Book Review: How to be a Football Manager by Ian Holloway

With the managerial roundabout in full swing already this season, the question once more crops up: who would want to be a football manager? Well, ask most football fans, and they’ll probably think they can do a better job than some managers, and they may not be wrong. Let’s be honest, we’ve all sat there, in the stands or on the sofa, watching our teams lose and called out the manager for their tactical choices, their personnel choices or, perhaps in lieu of anything else, their fashion choices. After all, when it’s all going pear-shaped, we often wonder how hard can it be to pick eleven players, to get them passing ten yards, to not concede yet again? From our lofty perches, it seems like child’s play, but former QPR and Blackpool manager Ian Holloway has been there, done it and got the stories to prove it’s a lot harder than it looks. So, just before you hit send to wing your CV over to put your name in the managerial race for those teams looking for the next Pep Guardiola, it might be worth a quick perusal of Holloway’s How To Be A Football Manager, to discover just what it takes to sit in the managerial hot seat.

There are few managers as entertaining and honest as Ian Holloway, traits that have occasionally backfired on him, but nonetheless made him a memorable and engaging character in the game. Having spent almost two decades playing, for the likes of Bristol Rovers and QPR, Holloway continued his footballing career on the side-lines as manager at clubs including Leicester City, Crystal Palace and most recently Grimsby Town. Across four decades in the game, there’s very little that Holloway has not seen, done or experienced, working across the leagues, and whilst a post-match glass of wine with Arsene Wenger or a pre-season friendly against Real Madrid may sound like the stuff of dreams, the life of a football manager is often much more mundane and challenging. From picking a starting XI to overseeing contract negotiations, dealing with referees to managing in a pandemic, Ian Holloway reflects on the highs and lows in the dugout with his trademark honesty.

The book is full of Holloway’s own stranger-than-fiction real-life episodes, including the time he put his personal address on the QPR website inviting disgruntled fans to come and share their grievances face to face (none did) and the time that a pre-season prank by his players ended up with Holloway making a trip to the local police station. Holloway’s managerial career is littered with such frankly outlandish but true tales, begging the question whether it could only happen to Holloway or whether Jurgen Klopp has a similar dossier that he’s just waiting to release. Although I can’t imagine Klopp, or any manager in the top leagues come to think of it, inviting round disgruntled fans – and they’re probably wise not to. But when it comes to player acquisition, chairmen strife and press conferences, off-piste coaching and handling players, Holloway may very well be in a league of his own.

As mentioned already, one of the great strengths of Holloway, that comes across so explicitly in this book, is his honesty, but not only honesty, a complete candidness and forthrightness. And crucially it’s an honesty that is applied equally to everything, be that when he speaks about difficult chairmen, underperforming players or himself. Indeed, Holloway is unflinchingly honest about his own failings and shortcomings, recognising the moments where he has made a mistake or overstepped the mark, and neither too afraid nor too proud to try to make a change. It’s a shame that the same can’t be said for some of the other characters in the book. Above all, it’s obvious that Holloway is a man of principle and integrity, one that loves the game and wants to see the best version of it, whether in himself, his team or his supporters. He speaks passionately about protecting his players, about making difficult decisions and his commitment to his teams and you just know that what you see is what you get with Holloway. He is the type of manager who you could bump into in the street, or, as he prefers, in the second-hand shop, and discuss football with, and he would be as honest and open as ever. He would entertain you with stories of the good, the bad and the ugly of the football world, and leave you feeling energised once more about the game, despite the latest VAR debacle, your out-of-nick striker and your penny-pinching owners. He would remind you just why we all love this little old sport called football and why a good manager is much more than their tactics.

Without Holloway, the game has lost one of its larger-than-life characters, but during his hiatus, his book offers a refreshing, eye-opening insight into the real world of football management. Holloway, in yet another measure of the man, thanks ghost-writer David Clayton in the acknowledgements, a classy but oft-overlooked touch in such books, and Clayton merits these plaudits as the book perfectly encapsulates all that fans know and love about Ian Holloway – frank, passionate, down-to-earth and fair. For anyone polishing their managerial CV, those qualities aren’t bad ones to start with.

Jade Craddock

(Publisher: Headline. October 2022. Hardcover: 320 pages)


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Three Goalkeepers and Seven Goals turns the clock back to 1982 for the most memorable match in Leicester City history – a quarter-final FA Cup tie with Shrewsbury Town that stands without parallel for twists and drama.

Told through the eyes of fictional reporter Bob Johnson, the story brings to life that extraordinary game, as a capacity crowd wedged into the atmospheric Filbert Street witnesses Leicester stage a spectacular 5-2 comeback using three goalkeepers.

Set in an era of macho newsrooms, Thatcher and the Falklands War, the book resurrects a remarkable period in British history.

Hard-nosed newspaperman Johnson thinks he’s seen it all, but his world is turned upside down as one of the lucky fans who witness Leicester’s inspirational comeback, aided by a goal from a young Gary Lineker.

Johnson’s account captures the immense drama of this epic game before tragedy strikes.

In Three Goalkeepers and Seven Goals, Mark Bishop skilfully weaves fact with fiction to honour a match that is part of Leicester City folklore.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. February 2022. Paperback: 224 pages)


Fosse v Luffs is a story filled with drama, excitement, controversy – and violence – about a footballing rivalry as intense as any in modern English football.

