Moments That Could Have Changed Football Forever is a detailed study of the ‘what-if’ moments that have shaped football and what the alternative could have been.

The bounce of a ball, an ill-timed injury or a contentious decision are just some of the moments that could have changed football forever. Every fan of every club or country has a ‘what if’ moment that they know could have brought their team glory had things turned out differently. Some of these moments have proved unforgettable, some have become iconic and others have changed the very nature of the game itself.

The knock-on effect of a shot at goal scored or missed can have resounding consequences that are only realised later. This book explores those effects impartially and objectively, through research, context and coaching insight.

Each moment has been chosen to guarantee discussion and debate among fans, who will of course have their own opinions about what would have happened. There are even fantasy match-ups between the great teams of different eras.

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


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Book Review: The Homecoming: The Lionesses and Beyond (Football Shorts) by Jane Purdon

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 is that there are to be three books in 2023, with the first, Pantomime Hero: Memories of the Man Who Lifted Leeds United After Brian Clough by Ridley (January 2023), the second (reviewed here) The Homecoming: The Lionesses and Beyond, from Jane Purdon who has extensive experience in sports administration and football in particular, and finally from comedian and writer Andy Hamilton with Blue was the Colour due for release in September 2023.


The Homecoming as with Ian Ridley’s Pantomime Hero is a heartfelt and personal story and not a single word is wasted in the 160 pages.

And within the five chapters the story unfolds not only about Jane Purdon’s association and love for the beautiful game, but about the reclaiming of football in this country with the Lionesses triumph in the European Championship Finals of 2022 and her hopes going forward as we sit just a short time away from the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. A real past, present and future debate, reflection and journey.

The book opens on the eve of the European Final back in July 2022. Purdon finds herself on a bench near home to calm her mind as she tries to comprehend what the Lionesses had achieved in reaching a sold-out Wembley and the prospect of them lifting the title against Germany. As a reader you can feel the summer heat drift you into Purdon’s sub-conscious as she describes her early years in becoming a fan at Sunderland, her years at Cambridge University attempting to get women’s football off the ground and significant and subsequent career in sport. A journey which has seen Purdon become secretary of her beloved Sunderland and roles within major bodies such as the Premier League, UK Sport, Women in Football and most recently Premiership Rugby.

The opening chapter also contains an excerpt from an article Jane wrote for the football publication When Saturday Come in November 1992 which said:

The real issue is to get women’s football properly publicised, funded and appreciated. The England women’s team winning the European Championship – now that is not a fairytale, it could just happen.

Chapter two then jumps 30 years from that quote and is Purdon’s personal telling of the European Championship tournament taking readers through the group games and up to the last four clash for the Lionesses against Sweden. As a reader and somebody who was able to get to watch group games over in Rotherham and the Semi-Final in Sheffield between England and Sweden, the magic, the emotion and pure joy of that month is beautifully captured by Purdon. To be at Bramall Lane that night felt like a privilege and was as engaging, emotional and dramatic game as any I’ve had watching football in the last 50 years.

So with the Final now booked against Germany, Chapter three focuses on that crazy yet wonderful afternoon when the Lionesses achieved what the men’s team couldn’t a year earlier and claimed the title of European Champions. And whilst yes, this book is full of the emotion and celebration of that occasion, Purdon always has an eye throughout the book on making serious points. One such relates to the crowd and behaviour at that men’s Final and the disgraceful events prior to the game that shamed the game and the contrast with that for the women’s event. Further, the win wasn’t just for Head Coach Sarina Wiegman and her wonderful squad, it was about all those that had gone before as pioneers of the game and the reclaiming of football 100 years after The FA’s ban which stated: the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged.

Chapter four focuses on the euphoria post-victory and includes the friendly against the USA, the powerhouses of Women’s football. However, it was played against a backdrop of anger and revulsion. The United States Soccer Federation (USSF) had published an independent report which highlighted systematic abuse and sexual misconduct against players, with the finger pointing at those in charge for failure to have proper safeguarding and even more outrageously, seemingly turning a blind eye to the abuse.

The final chapter looks at the future of the women’s game and makes some significant points that whilst the Euros win has been hugely beneficial there are many issues out there. And that’s where this book is also a winner in raising these things. Take for instance the recent spate of ACL injuries that have seen players such as  Leah Williamson, Lionesses captain, miss out on the forthcoming World Cup – what has caused these, where is the research? Also, (and I was genuinely amazed) Purdon highlights the limited options for women’s football boots. And boots is where the story ends, as Purdon reclaims the game for herself buying her second ever pair after taking up playing again in September 2022.

