Book Review: You Have the Power: Find Your Strength and Believe You Can by Leah Williamson & Suzanne Wrack

If ever there was an inspirational role model for the current generation of children, Euros winning captain and Arsenal stalwart Leah Williamson fits the bill and then some. So the publication of her first book, You Have The Power, written with the recent Sports Book Award-winning Suzanne Wrack – an inspiration in her own field – is both fitting and vital.

On the pitch, Williamson has made a name for herself for being an exceptional footballer, a positive teammate and a calm leader, while off it, she is an articulate, thoughtful and empowering role model, and the defender brings all of this to a book which serves as a positive guide for children. Drawing on her own experiences, skills and learnings, Williamson offers valuable guidance, advice and inspiration to a generation – especially a generation of girls – that arguably has both greater opportunities but also greater, albeit different, challenges than generations before.

Williamson opens up on some of her own difficulties and issues, including her struggles being able to walk properly when younger, and her debilitating nerves that left her hating every second of the FA Cup Final she played against Chelsea in 2018. Indeed, the extent of her anxiety around the game is really (excuse the pun!) eye-opening, as she admits that it got so bad that it affected her vision. While Williamson has worked to overcome the issue, it is a powerful acknowledgement of the effect and challenge of anxiety in professional sport and the pressures at the top of the game, but also in life and sport in general, that will resonate with everyone who’s ever taken part in any kind of competition, be it a school sports day, a grassroots match, a swimming gala or a cup final. Crucially, Williamson helps to normalise the experience and demonstrate a way forward that many will find reassuring.

Her experience as a girl playing in a boys’ football team is also a powerful narrative, both a sad reminder of the state of play for many girls in the recent past and even the present for whom girls’ teams aren’t readily available and an inspiration for those girls. It’s just a shame that previous generations didn’t have this book to validate their own experiences in the same way. Similarly emotive are Williamson’s pertinent reflections on girls’ often uneasy relationship to physical education at school, as well as body confidence and puberty – topics that are often ignored but are hugely relevant and important in helping make sport an appealing and safe space for young women. And I love Williamson’s passion for the importance of exercise, encouraging readers to engage with sport of any kind. It’s a sad truth that a lot of girls still miss out, or give up, on sport because of physical, mental, social barriers and the like, so to have someone like Williamson encourage, advocate and demonstrate the benefits of an active life is really inspiring.

There is a similarity in style and tone to the advice books by Marcus Rashford (You Are A Champion/You Can Do It) but having Leah Williamson on the front of this book will certainly help reach a different audience, although both authors have ensured their books are utterly inclusive. As with Rashford’s books, there are key maxims and life lessons emphasised throughout, and I loved the fact that rather than just empty sayings Williamson expands on these messages so that when she talks, for instance, about not comparing yourself to others, she helpfully explains about individuals’ different developmental timelines, which gives the messaging greater clout. It is brilliant that this generation can learn from this wisdom – how I only wish I’d had access to such a book when I was younger, and many others will do too. Again, it serves to show just how important the Lionesses and their success last summer has been, and can continue to be, not just on a sporting platform, but a social and cultural platform, which is an even greater success.

One of the unfortunate happenstances of this book is that Williamson reflects on the ACL injuries of fellow players, only to have gone on since publication to suffer that season-changing injury herself, which will sadly rule her out of this summer’s World Cup. Having suffered a number of previous ankle injuries, as she explains in the book, here’s to Williamson, a genuine role model for this generation’s youngsters, once more coming back even stronger.

Jade Craddock

 (Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books; Main Market edition. March 2023. Paperback: 144 pages)


Buy the book here: You Have the Power

Category: Reviews | LEAVE A COMMENT

Book Review – ‘Unsuitable for Females’: The Rise of the Lionesses and Women’s Football in England by Carrie Dunn

Beth Mead, Leah Williamson, Chloe Kelly – women’s footballers and all household names after an epic summer last year saw the Lionesses reign supreme not only in Europe but in the public’s consciousness. But ask most football fans and they’d struggle to reel off the names of players from a decade ago, two decades ago, let alone going back to the origins of the women’s game over a century ago, whilst names like Billy Wright, Geoff Hurst and Duncan Edwards are as synonymous with the game today as Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish. There is an entire history that has been overlooked for decades in the women’s game, yet academics, writers and researchers are working hard to plug that gap and publishers are starting to get on board. Sarina Wiegman’s team have done much in popularising the game and galvanising interest in women’s football, but theirs is only the latest chapter in a story that has too long been suppressed. Whilst we rightly celebrate this modern generation of women, it is crucial that we fill in the gaps, giving those who laid the foundations for the Lionesses from the nineteenth-century on their rightful place in the story and making them too household names. Carrie Dunn’s ‘Unsuitable For Females’ begins this important task.

The book takes its title from the ignominious 1921 declaration by the FA that would place a ban on the women’s game for fifty years, but Dunn begins the narrative even before that, with Nettie Honeyball and Emma Clarke –pioneers of women’s football, but figures who have both been mythologised in different ways. From these earliest days, Dunn’s book traces a history of the game through some of its leading lights, introducing names like Wendy Owen, Pat Chapman, Linda Curl, Karen Walker, Jody Handley, Anita Asante and many more. Influential coaches in the development of the women’s game, as well as some of the trailblazing teams, are similarly written back into the story, as Dunn plots the domestic and international narrative of the game. And even for those who take an interest in the history of the women’s game will find a wealth of new information in this well-researched book. Indeed, anyone wanting to know more about women’s football in England will not go far wrong in reading this book.