The Fosse (forerunner of Leicester City) were the dominant club in the town of Leicester, and Loughborough (the Luffs) were the biggest and most successful team in the county of Leicestershire. Each encounter between these two sides was a battle for supremacy within the county.

Fosse v Luffs charts the growth of the rivalry, from amateur games played in front of a handful of family and friends to Football League encounters witnessed by 10,000-plus spectators, with thousands more eagerly awaiting the outcome.

Drawing on extensive newspaper research, Nigel Freestone brings to life this forgotten era when football was a bone-crunching game and not for the faint-hearted. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in Leicester City FC, Victorian sport or local history.

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


After a trophy-laden and record-setting club and international career, England’s greatest ever goalkeeper, Peter Shilton, could rightly look forward to an equally successful post-playing career. But a gambling habit forged in his playing days soon spiralled into a gambling addiction: a silent, self-destructive and ruinous obsession that destroyed relationships, his mental health and very nearly himself.

With the love and support of his wife Steph, he was able to face up to his addiction, find hope for the future and overcome his 45-year secret and turn his life around.

Peter and Steph – who has over 20 years’ experience working in the NHS – now campaign to raise awareness of this, and other destructive addictions, helping both addicts and their partners weather the long and arduous journey back to recovery. Their support for and work with ‘The Big Step’ campaign aims to bring in stricter advertising controls and team kit sponsorship rules.

Steph and Peter bravely tell both sides of their journey with a direct honesty and an empathy born of real-life experience, offering advice and hope to not only those affected by gambling, but sufferers of other chronic addictions. They also shine a light on football’s obsession with gambling, taking millions of pounds from the gambling sites and bookies who sponsor the game, while neglecting to support both the players and fans who fall prey to addiction.

This is the ultimately uplifting story of how he was saved – by Steph’s love and support, and his own strength and determination.

(Publisher: Ad Lib Publishers Ltd. September 2021. Hardcover: 288 pages)

2021/22 Premier League Books (Part 1) – Gunners to Foxes by Jade Craddock

With the new Premier League season just around the corner and a host of familiar and new players gracing the league, there’s plenty of stories to be written, metaphorically and literally. Here, we take a look at each club and pick an already published autobiography from a player of the Premier League era that’s worth a read and one from the current crop that would appeal.


Past: Arsenal have had some mighty fine players in the Premier League era and some mighty memorable personalities too – a number of which have made their mark in the publishing world. Legends like Sol Campbell, Ian Wright and Dennis Bergkamp have put pen to paper, although, perhaps Arsenal’s greatest Premier League player, Thierry Henry, has never done so, with just Philippe Auclair’s biography, Thierry Henry: Lonely At The Top available so far. Last year also saw the man who led Arsenal for 26 seasons in the top flight and revolutionise the club, not least in shaping the 03/04 Invincibles, Arsene Wenger, publish his first book, My Life in Red And White, and a startlingly frank memoir from cult hero Nicklas Bendtner, Both Sides. Although not autobiography, looking forward, there’s also an exciting project on the horizon which sees Ian Wright’s debut novel for younger readers, Striking Out, published in September. But, as legends go, they don’t come much greater than Tony Adams and two notable autobiographies have been penned with Ian Ridley; the first Addicted in 1998 and the second Sober in 2018 – the titles of which tell you all you need to know about Adams’ battles on and off the pitch.

Present: Arsenal haven’t perhaps had quite the wealth of big-name talent in recent years as they more traditionally have had in the Premier League era, but with Ben White’s arrival this summer and the emergence of some young guns, with the likes of Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli, there’s plenty to look out for from the Gunners. When it comes to penning their life story, captain and talisman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would seem like an obvious choice that would surely be full of the goalscorer’s infectious personality. Elder statesmen Willian and Granit Xhaka would also have interesting journeys to share, while despite being only nineteen, Bukayo Saka has already written an impressive entry into Arsenal and England’s history books. But my choice for Arsenal autobiography would be Arsenal’s current longest-serving player, Hector Bellerin, who has not only entered his tenth year at the club and been around in a changing era at the North London side, but who is also an eloquent and passionate speaker on a number of subjects beyond football.

Aston Villa

Past: In the first ever Premier League season, Aston Villa finished second – it proved to be their highest-ever finish in the new top flight as subsequent seasons, and particularly more recent years, have been more down than up. Yet, Villa Park has been graced by some genuine quality and a few iconic cult heroes in the three decades of the Premier League. Surprisingly, though, few of these have had their stories put down on paper. Indeed, the likes of Villa stalwarts such as Mark Bosnich, Ian Taylor and Dean Saunders remain absent from the bookshelves, as do unexpected heroes like John Carew, Savo Milosevic and Juan Pablo Angel. In fact, only a couple of Villa players have autobiographies to their name, including nineties legend Paul McGrath, whilst more recent icon, Stiliyan Petrov, published his autobiography in 2005, prior to his move from Celtic to the West Midlands. So it’s sadly slim pickings, so I’m going to suggest three past players who publishers should consider for future autobiographies: Gareth Barry, who remains top of Villa’s most EPL appearances chart; Lee Hendrie, who rose up the ranks at his local club; and Dion Dublin, who needs no introduction.