As with the first book in the series, Jane Purdon has proved that ‘good things come in small packages’, with this second offering from Football Shorts, hitting the mark in being not only a joyous celebration of that balmy month in July 2022, but a genuine debate about the women’s game.

(Publisher: Football Shorts. May 2023. Paperback: 160 pages)


Buy the book here: The Homecoming

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Book Review – Scotland 42 England 1: An Englishman’s Mazy Dribble Through Scottish Football by Mark Winter

I once went to see a show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – where else would you get this quality of entertainment, nobody ever asked ever – where a guy told us the tale of how he got his Guinness World Record back – for managing to visit all of the London Underground stations in the shortest time. He spared us many of the gory details, but I was reminded obliquely of this when I started reading Scotland 42, England 1 by Mark Winter. Doing the 42, is a test which many have undertaken that means you must visit all 42 grounds in the Scottish Professional Football League. Having read this, it requires less gory detail and much patience – and some degree of financial investment. That would be true if you were living in Scotland when attempting it but Mark lives and works in Dover! No wonder it took him eight years – though he did manage to fit a wee pandemic in, in the middle of it. So fair play.

But this was never about setting any kind of record. This was never about trying to write a travelogue which would illuminate and demonstrate the beauty of 11 v 11, the tactics employed between the UEFA finalists and the playoff hopefuls. This was about something else. Sheer joy. Of the game. Of the pursuit of it. And of the people around it.

And here it is an absolute winner.

I will admit when I first got this, I delved into when Mark visited my team, my home ground to find out what I was doing at the time – in the MacDonald’s in Whitletts Road, Ayr, with my youngest daughter, an ardent Rangers fan, whilst my team was being humped by them 6-1! I was also interested to see if we had shared the same grounds on the same day when I had been at the same games reporting for Kicktalk – the Accies and the Morton games, I think. Once satisfied with trivia, I delved into this to spot some more and feel the depth of love Mark has for the subject matter. The whole book is just one long volume of pleasure from one chapter to the next.

Mark’s style of his writing, self-deprecating and never taking himself too seriously which, chimes with ordinary football fans – those who do not turn up at grounds with mortgage level fees for season tickets and where the corporate are treasured more than the individuals who pass a scarf from one generation to another.

So, a guy who supports “the other” DAFC – Dover Athletic – decides to visit all the grounds in Scotland whilst working to make ends meet. The project brings him into contact with many a “character” – from the guy who shows him the greatest view in football, in the centre circle of Dumbarton FC’s ground, to the officious official who would not take cash to let him see a Colts team, to a groundsman in Cliftonhill  who advised of much and many. There are also the fans who, like Mark, are there for their love of a game that is both a cruel mistress and a proper harlot.

And so, aside from the people who he met, and the grounds he tried and eventually got to see – Stirling Albion – this reads like more than a travelogue. The games are described but once you realise that the affection for the game comes from the event itself, you get to understand what having visits to Elgin and Stranraer mean and why Cove Bay disappoints as it has nothing of the expected exotic about it.

Mark is able to contextualise the place each ground has in each of the towns, and why that matters. We get much detail of the quality of the fare for eating and drinking which make a difference. There are descriptions of the hostels stayed in, the B&Bs enjoyed as our man who worked in a school manages to get to 42 grounds in 57 chapters – whatever he was working in a school for, it may not have been for maths – and we marvel not just at the dedication, but the number of times someone he knows from Dover turns up at grounds in the middle of Scotland he has visited – has Dover nothing to keep them back? Though it must be said that the story of Tom Donnelly (exported to Dover from Cowdenbeath) is worthy of further investigation.

There are many highlights, notwithstanding how to deal with Jehovah’s Witnesses in Elgin, the closest thing to a vegetarian option in a Falkirk chippy being a white pudding, a pointless answer around a railway station in Coatbridge, the pathos of being, in Pathos (apologies) when finding out that Hibs had been relegated, the affection for them and Hearts, in a city where he loved spending time whilst witnessing the cut and thrust of Scottish football including Conor McGrandles’ double leg break.

