MOMENTS THAT COULD HAVE CHANGED FOOTBALL FOREVER. WHAT IF? by Peter Prickett & Peter Thornton

Moments That Could Have Changed Football Forever is a detailed study of the ‘what-if’ moments that have shaped football and what the alternative could have been.

The bounce of a ball, an ill-timed injury or a contentious decision are just some of the moments that could have changed football forever. Every fan of every club or country has a ‘what if’ moment that they know could have brought their team glory had things turned out differently. Some of these moments have proved unforgettable, some have become iconic and others have changed the very nature of the game itself.

The knock-on effect of a shot at goal scored or missed can have resounding consequences that are only realised later. This book explores those effects impartially and objectively, through research, context and coaching insight.

Each moment has been chosen to guarantee discussion and debate among fans, who will of course have their own opinions about what would have happened. There are even fantasy match-ups between the great teams of different eras.

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

 

Buy the book here: What if?

OVER THE LINE: A HISTORY OF THE ENGLAND V GERMANY FOOTBALL RIVALRY by Alexander M Gross

The history of the fierce football rivalry between England and Germany is encapsulated in a single moment – Geoff Hurst’s extra-time shot off the crossbar in the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final and the decision of an infamous Russian linesman to award a goal.

It is a rivalry that now spans more than 90 years since the first official match between the two nations.

For the English, a series of high-profile defeats at major tournaments saw Germany become the Angstgegner (Nemesis) on the field, as well as an enduring obsession for the national press.

For Germans, Wembley still represents the home of football, where the memories of 1966 have been supplanted by numerous successes and the appropriation of the English anthem ‘football’s coming home’.

The rivalry has long crossed the lines of the football field, with the two nations at various moments forced to admire and learn from each other, and with football encounters between England and Germany repeatedly marking important developments in a unique and ever-changing political and cultural relationship.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. September 2022. Hardcover: 240 pages)

COCKER HOOP: THE BIOGRAPHY OF LES COCKER, KEY MAN FOR RAMSEY AND REVIE by Robert Endeacott and Dave Cocker

Cocker Hoop is the authorised biography of football coaching great Les Cocker. A tenacious and resilient forward, Cocker played for two clubs: Stockport County (196 games, 48 goals) and Accrington Stanley (130 games, 50 goals) before retiring in 1958 to move into coaching.

As one of the first recipients of full coaching badges at England’s Lilleshall, he established himself as a supreme trainer and coach for Leeds United and helped build a famous footballing dynasty alongside Don Revie. His rising reputation attracted the FA’s attention, and Cocker helped the England team achieve their pinnacle success in 1966.

Filled with interviews, anecdotes and revelations from throughout Cocker’s career, Cocker Hoop brings us a personal portrait of the great man and is co-written by his son Dave Cocker and sportswriter and novelist Robert Endeacott.

 

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

CHEERS, TEARS AND JEERS: A HISTORY OF ENGLAND AND THE WORLD CUP by Gary Thacker

Winning the World Cup in 1966 was the high watermark in the history of the England national football team. Both before and after The Day, however, the Three Lions have a chequered history in the world’s biggest footballing event. This book seeks to chart a path through that history, stopping for contemplation at various points on the way. It’s a journey full of highs and lows, with memories both golden and tarnished, and an occasional dip into some iconic games and events where England weren’t involved.

Completed ahead of the World Cup Finals of 2018, the book offers an account of the story up until that event. How will England fare in Russia? Only time will tell, but perhaps a review of the history up until that time may give an indication as to why it ended up as it did. It’s a tale of smiles and frowns, of joys and sorrow, and indeed of Cheers, Tears and Jeers. It’s the history of England and the World Cup.

(Publisher: Austin Macauley Publishers. April 2018. Paperback: 495 pages)

Book Review: Fixing Sixty Six – A tale of political corruption that could just be true by Tim Flower

World Cup football and corruption? It’s never been known!

Well, there was that rumour at the 1978 tournament that Argentina needing to win 4-0 against Peru to progress to the Final, gave their South American neighbours a boatload of cash and grain. Full-time score, Argentina 6-0 Peru…

1982. Austria v West Germany in the Group Stages. A win for the Germans would see them and their opponents Austria through and would eliminate Algeria. Horst Hrubesch puts West Germany ahead after ten minutes and that is effectively the last action of the game, as both sides effectively stop playing. Full-time, Austria 0-1 West Germany…

Then there were the accusations in 2002 that the match officials were ‘got at’ as joint hosts South Korea achieved unbelievable wins over Italy and Spain to reach the Semi-Finals…

And of course, who can forget the debacle of the awarding of the 2018 Finals to Russia and Qatar in 2022 due to corruption within FIFA.

