Taxi for Kiev: The Story of Six Strangers, Crossing Six Borders, Over Six Days is the true and uncensored story of six lads from very different backgrounds who had never met before but found kinship in a common goal: to get to Kiev for the 2019 Champions League Final between Liverpool and Real Madrid.

They embarked on a 3,500-mile taxi trip that took them to many places – physically, mentally and emotionally. Deprived of basic comforts for six days, this was never going to be an easy journey especially among strangers.

You’d be surprised what you can learn about a man living in such close quarters. Lack of sleep, space and sanctuary just compounded the issue. Add to this a severe lack of hygiene, and this trip looked like a recipe for disaster. Not only did the lads survive and get on well but, surprisingly, they formed lasting bonds.

Taxi for Kiev is one man’s account of that unforgettable six-day adventure – a candid tale that touches on the good, the bad and the ugly in human nature. It has shocks, tears and laughs aplenty.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. January 2022. Hardcover: 224 pages)

Book Review: Luka Modric – My Autobiography

If Luka Modric had a bucket list, it would surely read something like this: play in the Premier League (tick), become a Galactico (tick), win the Champions League (tick), lead Croatia to their best ever result at a World Cup (tick), win the Ballon d’Or (tick). After all that, there was only one thing left for Croatia’s most capped player to tick off – write an autobiography – and it’s now mission accomplished.

Modric emerged onto the global footballing radar in his four-year spell at Tottenham, but he’d already made his mark in his native Croatia at Dinamo Zagreb, via loan spells at Zrinjski Mostar and Inter Zapresic. His story started, though, much earlier, in modest and turbulent roots, set against the backdrop of a brutal Croatian War of Independence that robbed him of his beloved grandfather and his home. Despite these challenges, as the universal footballer narrative goes, Modric was drawn to football. Questions over his size and physicality which lingered throughout a lot of his career were raised early in his formative years, but there was perhaps no better test for a young Modric, nor a better schooling, than the notoriously tough Bosnian Premier League, where he became Bosnian Premier League Player of the Year aged 18. His time at Dinamo Zagreb brought a host of trophies and eventually a move to London, where Modric’s career took off, before his journey became stratospheric at Real Madrid. Modric’s autobiography, however, is bookended by perhaps the most important and yet arguably the most disappointing moment in his career – finishing as runner-up in World Cup 2018. For a nation of some four million people, this is a staggering achievement, but for Modric, a man who has won virtually all there is to win in the game, it initially felt like a failure. His autobiography fills in the story of how a young boy from war-torn Zadar reached the dizzy heights of a World Cup final and becoming the best player in the world.

The style of the autobiography itself is very traditional; there is nothing flamboyant or excessive in the way the book is ordered or told. Although, it’s a nice touch for the book to have 10 chapters – referencing Modric’s hallowed number 10. Modric, who comes across as a modest, humble man, appears as such in the book, but there’s also a hint of steel and tenacity that I hadn’t necessarily expected. The content is much to be expected, however, and gives a thorough overview of his whole life, although detail is sometimes a little bit lacking, but that’s hardly surprising given the amount Modric has to pack in to the book. Indeed, it’s great to have one of the best players of his generation and a recent Ballon d’Or winner not only penning an autobiography but doing so whilst still very much integral at club and national level. There’s a real sense of currency to the book as a result.

It’s also brilliant to see a different culture and nationality represented in footballing autobiographies. Indeed, I don’t think I’ve read another Croatian autobiography, nor I am aware if there are any others, but certainly it’s not the usual fare available. Perhaps Modric’s tome will open the floodgates, not only for other Croatian players – the likes of Davor Suker, Vedran Corluka, Niko Krancar, Davor Suker, Ivan Rakitic, Ivan Perisic, Mario Mandzukic, Domagoj Vida, Dejan Lovren, Eduardo da Silva and Mateo Kovacic, to name a few – but also lesser-represented nations.

I also enjoyed getting a greater sense of Modric the man, as although he’ll be familiar the world over as a footballer, he’s not one of the game’s most accessible personalities, so it’s intriguing to get a glimpse into his character. And anyone who followed the Harry Kane saga this summer will also note a very telling insight from Modric into one of the most formidable chairmen in the modern game – Tottenham’s Daniel Levy. Modric speaks often in the book about fate and had he got his way in negotiations at Spurs, he may have ended up at Chelsea instead of Real Madrid and who knows just how his story would have unfolded then. As it is, having been sold to Los Blancos, Modric went on to win two La Liga titles, a Copa del Rey, three Supercopa de Espana, four Champions Leagues, three UEFA Super Cups and three FIFA Club World Cup, and that’s before any individual accolades. So, however Modric’s career developed, it’s not bad for a boy who was rejected at Hadjuk Split for being too little. The phrase ‘mighty oaks from little acorns grow’ springs to mind here!

Jade Craddock


(Bloomsbury Sport. May 2021. Paperback: 304 pages)


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Book Review: Rhapsody in Blue – How I Fell in Love with the Great Chelsea Team of the Early Seventies by Neil Fitzsimon

Chelsea Football Club were founded in 1905 playing their homes games at Stamford Bridge, which they still do, to this day. Up to the First World War, The Blues were very much a yo-yo club, as they bounced between the First and Second Division, but did make an FA Cup Final appearance in 1914/15 losing 3-0 at Old Trafford to Sheffield United. After the war and the resumption of football and up to the start of the Second World War, Chelsea continued to drift between the two divisions, leaving their best performances for the FA Cup as they appeared in a number of Semi-Finals.

