Book Review: Football for Brains! by Steven End

The lockdown during COVID saw people turn to various activities whilst at home. For Steven End it provided the opportunity to produce a book, prompted by the loss of a relative to dementia and the increasing cases in the football world, called Football for Brains! The title reflecting that this is predominantly a quiz book of football questions to get the grey matter ticking, and additionally that the author is making donation to The Scores Project (details below) looking into dementia at the University of East Anglia.

It is not End’s first writing venture, having independently published the Ups and Downs of Ipswich Town in December 1997. This latest offering though whilst dominated by over 700 football quiz questions (741 to be precise), there are also some very short articles on the following, Collecting Cards and Stickers, A diary of a memorabilia Collector, Football Programme Reviews, eBay news and views before and during lockdown, Football in Lockdown, Promotion Winning Canaries, and Family Footie between lockdowns.

Like any good quizzer will know, the questions are only easy if you know the answer! To give you an indication of the type of questions there are in this book, here are the first and last questions.

(1) Everton beat Liverpool 2-0 in the Premier League on 20th February 2021. Can you remember the last time Everton overcame Liverpool in the Premier League?

(741) Brett Emerson played internationally for which country?

The questions vary in style, so there are some anagrams, some multiple choice, some true or false and as above just straight questions, which take in non-league players, managers and teams all the way through to the international game.

It would perhaps have been good to have sections within the questions so that for instance, readers would be presented with a set of questions on stadiums and grounds, another on players and so on. However, this is a book that will be ideal for those away days sat on a train or in the car as fans travel to games or for those having a few pre-match drinks.

As detailed above, a donation from the sale of each book goes to The Scores Project which is an independent research study designed to better understand the cognitive health of athletes as they age. Their current focus is on former professional footballers and studying links between dementia, head injuries and heading the ball.

(Independently published. April 2021. Paperback: 100 pages)


Book Review: Where the Cool Kids Hung Out – The Chic Years of the UEFA Cup by Steven Scragg

Back in September 2019, A Tournament Frozen in Time – The Wonderful Randomness of the European Cup Winners’ Cup, was released by Pitch Publishing, written by Steven Scragg. It was so well received and praised that it was nominated within the football category for The Telegraph Sports Books Awards 2020. Now just a year on the author has followed this up with another nod to European tournaments past, this time focusing on the UEFA Cup, which for readers of a younger age has become butchered to emerge Frankenstein-like as the Europa League, a bloated and poor relation of the money-driven, self-centred tournament that is the UEFA Champions League.

This second offering, which is as excellent a read as the Cup Winners’ Cup book, is spread over twelve chapters, with an Acknowledgment, Introduction and Afterword, bookending them. In terms of the UEFA Cup years, Scragg focuses on the two-legged Finals, which took place from 1971/72 (with Spurs the first winners) through to 1996/97 (when Schalke 04 lifted the trophy), a feature which set the competition apart from the European Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup at the time.

As with the A Tournament Frozen in Time book, this is not plod through the various seasons in timeline fashion, but a series of wonderfully researched chapters that provide context in relation to the history and stories of the competition in terms of the countries and teams that took part. Before the author gets into those specifics, the opening chapter The Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and the Dawning of the UEFA Cup, provides background into the history of the Fairs Cup, which despite bearing more resemblance to the UEFA Cup is not recognised by UEFA itself. It’s a particularly strange stance, when you consider that the UEFA Cup bears little similitude to the Europa League, but is acknowledged by UEFA as its natural predecessor, with even the same trophy presented in its current guise.

Of the main body of the book, the chapters detail the various periods of certain countries involvement, with for instance, A Very English Handover, looking at Spurs and Liverpool in the early years of the tournament, with further English success from Ipswich Town detailed in the chapter, Tractor Beam. Whilst English clubs had their moments, Scragg skilfully details the other chapters to reflect the impact of the other main European football powers such as Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Spain, and ‘cool’ sides such as the Swedes IFK Göteborg.

