The history of the fierce football rivalry between England and Germany is encapsulated in a single moment – Geoff Hurst’s extra-time shot off the crossbar in the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final and the decision of an infamous Russian linesman to award a goal.

It is a rivalry that now spans more than 90 years since the first official match between the two nations.

For the English, a series of high-profile defeats at major tournaments saw Germany become the Angstgegner (Nemesis) on the field, as well as an enduring obsession for the national press.

For Germans, Wembley still represents the home of football, where the memories of 1966 have been supplanted by numerous successes and the appropriation of the English anthem ‘football’s coming home’.

The rivalry has long crossed the lines of the football field, with the two nations at various moments forced to admire and learn from each other, and with football encounters between England and Germany repeatedly marking important developments in a unique and ever-changing political and cultural relationship.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. September 2022. Hardcover: 240 pages)


The Year We (Nearly) Won the League charts one of the closest ever top-flight title battles in English football.

It was 1974/75 and with just four games to go, no fewer than ten clubs had a chance of winning. One was Stoke City, fielding the best team they had ever had. This book follows Stoke as they rise to the top spot, only to fall at the final hurdle.

You’ll discover the unorthodox methods of Tony Waddington, a manager with an eye for talent and a flair for sensational signings. Some of them are legends of English football: Banks, Hurst, Hudson and Shilton.

This campaign was the final glorious hurrah of that team, before the club met near bankruptcy and relegation.

Half a century on, the players themselves recall a time when hearts – and legs – were broken, when the football flowed, and the drink did too.

Although the focus is on one club, this story of Stoke’s ‘nearly men’ will resonate with every fan whose team has promised much, but never quite scaled the summit.

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

Greavsie: a man of two books

I’m doubly lucky. I’ve got two signed copies of a Jimmy Greaves autobiography and each book is different. In both cases, Greaves thanks a co-writer so I have two semi-autobiographies. The names of these demi-semi-autobiographies are ‘A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON MY WAY TO SPURS’ and ‘GREAVSIE’. It would be hard to miss that the titles have something in common. Every time Jimmy Greaves and his ghostly friends write an autobiography, they use block capitals FOR THE TITLES.

They also tell us something about changing times. Back in the days when the first book appeared (1962) readers could cope with allusion. It is a punning reference to the Stephen Sondheim musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum which opened on Broadway in May of that year. Strangely, the film version came out in 1966 and the England World Cup squad went to watch it prior to beating West Germany. A funny thing.

By 2003 our modern readership can just about cope with a one word title. There is sadness, too, in the overly familiar moniker ‘Greavsie’, the persona adopted by the reformed alcoholic Greaves as part of a once-popular TV double act ‘Saint and Greavsie’. This offered him a form of earthly salvation, under the tutelage of a grinning St John, when he had reinvented himself as a pundit, years after his glittering soccer career had ended.

It is only fair to point out here that Jimmy Greaves was the finest goal-scorer this writer has ever seen, a kind of Raul-plus, and Raul was fantastic at his best. JG was the coolest of finishers with the ability to scoot past very good defenders before simply slipping the ball into the back of the net and there was nothing they could do to stop him. I had a friend at university who was a Spurs fan. Whenever we met, if I so much as mentioned his hero, he would fly away in a mental rapture and it would be several minutes before he landed back on earth.

The problem with the first book is that it was brought out when he was 22, timed to cash in on his escape from the unhappy stint playing for Milan, a return of 9 goals in 12 games clearly reflecting his talent but in those days, abroad was abroad, cultures were very different and the cockney cocksparrer didn’t fit in. So, back to London with a big money transfer. He had scored 124 goals in 157 games for Chelsea before his unhappy Italian sojourn and was welcomed home by Double winners, Spurs. What a talent! But how do you write about your own genius since it all comes so naturally? And yet it turned out that there was much more to him than either he or the wider world could cope with back then. He gave in to the Dark Side, Luke. Poor old Greaves. The story has grown into legend that Ramsey’s preference for Geoff Hurst in the World Cup Final drove him over the edge. How different it all might have been if substitutes were allowed back in ’66.