Considering that there are times when we get insight into Mark having been to see a friendly between Fiorentina and Chelsea, when he supports neither, this has an air of being appreciative of the game and what is around it. Mark is a great raconteur, with great literary wit, a gregarious sort who can strike up a chat and a friendship over a beer – or several. Now retired, at least by the end of the book, this is a worthy addition to the pantheon of Scottish football books – why – because he sees ourselves as others see us. Scots often need outsiders to point out the bleeding obvious and in this tourists’ guide to going to football grounds, this has a very effective host in the driver’s seat. We should all shout shotgun and strap in for the ride.

Donald C Stewart

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. January 2023. Paperback: 320 pages)


Buy the book here: Scotland 42 England 1

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The Homecoming is Jane Purdon’s passionate, heartfelt account of the summer of 2022, when the Lionesses dazzled the nation and brought football home.

It’s also Jane’s personal story.

Since falling in love with football aged seven, Jane has been an activist, administrator and leader in the beautiful game, most recently as CEO of Women in Football.

Her journey takes in her early days as a Sunderland fan, her first kicks of the ball in her late teens, her pioneering work in the early 1990s to promote women’s involvement in football, and her subsequent career at the heart of the football establishment.

In 1992, Jane wrote, ‘The England women’s team winning the European Championship – now that is not a fairy-tale, it could just happen.’. Thirty years later that fairy-tale came true.

Jane reflects on what’s happened to women’s football in the aftermath of the Lionesses’ historic victory and what needs to happen next.

(Publisher: Football Shorts. May 2023. Paperback: 160 pages)


Buy the book here: The Homecoming


When Dave Went Up is the fairy-tale story of Wimbledon’s famous 1988 FA Cup win over Liverpool, and how a small team overcame the giants of English football.

More than just a recollection of the final itself, the book takes us through the tournament round by round, from the third round to the semi-final, and everything in between.

We all know that Lawrie Sanchez got the winning goal, but did you know he was in the wrong place for the free kick? The story shows what great team spirit and sheer hard work can achieve. With tales from the key players in the side, the staff, the fans, plus some of the opposition, this is the definitive account of how Wimbledon FC won the FA Cup.

Along the way you’ll discover how the Dons fell in love with the competition, with background info on their run in the 1974/75 season, when Dickie Guy become a household name overnight after saving a penalty against Leeds United.

If you don’t know about the Dons’ connection with the famous old cup, you certainly will after reading this fascinating book.

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


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Book Review: Lionesses: Gamechangers by Abdullah Abdullah

The Lionesses’ monumental crowning as European champions last summer has done much to change the whole landscape of football, not only on the pitch, but off it too. And one of the success stories emerging from their victory looks to be in the world of publishing. Historically, there has been something of a dearth of books about women’s football, despite there being a wealth of narratives out there. But, already, since last summer, there have been, amongst others, excellent autobiographies published by Alex Scott and Millie Farrow, children’s non-fiction from Leah Williamson and Beth Mead, and forthcoming non-fiction from Jane Purdon and Carrie Dunn. Amongst this groundswell of publishing passion, Abdullah Abdullah has offered a fitting contribution: Lionesses: Gamechangers.

With a background in football analysis and two books that focus on the tactical side of the women’s game (Olympique Lyonnais Feminin: Queens of Europe and Europe’s Next Powerhouse: The Evolution of Chelsea Under Emma Hayes), this time Abdullah sets his sights, as the title suggests, on the tactical details that have underpinned the Lionesses’ recent rise to European glory, beginning with a brief look at Phil Neville’s philosophy before a more in-depth assessment of Sarina Wiegman’s team.

As something of a relative novice when it comes to the world of tactical analysis, this wasn’t perhaps a natural read for me and, although there’s nothing overly taxing in the analysis, it does perhaps appeal to those with more of an analytic eye than ignorant old me. But whether your knowledge of the intricacies and minutiae of gameplay are limited, like me, to little more than the concept of ‘4-4-2’, it’s hard not to admire Abdullah’s research, focus and attention to detail. Given the emotion that surrounded the Lionesses’ success, what I found particularly fascinating was to see the team and the matches viewed through such a different lens, one that is purely pragmatic and technical, and it allows for a completely different perspective on their journey, bringing it back down to its footballing essence.