Speaking directly to many of those involved, the book reflects the challenges and obstacles that previous generations faced just to be allowed to play the game, but the pride and joy of those who found not only a love of the game but a sense of belonging and camaraderie within football shines through. And whilst many of those who relive their earlier experiences express little regret at having missed out on playing in the current era, it’s hard not to wonder what might have been for these players had the game not been held back half a century. There is a ringing truth, however, that anyone who has been involved in women’s football across history will attest to: that the players of the past are not inferior to their contemporaries, but rather are equal to those of today in talent, skill and quality and to suggest otherwise is to do them a gross disservice. This is a fact that is emphasised throughout the book by the women themselves: women who were the first to play for England, the first to play overseas and the first to win a historic quadruple. They rightly deserve their place alongside Sarina Wiegman’s pride of Lionesses and it is heartening to see this recognition emerge, albeit much too belatedly.

Whilst this generation of Lionesses have impressively stamped their mark on history and fiercely taken the opportunities that have finally come women’s way, it is humbling to think of those who missed out on such chances by a hundred, fifty or even ten years. We can only imagine what heights players like Lily Parr, Sylvia Gore, Sheila Parker et al would have reached in this era, but let’s not forget their names or their vital contributions in laying the foundations for Leah Williamson’s team to step into the light.

Postscript: Carrie Dunn’s ‘Unsuitable For Women’, it’s probably the most informative and significant contribution to a joined-up history of the women’s game that I’ve read, so was refreshingly eye-opening.

Jade Craddock

(Publisher: Arena Sport. June 2022. Paperback: 240 pages)


Buy the book here: ‘Unsuitable for Females’

Category: Reviews | LEAVE A COMMENT

Book Review – Her Game Too: A Manifesto for Change by Matt Riley

When England’s Lionesses brought home the nation’s first major trophy in almost sixty years, they galvanised a nation. Fans new and old, male and female, got behind the team and women’s football reached new heights. It was a demonstration of all that is brilliant in sport and a celebration of equality and diversity at its finest. For many women, however, football hasn’t been, and isn’t always, a safe, welcoming and equal space. Incidents of sexism and misogyny have been all too often the experience of women in football, whether as players, employees or fans. And it was such undesirable experiences that led to two women making a stand.

On 15 May 2021, Caz May and Lucy Ford, both having suffered negative experiences as women at men’s football matches, established Her Game Too (HGT) – a campaign to ‘eradicate sexism in the football industry’ allowing ‘women and girls of all ages to feel confident and safe’ within football, which launched with a hard-hitting and impactful video, which I urge anyone to take a look at. Having grown from strength to strength and with increasing interest and visibility for women in the game, Matt Riley’s Her Game Too reflects on and takes up Caz and Lucy’s rallying cry.

The issue of a man writing this book may seem somewhat askew to some people, but, as Riley explains, he is simply a football fan, and in a world without sexism and misogyny that is what we all are: not male or female fans, just football fans. It is encouraging too for HGT to have such a proud and vocal male ally. Having said this, would it have been empowering to have a female author behind the book? Of course, but, ultimately, the most important thing is getting the message out there via supportive and cooperative means and Riley is clearly a committed and qualified ally. What’s more his book gives both voice to other key allies and, crucially, to the women themselves who have been affected by insult and abuse. Indeed, HGT carried out a survey of female fans in 2021 to get a sense of the extent of the problem and all 371 responses are included at the back of the book. If a reader chooses to read nothing else, this alone gives a clear indication of the problem that instigated the need for HGT.

The book itself offers a whistle-stop tour of some of the main issues, themes, experiences and developments when it comes to sexism and misogyny in the game and while it is clear there is much still to be done, there are examples, not least in the work of HGT, that offer hope. Whilst the growth of HGT may seem to reflect the continuing challenges in football, conversely it is a symbol of transformation and progress, of a groundswell of change, a chorus of knowing voices. The message that comes across loud and clear is that there is no reason why women shouldn’t be involved in football in whatever guise they wish, they have equal right to be supporters, players, managers, officials and the like in a safe, welcoming and inclusive game, now they just need to have equal opportunity.

Jade Craddock

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. October 2022 Paperback: 192 pages)


Buy the book here: Her Game Too

Category: Reviews | LEAVE A COMMENT

Q&A with Jade Craddock. Part 2 – Football background

FBR has some talented contributors, none more so that Jade Craddock who has been a regular writer for FBR with her insightful book reviews and articles covering the delayed 2020 Euros and the start of the 2021/22 Premier League and Women’s Super League. Jade’s talents have been recognised with a chapter in Football She Wrote. As part of the launch of the book, FBR caught up with Jade to find out a bit more about her football and writing background. This second part of the interview looks at Jade’s connection with the game as  fan and a player.

Q&A Part 1

FBR: What was your first football memory?

JC: My first football memory is probably around the age of seven or eight. I wasn’t really aware of football as a professional sport, or particularly of teams or leagues at this point, and certainly, this would have been just before or around the launch of the Premier League and there just wasn’t the omnipresence of football at that stage. But at primary school, lunchtimes and break times would mean a football – or several – appearing and the boys taking over one half of the playground. Or rather the boys, and me. At this point, I had never had any coaching or been taught to play, but I just naturally gravitated towards football and seemed to know what to do. And the great thing was, despite being the only girl who joined in, there was never any feeling of being marginalised or excluded by the boys but being treated equally and fairly – probably because I held my own. Thankfully, my experience throughout football, whether I was playing at school or casually, continued in this vein.

FBR: Did you continue to play football after leaving school?

JC: As mentioned, I started playing football at primary school, just joining in with the boys in the playground. There was no provision for girls’ football then and no other girls who seemed to be interested, but it never really crossed my mind that girls’/women’s football existed then. When I moved to middle school (it’s a three-tier system where I am), and I was around 10, I discovered some other girls who played football and they told me about their team. This pretty much blew my mind at the time – women’s football was really not visible back then and the idea that there were actual teams that I could play for was incredible. So I joined this local football team, but it had plenty of challenges, because girls’ football was very much still finding its feet (excuse the pun) and getting players involved and then getting to and from games was all tricky, and inevitably after a couple of years that team folded, but I’d already been introduced to the women’s set-up and was regularly training with them when I was 14.