Present: Before this month, there was just one man who would have been at the top of fans’ lists in terms of a Villa autobiography – Jack Grealish, but despite Manchester City having put the kibosh on that, there’s still some great and perhaps even more worthy candidates available. With Danny Ings and Ashley Young arriving at Villa Park this summer, they’ve both got substantial journeys to share, whilst John McGinn’s story began in St Mirren before marking his mark at Hibernian and latterly the Midlands club. However, few players have had quite the journey of England’s Tyrone Mings, who spent eight years in the academy at Southampton before his senior career saw him start not at the dizzy heights of the Premier League but at non-League Yate Town. A move to Southern League Premier Division Chippenham followed, before he made his League football bow with Ipswich Town. The Premier League beckoned following a move to Bournemouth in 2015, before he really made his mark at Villa and stepped up for the Three Lions.


Past: As we head into the 2021/22 season, Brentford are the only team never to have previously played in the Premier League since its inception in 1992, having bounced around the old Second and Third Division, League One and League Two and spent the last seven seasons in the Championship, coming close to promotion in 2019/20, before securing their spot in the top flight last season. There are, unsurprisingly, therefore few books charting Brentford players past, although Greville Waterman has penned a couple of tomes on the club and its players, while The Official Brentford Book of Griffin Park was released in 2019, to mark their move from the stadium the Bees have called home for over 100 years. There’s rich pickings then for any wannabe authors out there or publishers who want to fill the Brentford gaps on the bookshelves.

Present: Brentford arguably have one of the best alumni in recent years, with the likes of Neal Maupay, James Tarkowski and Ollie Watkins all making the move from the West London club to the Premier League, and the Bees now have a squad all ready to step on to the biggest domestic stage in football, but one of the standout performers last time out was centre-forward, Ivan Toney, who was League One’s top scorer in 2019/20, before backing that up by becoming the Championship’s top scorer last season in his first campaign for Brentford. In some 45 appearances, Toney, who started his journey at Northampton Town, becoming the side’s youngest player, scored 31 times. His move from Northampton to Newcastle United failed to bear fruit, with Toney being sent out on loan lower down the football pyramid, variously at Barnsley, Shrewsbury Town, Scunthorpe United, and Wigan Athletic, before his move to Peterborough in 2018. Just three seasons on, Toney finds himself, still only 25, finally having his shot at the big time and going on past performances it would be unwise to count him out.

Brighton & Hove Albion

Past: When the Premier League kicked off in earnest, Brighton and Hove Albion were struggling in Division 2, before a period in Division 3. Their fortunes seemed to turn with the new millennium, but as near back as 2011, they were still competing in League One. A few years in the Championship culminated in 2017 in their first promotion to the Premier League, and since then they haven’t looked back. The Premier League era has seen some stalwarts at the South Coast side, but none of these, including second on Brighton’s goalscoring charts, Glenn Murray, and joint sixth, Bobby Zamora, as well as talisman Bruno, have turned their journeys into books so far. The club’s leading goalscorer, Tommy Cook, who was also notable for being a first-class cricketer for Sussex way back in the 1920s and 1930s, was memorialised earlier this year in Tommy Cook: The Double Life of Superstar Sportsman, but for a more recent tome, albeit prior to the Premier League era, the autobiography of Brian Horton, who both played and managed at Brighton stands out.

Present: Brighton have been a team that have caught many an eye since their promotion to the Premier League four seasons ago and have quality in abundance, in both young, up-and-coming talent and experienced pros. One-man-club and current captain Lewis Dunk would be an obvious starting point for a Brighton autobiography, but there’s plenty of other names in the running. Youngsters Tariq Lamptey and Yves Bissouma are ones who are at the beginning of their journeys but certainly worth keeping an eye out for, whilst Percy Tau’s story takes him from South Africa to Brighton with time spent in Belgium. For their wealth of experience, though, it is hard to look past Danny Welbeck and Adam Lallana, and whilst Welbeck has perhaps had the slightly more varied journey via Manchester United, Preston North End, Sunderland, Arsenal and Watford, Lallana’s successes on the European stage with Liverpool top his story off with Champions League and Club World Cup success.


Past: Like Brentford and Brighton before them, Burnley were well out of the Premier League reckoning when it all kicked off in 1992. Bouncing around Division 1 and 2 throughout the nineties, the new millennium saw them consolidate in Division 1, latterly the Championship, before making the final step up the pyramid to the Premiership via the play-off in 2009. It was but the briefest of stays and was repeated in 2013/14 when the Clarets were once more promoted only to be relegated after their first season back at the top. However, since winning the Championship in 2016, Burnley have become a mainstay of England’s top league. Dave Thomas has been at the forefront of charting Burnley’s recent past, including Champions: How Burnley won promotion 2015/2016 and a biography of Bob Lord of Burnley, described as football’s most controversial chairman. So when it comes to the players, it’s another Dave Thomas offering that is worth a look – Paul Weller’s Not Such a Bad Life.

Present: There are some absolute stalwarts to choose from when picking a future Burnley autobiography. The man at the top, by which I mean Sean Dyche, who is starting his ninth season in charge of the club, surely is in the reckoning and is someone who makes for a good listen. When it comes to the players, Ben Mee and Ashley Barnes are amongst the longest-serving on the current roster, whilst Jay Rodriguez is back at his hometown club after an initial spell from 2007 to 2012, before moves to Southampton and West Brom. At 36, Phil Bardsley’s journey has taken him from the Manchester United academy to loans in Antwerp, Rangers, Villa and Sheffield United, before moves to Sunderland and Stoke preceded his switch to Burnley. But Chris Wood has without doubt made the greatest journey, literally, from Ohehunga Sports in New Zealand as a junior, firstly to West Brom, with loan spells at everyone from Barnsley to Millwall, before moves to Leicester, then Leeds and finally, in 2017, Burnley. Wood is one of only six New Zealanders to have played in England’s top flight.


