60 Years of the World Cup is a personal, nostalgic, fun and frank reflection on the author’s six-decade association with football’s biggest showpiece.

Brian Barwick journeyed just five miles to his first World Cup match during the iconic 1966 tournament held in England, but later travelled the globe witnessing first-hand some of football’s greatest and most controversial moments. As a major national TV sport producer and executive, he was also responsible for how the tournament was broadcast to tens of millions of viewers on the BBC and ITV.

A stint as CEO of the FA brought him the unique experience of being personally associated with the triumphs and tribulations of trying to win the World Cup.

During his 60-year relationship with football’s greatest prize, he witnessed many of the tournament’s most famous matches, most gifted players and coaches, and iconic and controversial moments, meeting colourful personalities, making programmes that broke TV audience records and even helping an operatic aria to become a worldwide smash-hit!

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. May 2023. Hardcover: 256 pages)


Buy the book here: 60 Years of the World Cup

GLORY AND DESPAIR: THE WORLD CUP 1930-2018 by Matthew Bazell

Glory and Despair is a pictorial celebration of the World Cup that takes us on a spellbinding journey, from the inaugural tournament in 1930 to the present day.

Using stunning library stock images, the book brings to life the feats of the greatest stars ever to grace the game, including Pele, Diego Maradona, Zinedine Zidane, Lionel Messi, Michel Platini, Franz Beckenbauer, Bobby Moore and both Ronaldo’s. This beautiful visual homage covers the great matches, the incredible goals, the controversies, heroes and villains, capturing the most iconic moments in the greatest tournament of any sport.

Glory and Despair is an essential piece of World Cup nostalgia that honours the history of the greatest football show on earth.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. September 2022. Hardcover: 224 pages)


The Nearly Men tells the fascinating stories of some of the most revered international football teams of all time.

Through the history of the World Cup there are many sides who thrilled us all with their elegance and style, or who revolutionised the game, only to fail when it mattered most. They are the teams that could, and in some cases perhaps should, have won the World Cup, yet remain memorable for what they did achieve as well as what they didn’t. They all left a lasting legacy, be that of unfulfilled potential, crushed dreams or the artistry they produced that could have seen them prevail. Their exploits and accomplishments are frequently hailed more than those of the winners.

The Nearly Men celebrates these teams: what made them great, what saw them fail, the legacy they left and why onlookers remember them so fondly. It is a tale of frustration and disappointment, but also of footballing beauty and lasting legacy, in homage to the kind of greatness that isn’t defined by victory.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. May 2022. Hardcover: 352 pages)

World Cup diary 2018 – Thursday 14 June

Today will see the tournament start, but for many fans in England and beyond thoughts will have been dominated by the release of the Premier League fixtures this morning. You have to ask though, did it really need to be today to coincide with the start of the World Cup? The answer to me at least, is that the Premier League wanted maximum exposure and feels rather like a spoilt child looking for attention by jumping up and down shouting, “I’m here, I’m here”.

However, the reality is that the Premier League has a huge influence and a number of the players taking part over the next month in Russia will have in the back of their mind the hope of a life-changing move to the richest League in the world following a fine showing in the World Cup. Players stock could rise and fall and as an example Newcastle United will monitor closely the form of Serbian striker, Aleksandar Mitrovic, who fired Fulham to promotion. How much will he cost Fulham or indeed another club if he continues his fine form of 2018?

As it is the opening day, here’s a summary of the first games since the 1966 World Cup:

1966       England 0-0 Uruguay

1970       Mexico 0-0 Soviet Union

1974       Brazil 0-0 Yugoslavia

1978       West Germany 0-0 Poland

1982       Argentina 0-1 Belgium

1986       Italy 1-1 Bulgaria

1990       Argentina 0-1 Cameroon

1994       Germany 1-0 Bolivia

1998       Brazil 2-1 Scotland

2002       France 0-1 Senegal

2006       Germany 4-2 Costa Rica

2010       South Africa 1-1 Mexico

2014       Brazil 3-1 Croatia


Hard to imagine tonight’s game will be anything other than cagey. Avoiding defeat in your opening fixture is always high on the priority list and Russia have the added pressure as hosts. Opening games are full of banana skins as Argentina and France will testify. However, for me Russia to get the three points in an uninspiring ninety-minutes.

Let battle commence!