As with the Cup Winners’ Cup, changes to the UEFA Cup came about through the breakup of the former Communist bloc, necessitating the introduction of a Preliminary Round to the competition. With the two-legged Finals gone in 1996/97 the first steps of change arrived, as the Final morphed into a one-off game at a neutral venue. Further transformation came with the Cup Winners’ Cup demise at the end of 1998/99, and the Groups Stages established in the competition in 2004/05, with the ‘rebrand’ complete in 2009/10. Part of this includes those clubs failing to qualify for the Champions League knock-out stages dropping into the Europa League, which as Scragg acknowledges gives the impression of it being a second-rate competition. As he so brilliantly puts it, “essentially the Europa League is the MK Dons of European club football tournaments. There is a sad sense of franchise about it.”

Goodness knows then what is to be made of the Europa Conference League scheduled to begin in 2021/22. That will take UEFA back up to three European club competitions; this reader for one would prefer a return to the three we used to have along with all their individual character, warts and all. Nostalgic days indeed.

There is an old football adage that goes, ‘never change a winning side’, and given the success and praise for Scragg’s Cup Winners’ Cup book, he has stuck to the winning formula once again and doesn’t disappoint. With the Cup Winners’ Cup and UEFA Cup books completed, will Scragg go for the hat-trick and complete a majestic Trinity with a look at the glory years of the European Cup? It will be a treat indeed if this comes to pass.


(Pitch Publishing Ltd. October 2020. Hardback 255pp)


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1986/87 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final

Final programme cover

Wednesday 13 May 1987

Venue: Olympic Stadium, Athens, Greece.

Attendance: 35,017

Ajax (1) 1 – 0 (0) 1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig

[Ajax scorer: Van Basten 21’]

Ajax: Stanley Menzo, Sonny Silooy, Frank Verlaat Frank Rijkaard, Peter Boeve, Aron Winter, John van ‘t Schip, Jan Wouters, Marco van Basten (c), Arnold Muhren (Arnold Scholten 83’), Rob Witschge (Dennis Bergkamp 65’)                           

Unused Substitutes: Netherlands Erik de Haan (GK), Ronald Spelbos, Petri Tiainen

Manager: Johan Cruyff

I. FC Lokomotive Leipzig: René Müller, Ronald Kreer, Frank Baum (c), Matthias Lindner, Uwe Zötzsche, Uwe Bredow, Heiko Scholz, Matthias Liebers (Dieter Kühn 76′), Frank Edmond (Hans-Jörg Leitzke 55’), Hans Richter, Olaf Marschall

Unused Substitutes: Torsten Kracht, Wolfgang Altmann, Maik Kischko (GK).

Manager: Hans-Ulrich Thomale

Referee: Luigi Agnolin (Italy)


This was the 27th Final of the Cup Winners Cup and the third final (and last) to be played in Greece. The Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus hosted the 1970/71 contest and replay between Real Madrid and winners Chelsea, with the Kaftanzoglio Stadium in Thessaloniki the venue for the controversial game between AC Milan, who lifted the trophy, and Leeds United in 1972/73.

The game was settled by a single first-half goal from Marco Van Basten after twenty-one minutes. It came from a move which started in their own half, with Frank Rijkaard carrying the ball forward. It was then whipped down the line after some short inter-play, with a cross that Van Basten met just on the edge to the six yard box to head across the despairing dive of Müller in the Leipzig goal. Overall, the game was not considered to be a classic.

The programme from the last Final in 1999 summarised the game under the following headline:

Ajax revive their traditions

The final is remembered because Marco van Basten took centre stage for the first time by scoring the winning goal. It was his sixth of the campaign and fellow striker Johnny Bosman, who missed the final contributed eight. Along with Frank Rijkaard, Jan Wouters, Aron Winter, Arnold Muhren, Johnny van’t Schip and Rob Witschge, they formed a team which coached by Johann Cruyff who was making his debut on the bench, lived up to the finest AFC Ajax traditions. A certain Dennis Bergkamp came on as a sixty-fifth minute substitute in the Athens final.