Karen Carney

However, I still wasn’t ready physically for that step-up, so I moved to another nearby girls’ U16 side who’d just been promoted to the top league, which had all of your centre of excellences and academy sides – the likes of Leicester City, Derby County. And that was an eye-opener, especially when we played Birmingham City and I came up against a young Karen Carney. We lined up directly opposite each other as wingers and although I got named player of the match for my team, Karen really was head and shoulders above every other player on the pitch – and indeed every other player I’d come up against before and after! She could use both feet and was skilful and just an amazing talent and it’s been great to follow her career and to see her excel on the world stage.

After that one season with the U16s, I made the step-up to the local women’s team and, honestly, the seasons there were my absolute highlight. We had some really excellent players – I’m not sure how we found them – or they found us – but it seemed as if they had all ended up in this little town in the Midlands at the same time. They were women of all ages who’d played all over, and their experience and quality was really something. There were players there that could have easily gone on to a much higher level had the opportunities been available.

When people talk about how far the women’s game has come on in recent years, I think we have to be careful of disparaging earlier generations. My mum played in the seventies and when she watched my team in the 2000s, the main difference was not that the players were significantly better, but the opportunities had increased, which meant there were more players involved and naturally a higher overall standard. But, individually, there were players in my generation, in my mum’s generation and the generations before that were exceptional; the women’s game simply wasn’t ready. Now, we’re getting there, because the organisation and infrastructure has improved exponentially and there’s a much wider pool of players and better coaching and facilities but put those earlier players in this era and they’d have shone. Indeed, we were incredibly lucky in my team to have had such a strong collection of players and I would have loved some of those players to have had an opportunity to play in this era.

FBR: Do you think playing the game has helped your writing?

Absolutely. I think it gave me an added understanding and appreciation of some of the nuances of the game. Having been in particular situations and matches, I’m more aware of certain things than I think I would have been otherwise. I’m sure I would still have been interested and engaged in football had I not played, but I don’t think I’d have had such an understanding. Although, in truth, I never really had much coaching as such. In those days, training was literally turn up, jog around a bit, a few passing drills of no particular difficulty, then small-sided games! But I like to think I had a fairly natural football intelligence – in fact, I could probably read the game and see it more than I could pull it off!

FBR: So we know a bit about your playing career, but what about who you support?

JC: I grew up and live in the Midlands – my nearest league clubs being Birmingham City and Aston Villa, so obviously I’m an Arsenal fan! I did almost take a couple of different paths though. Villa was very much the club of choice in my school in the nineties – and that green and black Muller kit almost sold them to me, as well as the likes of Tony Daley and Dalian Atkinson, who were probably the first footballers I was really aware of. I also did work experience at Villa when I was 15 and there couldn’t be a nicer footballer than Cesc Fabregas. Alas, even Dion couldn’t sway me to the claret and blue in the end. In the late nineties when I moved to middle school, Liverpool were suddenly all the rage – it probably had something to do with those white suits?! And for a time, Liverpool were somewhat on my radar, not least because of Michael Owen’s heroics at World Cup 1998. But again, it wasn’t to be. When I started playing football myself in earnest and suddenly became much more aware of the game, began watching it religiously and understanding it as more than just a casual observer, there was really only one team at the time that played football the way I dreamt and imagined it should be played at its best – Arsenal. This was the age of Pires and Ljungberg and as a young winger myself, here were two proper attacking wingers. Add to that, the general ethos and style of play under Wenger in that period and the players in that squad and I was hooked. But one man ensured my heart was red – Cesc Fabregas. To me, he was everything that epitomised that Arsenal – stylish, intelligent, committed. He was, and remains, my favourite player. I’d always hoped he’d come back to the Emirates and thought we could have done more to bring him back when he left Barcelona, but even though he ended up at Chelsea, I always felt his heart was at Arsenal and if you took off that blue jersey there’d be a red one underneath – well, that’s what I told myself anyway!

FBR: Than you Jade and good luck with the book.

Q&A with Jade Craddock. Part 1 – Writing and ‘Football She Wrote’ anthology

FBR has some talented contributors, none more so that Jade Craddock who has been a regular writer for FBR with her insightful book reviews and additionally articles covering the delayed 2020 Euros and the start of the 2021/22 Premier League and Women’s Super League. Jade’s talents have been recognised with a chapter in Football She Wrote. As part of the launch of the book, FBR caught up with Jade to find out a bit more about her football and writing background. This first part of the interview looks at Jade’s involvement in writing and Football She Wrote.

FBR: Congratulations on getting published in the anthology. What can you tell us about the book?

Jade Craddock (JC): Thank you. I think I’m right in saying – at least I hope I am! – that Football She Wrote is the first book of its kind, the first anthology of women’s football writing, and that is something that is really exciting to me and something I’m hugely proud to be part of.

FBR: So how did you get involved in the book?

JC: Football She Wrote is the brainchild of Ian Ridley of Floodlit Dreams and Women in Football, who’d spotted a gap in football writing and realised there were plenty of women out there writing about football or wanting to write about it, so they got ten current female football writers on board and then launched a competition to find a further ten new female football writers to create an anthology of twenty new pieces of writing. I came across the competition one day and was inspired to enter. I had never written anything long-form before and never really thought about doing so, but the competition and the chance to be published gave me the motivation to do so. I’ve been writing football book reviews for a couple of years and been immersed in the sport for over twenty years as a player and a fan and spend a lot of time watching and thinking about football, so I figured I’d give the competition a go. If I got chosen, amazing; if I didn’t, I genuinely enjoyed exploring the area I chose to write about. I submitted the piece back in February, cautiously hopeful, and received an email in May to tell me my piece had been selected. From then on, it’s been a mad but exciting experience.

FBR: What is your chapter about and what was the inspiration behind writing it?