Book Review (Part 2): World in Motion – The Inside Story of Italia ‘90: The tournament that changed football by Simon Hart

Having finally got my hands on my second review copy (see Part 1) I was able to grasp why the driver or drivers of East Yorkshire Motor Services did not hand it back in. They are probably still reading it, all 373 pages. Having so many pages in a book can be a strength and/or a weakness. The title makes very big claims for both the ‘inside story’ and the World Cup tournament, Italia ’90, but the book itself dives too deeply into the small details, interviews and anecdotes, losing its focus on a regular basis. Many of the anecdotes are illuminating and entertaining, though, and that is where the book’s heart actually lies.

The Contents page is a useful guide not only to the contents (appropriately enough), but also to how the argument is structured. It is a chronological telling of the matches with copious interviews (more than 100 across several continents) and plenty of references to other books on the relevant sections, demonstrating Simon Hart’s journalistic pedigree. It is only on page 340 that he finally returns to the main point which is broached in the Introduction and then left pretty much hanging.

Nearly 30 years after Italia ‘90 the reader is promised a groundbreaking book which demonstrates how football was so significantly changed by that event. But it all slips, well, into the background as the book moves methodically and in great detail through its sections, explaining in Chapter 2, along the way, why the New Order song ‘World in Motion’ has been featured in the title.

On page 2 of the Introduction, however, the author had let slip what he is really writing about for all of the Publisher’s understandable desire to big it up and boost sales in time for this summer’s World Cup. He says, ‘The purpose of this book is to examine the impact of Italia ‘90 across the globe.’ Hart actually does this well and once you stop looking for something even more mighty – and what he attempts is mighty enough – it is full of interesting views and theories. Each chapter is a mini book in itself, so that the reader can weigh up how the tournament affected different nations and cultures. England reached the semi final, after all, and that has been the nation’s greatest success since 1966. However, Hart also deals with how much the Irish gained from that World Cup, and the Cameroonians, et al, plus how much it brassed off the Argentinians, fuelling their ever-simmering sense of persecution.

Roger Milla is interviewed face-to-face in Yaounde the capital of Cameroon. Sergio Goycochea, likewise, is interviewed 25 miles outside Buenos Aires. That’s dedication! And it is in such instances that the best of the book is to be found. Interviewing people by phone is certainly cheaper but is far less likely to gather real insights or such nuggets as when Sir Bobby Robson’s widow, Lady Elsie, and two of his sons are interviewed much nearer home. When Paul Robson reveals to the author that his dad got £10,000 for doing a cigar advert, a surprised Lady Elsie says, ‘Did He? He didn’t tell me!’

World in Motion? Money makes the World around.

Graeme Garvey


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Book Review: The Soccer Diaries – An American’s thirty-year pursuit of the International game by Michael J. Agovino

Where were you? Where were you? Where were you when you were shit?

A refrain heard at many a ground in England, aimed at the supporters of clubs who magically appeared from nowhere once their new found side became awash with cash and trophies. You’ll even see a variation of it on message boards within the same club, with those who have supported the team through thick and thin berating the ‘Johnny-come-lately’s’.

What has this to do with the excellent The Soccer Diaries – An American’s thirty-year pursuit of the International game by Michael J. Agovino?

Well, Agovino can justifiably claim to be a pioneer. He was there in America getting his first taste of the joy of soccer way back in 1982, years before supporters groups of the US national team such as the American Outlaws (founded in 2007) came on the scene and the digital revolution brought soccer from every corner of the globe into bars and homes around America.

So what started the journey for Agovino, an American kid with Italian roots growing up in the Bronx, in a city where the sporting scene was dominated by its teams in the MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL?

In 1982 the FIFA World Cup took place in Spain and Agovino managed to watch on the Spanish International Network (SIN) a game between Argentina and Belgium. He was hooked, Agovino “wanted to be part of that. It was less than two hours, less than a baseball game or football, basketball or hockey but it was exhausting – and exhilarating.”

Later that year the author went to watch a FIFA World All Star game for the benefit of UNICEF at Giants Stadium where he saw the likes of Keegan, Socrates, Tardelli and Zoff. With schoolboy enthusiasm he craved to learn more about the game, its players and the teams they played for.

Agovino’s deep joy at wanting to soak up all he could about soccer is evident in his writing in this early section of the book and brought back memories of my own wide-eyed innocent elation in falling in love with the game. However, back in the early 80s access to coverage of soccer in America was limited, with much of the written press (what little there was) of a patronising nature. Undeterred the young Agovino managed to get copies of games on VHS tapes, magazines and books as his thirst for the game continued to grow.