Past: Last year’s Champions League winners have been Premier League mainstays since its first season, winning the league title five times with some of the biggest names in football, from Anelka to Zola. Whilst there have been some high-profile Chelsea autobiographies to date, including Dennis Wise’s memoir, John Terry’s My Winning Season and Frank Lampard’s Totally Frank, there are some obvious omissions, including Gianfranco Zola. Claude Makelele and Marcel Desailly both penned autobiographies, but these haven’t been published in English, whilst there are a number of pre-Premier League reads available, including Bobby Tambling’s Goals in Life and Kerry Dixon’s Up Front. But for a Premier League icon, you don’t have to look much further than Didier Drogba’s 2015 autobiography Commitment. Drogba is one of just 29 players to have scored over a century of Premier League goals and is Chelsea’s fourth-highest goalscorer of all time and greatest overseas striker. He is also the third most capped Ivory Coast player and their top scorer. Whilst at Chelsea, he won the gamut of Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup, Community Shield and Champions League.

Present: Though he moved on to pastures new this summer, Olivier Giroud’s forthcoming autobiography is already in the pipeline and scheduled for release next month, but who else in the Blues’ ranks would have plenty to bring to an autobiography? From current Euros winners to World Cup Winners, there are a host of contenders, not least the Selecao’s captain, Thiago Silva, whose former teams span six countries and include Fluminense, AC Milan and PSG, and who has won trophies in four countries, including the Copa de Brasil, Serie A, Ligue 1 and Champions League, as well as the Confederations Cup and Copa America for his national team. It would take some beating to surpass Thiago’s incredible journey… Step up, N’Golo Kante. The French midfield marvel is one of only six – yes, six – players to have won the triumvirate of Premier League, Champions League and World Cup. (The other five, worth noting for your next quiz night – Fabian Barthez, Juliano Belletti, Pedro, Gerard Pique and Thierry Henry.) Yet despite his successes, Kante hasn’t gone big time. Indeed, away from the pitch, he tends to go under the radar, and that makes fans love him all the more.

Crystal Palace

Past: As Crystal Palace head into the new season, it’s all change at the top, with Roy Hodgson stepping away and Patrick Vieira taking up the reins for his first term in charge in the Premier League, and they’ll be big shoes to fill after the former England man made Palace a firm Premier League outfit. Whilst the Eagles were part of the Premier League from the get-go, they hold the dubious honour of being one of the three teams to be relegated in that inaugural season (quiz-goers out there, two points if you were able to name Middlesbrough and Notts Forest as the other two teams to fall), and despite briefly yo-yoing back to the top flight, the majority of the nineties and noughties were spent in Division 1/Championship. In 2013, however, Crystal Palace once again returned to England’s top division and have stayed there ever since. When it comes to autobiographies, Vince Hilaire’s autobiography published in 2018 offers a pre-Premier League take, whilst Mark Bright’s My Story similarly just misses out on the new era but both are ones to look out for. For something a bit different though, and to get another side of the Premier League story, Simon Jordan’s Be Careful What You Wish For was a finalist for both the William Hill Sports Book of the Year and shortlisted for the British Sports Book Award for best autobiography. And surely Sky Sports pundit Clinton Morrison’s memoir can’t be too far off.

Present: When it comes to Crystal Palace, there’s always one name that’s on everyone’s lips – Wilfried Zaha, and, having been at the club for some fifteen plus years, not counting loan spells, he’s an Eagles mainstay. Defenders James Tomkins and Joel Ward have been around the game for a considerable time, as too has Scott Dann, who has done the footballing rounds. Having just left Crystal Palace for Galatasaray, Dutch defender Patrick Van Aanholt may have been in the reckoning, with a career journey that has spanned some seven English clubs, from Chelsea to Coventry City. Captain Luka Milivojevic vies for a memoir, having come through the ranks in his home country of Serbia, before going on to play in a further three nations, including Belgium with Anderlecht, Greece with Olympiacos and latterly England. However, Christian Benteke’s journey to the top is even more breathtaking, having had to flee Kinshasa as a small child, before a youth career in Belgium that led to senior football with Genk and Standard Liege before impressing at Aston Villa and continuing in the Premier League with Liverpool and Crystal Palace.


Past: Since being founded in 1878, Everton have a rich footballing history, including being part of the Football League from its inception in 1888 and champions first in 1891 and a further eight times, the most recent in 1987. Despite not having such successes in the Premier League, the Toffees have been mainstays throughout the league’s 29-year history. Unsurprisingly, therefore, there are a few Everton books knocking around, including Jim Keoghan’s look at nine players to have worn the number 9 shirt in Everton: Number Nine, Tony Evans’ Two Tribes and a forthcoming book to look out for The Forgotten Champions by Paul McParlan. When it comes to autobiographies, one man who’s missing from the list is Toffees legend, Duncan Ferguson, although Alan Pattullo’s 2015 book In Search of Duncan Ferguson is available. Whilst Peter Reid and Pat Nevin have both brought out entertaining autobiographies in recent years, Cheer Up Peter Reid and The Accidental Footballer respectively, they just miss out on the Premier League era, so the honour goes to goalkeeper and cult hero Neville Southall. Aside from an earlier autobiography, grippingly titled The Binman Chronicles, Southall brought out a second book last year called Mind Games, which explores the important subject of mental health.