The second book gets round this genius-thing pretty well by dealing, fairly honestly, with his colossal fall from grace into an alcoholic nightmare world. It deals with other things, too, including the almost obligatory ‘state of the game today’ section and it deliberately does not try to leave the reader green with envy. Who would want to end up like him throwing it all away? He might have scored 220 goals in 321 appearances for Spurs plus sundry other league goals and 44 in 57 games for England but we read about a failed man who has had the good fortune, family support and the strength of character to do something about it.

Both books are basically honest, team efforts about a supremely talented individual. The first one pretends to be just looking back but is clearly suggesting it is only the thrilling first half. The second book spends 300 pages dealing with the first 30 years and 80 dealing with the next 30. That gives some clue as to which part of his life he was most pleased to look back on.

I suppose I would have liked to read just one Jimmy Greaves autobiography, possibly even written by himself, when he was 44 and looking back on a hugely successful career, a lorra laughs and maybe a few tears along the way. You flick through the two sections of photographs – and who doesn’t look at the photos before embarking on the reading bit? As you do so, you have a growing feeling of trepidation that, after the glorious pics of Jim foxing yet another defence, there will be the ‘loser Jim’ to face, and there is. Thankfully, you are then given the blessing of a family shot of doting grandparents and six of his ten grandchildren, all bright as buttons.

Whilst I suppose each ghost-writer did his bit, forty years apart, what intrigues me most is what the young Jim and the older Greavsie might say to each other if, time warps permitting, they could meet face to face?  

Graeme Garvey

Buy: A funny thing happened on my way to Spurs


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Book Review: 1966 and All That: My Autobiography (Geoff Hurst)



Many years on.

Dear Sir Geoff,

Firstly, I am very sorry for the long delay in writing. And secondly, please excuse my taking the liberty of writing to you when we have never met.

What has prompted me to write is your autobiography, since it made me think hard about football’s place in our lives. When I say ‘our’, I’m pretending to mean the lives of many people, as your World Cup winning hat-trick is becoming even more important and famous as the years go by, but I really mean mine and yours. I was 13 in July 1966 and was on a family holiday in Cornwall. We rushed to Perranporth in time for the Final and watched it with a group of strangers in the hotel’s lounge. By the end of the afternoon, we were all friends. It was a great occasion and I don’t think I would have ever forgotten it even if the goals had not been shown so many times since.

I don’t intend to bore you and I guess you have had tons of drunken old sots press your hand at functions, telling you all about what they were doing while you happened to be the centre of it all. So, no more of me – until the end.

What touched me deeply whilst reading your book was the negative affect it seemed to have on your family. There is more than a hint that your fame possibly led to your parents separating and then divorcing. As a boy, you idolised your dad. Why did he shun your child (and his granddaughter’s) wedding? What went wrong? It is touching to read of your puzzlement at it all because fame doesn’t seem to help us one bit with the age-old problem of human relationships, does it? For goodness’ sake, it wasn’t your fault that you were the key player in England’s finest TWO hours.

There must have been so much pain there which you hide with a skill typically English. Yet that pales in comparison with the tragic suicide of your younger brother, Robert. I see him in the holiday photograph, next to his big brother. How different the paths were for you two from then on.

It’s not fair and you take it, or appear to take it, in your stride, just the way you took Bobby Moore’s final pass and ran on for that goalbursting last kick of the match. I suppose the rewards of three lovely daughters, one of whom came back almost from the dead have helped to compensate in a way for what went wrong for your mum, dad and brother. That is part of the power of a real world which happens away from the television screen.

And even if some people thought it was all over, it has become clear that it was actually just beginning for us all. You say that on balance the good outweighs the bad and I think you are right. I was, like you, touched by the Englishman’s gesture in that Portuguese restaurant when he ignored you throughout the meal as he sat opposite you and your wife, then secretly paid for your wine as a thank you for the joy your hat-trick had given him. For all your pain, and with all your joy, he did it on our behalf.

Kindest regards,

Graeme Garvey

Book details

1966 and All That : My Autobiography

Geoff Hurst

ISBN  9780747241874

Headline Book Publishing