Top Ten Football Books: Dr Kevin Moore

Dr Kevin Moore was the founding Director of the National Football Museum, which he led for over twenty years. Kevin worked in museums and as a lecturer in universities, before he led the creation of the National Football Museum in Preston in 2001. Kevin established the new National Football Museum in Manchester in 2012, which under his leadership attracted over half a million visitors a year. He is an internationally recognised researcher, lecturer and writer on football history. Kevin also advises football and sports museums around the world. He is Special Advisor to the Chinese Football Museum.

As well as his latest book, What You Think You Know About football Is Wrong, Kevin has published extensively academically, including the Routledge Handbook of Football Studies. However, his passion is to bring football history to as wide an audience as possible!

For many years Kevin was a Tranmere Rovers season ticket holder, but now, for various reasons, he is more a casual supporter. He first supported Nantwich Town and then Brighton, before finding a home at Prenton Park… Kevin tells us his top 10 football books are:

Ladybird Books: The Story of Football, by Vera Southgate, 1964

This book inspired my interest in football aged 6 and no undoubtedly led me to become the founding Director of the National Football Museum and a football historian! I bought it with my pocket money for 2 shillings and sixpence (12.5p) in 1967. I had to wait 3 weeks to get it, because I only got one shilling a week pocket money! (5p). The fabulous illustrations still grab me today and it it is still a pretty good basic history of the game!

Soccer Revolution by Willy Meisl, 1956.

The subtitle of this 1955 classic says it all: “Great Britain taught the world how to play and enjoy association football – later to be taught many a hard lesson by former pupils”. Written by an Austrian journalist based in the UK, after the double trouncing of England by Hungary in 1953 and 1954, its insights into the insularity of English football were unarguable, and even remain true to some extent today in the Premier League era! Meisl’s brother Hugo was the manager of the great Austrian team of the 1930s.

Football and the English by Professor Dave Russell, 1997.

By far the best single volume history of football in England. Written by an academic, but in a very accessible style. This book was the inspiration and touchstone for the displays of the National Football Museum in Preston, which opened in 2001. Dave never got round to a second edition, but Professor Matthew Taylor has effectively updated this and widened it to consider the whole of the UK, in his equally excellent book, The Association Game: A History of British Football.

Steppes to Wembley, by Bert Trautmann, 1956.

Subtitled  “The Autobiography of Bert Trautman, The Footballer of the Year, 1956”. Footballers’ autobiographies are not what they used to be! While they were never psychologically insightful (at least not intentionally), they were previously written by a much higher quality of ghost writer, as in this superb example, which takes us up to the 1956 Wembley FA Cup final and that injury! I was very fortunate to meet Bert on several occasions. A remarkable, humble, and lovely man.

Captain of Hungary, by Ferenc Puskás, 1955.

Another brilliant autobiography, packed with insights and revelations, and with great depth, particularly from a tactical perspective, especially regarding Hungary’s triumph over England in 1953 and 1954, but also their loss in the 1954 World Cup final. This is still a fresh and fascinating read.

Footballer’s Progress by Raich Carter,1950.

You just cannot beat these 1950s footballers’ autobiographies! They have a depth of analysis which today’s almost always lack. Carter is highly entertaining and informative throughout, honest and insightful.  A remarkable account of playing at the highest level and a successful turn to management. What links this book and those of Bert Trautman and Ferenc Puskás is that this generation of players were all marked for life by their experiences in the Second World War.

Keeper, by Mal Peet, 2003.

My favourite novel about football is by Mal Peet, an author of acclaimed books for children, teenagers and adults, who sadly died aged 67 in 2015. Keeper is the first in an extraordinary trilogy set (and at least starting in) modern day South America, but linking this to slavery and oppression, and using a very powerful sense of magic realism. This was aimed at teenagers but is enjoyed just as much by adults. Haunting. Yes, about football, but also about life…

Pass it, Polly, by Sarah Garland, 1995.

Brilliant, beautifully illustrated football story for young children, about two young girls being inspired to take up the game, overcoming playground doubters and sexism! I had to read this every night to my children for at least a month and many times thereafter! And it was always a great pleasure. I practically know it off by heart!

Football in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano, 1991.

By far the best of the books by intellectuals (including so-called ones!) on the game. Eduardo Galeano was the real deal, one of South America’s leading thinkers and writers. Here, in chapters of often little more than a page or two pages, he gives greater insight into, for example, ‘the player’, ‘the goalkeeper’ and ‘the fan’, than many books do in 200 pages! Often imitated in approach by British and European journalists, but they never come close.

The Boyhood of Burglar Bill, by Allan Ahlberg, 2008.

Allan Ahlberg is the prolific children’s writer and huge lifelong ‘Baggies’ fan. Every child in Britain will have read, or had read to them, one of his books, often illustrated by his wife, Janet, before her untimely death. Just one of Ahlberg’s 100 plus books has sold over 6 million copies. Here Allan gives a brilliant insight into football’s role in his working class upbringing in the Black Country in the 1940s and early 1950s. Joyous, joyful but not romanticised.

Book Review: What You Think You Know About Football is Wrong: The Global Game’s Greatest Myths and Untruths by Kevin Moore

Kevin Moore, or we should say, Dr Kevin Moore, as the bio information on the dust jacket of What You Think You Know About Football is Wrong, informs readers, “was the founding director of the National Football Museum, which he led for over 20 years. An internationally recognised researcher and writer on football history, he holds a key role at the International Football Institute…He is Special Advisor to the Linzi Football Museum in China, and the Fanattic Sports Museum, Kolkata, India” – all in all, he knows a bit about The Beautiful Game.

His book What You Think You Know About Football is Wrong: The Global Game’s Greatest Myths and Untruths, is a wonderful pocket-sized compendium which pulls no punches in debunking fifty of football’s ‘facts’ that have become down the years entwinned as ‘truths’ by the media, fans and the like.

For instance, Moore uses extensive research to back up his views that, the Germans do not always win on penalties (Chapter 28), that football hooliganism is not the ‘English disease’ (Chapter 34) and that the Premier League is not exciting – it’s increasingly dull and predictable (Chapter 48). In addition he is not afraid to give his opinion on a range of other topics, such as his brutally honest belief as to why Wembley is not a world-class stadium, and never has been (Chapter 42) and his assertion that Sir Alex Ferguson is not the greatest ever manager in English football (Chapter 49).

As a reader for me the most rewarding parts were those that presented information I had not previously been aware of, so Chapter 5, FIFA does not make the rules and never has, Chapter 13, Cambridge and not Sheffield is the home to the world’s oldest football club and Chapter 33, The FA did not ban women’s football in 1921, were amongst those that have enhanced my understanding of the game and its history.

Overall, it is a real pick-up, put-down book, one intended to, and without doubt succeeds in, creating discussion which can be the fabulous starting point and source of debate for fans as they travel to and from games, or indeed pre and post-match with a pint.

As a well know football song goes, And if you know your history, It’s enough to make your heart go woah-oh…


(Bloomsbury Sport. October 2019. Hardback 240pp)