Present: After his impressive outing at the Euros this summer, it is hard to look beyond another goalkeeper when it comes to picking a future autobiography. Indeed, Jordan Pickford has been England’s number one for both a World Cup and Euros campaign, getting to a semi-final and final respectively, and is about to embark on his fourth season with Everton. World Cup Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez and Brazilian midfielder Allan’s journeys both take them from South America to Europe before their moves to Everton, similarly for Yerry Mina. Meanwhile, having already made a name for himself in the league, Richarlison spent the summer winning Olympic gold in Tokyo. However, if there is one player that has Everton running through him and defines the club’s recent past it is perennial defender Seamus Coleman, who is now in his twelfth year with the Toffees – only West Ham’s Mark Noble has a longer stay at a single club of the current Premier League crop. Having started out in his home nation with Sligo Rovers, Coleman’s commitment to Everton has been unwavering, seeing him surpass 300 appearances for the club, as well as being a mainstay for the national side. Fans from other teams will wish some of their players showed the loyalty Coleman has.

Leeds United

Past: As the Premier League era kicked off, Leeds United were a mainstay for the first decade, regularly securing European football, but in 2004 the club were relegated to the Championship and worse was to follow just three short seasons later, when a second relegation landed them in League One. Back-to-back play-offs followed before Leeds moved back up to the Championship in 2010, where lower-half finishes were the order of the day, that is until new chairman Andrea Radrizzani pulled off perhaps the most unexpected and spectacular signing, bringing one Marcelo Bielsa to Yorkshire. In the Argentine’s first season, Leeds just missed out on promotion, but despite a COVID-ravaged second season, his team finished the job, earning promotion back to the top flight for the first time in sixteen seasons. Last season saw their impressive form continue and this current crop follow in the footsteps of some Leeds legends of yore. Somewhat surprisingly, players like Nigel Martyn, Lucas Radebe, Ian Harte, Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka and Tony Yeboah are without autobiographies, whilst former players James Milner and David Batty are two of the few to have published books. However, there are few more important books than Gary Speed: Unspoken, which was published by the late-midfielder’s family, following his tragic death.

Present: England fans found themselves a new hero this season in the form of Kalvin Phillips, who stepped up onto the international stage at his first major championship like the proverbial duck to water. Still only 25, there’s plenty more yet to come from the Leeds-born lad who has been at the club for over a decade. Other long-serving players include captain Liam Cooper, right-back Luke Ayling and the versatile Stuart Dallas, all of whom have experienced the club’s startling revival in recent years. And it would be remiss not to mention Patrick Bamford, whose Premier League career, after being let go from Chelsea after five years and six loan spells, variously at MK Dons through to Burnley, was quick to be written off in some quarters when he moved to Middlesbrough in 2017. His move to Leeds a year later though proved his best yet as he was integral to the club’s promotion and he then went on to score in his first game on his return to the top flight, going on to rack up 17 goals – joint fourth with Son Heung-Min, and only behind Bruno Fernandes, Mo Salah and Harry Kane. Key to Bamford’s and Leeds’ success has without doubt, though, been the mercurial Argentinian manager, who has developed something of a cult following. And if there is anyone whose autobiography I’d like to read it’s Marcelo Bielsa’s.

Leicester City

Past: The greatest underdog story of recent history was completed by the Foxes in 2016, when at odds of 5000-1, Claudio Ranieri led the likes of Wes Morgan, N’Golo Kane, Shinji Okazaki and Jamie Vardy to the Premier League title, for the first time in the club’s history. Leicester City firmly placed themselves on the footballing map and have continued to compete, as demonstrated last season, winning the FA Cup for the first time, and kicking the new season off with a trophy in last weekend’s Community Shield. Whilst Harry Harris’s The Immortals charts that incredible season, Rob Tanner’s updated 5000/1 is due out next month. Jamie Vardy’s story from non-league to Premier League winner has already been penned in his 2016 autobiography, and there is even a film about his life in the works. With a lot of the 2016 heroes still playing, further books will surely follow when they come to hang up their boots, but in terms of other autobiographies already available, Emile Heskey published his first book in 2019, whilst Muzzy Izzet’s eight-year spell at the club from 1996 to 2004 covered a tumultuous period which saw the team relegated from the Premier League, before bouncing straight back and then being relegated straight after.

Present: Leicester are blessed with some really exciting young talent in the likes of Caglar Soyuncu, James Maddison and new arrival Patson Daka, and but for a horrific preseason injury that has put him on the sidelines for the time being, Wesley Fofana was sure to have followed up an impressive first season last time out. Old hands like Marc Albrighton and Ricardo Pereira have been around the footballing block and have plenty of experience to show for it, whilst Jonny Evans’ story includes eleven trophies from his time at Manchester United. Meanwhile, you’d be forgiven for thinking Youri Tielemans and Kelechi Iheanacho were older than their mere 24 years, having been in and around the Premier League for several seasons, but both have already made their mark and still have plenty of years ahead. Ten years their senior, Kasper Schmeichel has been at the club a decade and almost as long with the Denmark national team. As one of those who lifted the trophy in 2016 and has been there for Leicester’s incredible journey in recent years, as well as being at the centre of Denmark’s inspiring run at this summer’s Euros, Schmeichel’s autobiography would be one worth reading.

