All positions covered, from a brutally honest full back to the ultimate outsiders
As if the Pep Guardiola biography wasn’t enough, Jimmy Burns and Richard Fitzpatrick have chipped in with volumes that provide those viewing the Spanish game from afar with plenty of context to the many conquests of recent seasons.
Burns, as the title suggests, takes a ramble around the general history of the game explaining how it is intertwined with so many other aspects of society: religion, politics and regional rivalries chief amongst them.
Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, focuses on the increasingly bitter battle for supremacy between the country’s two most famous clubs: Barca and Real Madrid.
These are undoubtedly happy hunting grounds for authors but both do well with the available material and offer up hugely readable back-stories to games growing numbers are fixated by on TV.
The Great the Good by John Giles (Hachette Books Ireland) The argument between ‘good’ and ‘great’ was rumbling long before Eamon Dunphy controversially claimed Michel Platini wasn’t worthy of being regarded among the latter nearly 30 years ago. It has been debated for generations on terraces and in pubs, and John Giles fondly remembers heated arguments between his father and pals, disagreeing over players they’d never even seen play.
Its durability owes as much to a divergence of opinions as much as anything else. The discussion can’t be a one-way street – it’s a spaghetti junction of argument and counter argument, caveats and conjecture. Yet that’s exactly what The Great and the Good isn’t. Instead, it is one man’s opinion, and left unchecked that can lead to a frustrating read.
No better man, of course. Giles is more qualified than most.
He was and always will be one our greats, and the book flows with the authority he has brought to his punditry for well over two decades now. But it lacks a dissenting voice, to inquire why the criteria seem to vary from player to player.
Someone, perhaps, to ask why Bobby Moore can be regarded as “great” when he got “bored” playing for a West Ham side that had no chance of winning a title, but supreme talents like Platini or Cristiano Ronaldo wouldn’t make that leap for either not turning up against Ireland on a blustery day at Lansdowne, or for throwing the odd strop while leading Real Madrid to a title ahead of Pep Guardiola’s mighty Barcelona side.
It’s a good book, but there are far too many ifs and buts for it to be regarded as a great book.
The Outsider: A History of the Goalkeeper by Jonathan Wilson(Orion Books). Jonathan Wilson usually gives more than you bargain for and The Outsider is no different from his previous titles in that respect. Wilson sees football in the broader sense, he analyses the game’s impact far beyond the confines of the pitch or the dressing room.