Sometimes, after a night match, once the crowds and players have gone and the floodlights snap off, they come out once more: swaying crowds on the terraces looking on expectantly, silently applauding at long-gone players in oversized shirts and shorts, passing and running, chasing the ball across the pitch. People, for whom it meant just as much as it does to us today. They dissolve back into darkness. Then the nightwatchman starts on his rounds.

The nightwatchman (or woman) guards not just the football ground but also the soul of the club that is at the heart of the town and has done so for a century or more. They preserve and tell the stories that make the club more than just a football team on the road to nowhere: stories of deaths and births, of tragedy and joy echoing down the years – the ghosts of the past that will never leave this sacred place. Charlie Truckle’s tenure is coming to an end – what will happen to the Town’s legacy then?

(Publisher: 1889 Books. October 2023. Paperback: 216 pages)


Buy the book here: The Ghosts of Inchmery Road


At the end of Thacker’s previous novel – The Games People Play – life had given aspiring manager Jon Moreton a good kicking and he was heading for the plane home.

He had failed to get his Spanish club, CD Retama, promoted and they looked set to fold. Sophia, his girlfriend/assistant coach, had left him, thinking he had conspired in the club’s demise.

As for his one-time friend Billy Swan, he was even more rock bottom, having succumbed to blackmail and sold out his mates.

In this much-anticipated sequel, will things take a turn for the better for Moreton? Will he cope back in England without Sophia? Will Swan turn up again like a bad penny? Has the Spain chapter of his life closed, or can anything be salvaged?

Expect a few twists in the tale, a few more jinking runs into the box and last-ditch, winning goals. It’s A Whole New Ball Game.

(Publisher: 1889 Books. November 2021. Paperback: 246 pages)


Jon Moreton would have made it to the top-flight as a player: he had the mentality and ability, but his body let him down.

An old friend Charlie Broome comes to the rescue and gives him a break: managing the struggling Spanish amateur league side CD Retama.

Feathers are ruffled: he is mistrusted by the players and stand-in coach, Sophia Garrigues. Can he adapt to life in Spain and turn things around?

Plenty of twists and turns through the season in this tale of football, love, and betrayal.

Read our review here: Book Review: Th (

(Publisher: 1889 Books. October 2020. Paperback: 252 pages)



Mat Guy, author of Barcelona to Buckie Thistle, Minnows United: Adventures at the Fringes of the Beautiful Game, and Another Bloody Saturday, turns his pen to fiction in one of the best novels with a football theme you’ll read.

The story threads of four main characters are deftly woven together, and it is a boat – the Stanley B – itself a survivor, at the centre. They all share a love of the game and its power as a diversion from the harsher realities of life.

Forget Fever Pitch, The Lives of Stanley B gets to the heart of why football matters – written by an author who properly understands the game.

Read our review here: Book Review: The Lives of Stanley (

(Publisher: 1889 Books. November 2021. Paperback: 248 pages)

Book Review: The Lives of Stanley B by Mat Guy

Mat Guy is no stranger to the world of football writing having brought readers three titles in Barcelona to Buckie Thistle: Exploring Football’s Roads Less Travelled, Minnows United: Adventures at the fringes of the beautiful game and Another Bloody Saturday. These are non-fiction and focus on Guy’s travel at home and abroad recalling tales from lesser known clubs and grounds, exploring what they means to their fans and their communities. The Lives of Stanley B sees Guy take a different direction in writing a fictional novel, which whilst does not solely focus on football, has it at the heart of the book.