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Book Review: Out of the Darkness: From Top to Rock Bottom: My Story in Football by Matt Piper with Joe Brewin

With football fever sky-high right now and Kane et al living the football dream, it is easy to look on and see only the positive side of the beautiful game, but what happens for players when the reality of life as a footballer doesn’t live up to the dream, when that dream ends prematurely? In truth, this is the more realistic side of the story, with numerous players who don’t make it for every player that does. And even for those who do break through that is far from the end of the football journey. These are the stories, however, that we tend not to see or hear about, yet these are the ones that are just as important, if not more so, than the success stories, and former Leicester and Sunderland winger, Matt Piper, shares his own poignant tale as life as a young footballer and what happened when that life was over.

Piper’s story starts in Leicester, where, like so many other young footballers, he had that innate love of the game, as well as a single-minded focus and determination to succeed. Making it into the academy was the first step on the journey, before working his way through the age groups and being singled out ahead of his time, to step up to the first team, that boasted the likes of Muzzy Izzet, Robbie Savage and Stan Collymore. Despite his prodigious talent, it was not all plain sailing for a quieter, more introverted young player like Piper, negotiating big characters and tackling injuries, but, whilst still a teen, he began to make his mark. Whilst Leicester were going through their own challenges as a club, Piper settled in, but the turning point in his journey came when a move to Sunderland was pushed through. Though Piper made a go of it at the Stadium of Light, Howard Wilkinson didn’t make life easy, and although things vastly improved with Mick McCarthy, Piper was beset by injuries that would lead to him ultimately calling time on his career at just 24.

Piper offers a hugely honest reflection on what it is to be a player who suffers injuries and the mental challenges it poses. His admission of freedom at leaving behind his football career and the psychological merry-go-round of going through rehab only to suffer the inevitable setbacks is both eye-opening and hard-hitting. Again, we tend not to see these stories of struggle and despair, only the successful recoveries, and it’s easy to forget the physical demands of a footballer’s life, and crucially, the mental demands when the body breaks down. But Piper lays all of this bare, as he does with regard to life after football.

Indeed, after an initial smooth transition out of football, Piper’s life sadly soon spiralled, and he opens up without reservation about his struggles with depression, alcohol and drugs. It is a stark reminder of the difficult road many footballers face after the end of their careers, the loss of identity and purpose, especially so for young footballers. With the help of Sporting Chances and a supportive family, but crucially with his own desire to change, Piper turned his life around, ultimately leading to him setting up his own FSD Academy to help youngsters with life skills and football and he speaks poignantly and with a real sense of perspective about what matters in life.

It is easy to warm to Piper in the book and root for him and it’s really pleasing to see Piper not only having come out the other side but helping others. Indeed, all profits from this book go to FSD and Sporting Chances Clinic. Piper’s story is not the only one of this kind, but it is one that generally doesn’t get the attention or coverage it deserves, given the important issues at stake. Tackling the notion of young footballers falling out of love with the game, wanting to escape it, the physical but also the mental struggles of injury, as well as the challenges of negotiating different scenarios, managers and team-mates as a young player are all incredibly significant matters that need to be addressed more often and Piper has done a superb job of removing the taboos around certain subjects and opening up these issues for discussion. It is saddening but also refreshing and crucial that these issues come to light and gain acceptance and visibility in order to help other footballers understand and take control of their own journeys. And it’s crucial not to forget the other side of the footballing dream – and those for whom that dream may have turned into a nightmare. Piper’s book is testament to a rewarding and inspiring life after football, but also a reminder of the support and guidance needed to help former players – and youngsters especially – thrive.


(Pitch Publishing Ltd. August 2020. Hardcover: ?320 pages)


Jade Craddock


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Book Review: “Minding My Own Football Business”: The Inside Story Of Leicester City’s Success In The 90s by Barrie Pierpoint

At the point this review was written in February 2020, Leicester City sat third in the Premier League, and were considered by many to be an established top-flight club, having taken the title in a never to be forgotten 2015/16 campaign. Go back though to May 1991 and The Foxes were on the brink of dropping into the third tier of the English game but saved themselves with a last day victory at their former home, Filbert Street, with a win over Oxford United.

The club knew that they had to make changes to return to the successful years of the 1960s, when Leicester won the League Cup in 1963/64, finished runners-up the following season and appeared in three FA Cup Finals (1960/61, 1962/63 and 1968/69). Into the club came Aston Villa legend Brian Little as manager from Darlington, whilst off the pitch, Barrie Pierpoint was appointed as Director of Marketing.

The story of what happened next is told in, “Minding My Own Football Business”: The Inside Story Of Leicester City’s Success In The 90s. Mathew Mann ghost-writes the tale having convinced Pierpoint that there was a story to tell. The Preface from Mann and Introduction from Pierpoint, set the tone for what is to follow, with Pierpoint stating that, “I don’t want it to be controversial” and so they, “agreed to write a light-hearted, nostalgic tale”. Therefore, readers looking for a warts and all expose of the final months of Pierpoint’s time at the club, will be in the main disappointed. Sensibly though, the events aren’t avoided, as Pierpoint provides his side of the story in Chapter 13 leaving readers to “make up your own mind about the part I played in Leicester’s success during the nineties.”