Their opponents were 1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig, a solid if unimaginative team from the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) with an excellent goalkeeper in René Müller. They made unspectacular but solid progress, beating Glentoran FC of Northern Ireland 3-1 and, in the Second Round, raised a few eyebrows by eliminating SK Rapid Wien after extra-time. The draw gave them FC Sion in the quarter-finals, and they beat the Swiss 2-0. A curious semi-final against Girondins de Bordeaux produced two 1-0 away wins and victory for Lokomotiv in a penalty shoot-out.

The final in Athens was disappointing. Marco van Basten’s twenty-first minute header led the 35,000 fans to believe that the match would burst into life. But the East Germans spent the rest of the match confirming that they were durable and obstinate opposition capable of barring Ajax’s path to their goal but lacking the technical resources required for a come-back.

Two players from Ajax that night will be familiar to fans in England in Arnold Muhren and Dennis Bergkamp with both at very different stages of their career path. Muhren in this final was very much the senior-pro of the side. He had started his career at Dutch side FC Volendam in 1970/71, before signing on for Ajax where he won domestic honours as well as a European Cup in 1972/73. He stayed at the Amsterdam club until 1974, before transferring to FC Twente. After four years at the club, he moved to England to sign for Ipswich Town and became part of the side that won the UEFA Cup in 1980/81 beating ironically the Dutch side AZ Alkmaar 5-4 on aggregate. In 1982 he moved on again, this time to Manchester United and enjoyed success in picking up a FA Cup winners medal in the 1982/83 replay as United beat Brighton 4-0 in the replay. At the beginning of the 1985/86 season Muhren returned to Ajax and was instrumental in the club winning the KNVB (Dutch) Cup that season and the next and retiring from the game in 1989. On the international front he was part of the Netherlands side that won the 1988 European Championship In West Germany.

Whilst Muhren was in the back-end of his career, Dennis Bergkamp was only just starting. The 1986/97 campaign saw him made his senior debut for the club, culminating in a substitutes appearance in the Cup Winners Cup Final in Athens. Bergkamp became a legend at the club picking up domestic and European honours along the way and at by the time he left in 1993 for Inter Milan he had scored 122 goals in 239 matches for his hometown club. He had two season in Italy, securing a UEFA Cup winners medal in 1993/94 in a 2-0 aggregate win over Austria Salzburg. Bergkamp then became a Gunner in 1995 signing for Bruce Rioch’s Arsenal in a then record £2.5 million deal. The Dutchman was to stay at the club until he retired at the end of the 2005/06 season. During his time in London he won three Premier League titles, and three FA Cup triumphs (including a league and cup ‘double’ in 2001/02). As at Ajax he became a legend at Highbury and when the club moved to the Emirates Stadium, the first match played there was a testimonial for the Dutchman on 22 July 2006 between Arsenal and Ajax. Bergkamp played 79 times for the Netherland scoring 39 goals in an international career that spanned 1990 through to 2000.

2019/20: An Incredible Journey – In the beginning by Steve Blighton

Saturday 16th August 1969, my Dad, Uncle Jim, and me walking down the Kings Road – the 6 year old me staring agog at the huge amounts of men and boys around me all moving in one direction.

The smell of fried onions and a hint of burgers fills the air as I rush to keep up with my Dad and Uncle that Saturday afternoon around 2.30pm, after walking from my Nan’s house along Lots Road, stopping off for a coke en-route in a smoke filled pub.

Chelsea versus Ipswich Town, the first home game of the 1969/70 First Division campaign, started my football journey that season beginning at Stamford Bridge and culminated nine months later, being allowed to stay up late to watch what has since become billed as ‘the most brutal game of football’. Wednesday night 29th April 1970, Chelsea versus Leeds United in the FA Cup final replay at Old Trafford – they don’t make them like that anymore. And then after the brutality came the beauty of the 1970 World Cup and that amazing Brazil team. I was now hooked on the game!