Oh, for the good old days, times like 1966 when England showed the world about fair play and sportsmanship in lifting the Jules Rimet Trophy. Not a whiff of corruption. Or was there?

Tim Flower’s Fixing Sixty Six is a fictional look at the tournament told through the eyes of retired journalist Harry Miller. It tells of an undercover government operation to ensure that England win the World Cup, ensuring at the same time the boosting of the popularity of the Labour government under Harold Wilson at a time of economic struggle in the country. Flower’s cleverly weaves fact and fiction to provide a very credible story as government advisor Ludovic Forsyth manipulates and spins away behind the scenes.

The book also provides a believable sketch of life in the 1960s, where a ‘woman’s place is in the home’, where ‘foreigners’ and ‘homos’ aren’t to be trusted, and the idea of exotic food is a boil in the bag Vesta Curry. Whilst football is the focus of the book, the author also touches on providing a comparison with the political situation in 1966 and that when Harry regales his sensational story in 2016, as Britain once again struggles with its identity and its position not only in a European context, but globally.

A minor criticism is that it could have done with a tighter edit as a number of avoidable typos are present. Overall though, it is ultimately an intriguing and absorbing read. That day back in 30 July 1966 may never be seen in the same light again.

(“Talk About Productions” November 2019. 428pp)

 

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Book Review: 1966 And All That! The 50th Anniversary

There will be all sorts of publications that will be produced to mark the Fiftieth Anniversary of England winning the World Cup, but none will likely match 1966 And All That! The 50th Anniversary in terms of its visual impact.

This book is in an A4 format favoured by the comic annuals of yesteryear, appropriate given that the focus of this publication is the work of illustrator Bob Bond. He worked on comics such as Valiant and Tiger and numerous football books including Scorcher, Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly and Roy of the Rovers.

At the heart of the book is a game-by-game overview of all the games from the 1966 World Cup tournament with Bond’s drawings bringing the brief match reports to life. There is in addition articles from some of the most respected Fleet Street writers who witnessed events fifty years ago including, Patrick Collins, Steve Curry, Bob Harris, John Keith and James Lawton.

Supplementing the story of England’s finest footballing hour, are some other stories from the sporting world fifty years ago, depicted through Bond’s wonderful drawings, including Henry Cooper’s loss to Muhammad Ali at Highbury and the Final Test between England and West Indies at the Oval. Some may question why these are included, but they add a useful context to a sporting year that was dominated by England’s finest footballing hour.

If you are looking for an in-depth, game-by-game analysis of the 1966 Finals, then this is not the book for you. However, if you are looking for something a bit different and a book that will bring a smile to your face, then this hits the mark.

 

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Book Review: 66: The World Cup in Real Time by Ian Passingham

30 July 2016 will mark fifty years since England captain Bobby Moore raised aloft the World Cup at Wembley after a 4-2 victory over West Germany in the Final.

On the one hand it should be a time for celebration and acknowledgment of the achievement of Sir Alf Ramsey and his squad, but on the other it will be a harsh reminder of England’s lack of success in international football since that time.

There will no doubt be various books, magazines, television and radio programmes given over to the tournament during 2016; indeed Sky gave the 1966 Final the Monday Night Football treatment at the start of the year.

In 66: The World Cup in Real Time, Ian Passingham offers a different take on the eighth World Cup Finals and in the Introduction sets out how he believes his book will be different:

“Of the many accounts written about 1966, most have centred almost exclusively on England and have drawn to some degree on recollections of the tournament which, inevitably are coloured and sometimes distorted by hindsight.

This book sets out to bring back to life the whole tournament, as if it were being played and reported on today with all the action, reaction, news and gossip from all 16 competing nations.”

In terms of content, the book covers a range of supportive material to the tournament. A Prelude is presented in two parts, of which the first looks at the history of the England team from 1872 to 1962 and the second from the time Sir Alf Ramsey became England manager in 1963 up to the eve of the 1966 competition.

There then follows the major part of the book which focuses on a real time look at the tournament (both matchdays and rest days) as well as The Aftermath in two parts. The first of these focuses on Sir Alf Ramsey, whilst the second details what happened to some of the key personnel, players and teams who took part in the Finals.

The book closes with a very useful Appendix which shows how the squad for the Finals evolved from Ramsey’s first game in charge against France on 27 February 1963 and a few photographs from the tournament.

There are some great images produced in this final section of the book, however, the placing of them at the very end seems a slightly curious choice and might have had a better impact placed alongside the real time events they related to.

Of the main part of the book and the concept of real time coverage, Passingham has to be praised for the research carried out in collating and piecing together interviews and articles of the day to give the reader an, at times, amusing but overall informative insight of events on and off the pitch.