However, it is clear that his departure along with three other directors at the end of 1999 plays a part in forming aspects of the books construction. For instance, each chapter relating to his spell at The Foxes, is divided between, On the pitch and Behind the scenes. This allows on the one hand readers to appreciate events of a football and commercial nature side-by-side in each season, but also provides a deliberate demarcation between the two, in deference to the accusation made that Pierpoint wanted to take over the whole club including the football activities. The title also is a play on the phrase ‘minding my own business’ reflecting Pierpoint’s sharp with a knowing glance to those who ousted him, and the others dubbed the ‘gang of four’.

And whilst Pierpoint’s time at Leicester ended in an unpleasant fashion, the book rightly focuses on all that he and his team (to whom he repeatedly gives credit) achieved in providing revenue that supported the activities of The Foxes on the pitch. During his spell at the club, Pierpoint achieved commercial success that saw the club win business, training and entrepreneurial awards, create innovative ideas to sell the club to businesses and fans alike, and oversaw the rebranding of the club and impressively the building of a brand new stand that became the focus for further income generation. On the pitch, The Foxes went to four Play-Off Finals (winning two) and won the League Cup in 1999/2000 having been runners-up the season before. Truly a successful period for the club which cannot be disputed, even by his detractors.

Given that success and the number of contributors to the book from directors, staff, fans, journalists, managers and players alike, including Steve Walsh, Emile Heskey, Simon Grayson, Gary Mills and Tony Cottee, amongst others, Pierpoint, oft described as ‘flamboyant’ due to his coloured glasses and matching suits, must have been doing something right. Ironically two years after his departure in October 2002, the club went into administration with debts of £30 million – make of that what you will.

This well produced publication, which has a range of well selected and positioned images and a very readable and generous font size, ends with Pierpoint’s time at Portsmouth, Bradford City and Boston United and a Postscript detailing very briefly his childhood and years since leaving Boston United and his current role as a Management Consultant and Business Adviser. This is a must read for Leicester City fans, but also those with an interest in the business of football. The modern game is big business and Pierpoint showed during his time at The Foxes that he could make a success of it.


For every copy sold a donation is made to Rainbows Hospice for children and young people


(Morgan Lawrence Publishing Services. December 2020. Paperback 264 pages)


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Book Review: Allan Clarke – His Fulham Years by Martin Plumb and Ken Coton

Programme from Allan Clarke’s Fulham debut.

Let’s start with a question. What club did ex-England international Allan Clarke make his First Division debut with? Many people will automatically assume that it was with Leeds United. It was in fact Fulham, coincidentally against the Yorkshire club he would later join, as a second-half substitute on Good Friday, 08 April 1966 at Craven Cottage.

Clarke signed for Fulham from Third Division Walsall at the backend of the 1965/66 season and played for the London club until the end of the 1967/68 campaign, before moving to Leicester City. Allan Clarke – His Fulham Years by Martin Plumb and Ken Coton, details as the book title states his time playing down by the Thames.

This tribute to the striker who scored 57 goals in his 100 appearances for the club, (his strike rate of 0.57 goals per game remains the second highest in Fulham’s history), is recorded through the wonderfully evocative images of the former Fulham photographer, Ken Coton, and complimented by the words of Martin Plumb.

Programme from Allan Clarke’s final Fulham game.

Format wise the book is dominated by a review of the time Clarke spent at the club on a season by season basis, which is added to with a useful breakdown of the players statistics whilst at Fulham and his career in total. In addition there are brief sections on his time after leaving Craven Cottage and even a Postscript from Clarke himself. This final piece from the man himself makes for interesting reading, in that despite its brevity, readers get the sense that the Clarke is not fan of the Premier League, with his view that “players can’t defend anymore, they really haven’t got a clue”, and was so confident in his abilities adding that, “if I was playing today’s game and hadn’t scored 30 to 40 goals, I would consider that I’d had a bad season.” With such forthright opinions, it would have been interesting to have the book contain more of Clarke’s thoughts on his playing career and football today.

As it is the narrative of the book is as much about Fulham’s battle to avoid relegation from the First Division as it is about Clarke’s goalscoring exploits. Whilst this is interesting, the real beauty comes from the lens of Ken Coton. Here black and white images capture the game from a very different time, with some grounds such as Bradford Park Avenue long since gone and Craven Cottage itself seen before the development of the Riverside Stand, with the long terrace in the 1960s only adorned by the television gantry, score board and various flag poles. Not every image in the book is perfect, but overall are of an excellent quality, testament to the skill of Ken Coton without the wizardry that digital cameras afford today.

It is once again another great addition to the Fulham based series of publications from Ashwater Press and a wonderful reminder of one of the club’s most deadly strikers.


(Ashwater Press. November 2020. Hardback 163 pages)


To purchase this book or get more information about Ashwater Press and their back catalogue click here

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Book Review: I Am Sam by James Durose-Rayner

I Am Sam is the opening book of a trilogy by James Durose-Rayner. This opening instalment introduces the reader to a central character with a love of Arsenal FC, the looks of David Beckham and a personal life more convoluted than Arsene Wenger’s transfer policy.