JC: I’m often thinking about football and tend to get a bit carried away in my own head, thinking of hypotheticals and different scenarios. I’m not sure what game I was watching or how exactly it came about, but I was wondering how the Premier League would look if instead of an eleven-a-side game, the format was five-a-side. Would the so-called big six still come out on top or actually would condensing the teams down erase the disparity? From there, I began thinking about what the ‘best’ Premier League five-a-side team would look like and realised there would probably be only a handful of names in the mix, but I wondered if there was another way of thinking about possible Premier League five-a-side line-ups that wouldn’t be the same-old, same-old, so I came up with a number of categories – most appearances, youngest, oldest, etc, and it snowballed from there. In the end, because of the word limit, I chose maybe ten or so categories, but I had a whole list of potential line-ups and there’d be some pretty good games in there if they ever came about!

FBR: What impact do you anticipate the book will have?

I just hope it gets seen, that even if people don’t read it or buy it, they may stop and take a look when they’re browsing for books and have a quick glance at what it’s about. That’s not to say I don’t want people to buy it, of course! But the most important thing to me is visibility. When I was younger, women’s football wasn’t visible and that really limited opportunities. Once you were aware of women’s football, it opened up so many more opportunities. In the same way, having a book written by women about football will hopefully make women’s football writing much more visible and open doors for those interested in it.

FBR: How did you get involved in writing?

JC: In truth, I don’t really feel as if I’m involved in writing necessarily. That may sound counterintuitive given that I have a chapter that I’ve written now published in a book, but I don’t suddenly see myself as a writer or part of a writing world. I obviously write book reviews pretty regularly and I have also written a range of pieces for FBR, and this brings me incredible satisfaction and is certainly something I plan to continue and develop, but outside of that I don’t write anything else. Whether that will change going forward, I don’t know. I certainly enjoyed writing this chapter, but it also gave me even greater respect for the authors whose books I review, having now experienced in miniature the time and effort that goes into it. I have lots of ideas but turning those into the finished article is the tricky thing!

FBR: You mentioned you have plenty of ideas, but what book would you most like to see written?

JC: Cesc Fabregas’s autobiography – but only if I can write it! In all honesty, though, football writing – and sports writing more generally – is something I’m really passionate about, but which I also feel is grossly under published. There are a number of dedicated sports publishers, like Floodlit Dreams, Pitch Publishing, Reach Sport, etc, who do an incredible job of finding and publishing sports writing and lead the way, but they can’t do everything, and I think other publishers should be doing more to support sports writing and making sure it continues to grow. There are so many stories out there that just aren’t getting told; you only have to look at the number of football autobiographies published, for instance, and it’s just a tiny fraction of the football world.

Matt Piper: Out of the Darkness – My life in football

I’m a great believer that every player – every person – has a story and they’re just out there waiting to be told. Look at any football club right now, and there’s some 25 to 30 first-team players, multiply that across the Premier League and that’s over 500 players, multiply that across the Football League and it’s over 2,000 players, yet probably only around 10 or 20 autobiographies are published each year. And that doesn’t even take into account the generations of players that have gone before – literally thousands of them. Of course, it may be that players don’t want to share their stories and that’s absolutely their right, but, conversely, I suspect there are a host that do. They may not be the seeming ‘stars’ of the game, but oftentimes these narratives offer the most important and interesting stories. Take Nicklas Bendtner, for example. He is probably not the first name on fans’ lips when it comes to football icons and autobiographies you’d want to read, but his is one of the most engaging, eye-opening and frank football books I’ve read. Similarly, Matty Piper, whose career ended prematurely, may be little known outside Leicester, but his is an incredibly important story about the darker side of football. Neither of these players are ones that would necessarily spring to mind when drafting a list of potential subjects for autobiographies, but they prove that there are a range of stories out there waiting to be told. It shouldn’t just be the big names, the success stories that are published, but books should reflect the many sides and experiences in football; players who’ve been let go, who’ve had to retire early, who’ve moved into different areas of the game, who’ve come back from injury, who’ve played in lower leagues. The best stories are not necessarily the most well-known, the most obvious, and with so many players past and present, the choice really is wide open. Of course, there is a commercial side to it, and I wouldn’t begin to suggest I have any knowledge of that – and, ultimately, books have to sell and make money, but I genuinely think there is a world of unpublished books out there that need to be found, published and promoted.

In terms of picking books that I would like to see published, autobiography-wise, there’s a number of female footballers I’d love to see in print – there’s whole generations of players from the seventies, eighties, nineties and even 2000s that were integral to the development of women’s football that have gone unrecognised and will surely have incredible stories to share.

In terms of men’s football, I’d love to see Freddie Ljungberg and Gilberto Silva, and of current players, Hector Bellerin and Jesse Lingard. I’m also a huge fan of the Micah Richards/Roy Keane bromance and surely there’s a book in that somewhere. Other stories from within clubs would be great to hear too; I know there’s a recipe book coming out shortly by Mona Nemmer – Liverpool’s head of nutrition – for instance, and it’s this sort of innovation and a different way of engaging with the reading public that is really great to see.

As for football writers, I devoured Daniel Gray’s backlist during lockdown and anyone who’s read my reviews on here will know I’m chomping at the bit for another book from him – he’s just a superb writer. So, in a rather convoluted way, my answer to the question is there’s no end of books I’d like to see written and there’s plenty I could suggest, but the best books are maybe not the ones you expect and that’s why the work of football publishers is so crucial.

FBR: To finish – if you were on a desert island what three football books would you take with you?

Patrice Evra – I Love This Game

JC: I’m not really one for re-reading books and it would have to be a pretty amazing book for me to go back to it. There’s plenty of books that I’ve loved but, in truth, only one that I would choose to read again – How to be a Footballer by Peter Crouch. That would definitely make the desert island cut, not least because if I’m stuck on a desert island I’m going to need something to lift my spirits, and this is genuinely one of the funniest books I’ve read across all genres. I’m a big fan of stats and love to dive into records and the like, so my second pick would be something like England Players’ Records by Graham Betts. And finally, I’d have to have something new to read, so I’d probably pick Patrice Evra’s forthcoming autobiography, I Love This Game. Although, if I’m going to be stuck on the island for more than a week, I’d somehow have to find a way to get more books delivered, because I’d be lost once I’d finished reading those!