As well as breaking down individual games, the second half of the book takes a more thematic and individual approach, looking at specific players and positions within the England set-up, and personally I enjoyed this focus a lot. Analyses of Toone v Kirby and explorations of the full-back role felt really pertinent and I would have loved to have seen even more of this analysis, especially with the squad and emerging players who may be challenging for places to Australia and New Zealand this summer and beyond. While the book does point towards the imminent future, one of the obvious challenges of tackling such a time-sensitive issue is the risk of injuries and absences, which have been borne out with players like Williamson side-lined for the forthcoming World Cup and Mead and Bronze battling for fitness. The focus on Maya Le Tissier did begin to point towards the wider squad make-up, but it would have been nice for the examination to go even further and, whilst it’s impossible to predict injuries, looking beyond the main nucleus of players may have helped to ensure the book’s relevancy going forward. The graphics, too, do somewhat let the book down and, as a minimum, I felt colours may have helped enhance these, especially the heat maps.

But minor gripes aside, this is a book that must be praised for giving deserving focus to a deserving team. And this brings us back to the positive changes that we will hopefully continue to see across different sectors and communities as a result of the Lionesses’ success. Indeed, the idea of a book about the tactics of England’s women’s football team would most likely have been the stuff of fantasy even just twelve months ago, so to have such a work published and for the author to have chosen the subject as his focus is a sign of evolving times and the legacy that this inspirational team is making. It is exciting to see the range and scope of new books and writers that hopefully will now be given a platform as it’s clear that books like Abdullah Abdullah’s Lionesses: Gamechangers offer a unique contribution to the genre.

Jade Craddock

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. April 2023. Paperback: 256 pages)


Buy the book here: Lionesses: Gamechangers

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Book Review – Divided Cities: The World’s Most Passionate Single City Derbies by Kevin Pogorzelski

When the football fixtures are published each season, most supporters look for three keys things, firstly, their opening day fixture, secondly the last game of the campaign and of course their ‘derby’ fixtures. This idea of a ‘derby’ can mean different things to different clubs. This maybe because there is not another professional club in a particular city or town, or that even if there is, the teams have rarely crossed paths given they have historically played in different divisions.

Kevin Pogorzelski in Divided Cities focuses on eleven single city derbies, with all but two (the Old Firm and Merseyside version) from outside the United Kingdom. As a Liverpool fan, with a regular diet of Premier League football and virtually the same old teams season-in season-out, Pogorzelski yearned for something more and in the books Introduction outlines the premise behind it.

“I became convinced that there was something unmatched about rivalries within the same city, where the people and place live the conflicts daily, which stems from a variety of diverse differences.”

In the table below is a summary of the games he attended which all have a dedicated chapter:

Name Translation Teams Location Notes
Derby della Lanterna Derby of the Lantern Genoa & Sampdoria Genoa The Torre della Lanterna is  the ancient landmark and the main lighthouse for the city’s port.
Derby della Capitale Derby of the Capital Lazio & Roma Rome Rome is the Italian capital.
Derbi da Segunda Circular See Notes Benfica & Sporting Lisbon Lisbon The Segunda Circular is the road that separates the two stadiums.
The Old Firm Derby N/A Celtic & Rangers Glasgow Origin unclear. May derive from the two clubs’ initial match in which the commentators referred to the teams as “like two old, firm friends” or alternatively may stem from a satirical cartoon published in ‘The Scottish Referee’ sports newspaper prior to the 1904 Scottish Cup Final between the sides, depicting an elderly man with a sandwich board reading “Patronise The Old Firm: Rangers, Celtic Ltd” highlighting the mutual commercial benefits of their meetings.
The Budapest Derby N/A Ferencvaros & Ujpest Budapest Budapest is the capital of Hungary.
Clasico das Multidoes Classic of the Crowds Flamengo & Fluminense Rio de Janeiro Known also as Fla-Flu Derby.
Intercontinental Derby See Notes. Fenerbahce & Galatasaray Istanbul Fenerbahce and Galatasaray are two of the major Turkish teams from the Asian and the European parts of Istanbul respectively.
Superclasico Super Derby Boca Juniors & River Plate Buenos Aires From the Spanish usage of “clasico” to mean derby, with the prefix “super” used as the two clubs are the most popular and successful clubs in Argentine football.
The Eternal Derby N/A Crvena Zvezda & Partizan Belgrade Belgrade Thought to be from the phrase ‘Eternal Enemies’.
El Gran Derbi The Grand Derby Real Betis & Seville Seville Possibly due to the ‘biggest and grandest’ intensity on and off the pitch of the rivalry.
Merseyside Derby N/A Everton & Liverpool Liverpool Named after County that both clubs are within.

