No football club in the world has fans like 1. FC Union Berlin. The underdogs from East Berlin have stuck it to the Stasi, built their own stadium and even given blood to save their club. But now they face a new and terrifying prospect: success.

Scheisse! tells the human stories behind the unexpected rise of this unique football club. But it’s about more than just football. It’s about the city Union call home. As the club fight to maintain their rebel spirit among the modern football elite, their trajectory mirrors that of contemporary Berlin itself: from divided Cold War battleground to European capital of cool.

Scheisse! will appeal to readers who are captivated by sports biographies such as Raphael Honigstein’s Das Reboot and social history like John Kampfner’s Why The Germans Do It Better.

(Publisher: Duckworth. August 2022. Paperback: 272 pages)


On 10 November 2009 the German national goalkeeper, Robert Enke, stepped in front of a passing train. He was thirty-two years old and a devoted husband and father.

Enke had played for a string of Europe’s top clubs, including Barcelona and Jose Mourinho’s Benfica and was destined to become his country’s first choice in goal for years to come. But beneath the veneer of success, Enke battled with crippling depression.

Award-winning writer Ronald Reng pieces together the puzzle of his friend’s life, shedding valuable light on the crushing pressures endured by professional sportsmen and on life at the top Clubs. At its heart, Enke’s tragedy is a universal story of a man struggling against his demons.

William Hill Sports Book of the Year winner 2011

Read our review here: Book Review: A Life Too Short – The Tragedy of Robert (

(Publisher: Yellow Jersey. Reprint edition – May 2012. Paperback: 400 pages)

Book Review – St. Pauli: Another Football is Possible by Carles Vinas and Natxo Parra

This book was originally published in Spanish as FC Sankt Pauli and in Catalan as Sankt Pauli: un alter futbol és possible, in 2017. The English language edition was published in late 2020 by Pluto Press, “an independent publisher of radical, left-wing non-fiction books”, wholly appropriate for the unique club that is FC St. Pauli.

Content wise it is divided into five major parts, titled, Informal Beginnings, War and Peace: From the Third Reich to the Bundesliga, A Club of Belief: The pirates of the league, Terraces with Conscience and St Paulinism Without Borders, with an Epilogue, Against Modern Football. The chapters within each section provide context for the club that St. Pauli is today. Therefore readers are presented with a timeline which takes at its beginning a brief history of football in Germany from the second half of the nineteenth century and the establishment of the early football clubs in Hamburg, before the official formation of St. Pauli in 1910, following the club and the social and political machinations within Germany and the Hamburg district through to the end of the 2015/16 Bundesliga 2 season.

As a result, this is no simple season-by-season summary of St. Pauli, instead this is a book which has the feel of an academic read, with copious footnotes, an extensive bibliography and index as authors Carles Vinas and Natxo Parra use social history, politics and football to tell the story of a club that despite no significant record of honours and is overshadowed by its city neighbour, HSV Hamburg, has a global following.

What sparked this, can essentially be traced back to the 1980s “thanks to young group of people from the autonomous, punk and squatting movements who began turning St. Pauli into the cult club it is today”. They created a club that opposed to racism, sexism and homophobia, and fought against fascism and right-wing extremism and which today are still central values of Sankt Pauli and has spawned Official fan clubs around the world, fighting and supporting similar causes.

However, the authors acknowledge that whilst these tenets have attracted fans who empathise with these ideals, it has also made the club trendy, with merchandise of the St. Pauli skull and crossbones, a must-have item for tourists and visitors to the Millerntor Stadium. And this is the modern day conundrum for St. Pauli – is the club one that is striving for playing in the top-division in Germany and entry into European competitions, which would require major financial input and down a route of commercialism or is it a club just happy to play at whatever level but sticking to supporting its causes and values. The fact remains that St. Pauli fans today “have the power to veto team sponsors thanks to the club’s management model” so are a significant force in terms of decision making at the club, something a million miles away from the vast majority throughout the world.

In closing the book, the Epilogue, Against Modern Football, is a discourse about how capitalism has ruined the game, detailing a blunt assessment of the realities of the sport today. One only has to look at the game in England, with the Premier League and the Sky TV contract, to see that football has been turned into a global business, where clubs are detached from its working-class roots, history and location, with ordinary fans priced out of attending games and indeed are now nothing more than consumers, with oligarch owners only interested in profit and making their club a global brand.

St. Pauli continue to show that there is a way for clubs to have a social conscience, to connect once again with its community, with fans playing their part, but how many other clubs and their supporters would swap their league titles and cups for a more democratic and socially responsible way? Maybe as has been the case here in England, there is an answer to been found at the non-league level of the game, where during 2020 and the COVID crisis, these clubs run by volunteers, got out into and connected with their respective communities, providing food and support in checking on the old and vulnerable as well as a range of other social projects.

