This site was lucky enough to interview Steven Bell back in September 2019 about his excellent book, From Triumph to Tragedy: The Chapecoense Story and review it shortly afterwards. In October 2020, that book is to be followed up by another incredible story in The Man of All Talents: The Extraordinary Life of Douglas ‘Duggy’ Clark, when Bell uncovers the tale of a man who was to become amongst a number of things, a Rugby League legend as well as a hero in the First World War.
Here though, he presents his Top Ten Football Books, with a noticeable Manchester United flavour, a nod to the club team that influenced his love of the game.
I was surprised by how much I thoroughly enjoyed this after being bought it as a Christmas present shortly after he retired from playing. Interesting, deep and articulate, the book is more reminiscent of Neville the pundit and TV personality than it is of the dour and often scowling right-back.
Another present – this time from my Irish sister-in-law. This is an underdog story for the ages, told by the former coach of Donegal (Gaelic Football), written grippingly alongside his own personal, and often heart-breaking, story.
One of my favourite players, I looked forward to reading his story and, in particular, his own thoughts on his perennial misuse by England. Penned by him personally, it turns out to be a surprising rollercoaster of sporting highs and terrible woes as Carrick discusses his spells suffering with mental illness. As a fellow overthinker, he only went up in my estimations – something I didn’t think possible before opening the book.
Sir Alex was manager of Manchester United when I was in nappies, and his team of Schmeichel, Giggs, Cantona et al are one of the main reasons I fell in love with the game. Reading his story from a toolmakers apprentice in Glasgow to winning The Treble to discovering and nurturing Cristiano Ronaldo was a joy, and a perfect way to reminisce on the 20-years of joy his team had given me.
The harrowing but wonderfully uplifting story of the Makana FA – set up by the political prisoners of Robben Island at the very summit apartheid in South Africa. The ability to organize and run a football association for two decades helped give the men the confidence and the tools to eventually overthrow their captors. Inspiring stuff, to say the very least.
A true rags to riches story. The pages seem to turn with the Zlatan swagger, as his personality and confidence ooze from the telling of his life story. Great anecdotes that let the reader know, Zlatan is not just a character he plays to the camera, it is a way of life.
The rollercoaster ride that is part of pop culture but told from George’s heavy heart. What makes this more tragic, is that it ends at such a happy period of his life – and we all know that there was another heart-breaking chapter or two to follow.
‘Footballer, Philosopher, Legend’ is the sub-title of this extraordinary biography, and I really cannot add to that. A unique and amazing life told brilliantly and researched diligently. Inspired me to do further research into Sócrates bizarre appearance for Garforth Town in my very own West Yorkshire and subsequently write an article for These Football Times.
When I think of this book, I feel my heart get heavy. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days during and after reading. To this day, when I see a positive social media message from Paul I feel instantly glad that he is in a good place. A harrowing read with spikes of unbridled joy and triumph from a gentle giant and a footballer ahead of his time.
The reason I immerse myself in and write sports stories. A masterpiece.