Book Review: One Game at a Time by George F. Brown

The blurb on the back of a book is the opportunity to summarise the plot and lure in potential readers, letting them know what to expect. For George F. Brown’s debut novel, there were three phrases from that information that leapt out.

  1. One Game at a Time is a love letter to the lower sometimes forgotten, tiers of the English football pyramid.
  2. Gifford [the Bucknall manager] discovers that management is not just about what happens on the pitch and has to deal with the darker side of the game.
  3. George [F. Brown] has created a narrative that celebrates the tactics and spirit of the world’s most beloved sport.

And for this review these are the starting points to discuss.

First up, the book as, a love letter to the lower…tiers of the English football pyramid. The author has created a fictional team, Bucknall, playing in the National League, the top division of the non-league game, and from which clubs can progress to the ranks of the Football League. And whilst the opponents that appear within the book are ‘real’ clubs who have or are playing in the National League (aside from the other fictional team within the book, Trosley United), there is little else within the narrative that is really typical and indeed illustrates the reality of the lower tiers of the game. The National League is one dominated by full-time clubs, many with Football League experience with grounds and budgets to match and as such aren’t representative of the rest of the non-league pyramid. Indeed it is a league which sees and wants to align itself more with the Football League than the rest of the non-league pyramid.

Next, Gifford discovers that management is not just about what happens on the pitch and has to deal with the darker side of the game. Brown does indeed explore through a number of plotlines, genuine issues with the game at all levels, which includes racism and gambling, as well as the impact that a career in football can have on an individual’s personal and homelife.

And lastly in terms of the third highlighted points, George has created a narrative that celebrates the tactics and spirit of the world’s most beloved sport. The author certainly does this and displays a coach-like quality in the description of the training and match action as well as getting across the highs and lows of the beautiful game for owners, management and players alike.

What else can readers expect? Well, the main story focuses on the appointment of Gifford an ex-player of Bucknall, who with no experience of managing at senior level tries to change the fortunes of the club as it languishes at the bottom of the National League. Along the way he signs the talented but wayward and ageing forward in Tommy Pearce to resurrect both the players and Bucknall’s fortunes.

Not every game is detailed as the season progresses, instead certain fixtures are described all with an impact on the team and crucial to the plotlines.

At less than 200 pages this is not an overly long book or taxing read, and with 45 short chapters moves quickly through the season to its conclusion.

Football fiction or indeed, Sports fiction in general, is not an easy genre to get right. George F. Brown in this book demonstrates a passion for the game and an easy writing style, however, this reader was left with the feeling that the greatest stories and drama still come from the real-life football of the past, the present and indeed the future.

(Publisher: DB Publishing. September 2023. Paperback: 192 pages)


Buy the book here: One Game at a Time

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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

Interview with Nicholas Dean author of ‘The Boy Who Saved Billy Bremner’.

The Boy Who Saved Billy Bremner is the debut novel from Nicholas Dean. Ahead of FBR’s review of the book we caught up with the author to get the lowdown on this intriguingly titled book.

FBR: What was inspiration for book?

Nicholas Dean (ND): I guess, it came from my own upbringing. Obviously the streets and other locations in the book are both real and this extends to a number of the people such as some of the teachers and the owner of the newsagents. Also part of the inspiration and driving forces behind the book were my age and my children. As I have grown older, I have found myself reminiscing more about my childhood and where I grew up and as my children have asked about me growing up, the more the desire and need to capture those days and the people also grew. I have had the actual idea for the main storyline for a while but other plots seemed to develop and take on a life of their own, some of the characters too, such as ‘Snowy Vest’ for example.

FBR: Given that you had said the book has aspects of your childhood within the storylines, how much of the book is biographical?

ND: There are clearly certain biographical aspects and events within the book. Like they say, a writer writes about what they know about. The school friends and the group of kids on the estate are a mishmash of real people, including myself and some events such as the game in the French lesson and the snowball fight are based on real events, but the main narratives and majority of characters are fictitious

FBR: What is your first football memory and who do you support?