Real Fans, Real Clubs, Real Football.


(Pluto Press. October 2020. Hardback 253 pages)


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2013/14: Pre-season Friendly – Leeds United v FC Nürnberg

My pre-season outings have so far seen me take in the ‘new start’ at Garforth Town as the team from Wheatley Park prepares for life after relegation from the Evo-Stik League North Division, with friendlies against Carlisle United and Farsley AFC.

Today is also a game which heralds a ‘new start’ as Leeds United parted company with Ken Bates on the eve of their fixture with FC Nürnberg, so ending an eight year connection with the ex-Chelsea Chairman. Since the new owners came to Leeds United they have made great play of reiterating the message that their stewardship is a fresh start, in an effort to entice back fans who stopped attending games at Elland Road during the Bates era. Therefore against this background and on a day of beautiful warm weather, my expectation was that the game would take place in an atmosphere of optimism with a bumper crowd in celebratory mood.

FC Nurnberg warm-up in front of their fans.

In reality it was a slightly different story. The attendance on the day was a disappointing 9,455, which was bolstered by a significant (and boisterous) number of fans from Nürnberg. There were some chants celebrating the severing of ties with Ken Bates, but these were few and far between on an afternoon when the Elland Road faithful were largely subdued and out sung by their Bundesliga counterparts.  On the pitch too the Germans had things pretty much their own way and Nürnberg were ahead within the opening three minutes of the game. From a deep free-kick from Japanese International Hiroshi Kiyotake, Paddy Kenny misjudged the flight of the ball and an unmarked Daniel Ginczek volleyed goal-ward. His effort was headed off the line by Luke Varney and there was momentarily some confusion before a goal was awarded. With an early breakthrough Nürnberg were full of confidence and comfortable in possession (on an immaculate looking Elland Road surface), with Kiyotake roaming freely in midfield and prompting the ever dangerous Ginczek. Leeds struggled to get any momentum going in the first half and could have conceded again from another set-piece, when poor marking at a corner allowed Emanuel Pogatetz a header. Such was the visitors’ dominance that it was nearly half an hour before Leeds had an effort on goal, but the strike from Varney was high and wide. Indeed it was the Germans who nearly doubled their advantage just before the break after a defensive mistake allowed Ginczek a chance, which was wasted as he blazed over the bar. Nürnberg went in at the break 1-0 to the good and deserved to be in front after comfortably dominating the opening forty five minutes.

Neither side made any substitutions at the break, but the second period, despite no changes in personnel had a different tempo. Within the opening fifteen minutes of the half, there was a flurry of chances as Feulner and Ginczek had efforts on goal for the visitors and McCormack and Varney responded for Leeds. There was also a bit of ‘hand-bags’ as McCormack and Dabanli tangled which sparked a skirmish in which both keepers became involved in. Once this all calmed down, both teams started to introduce a number of substitutes just after the hour mark which meant the game struggled for any flow thereinafter. However, with twenty minutes remaining, Leeds once again conceded at a set-piece. German Under-21 international Marvin Plattenhardt took the corner, which was flicked on by Berkay Dabanli to provide an easy header from just inside the penalty box for man of the match Ginczek. More substitutions took place which included a home debut for Matt Smith, but the Germans continued to look dangerous and created two very good chances late on for Niklas Stark and American International Timothy Chandler as the game went into the last ten minutes.

At the whistle, the Nürnberg players celebrated a 2-0 victory and went over to their travelling fans and acknowledged their support. For Leeds it was not the way they would have wanted to end their pre-season or begin a new chapter in terms of the club post-Bates. However, this was merely a friendly fixture and so to make any judgements as to how 2013/14 will unfold would be both churlish and unfair. Brighton visit West Yorkshire on the opening day of the Championship season and Brian McDermott will know that a win in front of a packed Elland Road will erase the memories of the subdued atmosphere of today and may be the start of a genuine ‘new beginning’.


Leeds United: Kenny, Peltier, Lees, Pearce, Warnock (Drury 63), Green (Tonge 63), Murphy, Poleon (Smith 75), McCormack, White, Varney (Hunt 63). Subs (not used): Cairns, Pugh, Brown, Norris, Thompson, Hall, Lenighan.

FC Nürnberg:  Schäfer, Chandler, Dabanli, Pogatetz, Pinola (Plattenhardt 64), Balitsch, Kiyotake (Drmic 69), Feulner (Stark 81), Gebhart (Frantz 75), Mak (Esswein 85), Ginczek. Subs (not used): Angha, Rakovsky, Mendler