Q&A Part 2

Euro ramblings – Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier, Fünf by Jade Craddock

With England facing up to their most formidable of football rivals in Euro 2020’s Round-of-16, what better time to take a trip into German football and discover more about some of its stars, past and present, with a five-a-side line-up of German autobiographies already published, and a five-a-side of those that would make for a good read. Hopefully, they’ll share a thing or two about penalty shoot-outs…


Five already published

Lutz Pfannenstiel – Oliver Kahn and Jens Lehmann are two stalwarts of the German goalkeepers’ union who have published their autobiographies and you may be forgiven for wondering why they’ve been overlooked for a man who only represented Germany at U17 level, but The Unstoppable Goalkeeper by Lutz Pfannenstiel is heralded as one of the best football autobiographies around, in no large part because of Pfannenstiel’s, let’s say, colourful life. Across three decades, he achieved the feat of being the only footballer to play professionally in all six FIFA confederations, but his antics aren’t confined to the football pitch.

Philipp Lahm – When Philipp Lahm’s first autobiography Der Feine Unterschied (The Subtle Difference) was published in 2011, it caused something of a stir for its outspoken views, so a second autobiography, published earlier this year (Das Spiel), is surely something to look out for – although, sadly, as yet I don’t believe either book has been translated into English. As a player, Lahm largely won it all, including the Bundesliga, Champions League and World Cup, and was considered one of the best full-backs of all time. He represented Germany 113 times across a ten-year period and led Germany to the 2014 World Cup as captain.

Lothar Matthaus – Another autobiography that sadly hasn’t yet been translated from its native German, Lothar Matthaus’s Ganz oder gar nicht (All or Nothing) was published in 2012, giving an insight into the career of a player who was named the first ever FIFA World Player of the Year. In his twenty years as a German international, Matthaus won both a UEFA European Championship in 1980 and the World Cup in 1990, setting the record of having played in five world cups (from 1982 to 1998), the most World Cup matches played (25) and is Germany’s most capped player (150). On the domestic front, he starred both in the Bundesliga and Serie A, winning titles in both Germany and Italy.

Mesut Ozil – A divisive figure in his time in England at Arsenal, despite winning three FA Cups and a Community Shield, Mesut Ozil’s international record speaks for itself, with 23 goals in 92 appearances and a World Cup to boot. On top of that he holds the record for winning the German Player of the Year award five times and was top of the assist charts at both the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. Still plying his trade in Fenerbahce, Ozil’s domestic career has taken in three of the biggest European leagues, in the Bundesliga, La Liga and the Premier League, winning eight trophies across the board. His autobiography, Gunning for Greatness, was published in 2017.

Miroslav Klose – Although Ronald Reng’s Miro (published in German) is technically a biography, it is hard to leave Germany’s top goalscorer off the list. With 71 goals in 137 appearances for Die Mannschaft from 2001 to 2014, Klose was instrumental to Germany’s 2014 World Cup win, as well as being runner-up in both the 2002 World Cup and 2008 Euros. He remains the top goalscorer at the World Cup with 16 goals in total, whilst his record of 19 goals at Euros and World Cups has just been surpassed by Cristiano Ronaldo. Domestically, he has represented FC 08 Homburg, 1. FC Kaiserslautern, Werder Bremen, Bayern Munich and Lazio.

Five to be published

Manuel Neuer – There is a history of dominant German goalkeepers, but Die Mannschaft’s current incumbent may just be the best yet. Named as the Best goalkeeper of the Decade by IFFHS, Neuer has cemented his legacy by winning the Golden Glove as Germany were victorious in Brazil 2014. A stalwart at Bayern Munich for the last decade, Neuer has 282 appearances to his name for Die Roten, as well as scooping nine Bundesliga titles, two Champions League, two Super Cups and two Club World Cups. He will surely be looking to add a Euro title to that impressive list this summer.

Franz Beckenbauer – Whilst a number of books have been written about the man nicknamed Der Kaiser, Franz Beckenbauer hasn’t penned an autobiography. Although there have been some off-field dramas in more recent years, there is little question of Beckenbauer’s on-field reputation. Representing his national side between 1965 and 1977, he featured in three World Cups and two Euros, winning the former in 1974 and the latter in 1972, as well as managing Germany to World Cup triumph in 1990. Individually, he holds a number of accolades, including being the only defender to win the Ballon d’Or twice, as well as being named in the World Team of the 20th Century, the FIFA World Cup Dream Team and the Ballon d’Or Dream Team.

Ilkay Gundogan – After taking the Premier League by storm last season, in his fourth year in English football, Ilkay Gundogan was suddenly on everyone’s radar, despite already having won the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund, two previous Premier League titles with Man City, as well as an FA Cup, EFL Cups and Community Shields. Whilst Man City were disappointed in the Champions League, Gundogan was named in both the UEFA Champions League Squad of the Season and the PFA Premier League Team of the Year. Should he feature against England, Gundogan will receive his 50th cap for Germany, but as yet has no trophies to show for his tenure. Triumph at Euro 2020 would round off an impressive campaign by the man from Gelsenkirchen.

Michael Ballack – Despite being only a runner-up in both the World Cup and Euros, Michael Ballack was one of the mainstays of German football for over a decade, representing his nation 98 times and scoring some 42 goals. He won the German Footballer of the Year three times and was also named in both the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cup All-star teams. Domestically, he made his mark with both Bayern Munich, where he won three league titles, and Chelsea, where he won the Premier League title, three FA Cups, the Football League Cup and the Community Shield.