Indeed there are numerous gems to be found within the book which show how different times were and especially in how the World Cup Finals were organised. Amongst them is the fact that match officials stayed in local B&B’s during the tournament, reflecting that the facilities for the competing teams were at best ordinary and a lifetime away from the amenities that players enjoyed and expected in the 2014 Brazil World Cup.

If some things have changed in the fifty years since the Finals, then some haven’t. Passingham shows that the cliché-ridden soundbites of players and managers were the same then as they are now, as they talked up their chances and criticised refereeing standards.

However, these real time snippets by their very nature mean that any real flow to the book is difficult to achieve and is therefore best read on a ‘pick-up, put-down’ basis.

Nonetheless, this is an interesting addition to the story the 1966 World Cup Finals that will offer a wider look at the teams who took part and the events that led to England’s finest footballing hour.

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Greavsie: a man of two books

I’m doubly lucky. I’ve got two signed copies of a Jimmy Greaves autobiography and each book is different. In both cases, Greaves thanks a co-writer so I have two semi-autobiographies. The names of these demi-semi-autobiographies are ‘A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON MY WAY TO SPURS’ and ‘GREAVSIE’. It would be hard to miss that the titles have something in common. Every time Jimmy Greaves and his ghostly friends write an autobiography, they use block capitals FOR THE TITLES.

They also tell us something about changing times. Back in the days when the first book appeared (1962) readers could cope with allusion. It is a punning reference to the Stephen Sondheim musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum which opened on Broadway in May of that year. Strangely, the film version came out in 1966 and the England World Cup squad went to watch it prior to beating West Germany. A funny thing.

By 2003 our modern readership can just about cope with a one word title. There is sadness, too, in the overly familiar moniker ‘Greavsie’, the persona adopted by the reformed alcoholic Greaves as part of a once-popular TV double act ‘Saint and Greavsie’. This offered him a form of earthly salvation, under the tutelage of a grinning St John, when he had reinvented himself as a pundit, years after his glittering soccer career had ended.

It is only fair to point out here that Jimmy Greaves was the finest goal-scorer this writer has ever seen, a kind of Raul-plus, and Raul was fantastic at his best. JG was the coolest of finishers with the ability to scoot past very good defenders before simply slipping the ball into the back of the net and there was nothing they could do to stop him. I had a friend at university who was a Spurs fan. Whenever we met, if I so much as mentioned his hero, he would fly away in a mental rapture and it would be several minutes before he landed back on earth.

The problem with the first book is that it was brought out when he was 22, timed to cash in on his escape from the unhappy stint playing for Milan, a return of 9 goals in 12 games clearly reflecting his talent but in those days, abroad was abroad, cultures were very different and the cockney cocksparrer didn’t fit in. So, back to London with a big money transfer. He had scored 124 goals in 157 games for Chelsea before his unhappy Italian sojourn and was welcomed home by Double winners, Spurs. What a talent! But how do you write about your own genius since it all comes so naturally? And yet it turned out that there was much more to him than either he or the wider world could cope with back then. He gave in to the Dark Side, Luke. Poor old Greaves. The story has grown into legend that Ramsey’s preference for Geoff Hurst in the World Cup Final drove him over the edge. How different it all might have been if substitutes were allowed back in ’66.

The second book gets round this genius-thing pretty well by dealing, fairly honestly, with his colossal fall from grace into an alcoholic nightmare world. It deals with other things, too, including the almost obligatory ‘state of the game today’ section and it deliberately does not try to leave the reader green with envy. Who would want to end up like him throwing it all away? He might have scored 220 goals in 321 appearances for Spurs plus sundry other league goals and 44 in 57 games for England but we read about a failed man who has had the good fortune, family support and the strength of character to do something about it.

Both books are basically honest, team efforts about a supremely talented individual. The first one pretends to be just looking back but is clearly suggesting it is only the thrilling first half. The second book spends 300 pages dealing with the first 30 years and 80 dealing with the next 30. That gives some clue as to which part of his life he was most pleased to look back on.

I suppose I would have liked to read just one Jimmy Greaves autobiography, possibly even written by himself, when he was 44 and looking back on a hugely successful career, a lorra laughs and maybe a few tears along the way. You flick through the two sections of photographs – and who doesn’t look at the photos before embarking on the reading bit? As you do so, you have a growing feeling of trepidation that, after the glorious pics of Jim foxing yet another defence, there will be the ‘loser Jim’ to face, and there is. Thankfully, you are then given the blessing of a family shot of doting grandparents and six of his ten grandchildren, all bright as buttons.

Whilst I suppose each ghost-writer did his bit, forty years apart, what intrigues me most is what the young Jim and the older Greavsie might say to each other if, time warps permitting, they could meet face to face?  

Graeme Garvey

Buy: A funny thing happened on my way to Spurs

 

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