Like most boys, and pretty much throughout their lives, their Dad is their hero, and my Dad was mine. He had taken me to my first ever game of football and would continue to do so on many occasions. I loved going to football with my Dad which we did throughout my life, and my last memory of him was watching Chelsea demolish Tottenham Hotspur 4-0 on Sunday 8th March 2014 – 4 days later he died in his sleep.

Some of dad’s medals (front view)
Some of dad’s medals (back view)

My Dad was quite a good footballer himself. He had trials at Chelsea, which I only ever found out after he died. He was rejected by the Blues because his heading was weak. However, he got signed by Arsenal but decided to stay part-time and remain in the Air Force. He was stationed in Lincolnshire and spent some time at Scunthorpe United and was good enough to play Representative football for the Air Force. During that time he was dedicated enough to change his preferred foot. He was a right-half and his competition at the time was an amateur international, so he taught himself to kick with his left foot and a new career as a left-half was born.

So in honour of his memory I decided I would attempt to get to 50 games during the 2019/20 season – homage to my first game with my dad fifty years ago. My original criteria was that I would go to games at grounds of teams that had either been a full member of the Football League (or phoenix club) or had won the FA Cup. However, as the season progressed, I revised my criteria as it was obvious, I wouldn’t reach my goal that way, so I lowered the net to include games as far down the football pyramid as Step 10. For those unfamiliar with the pyramid, the Premier League is Step 1, the Championship is Step 2 and so on. Step 10 is the North West Counties League Division One North and is where AFC Darwen ply their trade. I got to see Darwen on my journey, who are the current incarnation of the club that played in the Football League from 1891 to 1899, with the original Darwen FC featured recently in the excellent Netflix series, The English Game.

However, the story of that trip to Lancashire and the wonderfully named, Anchor Ground, is for another time. So let’s go back to where this all started with the match details of that Saturday in August 1969.

First Division

Chelsea 1 (Hutchinson 74’) Ipswich Town 0

Venue: Stamford Bridge

Attendance: 29,613

Chelsea: Bonetti, Dempsey, Houston, McCreadie, Hinton, Cooke, Hollins, Houseman, Hutchinson, Baldwin (Osgood), Tambling

Ipswich Town: Best, Carroll, Mills, Morris, Baxter, Jefferson, Woods, Viljoen, Wigg, O’Rourke, Brogan. Substitute: McNeil

So the journey begins

Love you Dad x

Book Review: John Lyall – A Life in Football by Dr. Phil Stevens

When John Lyall was appointed West Ham United manager in 1974, he was only the fifth incumbent in the role for the Hammers and stayed until his sacking in 1989. Football was a very different game back then, in an era prior to Sky, the Premier League, foreign imports and wall-to-wall coverage on social media.

And perhaps then, rather aptly, this book does reflect this and is written in a gentle style belonging to a different age. An age of managers who were as we look back at that time, considered gentlemen, and included the likes of Sir Bobby Robson, Ron Greenwood, and indeed the subject of this biography, John Lyall.

The book is very traditional in its chronological timeline, with chapters taking the reader through the childhood of the Ilford born Lyall, through his playing youth and professional career at West Ham and his later coaching and managerial jobs at Upton Park and Ipswich Town.

Given that Lyall spent 34 years at the club both as player and manager, it is no surprise that the book is dominated by his time with the Hammers. The young full-back had four years in the youth team between 1955 and 1959, before making his senior debut in April 1959. However, his career was to be blighted by a serious knee injury that meant that he had to retire from the game in 1963 with less than 40 first-team appearances to his name.

Lyall was offered the position of Youth Manager and after proving to be a success and then later working alongside the Upton Park boss Ron Greenwood, took over the Hammers at the back end of 1974. The West Ham faithful were rewarded with years which saw the club win the FA Cup on two occasions (1974/75 and 1979/80), reach the European Cup Winners Cup Final in 1975/76 and the League Cup Final in 1980/81, and a third-place finish in the top-flight in 1985/86. Along with the good times, there were inevitability some bad times with relegations in both 1977/78 and 1988/89, the later seeing Lyall leave under a cloud despite his years of service to the club.  He then stepped back into football in 1990, getting Ipswich Town promoted to the newly created Premier League at the end of the 1991/92 campaign. His stay at Portman Road lasted until December 1994, when Lyall walked away from football for good, to spend as he had promised, more time with his family. Tragically though, Lyall died of a heart attack in 2006 aged just 66.

