Born in Watford, Jonny Brick was actually raised to support Tottenham Hotspur during the Ledley King years. After spending five years in Scotland and going cold on English football, Jonny chose to wander along to Vicarage Road in 2012, where he saw Watford beat Burnley 3-2 on a sunny Saturday. Having spent most of the 2010s working on a bumper book, A Modern Guide to Modern Football, Jonny chose to promote it via a series of interviews with football readers, writers and reporters. The very first interviewee was the editor of this website.
1 The Collected Works of Mike Calvin
You know how you can have all 37 plays by Shakespeare? If I can have the pentalogy by Mike Calvin in one volume I’d be in heaven. It would also free up four slots in my list. It’s easier for me to lump them all together: Family is the best because you end up caring about Millwall. No Hunger In Paradise, The Nowhere Men and Living On the Volcano argue the case for young players, scouts and managers respectively, while State of Play was written as an update on Arthur Hopcraft’s terrific The Football Man. Hopcraft’s heir is a council estate kid from Watford. A National Treasure.
Having trotted around the world for his previous two books, James turns his aim on the boardroom. Only someone who loves football so much can pick it apart so greatly and James tries to remain objective in his description of the villains and heroes of English football ownership. What’s going on with Chinese investors in the Midlands? This book shows how the best sausage in the world gets made.
When I was supposed to be working on my Masters thesis I was instead gobbling up the scholarly text on tacticians. This is a good introduction to Jon’s fine prose style, mixing fact and witticism, and he has fine-tuned it in ten other books on Hungary, Argentina, the ‘Barcajax’ way of Barcelona and the goalkeepers.
4 The Game of Our Lives by David Goldblatt
This is a better class of football memoir, as its sales figures indicate. Tom Fordyce’s long similes sometimes overpower the Ealing-born beanpole but Peter, a rare middle-class footballer, has enough self-deprecation to laugh with and at elite football.
A leftfield pick. He might not be able to write his name, but he has written five books. This was the memoir he wrote after leaving management so he could afford to settle scores and be (pun coming up) frank. He’s very good on football in the pre-Premiership era, where you can smell the dubbin on the page.
With the help of pros, broadcasters and critics, Johnny convincingly destroys the case for having a Sky subscription, while making points about society, money and class. He may be a little too hippie for some but he has thousands of admirers from his Football365 columns, of which this is sort of a life’s work. The Hermit of any Football Library.
A Manchester City fan holds his nose and investigates his beloved club in the wake of the Abu Dhabi regime winning its first trophies. Success is good, as is the regeneration of Eastlands but at what cost? A perfect warm-up for his book on the Fall of FIFA.
This is a perfect stocking filler for a nostalgic football fan: 50 vignettes of 500 words or so about the little things that matter about life as a fanatic. A third book is out in time for Christmas 2020. Treat yourself!
The movie Airplane has a gag about Jewish sporting heroes. Anthony extends a ‘pamphlet’ to a book, where the likes of Brian Glanville, David Pleat and Mark Lazarus all come out well. The founding fathers of the Premier League, meanwhile, are both Jewish: David Dein and Irving Scholar. Mazaltov!!
On the Bench
The complete works of Duncan Hamilton, including his books on Clough (Provided You Don’t Kiss Me) and fandom (Going to the Match). Das Reboot by Rafael Hoenigstein, which started with Germany losing 5-1 to England and ended in glory. Futebol by Alex Bellos, an encomium to Jogo Bonito. Lastly, Enjoy the Game by Lionel Birnie, a must for anyone interested in Watford and the Glory Glory Taylor years.