The story begins with a journalist at a game amongst his fellow scribes as they try to answer the perennial question, ‘Who was the best footballer you have ever seen play?’ The journo is surprised by his own answer as he comes up with a left-back, Tom Maskell who played merely a handful of games in the old Fourth Division. So begins the lead into the first of four major plotlines as the journalist investigates what happened to the player. In doing so, readers are regaled with the journalists boyhood introduction to the game in a path well known by fans, with the thrill, sights and sounds of their first game, the thirst for facts and figures from programmes and newspaper alike, warmly drawn by Guy. The author wonderfully portrays how with the passing of time this experience changes, with attending reserve games with a handful of ‘characters’ transitioning into those once a year visits for Christmas and New Year games, via being a regular season-ticket holder. In the search for Tom Maskell the journalist finds himself on the south coast of Devon and Cornwall where Maskell played in the local leagues before his time in the professional game.

Here readers are introduced to Scot, Gordie Macrae in the second major story, who despite his years, ferries people around the lakes, and like Maskell had a brief flirtation with the professional game in his youth. Gordie’s tale though is not of a successful career, instead it is one ended by injury with significant consequences for him and his family. This part of the book sees the introduction of Stanley B and link into the third narrative with the story of Maisie Buchanan. Her tale is of a strong determined woman who raises and provides for her son singlehandedly, experiencing along the way the trauma of the Second World War, as the port of Southampton is bombarded by the Germans. Maisie’s son is a decent enough footballer to play for the South Coast club in the games played during the war, with the football theme continuing after the war, as Maisie takes in games in and around Cumbria whilst in the North West. The last major narrator sees the story of Eilish, a woman with memories of sitting in the stands watching her father play football, in search of her past.

Throughout the book Guy’s writing has a poetic quality, with his depictions of the lakes and nature in general, painting wonderful pictures for the readers and healing, calming influences on the characters as they experience loss and seek resolution and redemption. However, football plays its part too. Guy’s obvious knowledge and love of the beautiful game evident in his depiction of football at all levels and echoing its importance in the lives of the central characters. The descriptions of the ritual of attending games are incredibly authentic as is the recognition by Guy that being absorbed by the action on the pitch can provide respite from the pressures of everyday life.

Life is indeed a journey and Guy uses football as the metaphor in Stanley B to wonderfully travel it.

(Publisher: 1889 Books. November 2021. Paperback: 248 pages)


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Book Review: The Games People Play by Gary Thacker

Gary Thacker is a recognised football writer with his own website and has contributed to and been involved with a number of websites, podcasts, newspapers and magazines. In addition he has written two books, I Don’t Even Smoke! – A brief history of life, love and football through blue-tinted glasses. Oh yes, and a cigar (published 2016) and Cheers, Tears and Jeers: A History of England and the World Cup (published 2018). His latest book, The Games People Play Paperback, is his first venture into fiction.

The central character is Jon Moreton, a young player who having turned professional, has his career cut short by a serious injury. Still wanting to be involved in the game that is his passion, he takes his coaching qualifications and after working his way up to being in charge of the Development Squad at his former club, finds himself out of work when the owner sells to a foreign investor. Jon though is then offered the chance to manage abroad with a lower league Spanish team, CD Retama. Here the Englishman faces the challenges of not speaking the language and having to win over the trust of a young and inexperienced squad and their female coach, Sophia Garringues, as Jon attempts to get his charges promoted.

Gary Thacker’s football knowledge and his writing ability are not in doubt in this book, which its PR claims contains, “plenty of twists and turns…in this tale of football, love and betrayal”. Indeed, the authors understanding of football in areas such as the intricacies of the Spanish football pyramid, the UEFA coaching badges and qualifications, and his description and detail relating to the club on and off the pitch and indeed the playing of the game, give this book an authentic feel.

Part of the mark of a good book is knowing how much and when to use such detail and requires an understanding of the reader. Given this book attempts to include a football plotline, a love interest and a plot twist, for me as a reader the conclusion is that in covering all this ground, I’m left not knowing who the author is actually appealing to in terms of a target audience.

Pace wise, the story gathers momentum as the football season reaches its conclusion, with the final chapter (which shares it name with the title of the book, and its double meaning), providing the climax, in a finish which does provide a gripping finale.

(1889 Books. October 2020. Paperback 252 pages)


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