Gerd Muller – Surprisingly, Germany’s Footballer of the Year in 1967 and 1969 and a striker largely considered to be one of the best of all time, Gerd Muller has not brought out an autobiography. A World Cup winner in 1974, scoring the winning goal in the final, and European Championship winner in 1972, Muller played some 62 times for West Germany scoring a remarkable 68 goals. He won the Ballon d’Or in 1970 and the Golden Boot at the World Cup in the same year. On the domestic front, in fifteen years at Bayern Munich, he scored a record 365 goals, as well as 66 goals in 74 European games, winning the Bundesliga four times, the European Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup.

Euro ramblings – Third Round Review by Jade Craddock

Twelve games across four frenetic days, 39 goals, three more own goals, more Ronaldo records, eight teams knocked out, sixteen through to the knockout stage – that was the third group stage in summary. And before we move on to the tournament proper, there’s a chance to momentarily catch our collective breaths and look back on the footballing week that was.

Team performances: With games played simultaneously for matters of fairness in the final group stage, it doesn’t make for the best viewing for fans, or at least for those with neither the time or inclination to record games and watch each one, i.e. me. So some big decisions needed to be made – Finland v Belgium or Russia v Denmark, Sweden v Poland or Slovakia v Spain, and at what point to switch over from the England game. Needless to say, there was action that was missed, but, by and large, each of the final group games did its best to satisfy viewers – not least the final day’s offerings, with a record haul of 18 goals scored in a single day across the four matches – if only every matchday was like that? When it comes to best team performances, it’s hard to look past Spain’s 5-0 trouncing of Slovakia, whilst Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands all maintained their unblemished record – Italy’s made all the more impressive by the fact they had eight changes to their usual starting XI and even managed to sub their goalie in the dying minutes and didn’t look for one second diminished. Thank goodness Italy B team didn’t enter as a separate entity. However, my standout team performances of the final round have to go to a couple of sides who came out of the group wilderness to qualify at the last second, notably Switzerland, but, even more impressively, Denmark, who on the back of two weeks of heartache and a tally of zero points pulled through in emphatic, determined fashion in their 4-1 demolition of Russia – let’s be honest, we’re all Danish fans to some degree at the moment.

Individual performances: In terms of individual performances, Xherdan Shaqiri, Luka Modric and Emil Forsberg all made the headlines for impressive outings that largely sealed the fates of their respective teams, but Marco Verratti’s return from a knee injury in Italy’s 1-0 victory over Wales was a masterclass in midfield magnificence. However, whilst Verratti may be the head’s choice, the heart’s choice can only be Bukayo Saka. Starting for the first time in a major tournament, Saka looked completely at home, or rather he looked like he was showing everyone else round his home – right, guys, let me give you a tour, here’s the back door, through you go, Jack, that’s it Raheem, after you – 1-0. Grealish too made an impressive first start in the tournament, but there was no getting away from the overall effect of Saka’s energy, positivity and forward thrust, which gave England added impetus and was just what Southgate ordered. Although Saka’s now given Southgate a new headache in his forward line, as if having to choose between the likes of Sterling and Rashford, Mount and Grealish isn’t enough, Saka made himself the kid you can’t ignore. Mind you, it’s not a bad headache to have – certainly better than the one Danilo must have woken up with after Hugo Lloris’ best Anthony Joshua impersonation.

Goals: And, as for goals, well, take your pick from the 39 recorded across the final group games. There was Andreas Christensen’s thunder-blaster against Russia, Luka Modric’s strike of beauty against Scotland, Ferran Torres’ cheeky flick against Slovakia and Xherdan Shaqiri’s curled finished against Turkey. Sadly, Martin Dubravka and Juraj Kucka both made the showreel, but for the wrong reasons – both scoring own goals in Slovakia’s 5-0 defeat to Spain – only the second time that has ever happened in Euros history, the first being in Portugal’s 4-2 loss to Germany – like they, say, you wait ages for a bus and two come along at once, though I suspect Dubravka, Kucka, Dias and Guerreiro could have done without these particular buses. It certainly keeps Own Goals’ tenure at the top of the Golden Boot chart alive and kicking, and whilst Emil Forsberg, Romelu Lukaku and Gini Wijnaldum make up the chasing pack, one man currently leads the way. No prizes for guessing who – Ronaldo, of course. And, on the topic of Ronaldo, it wouldn’t be a week at the Euros without another Ronaldo record. In fact, it’s like a game within a game, as he picks off decades-old records as if they’re fluff. This week’s record included that of becoming top scorer at the Euros and World Cup combined, with his twentieth (and subsequently twenty-first) goals surpassing the nineteen of Miroslav Klose. His second penalty against France also saw his international goals tally reach the hallowed 109 of Ali Daei, needing just one more to become the best international goalscorer of all time. Portugal face a tough test against Belgium next and potentially Italy in the quarterfinals and France in the semi-finals if they are to go all the way and retain their European crowns, but if they’re going to do it, you wouldn’t count against Ronaldo being the man to deliver the goals.

Moment: All players, I imagine, dream of their final international game ending with them sealing a win and lifting a trophy. Sadly, players all too often bow out with a whimper, if they get beyond the subs bench, that is. So, it was poignant to see one man get a deserved farewell, albeit without the goals and the trophy, when North Macedonian captain, talisman and general lynchpin, Goran Pandev brought time on his twenty-year international career against the Netherlands, earning a guard of honour as he was subbed off in the 69th minute. Pandev is the nation’s top scorer and appearance maker. He became the first man to captain his side in a major international tournament at this Euros and the first man to score a goal at a tournament. Aged 37, this was both Pandev’s first and last tournament and whilst three defeats from three may not be the dream ending, leading his nation out in the biggest tournament in Europe isn’t  a bad way to sign off. And who doesn’t love a guard of honour. I may have had something in my eye as I watched on, but it definitely wasn’t a tear.