It wasn’t until 1954/55 that the club made its mark in the English game, when they won the First Division title for the first time. However, it was not a success that The Blues built on and in 1961/62 they suffered relegation back to the Second Division, only to bounce straight back up the following season under Manager Tommy Docherty. It was to see the club have up to that period its best years, with players coming through the youth set-up and the League Cup won in 1964/65 after a 3-2 aggregate win over Leicester City. The club then also made it through to the 1966/67 FA Cup Final against Spurs, going down 2-1 to their London rivals. Docherty was sacked in 1967 heralding the start of the era under Dave Sexton, with Chelsea at the centre of the ‘swinging sixties’ with celebrity fans and the bars and clubs of the Kings Road the places to be.

Neil Fitzsimon’s book, Rhapsody in Blue – How I Fell in Love with the Great Chelsea Team of the Early Seventies, picks up the story of the Stamford Bridge club, as the author attends his first games in SW6 during the 1968/69 campaign and charts the success of the early 70s. In that period Chelsea won the FA Cup in 1969/70 after a replay against Leeds United and in the following season picked up the (now defunct) European Cup Winners Cup, also after a replay against Spanish giants, Real Madrid. The Blues made it to a third cup final in 1971/72 only to lose 2-1 to unfancied Stoke City in the League Cup. As the author details and believes, from that point the club suffered a decline that was only halted in the 1990s with the advent of the Premier League and the financial backing of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, that has subsequently brought unparalleled success to Chelsea.

Fitzsimon’s focus though is not only of that four or five year period back in the late 60s and early 70s at the Bridge and the stereotypical view of grim northern teams, but also of his formative years growing up into a young adult and the nostalgic days of playing football in the streets and on local pitches, Subbuteo football tournaments and of travelling to games with his mates. This is undoubtedly a tale of a time never to be repeated as money and the media has changed the professional game and the matchday ‘experience’ beyond recognition and for Fitzsimon’s the loss of the innocence of youth.

Stylistically, it is written in a very conversational and at time laddish manner, with vignettes of varying length covering from a football perspective, the highs and lows of the cup triumphs at Old Trafford, Athens and Wembley, other memorable games Fitzsimon attended, as well as his observations and memories of homelife, friendship and growing-up. There is a passion in the text that demonstrates and captures the love that fans have for their club, whether in the biased admiration of their own team or the sometimes illogical dislike of opposition teams. For those of a similar age to the author, so much of the book will ring true with their own experiences of the time and for younger readers it will give a view into a life and a sport that was different in so many ways to that of the current generation.

As an aside, is there a story behind the choice of title Rhapsody in Blue? The Oxford Dictionary definition states: a popular musical work for piano and orchestra by George Gershwin. It combines jazz and classical music and was first performed in 1924 by the band of Paul Whiteman, with Gershwin at the piano. The film ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ (1945) was about Gershwin’s life. Much is made that of the fact that football in the 70s was very physical, with every successful club having its ‘hardmen’, with Leeds United having, Norman Hunter, Peter Storey at Arsenal and Tommy Smith at Liverpool. Chelsea though were seen as a flare team, with Alan Hudson, and Peter Osgood, but the reality was that they had their share of those who could dish it out such as Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris and David Webb. The Blues were in fact a combination of the two styles of the 70s, as with the musical Rhapsody in Blue was described as a combination of jazz and classical. Coincidence? Given Fitzsimon’s background as a songwriter maybe it isn’t.


(Pitch Publishing Ltd. April 2020. Paperback 224pp)


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Book Review: Jose Mourinho – Fifty Defining Fixtures by Tony Matthews

Defining: decisive; critically important

Why have I started with a definition of defining? Well, because that is what the book through its title is setting out to achieve and therefore should deliver to the reader.

So does this book detail the fifty critically important fixtures of Jose Mourinho’s career to date?

You could argue that to make any such selection is always going to be difficult, since it is highly subjective and therefore open to debate. However, Tony Matthews doesn’t help himself on a number of counts.

You can accept that selecting games where trophies are won and lost as being decisive, but there are a number of others included which are curious to say the least. Amongst these are a routine 4-0 win over West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League at the start of the 2004/05 season and a charity game in which Mourinho managed a Rest of the World XI of ex-players and celebrities.

Even for those games which can be seen as significant, Matthews fails to provide any real detail or reasoning as to why the game was defining in the career of Mourinho and therefore included in this book. Instead, the reader gets a series of match summaries which are okay as far as they go.

It was strange too that the three seasons “The Special One” spent in Spain are afforded just three games, given the controversy Mourinho created during his spell in charge at Real Madrid.

A final disappointing aspect of this book is that Mourinho’s record and quotes are included straight after England XI v Rest of the World XI report, rather than placed as an appendix.

Throw in a typo on page 132 which details an aggregate score for a Premier League fixture and this is a disappointing read, which doesn’t deliver on any level.


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