book does is continue the discussion and engage others.

Interestingly, at one point in the book, Barnes writes, ‘there are three types of people: people who are racists and know it, people who are racist but don’t know or think they are… and people who aren’t racist at all… The people who belong to the first group don’t care and won’t suddenly have an epiphany to stop being racist… the people in the second group don’t actually think they’re racist so they feel it doesn’t apply to them… Finally the people in the third group don’t need to change as they have no racial bias to start with… so overall nothing changes.’ It’s a somewhat depressing thought that those people who would most benefit from this book are those who are the least likely to be changed by it; but there is no question that people who do read it will benefit from doing so. Will this book end racism? No. That goes beyond the capability of any single book, any single person or any single reform. But can it play a part in changing the perceptions of society? Absolutely. Racism has no place in society and no place in our beautiful game and hopefully one day the colour of a player’s shirt will be the only colour that matters.

(Publisher: Headline. October 2021. Hardcover: 320 pages)


Jade Craddock


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Book Review – Golazzo: The Football Italia Years by Jonathan Grade

When you think about the movers and shakers in UK sports broadcasting over the years, Channel 4 might not necessarily be the first name that comes to mind. However, this was the station that brought coverage of the NFL to these shores, laying the foundations of a generation that has seen the game gain a real foothold in this country as well as broadcasting sumo wrestling from Japan and kabaddi from India which both enjoyed cult followings. A more familiar sport though hit the screens via Channel 4 when they picked up the live television rights to Italy’s top football division Serie A in the early 1990s. The output consisted of two programmes, Gazzetta Football Italia on Saturday mornings, which contained the highlights of the previous week’s matches and a piece on Italian culture and Sunday afternoon live games (although this came to change in later years).

Channel 4’s coverage began in the 1992/93 season and continued until 2001/02. In that initial season, England had three internationals playing in Serie A, Paul Gascoigne (Lazio), David Platt (Juventus) and Des Walker (Sampdoria) providing interest for fans of the Three Lions. However, there was so much more to Italy’s top division, as during this period it was considered the best league in the World boasting some of the finest players on the planet, at a time when Italian teams dominated the European Club competitions. Allied to quality on the pitch, Channel 4 had a superb team fronting and commentating including the legendary Kenneth Wolstenholme, Peter Brackley and James Richardson. Behind the scenes in the production of the programmes, Jonathan Grade worked and progressed from being a runner to Series Editor and in Golazzo: The Football Italia Years he looks back on his time involved with the shows.

The back cover of the book promises, “a nostalgic look back with some stories from behind the scenes”. However, the reality is that overall it fails to deliver. What readers get over the first nine chapters is essentially a retelling of each of the season’s that Channel 4 covered Serie A. It isn’t until Chapter 10 and Grade’s reflections and tributes to Wolstenholme, Brackley and Programme Director Tim Docherty that readers get a feel for those involved and stories on and off screen. James Richardson on the shows was known as a charismatic and witty presenter, yet the anecdotes about him are few and far between.

It is obvious that the Football Italia years were the best of his working life and as Grade details within the book, it was his “dream job”. However, ultimately the enjoyment and memories Grade had don’t fully translate within the pages of Golazzo: The Football Italia Years.

(Publisher: Independently published. November 2020. Paperback: 177 pages)


Jonathan Grade is a freelance television producer, who spent the best part of a decade working on Channel 4’s Gazzetta Football Italia and live Football Italia programmes from 1993 until 2002 – the last two of which as Series Editor.


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Book Review – The World at Your Feet: One Man’s Search for the Soul of the Beautiful Game by Tim Hartley

There is within the book a chapter titled, The Football Family, in which the author takes a tongue in cheek look at the range of fans, from the armchair variety concerned only with the Premier League and Champions League to those whose passion is seeking out the most obscure leagues, games and teams from around the globe. As Hartley says, “there’s no single kind of football supporter.”

And indeed through the 24 chapters of this eminently enjoyable and thought-provoking book, Hartley shows himself to be a fan of many facets. From the off readers get to understand how he came to be hooked on the game whilst attending the Wales v Yugoslavia European Championship Quarter-Final game in 1976, so beginning his love affair with the Welsh national team. Following the Y Dreigiau (The Dragons) has seen the author travel the world, sharing the high and lows with fellow supporters and his son Chester, even pulling on the red shirt as part of the Wales Supporters team. Whilst Hartley is a fixture at home and away with the national team, his club allegiance is with Cardiff City, following the Bluebirds as they moved from their spiritual home of Ninian Park to the Cardiff City Stadium. Hartley is no glory hunter, he understands what it is to be a fan – the hurt of defeat and the unbridled euphoria of victory. This is a man who has done the 92 and reflects on the completion of it at Barnet (when they were in the EFL) in the chapter Doing the 92.

He is also a supporter with a political and social conscience and with a story to tell, using a reportage style within the various chapters to explore with honesty narratives that lie just below the surface. So amongst the pages, readers will read how football is used as rehabilitation for inmates at HMP Prescoed in 90 Minutes of Freedom, discover how unification in Germany did no favours for clubs in the East in, One Game, Two Nations and how the political situation impacts the experience of watching football in North Korea and Hong Kong in the chapters, Kicking Off in North Korea and Red Star Over Hong Kong respectively. Hartley’s honesty in relaying his experiences is refreshing and his chapter on the 2014 World Cup Bem-vindo Ao Brasil (Welcome to Brazil) is a very telling one on FIFA and the legacy of tournaments such as this and others such as the African Cup of Nations (see chapter 16, First Clear The Goats).

This is an excellent must-read for anyone interested in the game and it is neatly rounded of with an Epilogue in which Hartley demonstrates his understanding as a journalist that “football is part of the globalised entertainment network” but “there is still much good…from bringing communities together and creating friendships to rehabilitating prisoners.” However, his final word is as a fan in that despite all that maybe wrong with the game and the people that run it, “if it weren’t for our support they wouldn’t exist. It’s we who put them there no matter how big they are.”

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. August 2021. Paperback: 224 pages)

Tim Hartley is a journalist, broadcaster and author. He is a former vice chair of Supporters Direct and the Cardiff City Supporters’ Trust and a director of the Wales Football Trust. He is the author of Kicking off in North Korea – Friendship and Football in Foreign Lands and edited Merci Cymru  


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