ND: As anyone might guess from the title of the book, I am a Leeds United supporter and how I became to support the team from Elland Road is rather similar to the central character Phillip Knott,  in the book, only a few years later, around when the book is set. My family were from other areas of the UK – dad was from North East (Middlesbrough) and my mum from Herefordshire, so I did not have a direct connection to Coventry, although I was born there. My earliest football memories are the 1972 and 1973 FA Cup finals and of course Leeds United’s 29 game unbeaten run in the 1973-74 season. A run which I feel does not get the recognition it deserves. Another massive footballing memory from that period is watching the 1974 World Cup held in West Germany on the TV.

FBR: The Leeds and Scotland skipper Billy Bremner features not only in the title of the book but in its pages itself. Did you actually write to him, and if not how did the idea come about?

ND: The letter writing is all fictional. I remember the unbeaten run and the eventual loss at Stoke vividly for different reasons and had always had an idea to try and write about it in some way. How the eventual idea formed? To be honest, I am not sure. I guess, it was one of those eureka moments when I thought wouldn’t it be a good idea if I did this. Then I had to think about the issues Philip could be dealing with in order to write his letters.

FBR: How did you start writing?

I have always scribbled things here and there from a young age and the idea for and execution of my first novel was many years in the making and changed many times. I think when I was younger I had a fear of failure and a hang up around class. Working class people like me did not write books. I have always wanted to try it but lacked the confidence. Now, as I have already mentioned, age has played a part and pushed me to give it a try.

FBR: Stylistically, what writers influence you?

I don’t really think any particular writers influenced me or my writing style. I have to confess I do not read as much as I would like, my job and my family take up so much time and when I have time I tend to write rather than read. This is my second attempt at a novel; I haven’t done anything with the first one yet. I am currently reworking it.

FBR: Finally, how hard and what are the pitfalls for getting a book independently published?

I know the book lacks a professional touch and has a few errors but self-publishing was the only option left to me. I have become somewhat frustrated about agents and the way they operate. I have had many positive rejections, so to speak. Agencies seem to only want to take on guaranteed profit making books from the right type of person with the right profile. No matter how good my work might be, I don’t think I fit the required profile. I obviously make very little from the book on Amazon, 57p a sale to be exact but it is not about that. It is about people liking the book. I have had some great feedback and have sold over 300 copies which for me is great.

FBR: Nicholas, thank you for your time. Good luck with the book sales.



Coventry. 1973. The first day of the school summer holidays. Phillip Knott is 14, a superb natural swimmer and a die-hard Leeds United fan. Phillip has entered a competition in his favourite comic which, incredibly, leads to him receiving a short letter from his all-time favourite footballer and Leeds legend, Billy Bremner. After he is dumped by his girlfriend in favour of an older boy, Phillip writes back to Billy for advice, and gradually an unlikely pen pal friendship develops between the pair, which helps Phillip navigate his difficult home life on a neglected council estate on the outskirts of the city.

Phillip’s dad is a lorry driver, involved in some shady deals and frequently unable to control his temper at home, while his mum is losing her battles with him and with her depression. Philip does his best to protect his younger brother from the arguments and violence and to keep his older sister from shopping his dad and walking out.

The only things that keep Phillip going are his swimming and his letters from Billy, and as Leeds United stretch their unbeaten run from the start of the season to twenty nine games, and Phillip gets to try out for the best swimming team in the city, the pressure on both boy and footballer mounts. But in their unlikely friendship they both find unexpected support and wisdom.

If you loved Spangles but hated your paper round then this is the novel for you. A funny, kind and moving novel which evokes its setting and era with detail and warmth.


(Publisher: Independently published. July 2022. Paperback: 532 pages)


Buy the book here:The Boy Who Saved Billy Bremner

ITV7 by James Durose-Rayner

High-Flying sports media mogul and David Beckham doppelganger, Mr. Arsenal – otherwise known as Lee Janes, is back.

Following the production of his company’s documentaries on the former-Arsenal player Jon Sammels, England’s failed World Cup bid and Ramsey’s failings of 1970, and the deceit surrounding Munich 1958, his company had started to be taken very seriously and were awarded a six-month contract to give ITV a few hours a week.

However, things don’t always go to plan – not in his life, anyway.

