Book Review: Blue was the Colour: A Tale of Tarnished Love (Football Shorts) by Andy Hamilton

Football Shorts are a series of books created in a collaboration between award-winning journalist and author Ian Ridley’s own publishing company Floodlit Dreams and renowned sports book publisher, Pitch Publishing. Ridley details in the Notes and Acknowledgments of the first in the series, Pantomime Hero: Memories of the Man Who Lifted Leeds United After Brian Clough, that the inspiration came about during lockdown and his desire for a short sporting read.

The intention was that there would be three books in 2023, and this outstanding hat-trick of the written word has been achieved, with the first, Pantomime Hero: Memories of the Man Who Lifted Leeds United After Brian Clough by Ridley, released in January 2023, the second The Homecoming: The Lionesses and Beyond, from Jane Purdon in May 2023 and finally from comedian and writer Andy Hamilton with Blue was the Colour: A Tale of Tarnished Love  out in September 2023.


What links all three of these wonderful books is that they are personal stories written with genuine passion for the ‘beautiful game’ and its past, present and future. All three writers are respected figures in their particular fields, but at the heart of their writing is the overwhelming ability to let readers know that they are football fans.

In the case of Andy Hamilton’s, Blue was the Colour, the book looks at his changing relationship with Chelsea and indeed the game from his childhood to adult life, with the subtitle, A Tale of Tarnished Love, more than a clue as to how this has changed down the years.

For those wondering about the title of the book, Blue was the Colour, it is a play on words taken from the title of the single that the Chelsea players released in 1972 called, Blue Is the Colour (although on my occasional visits to the Bridge I was more of a fan of Liquidator by The Harry J Allstars). And like the book sub-title, reinforces the idea of Hamilton’s reassessment of his feelings and connection to the Stamford Bridge club.

As you’d expect from a man of his writing talent, Hamilton’s reflections here are witty, thought provoking, yet balanced – filled with joy and at times sadness, as well as disappointment and regret – a bit like watching your team really.

He uses the device of two Chelsea v Newcastle United fixtures (62 years apart) to bookend his journey supporting the club as he grows from boyhood to manhood, with observations about changes in the game thrown in for good measure. And these two fixtures tell you much about how Hamilton’s feelings have changed, when he details:

The (first) match back in 1960 was the first game I ever saw. I was six and a half years old and I watched from the terraces in a state of all-consuming, heart-thumping, knee-jiggling, bladder-squeezing excitement and wonder.

I did not watch the second match. I only listened to the closing moments of the game on Radio 5 Live as I pottered around the kitchen trying to find some scissors.

This book is my attempt to map the distance between those two states of mind – from a world where Chelsea v Newcastle was, at that moment, the only thing that mattered ‘in the entire universe’ to one where it was less important than scissors.

Of course as Hamilton acknowledges, that has as much to do with him growing up as it has to do with the game as it is today.

The sport that he fell in love with still had players on the maximum wage of £20, with some still travelling to games on public transport and were still accessible and relatable to the working class fans who filled the grounds. Kick-offs were on a Saturday at 3pm and the FA Cup held pride of place of the football calendar. However, before you think this is maybe some sentimental less than subjective view of the game Hamilton first watched, he admits that the violence on the terraces, racism within the game and the poor conditions within stadiums were also a reality of football in his formative years.

So what has lessened his love for the game today? Well, as someone a little younger than Hamilton it is for reasons I completely understand. It feels like he is speaking for a generation of supporters who have no love for what the Premier League stands for and what the billionaire owners and Sky have done to the game. Also, getting a bashing – deservedly – are FIFA and VAR amongst other things.

Despite this, Hamilton hopes that in another 60 years there will be six year olds as giddy as he was back in 1960 excited at going to their first game in stadiums will be full and still played on a Saturday.

Now that’s a thought that shouldn’t leave us blue.