England: And so to England, and it has to be said on the back of the Scotland game, the mood of the nation had taken a decided turn for the worst, with fans even beginning to worry whether the Three Lions would get out of the group. However, such is the fickle fate of football that even before a ball was kicked in England’s final decisive game against the Czech Republic, they had qualified, thanks to other results. Yet, it was still decisive in determining England’s next opponents and talk prior to the game turned to the question of whether England should go for the win and top the group or play out for a draw and a second-placed finish, on the basis of a possibly easier route to the final. As if football was that easy to determine. With a win clearly all that was in Southgate and his team’s plans, England secured a 1-0 victory, a top-of-the-table finish and a Round of 16 game at Wembley. What was yet to be decided, however, were their opponents. As it stood, going into Group F’s final fixtures, Germany would be England’s nemesis once more, but there were a whole 90 minutes to play in both a Portugal and France and Germany and Hungary game that could reset the whole complexion of the group. In fact, the complexion didn’t change at all, despite at various points in the 90 minutes, England set to face Portugal, France, Portugal again, Hungary, Portugal once more, Germany, Portugal for a fourth time, until eventually an equalising goal from Goretzka brought everything back to where it had been 90 minutes previously. But it was a rollercoaster for those 90 minutes, as England hopes rallied as Hungary secured second-place, dive-bombed on France and, in true English fashion, ended up in the inevitable outcome of facing Germany. It could be worse, but it could be better, and whilst it’s appealing to say Germany aren’t at their best, that in itself is worrying, as they continue to get the job done regardless. And what if we had finished second you ask, well, there would have been the small matter of a game against Spain in Copenhagen, a possible quarterfinal against France in St Petersburg, before a meeting with Belgium, Portugal, Italy or Austria in the semi-final. Definitely a walk in the park then.

Ten Women’s Super League Books I’d Like to Read by Jade Craddock

(C) FA Women’s Super League

Jade is one of FBR’s talented writers and reviewers and here takes a different slant on our Top Ten Football Books series of articles.

With the Women’s Super League (WSL) celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, women’s football in England has made major leaps in the last decade, and with news of a major broadcasting deal from next season, it looks set to take its biggest step yet. The added visibility and promotion of the game will surely catapult the league into even greater significance – and so too its players, a lot of whom are still not particularly household names, despite their successes. And hopefully this will be a catalyst for the publishing world too in terms of commissioning and publishing more books from the women’s game and, in particular, female footballers’ autobiographies, which traditionally have tended to be few and far between. With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of ten autobiographies of female footballers who have shaped the WSL that I would love to read (there are many, many more I could have added), although whether these impressive women have time to put pen to paper is another matter.

  1. Alex Scott

Alex Scott may be most familiar to a younger generation as an affable and engaging TV presenter on The One Show, a vibrant dancer on Strictly and a consummate pundit on Match of the Day and Sky Sports, but just three years ago she was still plying her trade as one of, if not the best, full-backs of her generation. In many ways, she was the start of the tradition of the modern full-back we see today in the likes of Lucy Bronze and Demi Stokes, and she was a serial winner, with over twenty trophies to her name – a record that trumps the majority of the male pundits she works alongside. Within this haul, she was an integral part of Arsenal’s 2006/07 sextuplet-winning side that scooped the UEFA Women’s Cup Women’s Premier League, FA Women’s Cup, FA Women’s League Cup, FA Women’s Community Shield and London Women’s Cup (a record that is only surpassed by Linfield’s seven trophy hauls) – scoring the winning goal that secured Arsenal their first and only European victories. Alex is also fourth in the list of all-time most capped players for England and has appeared at four Euros and three World Cups as well as the 2012 Olympics. Off the pitch, since retiring, Alex has made a smooth transition into presenting and punditry and has frankly and inspiringly spoken about mental health, and as of 2021/22 she will become the first female presenter of Football Focus. It is undeniable that Alex Scott has been, and continues to be, a real trailblazer.

  1. Karen Carney

For many, Kelly Smith is the greatest English female footballer of all time, but Karen Carney isn’t far behind. A genuine two-footed winger, a player of immense technical skill and artistry, she was in many ways ahead of the times. As well as being part of the most successful Arsenal team ever, she scooped the FA Cup with both Chelsea and her childhood team Birmingham City, where she was also inducted into the Hall of Fame. She was named FA Young Player of the Year in both 2005 and 2006 and was the WSL’s top goal-scorer in 2014. As well as competing in the WSL, Karen spent two seasons playing in the American Women’s Professional Soccer, whilst on the international stage, an impressive 144 England caps sees her sitting third in terms of most capped players. Indeed, she represented England at four European Championships and four World Cups, as well as being part of the victorious SheBelieves Cup triumph in 2019. Since retiring the same year, Karen has moved into the world of punditry and commentary where her football nous is clear to see, but, without doubt, it was on the pitch that she showcased her generational talent.

  1. Fara Williams

When asked to name the most capped England player of all time, you’d be forgiven for thinking Peter Shilton holds that accolade, but you’d be wrong. Shilton’s 125 caps pale by comparison to the 172 caps of the record holder – one Fara Williams. In an England career spanning some two decades, Fara also sits fourth in terms of top goal-scorers for the Lionesses. Add to that outings at the 2012 Olympics, some 200 plus senior club appearances, Young Player of the Year in 2002, FA Players’ Player of the Year in 2009 and FA International Player of the Year in 2007 and 2009, and Fara Williams is more than deserving of recognition. What makes her journey all the more impressive, though, is her well-noted off-field challenges, including being homeless. Having recently announced her retirement from international football, Fara’s stepping back really signifies the end of an era, but one that will last long in the memory and deserves recognition.

  1. Lucy Bronze

If there is one name synonymous with women’s football in England, and perhaps even globally, it is Lucy Bronze. For almost a decade, Lucy Bronze has stepped up to the plate, epitomising the pinnacle of the women’s game not only domestically but internationally. Indeed, she has over twenty individual honours to her name, including being twice recipient of the PFA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year, England Player of the Year and BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year, and being named in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup All-Star Squad, IFFHS UEFA Woman Team of the Decade and IFFHS World’s Woman Team of the Decade. Even scooping the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year Award in 2019 was bettered by her award of FIFA’s Women’s World Player of the Year in 2020, following the likes of such icons of the women’s game as Marta and Megan Rapinoe. As well as featuring in an England shirt, Bronze has gained recognition during her time at Liverpool, Manchester City and notably Olympique Lyonnais, where she was part of a team that won nine trophies, including three consecutive Champions Leagues. And whilst Lucy still lets her football do the talking on the pitch, she has spoken openly about important subjects surrounding women’s football and continues to be for many the role model of the women’s game.

