By the early months of 2012, it was clear that the appointment of Andre Villas-Boas as head coach at Chelsea wasn’t delivering the required success. Instead, the club was spiralling towards its worst season of the Roman Abramovich era.

On 4 March, Villas-Boas was dismissed, with his former assistant Roberto Di Matteo made interim head coach until the end of the season. Struggling in the league and with their place in the Champions League in peril, it was an appointment designed to make the best of things until a permanent replacement could be sought in the summer.

Instead, under Di Matteo’s guidance, Chelsea embarked on a run of performances that not only led to an FA Cup triumph but resurrected their European hopes with improbable victories over Napoli, Benfica and Guardiola’s all-conquering Barcelona before, against all odds, winning the Champions League by defeating Bayern Munich in their own stadium.

This is the story of a triumph that came out of the blue.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. April 2022. Hardcover: 448 pages)


At the end of Thacker’s previous novel – The Games People Play – life had given aspiring manager Jon Moreton a good kicking and he was heading for the plane home.

He had failed to get his Spanish club, CD Retama, promoted and they looked set to fold. Sophia, his girlfriend/assistant coach, had left him, thinking he had conspired in the club’s demise.

As for his one-time friend Billy Swan, he was even more rock bottom, having succumbed to blackmail and sold out his mates.

In this much-anticipated sequel, will things take a turn for the better for Moreton? Will he cope back in England without Sophia? Will Swan turn up again like a bad penny? Has the Spain chapter of his life closed, or can anything be salvaged?

Expect a few twists in the tale, a few more jinking runs into the box and last-ditch, winning goals. It’s A Whole New Ball Game.

(Publisher: 1889 Books. November 2021. Paperback: 246 pages)


Jon Moreton would have made it to the top-flight as a player: he had the mentality and ability, but his body let him down.

An old friend Charlie Broome comes to the rescue and gives him a break: managing the struggling Spanish amateur league side CD Retama.

Feathers are ruffled: he is mistrusted by the players and stand-in coach, Sophia Garrigues. Can he adapt to life in Spain and turn things around?

Plenty of twists and turns through the season in this tale of football, love, and betrayal.

Read our review here: Book Review: Th (footballbookreviews.com)

(Publisher: 1889 Books. October 2020. Paperback: 252 pages)


Book Review: The Games People Play by Gary Thacker

Gary Thacker is a recognised football writer with his own website www.allbluedaze.com and has contributed to and been involved with a number of websites, podcasts, newspapers and magazines. In addition he has written two books, I Don’t Even Smoke! – A brief history of life, love and football through blue-tinted glasses. Oh yes, and a cigar (published 2016) and Cheers, Tears and Jeers: A History of England and the World Cup (published 2018). His latest book, The Games People Play Paperback, is his first venture into fiction.

The central character is Jon Moreton, a young player who having turned professional, has his career cut short by a serious injury. Still wanting to be involved in the game that is his passion, he takes his coaching qualifications and after working his way up to being in charge of the Development Squad at his former club, finds himself out of work when the owner sells to a foreign investor. Jon though is then offered the chance to manage abroad with a lower league Spanish team, CD Retama. Here the Englishman faces the challenges of not speaking the language and having to win over the trust of a young and inexperienced squad and their female coach, Sophia Garringues, as Jon attempts to get his charges promoted.

Gary Thacker’s football knowledge and his writing ability are not in doubt in this book, which its PR claims contains, “plenty of twists and turns…in this tale of football, love and betrayal”. Indeed, the authors understanding of football in areas such as the intricacies of the Spanish football pyramid, the UEFA coaching badges and qualifications, and his description and detail relating to the club on and off the pitch and indeed the playing of the game, give this book an authentic feel.

Part of the mark of a good book is knowing how much and when to use such detail and requires an understanding of the reader. Given this book attempts to include a football plotline, a love interest and a plot twist, for me as a reader the conclusion is that in covering all this ground, I’m left not knowing who the author is actually appealing to in terms of a target audience.

Pace wise, the story gathers momentum as the football season reaches its conclusion, with the final chapter (which shares it name with the title of the book, and its double meaning), providing the climax, in a finish which does provide a gripping finale.

(1889 Books. October 2020. Paperback 252 pages)


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