(Publisher: Football Shorts. September 2023. Paperback:? 184 pages)


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Book Review: League One Leeds – A Journey Through The Abyss by Rocco Dean

I first visited Leeds United’s Elland Road home on 19 September 1970 when they hosted Southampton. A rite of passage allowing me to witness the most successful Leeds side to grace the LS11 turf. An overcast autumn Saturday seeing a John Giles penalty claim both points (spoils for a victory back then) for Don Revie’s warriors in white.

Talking of points, during that decade entertainer Bruce Forsyth spent Saturday evenings advocating (via catchphrase) “Points wins prizes.” Although Leeds managed to lift the Division One trophy twice in that era, too often they just failed to accumulate enough points to prevail as champions in English club football’s foremost league.

Instead, Jim Bowen’s 1970s gameshow catchphrase of “Have a look at what you could have won.”  was too often written on Leeds United’s end of season report card… Oh, and do not get me started on that era’s domestic and European cup finals, times witnessing the club play bridesmaid on more occasions than a Nolan sister.

In a further reference to points, the fifteen deducted from the club for entering administration (in 2007) play a major part in the initial chapter of Rocco Dean’s skilfully documented and absorbing book League One Leeds- A Journey Through the Abyss.

This a journal of the club’s fortunes during an ignominious three seasons in the third tier of English football, between 2007-2010. Revealing the writer’s recollections of that first drop into League One, the Administration process, the team’s galvanisation borne from the point deduction and the subsequent trinity of winters in the abyss.

The author provocatively touching on the enduring admin episode; events sullying an already murky set of circumstances. A plotline seemingly elongated by club chairman Ken Bates’ ‘canniness’ when it came to negotiate recompense for creditors. Cuddly Ken’s opening gambit of offering a pound of Leeds United fans flesh for every pound owed given short shrift by creditors.

A keen supporter, Dean insightfully reminds us of the unsavoury shenanigans surrounding the protracted takeover and attempts at retrieving the docked points as the 2007-2008 season progressed. His book providing an interesting and informative portrayal of Leeds’ plight over three seasons in League One. A period where the side, as usual, encountered capricious fortunes on and off the field. A journal recollecting the serious of key incidents strongly driving the narrative towards eventual redemption… Well, eventual promotion back to the Championship.

Chapters reminding the reader of long forgotten team personnel who shared the odyssey. Players like Kishishev, Da Costa, Westlake, Flo, Carole and Michalik whose names send an ethereal shiver through my spine. A stark time I’d subconsciously shut away in a neurological folder called ‘Kishishev My Arse’.

Reading this book, a catalyst to opening a metaphorical Pandora’s Box, evoking stark recollections into my conscious mind. Re-igniting times which, although galling at that juncture, in hindsight reminding me I did have many good memories between 2007-2010… Not many of them were football related, but I did have some good times!

Seriously, though, the author’s insights proved an engaging read. Amongst the perkier bits, fond recollections raised from reading the names of players who contributed huge amounts towards the clubs rebuild from the ashes.

Witnessing the names Beckford, Becchio, Snodgrass, Delph, Howson, Naylor, Ankagren, Hughes, Prutton, Johnson, Gradel and Kilkenny raising a smile. This band of footballing misfits a mix of academy products and shrewd purchases who all went on to achieve cult status of varying degrees.

The author, as would be expected, addressed the seasons chronologically. Reminding readers of a first season when Leeds fans adopted a chant of “Fifteen points, who give a f*ck? We’re super Leeds and we’re going up.” A defiant message aimed at Football League administrators for their point stealing skulduggery.

As I had younger kids at the time, after a Leeds win, I adopted a sanitised version around the house of ““Fifteen points, who give a flip? We’re super Leeds and we’re going to the Championship… My rubbish defiling of the brisk original made under the guise of responsible parenting. Unsurprisingly my version was not adopted as a tribal calling card by fans on matchday… Or, indeed, my kids.

Anyhow, Dean touches on specific games which were turning points to this rollercoaster trinity of seasons. Not only from a match reporting perspective, but his experiences before, during and after games with buddies.