In terms of the format of the book, those early years of Agovino’s soccer addiction are captured in Part 1 of the book, The Dark Ages, covering the period 1982 – 1993, followed by Part 2, The Renaissance, 1994 – 2003, and Part 3, The Enlightenment, 2003 – 2012. Besides detailing Agovino’s journey from childhood to adulthood, other strands include the ups and downs of soccer within America and the changing nature of New York and its occupants.

Within Part 2 the youthful enthusiasm gives way to a more measured viewpoint as Agovino has to juggle the needs of seeking work as a journalist whilst still maintaining his connection with the game. During this period he feeds his habit by attending games at the 1994 World Cup held in America, attending games in Europe and some within the newly created Major League Soccer (MLS). This section also reveals Agovino’s other passions in the form of travel, art and literature (the latter two no doubt influencing his choice of title for the books three parts).

Part 3 continues to see the author take in live soccer games where he can, and work on related freelance assignments. Here though Agovino seems frustrated with how soccer has evolved not just in his own country, but globally. Where once as a child he had to rely on SIN for his soccer fix, now America was flooded with coverage from across the world, creating a generation of fans, “star fuckers”, who have a simplistic awareness of the game gleaned from watching the top sides within the top leagues. Indeed it appears to be part of Agovino’s ‘old school’ mentality to the modern game, one as a reader I sympathise with.

Further evidence is provided in his analysis of what was the European Cup, but is now the bloated money-making competition rebranded as the Champions League. He shows that he understands the history of the tournament in stating, “the clubs that excelled in the Champions League were not necessarily the pedigreed or the most innovative or had the best youth systems…the winning teams were now the ones that spent the most, the Super Clubs.”

So does this view within Part 3 reflect its title? Indeed, how do the titles of each section relate?

Part 1 is The Dark Ages (1982 – 1993) and can be defined as an era of ignorance or an early stage in the development of something, which could be applied both to Agovino as he comes to start his soccer education and the state of soccer in America, with the demise of the NASL, an unsympathetic media and a game that seemed to exist only in an underground capacity.

Part 2 is The Renaissance (1994 – 2003) which suggests a period of revival, which is certainly true of soccer in America during this time with the country being awarded the 1994 World Cup, the launch of the MSL and improved displays by the US national team. For Agovino, his renaissance comes in the form of of his intellectual and artistic development.

Part 3 is The Enlightenment (2003 – 2012) and can be defined as reaching a point of understanding, which could be applied to the author and his years of experience of watching and writing about soccer, so that his views are rounded. However, in an interesting point, could Agovino have travelled not to enlightenment, but to the dark ages, since he now finds his country flooded by games from all over the world and is unimpressed by a generation of shirt wearing fans who have nothing but a superficial knowledge of the game? Indeed in terms of the game in America, is the enlightenment based on the very aspects that now frustrate Agovino?

Whatever the answer, the fact remains that the author’s journey can never be repeated, as the path he travelled is no longer there. Fans in America can now watch soccer from leagues all over the world, with access to knowledgeable and insightful writing and punditry that Agovino could only dream of back in 1982.

The Soccer Diaries though make an invaluable contribution in capturing the innocence and joy of the game in another time as it was discovered by a young boy and his journey to understand the global game. It’s a book that should be read by fans new or old, whatever your team and wherever your country.


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Book Review: The Odyssey of a Soccer Junkie by Patrick Johnston

Odyssey: a long and eventful or adventurous journey or experience.

Junkie: a person with a compulsive habit or obsessive dependency on something.

Both the words odyssey and junkie form part of the title of this book by Patrick Johnson, and so their definitions provide a clue to readers of what is in store.

First though some background on the author. Patrick Johnston is an American who excelled as a goalkeeper whilst at Duke University and then pursued a professional career in England and the USA. Since that time Johnston has also worked as a building contractor and more recently as a freelance photojournalist and football coach.

In terms of format of the book, the 329 pages are divided up over 14 Chapters, with each (for the most part) focussing on a particular trip. It would have been good to see some images from his adventures included as this would have broken up the text, as would have starting new Chapters on a fresh page. The book would also have benefited from tighter proofreading which would have picked up on various typos ensuring for instance, the correct use of ‘to’ and ‘too’.