  1. Steph Houghton

Over the last seven years, Steph Houghton has become one of the most iconic figures in English football, as the captain of the Lionesses, leading the team to their best ever World Cup finish of third in 2015 and their first SheBelieves Cup success in 2019. Having risen through the ranks at Sunderland and Leeds United, it was with Arsenal that Steph made her WSL bow, winning seven trophies in four years, before moving to Manchester City in 2014, where her record has been equally impressive, scooping one WSL title, three WSL Cup victories and three FA Cup honours. Steph is a player largely without fanfare and has that defensive quality of old of getting the job done, but what a job she has done both for club and country, not least since her husband, former Liverpool defender, Stephen Darby’s diagnosis of motor neuron disease in 2018. Steph has been pivotal to the development of women’s football in England and has led by example throughout her impressive tenure.

  1. Jill Scott

There’s no missing Jill Scott on a football field, not because of her height, a handy 5 ft 11, but because she is literally everywhere on the pitch, and has been for so long now – fifteen years and counting for England – that it’s hard to remember a time or a team before Jill’s emergence. The archetypal box-to-box midfielder, Jill’s impressive decade in the WSL and nine trophies makes her one of the game’s most ever-present and decorated servants. Indeed, she holds the current record for most WSL appearances, whilst for England, she is one of only two players, along with Karen Carney, to have appeared at four World Cups, and second only in appearances to Fara Williams. Her longevity in the game means she has been at the heart of the changing face of women’s football in England and around the world and has witnessed first-hand the impact and success of the WSL, as well as England’s shifting fortunes. She has been there, done it and quite literally got the T-shirts – and in many cases the trophies too.

  1. Gilly Flaherty

Like Jill Scott, Gilly Flaherty has been in the WSL every step of the way – in fact, she was the scorer of the very first WSL goal, for Arsenal against Chelsea on 13 April 2011, and has equal most WSL winners’ medals. With a career that started with Millwall Lionesses, Gilly was part of the Arsenal team that dominated women’s football at the end of the 2000s, and swept the board in terms of titles in 2006/07. Success also followed at Chelsea, where she added two further WSL titles and two further FA Cups, before a move to West Ham in 2018, where she continues to lead with the captain’s armband. Although her England senior career never really took off, Flaherty has been at the top of the domestic game for some fifteen years, but it’s not just on the pitch that she has made her mark, speaking out in recent years about her struggles with mental health and supporting initiatives for positive action.

  1. Ji So-Yun

Some thirty nations have now been represented in the WSL, including Bulgaria, Nigeria and New Zealand, and the latest being Greece, but one of the earliest and longest-serving international arrivals was South Korea’s Ji So Yun, who made the move to Chelsea in 2014 from Japan, where she played for J League champions INAC Kobe. A trailblazer for South Korea and a lot of later international players, Ji settled quickly to the new league, scooping Players’ Player of the Year after her first season, and PFA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year, and has since gone on to win 10 titles with the Blues in her seven years at the club to date. On the international stage, Ji has some 125 appearances for South Korea and is the nation’s top scorer, as well as being the youngest goal-scorer for her country. She has been labelled as one of the best midfielders in the world and the best international player in the history of the WSL. And her journey from young footballer in Seoul to WSL champion in London is the stuff of dreams.

  1. Vivianne Miedema

Whilst Ji may be considered the best international player in the history of the WSL, one woman is certainly hot on her heels. Still only 24, Vivianne Miedema has set the WSL alight since arriving at the Gunners in 2017. In 2018/19, she scored a record 22 goals in a season, and is also the league’s top scorer with 60. She holds the record for the most consecutive seasons scoring at least 10 goals and at least 15 goals; the most goals in a calendar month; the most WSL hat-tricks, the most WSL hat-tricks in a season; the most goals in a game; the most goal involvements in a game and most assists in a game, and with an 18-goal haul in 20/21 there are no signs of these records lasting. Her record-breaking doesn’t stop on the domestic stage; she was the U19 UEFA Women’s championship top scorer in 2014 and twice UEFA Champions League top scorer and has the record goals at both U17 and senior level for the Netherlands. Aged just 21, she was part of Euro-winning Netherlands team, scoring two goals in the final to overcome Denmark. With a comic book series to her name, as well as featuring in Amy Raphael’s brilliant A Game of Two Halves, where Vivianne proved herself to be a powerful voice on the women’s game, Vivianne already has the book market conquered, but despite her tender age, hers is a story that will surely require more than one volume!

  1. Fran Kirby

Having recently scooped the FWA award for the second time, following her win in 2017/18, Fran Kirby has once again hit the headlines this season, in a Championship-winning year. Despite a humbling defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League Final, Fran and her Chelsea team have recorded a season to remember, losing only one game to see off a strong challenge from runners-up Man City. On a personal note, Fran finished the season with 16 goals to be the third top scorer in the league, and finished joint first for assists, including a notable quadruple against Reading and a brace plus four assists in the final match of the season. Although she initially burst onto the senior scene at the tender age of 16, well-noted struggles with depression following the devastating loss of her mother put her football career temporarily on pause, but Fran’s resilience and talent soon catapulted her to the top of the game, with wins in the 2015 FA Cup and WSL, as well as becoming a Lionesses regular. Another testing time came in 2019 when Fran suffered pericarditis which threatened to end her career, but once more she came back in impressive style and with great fortitude for someone who is still only 27. Fran’s story has been one of incredible challenges, but ultimately incredible success and is one that defines inspiration.