Amongst his prose, tales of close scrapes with opposition fans at Millwall and Swansea, thoughts on the team being managed by an ex-Chelsea player, and his heightened brio levels with the separate managerial appointments of former Leeds players Gary McAllister (in 2008) and Simon Grayson (in 2009).

In the 2007-2008 season the 15-point deduction depriving Leeds of automatic promotion, along with losing both coach Gus Poyet and later manager Dennis Wise after a wonderful start to the season. A remarkable achievement bearing in mind the side was only thrown together days before the season started because of the late approval for Leeds to leave Administration.

Reading Dean’s evocative journal recalling the League One rollercoaster took me back to a time of many mixed emotions. Double play-off heartache, the stoic team spirit borne from the 15-point deduction, beating Manchester United away in the FA Cup, commentary moved to DAB on Yorkshire Radio commentary and ultimately the joy of promotion back to the Championship.

Amongst the many thoughts taken from Dean’s absorbing book, I left it with the retrospective feeling that perhaps those times weren’t as bad as I originally thought.

One thing for sure is my post-match beer tastes just as appealing after a Leeds United win irrespective the place within the football pyramid… Well, unless I accidentally order a Carling.

Reviewed by Gary Strachan

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. August 2022. Hardcover: 256 pages)


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An Echo of Glory: Tottenham Hotspur in the 21st Century delves into the famous club’s recent past to uncover how Spurs emerged from a stagnant period in the 1990s to once again compete for the game’s highest honours.

At the turn of the millennium, Tottenham were languishing in mid-table mediocrity, out of all the cup competitions and about to say goodbye to their star player. Just two decades later they had challenged for the league title, built one of the world’s finest stadiums and come so close to the ultimate glory of lifting the Champions League trophy.

But this story is not without its twists and turns. In this century, the club has been through some of its most testing times, as heroes have come and gone and the revolving door of managers has hardly stopped spinning.

Gareth Thomas peels back the layers on the key characters that have left their mark on the club, bringing fresh perspectives and shedding new light on the issues and events that continue to shape the present and future of Tottenham Hotspur.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. October 2023. Hardcover: 288 pages)


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Match Fit takes an in-depth look at mental health in football, from the Premier League down to five-a-side, in the hope of destigmatising this much-neglected topic, with candid contributions from the likes of Chris Kirkland, Paul Lambert and Marcus Bent.

Subjects such as the issues facing footballers after retirement and the rise of social media are placed under the microscope, and we discover how being a football fan can benefit your mental health.

Seasoned pros discuss the challenges they’ve faced in football, speaking openly about personal experiences most of us wouldn’t associate with the glamour of the beautiful game.

From a grassroots perspective, there are uplifting stories of how people have learnt to manage their mental health, with football as a key tool to help them get through their day-to-day lives.

If the interviewees – involved in a sport that has traditionally lauded masculinity and the absence of so-called weakness – can open up about their mental health, then so can anyone.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. August 2023. Hardcover: 384 pages)


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Stephen Brandt tells the story of how Brazilian club Flamengo became the best football team in the world, winning cups at every level before beating the mighty Liverpool in 1981 to capture the Intercontinental Cup.

On one side were the kings of Europe who’d recently won their third European Cup in six years, and on the other side Flamengo, who had just won the Copa Libertadores. Amid the dying days of a military dictatorship, Flamengo brought home a country-unifying title, a feat not seen since Pele’s Santos won back-to-back Intercontinental Cups in 1962 and ’63.

Along the way, we meet the special players of that golden generation, including the legendary Junior, the underdog Nunes, Zico, the small-statured talent who was dubbed the next Pele, and the brilliant Tita.

The Brazilian side managed by Paulo Cesar Carpegiani played an attractive, free-flowing style of football that Europeans had never seen before. Just a year later they provided many stars for Tele Santana’s great team that lit up the 1982 World Cup.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. July 2023. Hardcover: 256 pages)


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Book Review – Moments that could have changed football forever. What if? by Peter Prickett & Peter Thornton

At the end of ninety minutes across the world fans will invariably ask, “What If?” As fans, we’ve all done it. And it doesn’t just confine itself to the action on the pitch. Many will ask the same question, whether about managerial appointments, player transfers than never materialised, or indeed any situation which had a bearing on their beloved team.