Of the content itself – by looking at the list of the excursions, the reader gets a significant clue as to Johnston’s particular obsession. So amongst the Chapter titles are the following; Mexico 1986, Italy 1990, France 1998, South Korea/Japan 2002, Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010 – all venues of the FIFA World Cup.

Quite simply, Patrick Johnston is a Soccer Junkie, with a particular penchant for World Cups.

In addition there are Chapters featuring the 2004 Copa America in Peru, the 2006/07 Argentinian League Play-offs, 2008 UEFA European Championship Finals in Austria/Switzerland and three trips to England for a variety of league and cup fixtures.

Johnston uses the device of a conversation with a passenger on the flight to South Africa in 2010 for the USA v Algeria World Cup fixture, to relate the story of his adventures. At the end of each Chapter, with Johnston having told the tale of his exploits, the passenger offers a reflective remark or observation, which rounds off each section of the book.

The Chapters are for the most part entertaining, with some of the stories bordering on the unbelievable. They all show that Johnston thrives on the buzz of just turning up at games and then attempting to get a ticket, with the notion of actually planning travel or accommodation often mere details besides the need to get his football fix.

In order to make this happen, Johnston is fortunate that he has connections. There is for instance his Uncle who is able to sort flights, another individual known only as the “Benefactor” who manages to provide World Cup tickets on some occasions and various friends and relatives living in a variety of countries across the globe able to provide a bed. In addition, the author also has more than his fair share of luck on occasions, although he might argue that this is down to experience, gleaned over years attending games.

There is no doubt that Johnston’s story is indeed an odyssey, with his adventures covering 24 years as he lays bare his football obsession.

However, there were issues and questions left answered. There is for instance the juxtaposition of his views on English football. On the one hand, Johnston professes his love of the game in England (through three visits in the book and also having adopted Newcastle United as his team), yet on the other is quick to portray all England fans as an undesirable mob to anyone that will listen.

In addition, there is the issue of ticket touts. They are an unwanted part of football as well as other sports. Their existence is only perpetuated by those willing to pay over the odds for tickets and those in organisations who are willing to sell tickets to the touts for profit. Johnston’s ‘adventure’ in some places relies on this trade and for me it’s not something I’m comfortable with. Whilst we live in a world where greed is considered as good and there is a profit to be made, then this will unfortunately continue.


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Book Review: Unofficial Football World Champions by Paul Brown

Question: What is the link between the following? 1874 – Scotland, 1931 – Austria, 1963 – Dutch Antilles, 1979 – Paraguay and 2014 – Uruguay.

Answer: These are the years that these countries held the title of ‘Unofficial Football World Champions’ (UFWC).

However, that then leads to the supplementary question of, how do teams become UFWC? Well there is a logical answer. All football fans know that the FIFA World Cup first held in 1930 and every four years since (except 1942 and 1946 due to the Second World War), produces the ‘official’ World Champions. What author Paul Brown came up with was an alternative notion where, “football’s world champions were decided via a continuous series of title matches stretching back to the very first international football match”.

This meant that the first UFWC match took place in November 1872 between Scotland and England and is the starting point of an amazing trail that to date has entailed 879 games and has Uruguay as the current holders of the title. The UFWC ‘crown’ goes on the line on 05 March 2014 when Uruguay play Austria.

In the third edition of Unofficial Football World Champions, the reader is treated to a number of match reports from the UFWC fixtures, a complete list of the UFWC results and records including, amongst others, the ‘Top Goalscorers’ and ‘All-time Rankings’.

The reports are written with no little humour and a keen eye for detail, in that they not only provide information about the players and the match highlights, but some quirky facts and anecdotes. For instance, from the 1899 British Home Championship game between England and Ireland, which England won 13-2, Brown reflects that, “the fact that Irish goalkeeper James Lewis only had eight full fingers (he lost two fingertips in an accident) may have had some bearing on the final result”.

All manner of countries and competitions are covered as the reader sees the UFWC title change hands and it provides great interest, in that there are fixtures mentioned that without reading this book you would never have come across.

This book is not only interesting for the journey it covers, but for the sense of enthusiasm and sheer fun that come through its pages. It is also well supported by an excellent website www.ufwc.co.uk which provides articles relating to upcoming games and a range of other information.

Brazil 2014 is on the horizon and if Uruguay stay unbeaten in their friendlies prior to the tournament, the UFWC ‘crown’ will be up for grabs too. You never know on 19 June 2014, England could be UFWC once more!


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