Side-tracked by his home-life that includes a loving wife, a needy ex-wife, a miserable baby and a more miserable football team led by an even more miserable manager, he sees his team’s 2014/15 season mirroring both the 1958/59 season and the 1972/73 season – and he comes up with ‘Parallel’s – The throwing away of the Doubles.’

However, that doesn’t even scratch the surface of the story that is ITV 7.

Read our review here: Book Review: itv seven (

(Publisher: New Generation Publishing. March 2017. Paperback: 544 pages)

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I AM SAM by James Durose-Rayner

High-flying sports-media mogul and David Beckham doppelgänger, Mr. Arsenal is living every football fan’s dream: he’s loaded, has his pick of the ladies and drives a flashy sports car. And to make his life even sweeter, he’s been chosen to work on coverage for the 2014 World Cup.

Tasked with producing a short documentary, Mr. Arsenal, stumbles upon footage from Mexico 1970 and a high-profile spat between television pundit and Manchester City coach Malcolm Allison and Tottenham Hotspur player and captain Alan Mullery.

On further investigation, he unearths a reference to a half-forgotten player named only as ‘Sammy’ and referred to as the one who was ‘left behind’. Determined to discover the man behind the name, Mr. Arsenal quickly becomes obsessed with the tragic story of this once top-flight footballer whose brilliance has been all but lost in the annals of sporting history; a player who was once one of the highest paid and most successful players in Britain: Jon Sammels.

As Mr Arsenal revisits Sammels’ professional heyday in the late 1960s and early 70s, the impact on his own life is extraordinary.

Read our review here: I AM SAM by Ja (

(Publisher: Clink Street Publishing. February 2015. Paperback: 498 pages)

DEADLINE by Erkut Sogut

As transfer deadline day looms, Ander Anaia is about to make the deal of a lifetime. All that stands in his way is a rival agent. Or so he thinks.

The Table, a secret cabal of super agents involved in ‘off-pitch’ criminal activities, have other ideas. And they’ve kidnapped his daughter Joska as collateral.

David Miller is about to make his first serious deal. A deal that would bring Ander’s world crashing down around him. Now Ander must do everything in his power to stop him. Or risk losing his daughter – and the deal.

(Publisher: CA Publishing House Ltd. February 2022. Paperback: 291 pages)

BOURNEMOUTH 90 by Billy Morris

It’s April 1990 and the world is changing. Margaret Thatcher clings to power in the face of poll tax protests, prison riots and sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. The Berlin wall has fallen, South Africa’s Apartheid government is crumbling and in the Middle East Saddam Hussein is flexing his muscles, while Iran is still trying to behead Salman Rushdie.

In Leeds, United are closing in on a long-awaited return to the first division. Neil Yardsley is heading home after three years away and hoping to go straight.

That’s the plan, but Neil finds himself being drawn back into a world of football violence and finds a brother up to his neck in the drug culture of the rave scene. Dark family secrets bubble to the surface as Neil tries to help his brother dodge a gangland death sentence, while struggling to keep his own head above water in a city that no longer feels like home.

The pressure is building with all roads leading to the south coast, and a final reckoning on a red-hot Bank Holiday weekend in Bournemouth that no one will ever forget.

Dark, uncompromising crime fiction from a time when it was still grim up north.

Read our review here: Book Review: B (

(Publisher: Independently published. August 2021. Paperback: 191 pages)


The fourth novel from author Texi Smith tells the story of Anna Black, a product of suburban Sydney’s large grassroots soccer clubs who blossoms into being a local star turning out for Australia’s biggest W-League clubs, and a regular starter with the Matildas. Anna Black – This girl can play charts Anna’s football journey culminating in the Matildas reaching the final of the 2023 World Cup on home soil and a move to the USA, as well as her life journey as she discovers that falling head-over-heels – something she thought was not for her – can and does happen.

Read our review here: Book Review: Anna (

(Publisher: Popcorn Press. March 2021. Paperback: 262 pages)


In the third instalment of the Jarrod Black series of ‘unashamed football novels’, the Australian journeyman footballer, Jarrod Black, finds himself on national team duty, running out on to his field of dreams, and caught up in a situation not of his making.

Read our review here: Book Review: Jarro (

(Publisher: Popcorn Press. May 2020. Paperback: 306 pages)