Content wise, the book contains 28 What If scenarios and has the authors justifying their selections on the following basis: “We tended to go for moments that, when projected further, had real knock-on effects that would have changed the course of football history.”

The various scenarios selected for the book will no doubt be up for debate as every fan will have their own which would have changed the history of their club. Readers will also have their own opinions on the outcomes the authors deliver, however, as Prickett and Thornton say in the books Introduction,If you have disagreed with them then it means our writing has achieved its goal”.

Each chapter is essentially in two parts, the first is a factual summary in respect of the What If question, with the second part, the authors taking the reader through their view of how a situation could play out. What is just as important as to the ‘new’ outcome that Prickett and Thornton detail, are the things that never do come to pass, since the timeline and those in it now go down a different path – football v science fiction.

There is a good mix of situations that the authors come up with and includes three chapters which pit some notable teams down the years against each other, with Brazil 1970 v Spain 2008-2012, Hungary 1954 v Holland 1974 and Real Madrid Galacticos 1960 v Real Madrid Galacticos 2002. Prickett and Thornton both have a coaching background and they use this to good effect in detailing how the contrasting styles, eras and players might have matched up.

Elsewhere this reader has three favourites from the book, The first is the What If an African Team Win the World Cup, which sees Nigeria lift the trophy in 1994 with a potentially seismic impact on the French national team. The second is What If Brian Clough Had Managed England, with the mercurial manager taking over in 1977 after Don Revie’s resignation and how this would have shaped England’s fate on the European and World stage. Lastly, What If Technology Took Over From the Referee, which is a thought provoking, yet chilling view of how the game could change as technology and social media could take and split the beautiful game. A great way to end the book.

Overall an intriguing read which quite simply takes football fantasy to its extreme with some interesting conclusions.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. June 2023. Hardcover: 320 pages)


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Book Review – Aberdeen Greatest Games: The Dons’ Fifty Finest Matches by Kevin Sterling

Aberdeen are a powerhouse. One of only two teams in Scotland who have never been relegated, they have been there or thereabouts in cups, leagues and European competition for a long, long time. Kevin Stirling has brought 50 of their finest 90 minutes to print with a clear love for the club and for the people behind it.

As a club – aside from the 1980s and more of that later – there are plenty of cup triumphs and stories around their formation as well as more recent and more modest examples of their role at the pinnacle of Scottish football. As such there is a lot for a non-Aberdeen fan, like me, to relish. There are stories of yore including the Great Mystery scandal, their first Cup Final experience in front of a crowd of “at least” 146,433, a tour to South Africa in the 1930s by boat, their first cup final win in 1947 in front of a more modest 135,000, their engagement in the Scottish Qualifying Cup, the Victory Cup and the USA Presidents Cup, the emergence of one Teddy Scott from Sunnybank, their first floodlit match in Leeds, their first championship in ’55 and then the troubles of ’56 before the start of two defining decades. The 1970s began with a Scottish Cup and the 1980s ended with one of the most successful spells in Aberdeen history thanks to two Alexs – Sir Alex Ferguson and Alex Smith – who in 1990 ended the decade as they began 20 years before – with a Scottish Cup win.

As a fan of another club, I was obviously interested to see how a couple of ex-players fared as managers, Sir Alex Ferguson I knew, but Ally MacLeod, who had a successful spell at the club in the mid-1970s before the ignominy of Argentina as boss of Scotland, is very well treated here. I was glad to see that there is a degree of affection for his time in a balanced manner. But it is not for that reason alone that I enjoyed the book.

The level of detail and the overview suggests that Kevin Stirling, author of many books on the club before this one could easily expand this from 50 matches to an official history of the club. His research is meticulous and especially during the early years it is well added to by the detail from interviews with former players from a variety of sources. Having to delve into an archive over a century ago is tough when delivering any history and news reports can be difficult to find. Here, there is a rich seem of interviews from more recent times which have been brought to the fore in the telling of these tales.