The book operates in both a fictional and factual context, with the main characters, the fictional creations, set against the factual backdrop of Arsenal during the 2013/14 season and the career of onetime Arsenal player Jon Sammels.

Durose-Rayner brings these together using the premise of a sports-media company that the central character and business partner Sooty own and run. Charged with creating a documentary for the 2014 World Cup, their research leads them to take up another thread, that of Jon Sammels (Sammy) who was at Highbury from 1963 until 1971.

For the most part the story is told through the central character and the first person narrative, although this in interspersed with chapters from Eddie Mardell, a journalist who becomes involved in the Sammy documentary.

In terms of the timeline, it is dominated by a chronological path, however, this is broken up by flashbacks to Sammy’s period at the Gunners and the football world of his time. This enables the reader to become familiar with the England team at the 1970 World Cup, the Arsenal side that won the Fairs Cup the same year and the Double winning side of 1971 and its subsequent breakup, including the departure of Sammels to Leicester City.

Running parallel to the football plotline is that of the central character and his private life, which can only be described as complicated – and even that would be an understatement. Durose-Rayner uses both blokeish language and humour to convey and navigate the chaotic nature of these relationships, but still is also able to present some emotional depth to the man in the middle of it all. Indeed the world that is created has some wonderfully constructed and totally believable cameos such as the café owner Fosis and his regulars.

Undoubtedly the book has a great tempo which allied with the two strong plotlines makes it both engaging and absorbing and subsequently difficult to put down. A great addition to the football fiction genre.


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2012/13: FA Cup Fourth Round – Huddersfield Town v Leicester City

LCFCFive months ago, the 2012/13 FA Cup opening weekend took place and I was amongst a crowd of 71 for the Preliminary Qualifying tie between Garforth Town and West Yorkshire neighbours Wakefield. On that overcast day on the last Saturday of August, Garforth made it through to the First Qualifying Round with a 1-0 win. Unlike previous years, this season I’ve not made a beeline for attending games in the ‘Oldest Cup competition in the World’.

However, on the last Saturday in January it is to the John Smith’s Stadium for the Fourth Round game between Huddersfield Town and Leicester City that I set off for. The reasons, well it’s easy to reach by train and the tickets are only priced at £10/£5. Indeed The Terriers have also priced their next Championship fixture in midweek against Crystal Palace at the same reduced rate. Chairman Dean Hoyle explains in his programme notes, this is to demonstrate the clubs, “…commitment to giving value to supporters…” making the game “…as affordable as possible…in the aftermath of Christmas…” With Leicester City taking up their full 4,000 allocation, the Huddersfield faithful hardly took up the chairman’s offer with gusto as only 7,945 added to The Foxes contingent. Now this could have been down to the weather conditions, although despite the snow the day before, Saturday was a bright winter’s day. It may have been down to the fact that Huddersfield had not won in the league for twelve games or a protest by some fans at the sacking of manager Simon Grayson. However, the clubs have to look at themselves and take some of the blame. Over recent years teams from all the four divisions have devalued the FA Cup be playing weakened sides. Indeed for this game Town made four changes to the team beaten 4-0 at Watford last week while City made five alterations to the eleven that beat Middlesbrough 1-0 last Friday. So even with the offer of a ticket for a tenner, fans appear not to want to watch what they perceive as second-string players turning out. Another interesting aspect of the game yesterday was that the usual 76 page programme was abandoned in favour of a 36 page offering. What does that say? And as for the chairman’s desire to produce value for money for supporters, let me do the maths for you. The usual Championship Huddersfield Town programme (Give Us An H [GUAH]), costs £3 and works out at 4p a page, the FA Cup offering worked out at 6p a page – interesting don’t you think.

On the pitch, the first-half was a pretty forgettable and disjointed; perhaps not surprising given the team changes on both sides. The only real chance came on twenty minutes, when an effort from Martyn Waghorn slid just past the left hand post of Alex Smithies in the Huddersfield goal. The only other entertainment was provided by The Terriers fans who ran through their repertoire of songs and chants, including “Smile A While” and “Town will tear you apart” (to the tune of New Order’s “love will tear us apart”). Thankfully, the second-half started more brightly as Huddersfield took charge with chances falling to Lee Novak and James Vaughan. In response, Leicester brought on Chris Wood and David Nugent on the hour mark, with Huddersfield introducing Sean Scannell shortly afterwards. The introduction of all the substitutes lifted the game and with both sets of supporters finding their voice, the game at last had the feel of a Cup-tie. Suddenly it was end-to-end stuff as Wood forced Smithies into a decent save, and was then followed by chances for Novak and Vaughan. Then on seventy three minutes, Town were awarded a penalty as Jack Hunt was fouled by Lloyd Dyer, which allowed Lee Novak the chance to calmly stroke home the spot-kick. Huddersfield were in control and shortly after Vaughan somehow contrived to miss from inside the six-yard box, whilst a Peter Clarke header was cleared off the line from a corner. However, on eighty two minutes, Leicester made Town pay for the missed opportunities. Ritchie De Laet received the ball wide out on the right, crossed and after a dummy from Lloyd Dyer, Chris Wood smartly finished; a clinical goal. That was the final decisive action of the game and both sides face doing it all again in a replay at The King Power Stadium. How will The Foxes price the tickets for the replay? What sort of attendance will the game draw? What sides will the clubs put out? Have the recent years meant the answers are already known or can the FA Cup turn the tide?