Five sports books to read this summer
Covering all the bases: Boxing during the Troubles, cycling after World War I and more
Michael Calvin’s Mind Game focuses heavily on Thomas Bjorn’s journey as the winning European Ryder Cup captain. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Author: Michael Calvin
Michael Calvin’s football books have won multiple awards over the years with the likes of Living on the Volcano, State of Play and others being widely acclaimed. This book was his first foray into golf and it’s written alongside Thomas Bjorn, charting the Dane’s campaign as European Ryder Cup captain. Most chapters focus on a specific player – the majority of whom played in that Ryder Cup in Paris and, while it can be heavy on the mental side of the game at times, it’s a great insight into the minds of professional golfers which is rarely heard in regular interviews.
In Sunshine or in Shadow
Author: Donald McRae
Not many sportswriters are better at writing about a specific subject than Donald McRae is when it comes to boxing. The South African spent years researching this book where he charts the story of boxing in Northern Ireland from Bloody Sunday in 1972 to Barry McGuigan’s world title victory in 1985. Gerry Storey – who to this day still coaches at Holy Family in Belfast – is a central figure in the book and one of the main protagonists in using boxing to unify the two sides during some of the worst years in Irish history. While the boxing aspect is fascinating it’s the accounts of some of the horrific incidents during that Troubles which really ring true.
Riding In The Zone Rouge
Author: Tom Isitt
You’ve probably never heard of the Circuit des Champs de Bataille cycling race but after reading this book you will know all about it and the madness it entailed. Essentially it was a race through the Somme and the battlefields of France less than six months after World War I had ended. The 2,000km route was run over seven stages through decimated towns with shells, rifles and occasional corpses providing the obstacles. And to add to that, it was snowing for most of it. This is one of the most mind-boggling sporting events you will ever read about and it makes the Tour de France seem like a gentle cycle around the Phoenix Park.
Position of Trust
Author: Andy Woodward
It was back in 2016 when Andy Woodward’s interview in the Guardian with Daniel Taylor blew the lid off a litany of sexual abuse cases in English football which are still being investigated with 300 suspects identified, 849 victims and 340 clubs named. The central figure in some of the worst cases was former Crewe Alexandra and Manchester City youth coach Barry Bennell who is now serving a 31-year sentence. Woodward was the first of Bennell’s victims to come forward and speak publicly and this testimony of how his life was torn apart is both harrowing and also enlightening in the way in which Woodward eventually brought the coach to justice.
Zonal Marking: The Making of Modern European Football
Author: Michael Cox
Long-form, detailed analysis articles have become a huge hit for sports fans over the last number of years and Michael Cox is very much at the forefront of that writing when it comes to football. If you’ve ever read Inverting The Pyramid by Jonathan Wilson then this book will be right up your street. Cox delves deep into the tactics of some of the most successful teams of the current era such as Manchester City and Barcelona and looks at how the current systems they operate have developed from the likes of Dutch football in the early 1990s and, more recently, Spain’s pioneering tiki-taka.
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