It may be noticeable that the stories stop in 2015, and 23 of the 50 are in the Ferguson/Smith eras – each one difficult to argue over their inclusion – as the time of European triumph in particular can feel like an albatross around the neck of any recent manager. Aberdeen, under Ferguson, is the only Scottish club to win two European Cups and their involvement in European has never come close to equalling that.

In choosing the 50 matches to be included, selection would have been a nightmare and favourites were probably jettisoned along the way. Within that criteria, context would be key but also greatest games need an element of excitement. Gothenburg may well be the pinnacle and Cup Finals and the clinching of championships the obvious choices but games where there is the finest comeback, the most runaway win, or the best example of how they play would be great; the rest are significant. On occasion, the telling of the game itself plays second fiddle to the context in which it was played, and you feel the significance is what made it great rather than the football played. I would have liked more of the roar of the crowd and the excitement of the bleak October rain as a backdrop to the game that made their season.

It is, however, a minor gripe, as this grips you. For an Aberdeen fan it will clearly grip them more than I, but it taught me a massive amount, not least that I should continue to be comforted that things were not always a two horse race and there may always be hope for us all – as long as it doesn’t kill is first!

Donald C Stewart

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. March 2023. Hardcover: 288 pages)


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Nii Lamptey: The Curse of Pele is the authorised biography of Ghanaian footballer Nii Lamptey, a one-time bright young talent who was hailed as ‘the next Pele’ by Pele himself.

By age 16, Lamptey had won the Belgian title with RSC Anderlecht and the World Championship with Ghana’s Under-16s. One year later, he won a bronze medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. After joining Dutch masters PSV Eindhoven on loan in 1993 and scoring 10 times in 22 games that season, Lamptey appeared to have the world at his feet. Spells at Aston Villa and Coventry City followed, but he failed to fulfil Pele’s bold prophecy.

Instead, his career became a cautionary tale of what can go wrong when too much pressure is applied to young players. Injuries, lack of schooling, domestic violence, bad agents and a tragic and turbulent personal life pushed Lamptey to the brink of suicide, but thankfully he recovered.

In this ‘warts and all’ account he finally lifts the lid on his incredible story.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. June 2023. Hardcover: 256 pages)


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Golden Generations: The Story of the 2006 FIFA Men’s World Cup tells the tale of one of the most action-packed international tournaments in recent memory.

From Philipp Lahm’s extraordinary goal just six minutes in, to Zinedine Zidane’s infamous headbutt, it was a World Cup that had it all.

With all six confederations represented for the first time since 1982, there was a truly global feel to this World Cup. There were subplots attached to almost every nation at the tournament.

Germany were in the midst of a rebuild, the Italians had the cloud of Calciopoli hanging over them and France and England were nearing the end of an era with their talented squads.

Even the debutant nations were filled with household names, from the Touré brothers and Didier Drogba with the Ivory Coast to Dwight Yorke dropping into midfield to captain Trinidad and Tobago.

Golden Generations explores the plots and subplots that defined the 2006 World Cup, from the tournament’s beginnings to the legacy it left behind.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. July 2023. Hardcover: 352 pages)


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Mr Corinthian is the first-ever biography of Nicholas Lane (‘Pa’) Jackson, founding father of the famous Corinthian Football Club.

This team of amateur gentlemen was a phenomenon in the game’s early years. Achieving victories over FA Cup winners and league champions, their players twice comprised the whole England national team, while their overseas tours introduced the game to countries that would later become footballing superpowers.

Jackson has been hailed as the architect, visionary and genius behind this celebrated club. But ‘Pa’, as he was affectionately known, was not what he seemed. An incorrigible self-publicist and social climber, he cultivated the appearance of a sophisticated English gentleman and a ‘grand old man of sport’. For the last 100 years, his version of the Corinthian story, as told to club members, has been accepted as a faithful record of events – but it wasn’t.

Did the club’s historians conspire to fabricate an undeserved reputation? This book is a search for the truth.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. June 2023. Hardcover: 256 pages)


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