There is no doubt that author Dr. Phil Stevens has invested time a great deal of time to research and chronicle the life of one of West Ham’s true legendary figures. However, as a reader it felt as if for a large section of the beginning of the book that it was a generic look at the club rather than Lyall himself. The book would also has benefitted from a more rigorous proofreading, as there was inconsistency around the format of quotes used throughout and also errors such as the detailing of ‘EUFA’ instead of ‘UEFA’ and referring to Nottingham Forest as Notts Forest.

With West Ham now residents at the London Stadium, the book will provide a link and look back to some of the best years that fans at Upton Park had, under one of the true ‘gents’ of the English game.


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Book Review: Adventures of a Tractor Boy – the story of an obsessive fan by Graeme Brooke

As a Fulham fan of over forty years I’ve seen my team in all four division, the FA Cup, the League Cup, in Europe and even the Preliminary Round of the Leyland DAF Cup, so I think I can safely call myself a supporter who has ‘done a few miles’. However, I’m a pure novice when it comes to Ipswich Town fan Graeme Brooke who back in 2002 chalked up his 1,000th game against arch-rivals Norwich City and was voted ‘Super-fan’ by the Town, players, manager, directors and fellow supporters.

Brooke continues to follow the team, but acknowledges within the book that he, “…cannot afford the money nor the time to attend the number of away games…” he used to, which points the finger at the modern game and the inflated prices fans have to pay, and the fact he has a family and job which demand his time as he has got older. Nonetheless the author is still a season-ticket holder at Portman Road and has ensured his daughters are Blues too, keeping them on the straight and narrow and away from the temptation of supporting a Premier League club.

This book details Brooke’s support for his club from the 1970s through to the 2013/14 season. Thankfully the author hasn’t simply gone for a year-on-year detailing of the games he attended, but instead has gone for thirteen themed chapters (excluding the Introduction), over 148 pages. These include the highs of the UEFA Cup win in 1980/81, the Wembley 2000 Play-off win, a chapter on the European Pre-seasons and “Why I hate Villa Park”.

My own favourite chapter is that dedicated to the European Pre-seasons at a time when attending such events was well before clubs organised ‘official’ trips. Brooke’s adventures belong to a different era and reading about the miles he covered by road, rail and sea to Scandinavia and the Netherlands (amongst others) brought a nostalgic smile to my face.

As the author reflects on the club going forward, it was interesting to read his views on the nickname that Ipswich have come to acquire in recent years – Tractor Boys.

“I liked the descriptive term for Ipswich Town originally, hence the title of the book but I am now tiring of it and even believe it goes with too nice and friendly an image of the club. Maybe we need to rethink and become tougher and harder to beat”.

However, as any loyal fan would, Brooke believes there is a positive future for the team under Mick McCarthy.

Overall, this is an honest and enjoyable account of “…an obsessive fan..”, which will remind readers of a very different footballing experience  to that of the ‘Sky generation’ and will be appreciated by fans whether you are a Town supporter or not. However, there are for me a couple of things which could have improved the book. It would for instance have been interesting to discover if the problems with the birth of his daughter Leah changed his outlook on football. More generally, the book would have benefited from a more thorough proof-reading and editing.

Besides the recording of the experiences of an incredibly dedicated fan, there is a serious point to this book, in that all profits are to be donated to Colchester Hospital Special Care Baby Unit, who provided extensive care when Graeme Brooke’s youngest daughter, Leah, was born eight weeks premature. More details can be found at the following website: which features a page that encourages people to “…take a photo of your book with a famous or far away scene behind it or even a famous person holding it and submit it to to assist in publicising & promoting this book…”. So far there have been pictures from as far away as Tasmania in Australia.


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