Each chapter provides a basic history and background to the rivalry, but is as the author states, “to add context to the stories” rather than be a detailed account or indeed record of the games down the years. Pogorzelski aims to provide readers with a true reflection (or as close as possible as an ‘outsider’ can be at these games) to the matchday experience of the local fan and this does provide for some very interesting encounters with Ultra groups across his travels and most especially his experience as a Liverpool fan at the Merseyside derby amongst the Everton faithful, where there was no language barriers as to the abuse and vitriol being handed out.

Unfortunately down the years and still to this day, the rivalries can spill into violence and whilst Pogorzelski in no way glorifies these events, is able to put across the hostility that often lies and bubbles just beneath the surface at the games, without generally being caught out amongst it. And it poses an interesting question as to whether a ‘sanitized’ environment for these encounters would have the same appeal? In England the debate rages as to the lack of atmosphere created by all-seater stadium and indeed whether the increase of the ‘football tourist’ or ‘neutral’ fan going to games abroad impacts the authenticity for the locals and the clubs identity, in the case of clubs such as St Pauli or 1. FC Union Berlin.

To a certain extent this book is a Groundhopper’s dream, taking in some of the finest cities and fixtures from Europe and South America. However, what it highlights is that these trips require incredible planning and organisation in terms of travel, more often than not deep pockets to afford the trip including tickets and some luck or indeed significant contacts in order to obtain the necessary supporter/fan memberships and tickets.

For many this book will be nearest they get to enjoying these encounters, but Divided Cities is nevertheless successful in portraying to readers the intensity of the matchday experience and what it means to those that attend these passionate derbies.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. March 2023. Paperback: 320 pages)


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60 Years of the World Cup is a personal, nostalgic, fun and frank reflection on the author’s six-decade association with football’s biggest showpiece.

Brian Barwick journeyed just five miles to his first World Cup match during the iconic 1966 tournament held in England, but later travelled the globe witnessing first-hand some of football’s greatest and most controversial moments. As a major national TV sport producer and executive, he was also responsible for how the tournament was broadcast to tens of millions of viewers on the BBC and ITV.

A stint as CEO of the FA brought him the unique experience of being personally associated with the triumphs and tribulations of trying to win the World Cup.

During his 60-year relationship with football’s greatest prize, he witnessed many of the tournament’s most famous matches, most gifted players and coaches, and iconic and controversial moments, meeting colourful personalities, making programmes that broke TV audience records and even helping an operatic aria to become a worldwide smash-hit!

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


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Fear and Loathing at Goodison Park chronicles the David Moyes era at Everton when a fallen giant of the English game fought to re-establish itself among football’s elite.

With relegation dogfights making way for Champions League qualification and the first cup final since 1995, David Moyes’ tenure was underpinned by stability and a hopefulness that success would soon return to the blue half of Merseyside.

It was, however, a period when the notion of success was redefined, not only for Everton but within the game as a whole.

With the financial gulf widening in a league deluged by an influx of foreign investment and media conglomerates, Moyes’ Everton became synonymous with operating on a shoe-string budget, in an era of multi-million-pound transfers and bloated wages.

With billionaire takeovers reshaping the landscape of English football forever, the people’s club’s hopes of breaking through football’s glass ceiling faded, leaving only fear and loathing at Goodison Park.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. May 2023. Hardcover: 272 pages)


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The Forgotten Cup tells the colourful story of the Mitropa Cup, the inter-war equivalent of today’s Champions League.

One of the most prestigious football stages of the era – along with the World Cup, which was first played in 1930 – it was a tournament to determine the kings of Europe at the end of a round-robin competition.

European football at the highest level was dominated by Italian and Danubian teams – Austrian, Hungarian and Czechoslovakian – and would remain so until the end of the Second World War. The top teams of the time have now fallen into oblivion, and the exploits of Europe’s football stars are largely forgotten.

Matthias Sindelar, Karel Pesek ‘Kad’a, Giuseppe Meazza, Gyorgy Sarosi and Josef Bican along with a few others were the icons of a sport that had just turned professional, born out of the frictions of a politically heated era with an atmosphere that reverberated on the pitch. The Forgotten Cup takes us back to that lost age.

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


Buy the book here: The Forgotten Cup