Skint footballers, UEFA Cup and secret histories – World Book Day recommendations from Dave Read


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After not reading many books for too long, I found myself at a loose end when a health problem flared up and I found I had a lot of spare time and decided to rekindle my love of the written word. Since the turn of the New Year, I have read six books and have plenty more in the pipeline. I’ve been asked to recommend some of the more recent books I’ve read so here goes!

Girls With Balls – The Secret History of Women’s Football by Tim Tate  (@TimTateBooks)

Now, I had heard of women’s football in the 1920s with the Dick, Kerr team playing a major role but this book highlights where the true origins lie. The author goes into great detail on the early trailblazers of women’s football in the UK as well as giving an interesting overview of the social history of the time and the fight these remarkable women had to overcome. It was fascinating to read the life stories and the strength shown by the early pioneers such as Helen Graham Matthews, Nettie Honeyball, Grace Sibbert, Alice Milliat, Lily Parr, Alice Woods and many more. Who knew the first-ever floodlit football match was arranged for a ladies match by Alfred Frankland of Dick, Kerr Ladies fame? A great read for anyone interested in the origins of ladies’ football and made more poignant by the many “what ifs” at its conclusion. I have spoken to the author on Twitter and he said it was a story he thought important to tell and I quite agree with him.

Related: Building the Yellow Wall, Up Pohnpei and Daniel Gray – Tom Canning’s football book recommendations

The Bottom Corner by Nige Tassell (@nigetassell)

This book takes you on a journey around the UK, checking in at various non-league clubs from different levels over the course of one full season. It covers pretty much everything from an engaging insiders look at the working of the hallowed ground at Hackney Marshes to the very top of the Conference and plenty more in between, including following a groundhopper on his travels, an insight into the fantastic work United Glasgow do with asylum seekers through football, internationals playing in non-league football and an interesting background look at the ins and outs of being a scout among many other side snippets. The author talks to many fascinating characters along the way, many of whom I recognise whose characters are similar to some of the great people I’ve met during my on/off relationship with the non-league scene over the past forty or so years. A thoroughly entertaining book and well worth checking out whatever level of football you follow. 

Where The Cool Kids Hung Out – The Chic Years of the UEFA Cup by Steven Scragg (@Scraggy_74)

A fast-paced and fascinating delve into the history of one of Europe’s favourite (and as an Ipswich supporter I’d have to say my favourite!) football competitions, the UEFA Cup. Great insights into times dominated by clubs and/or countries including a fantastic run early doors for English teams with Tottenham and Liverpool having early successes, a spell from Borussia Monchengladbach in the 70s which has me still following their results to this day and the emergence of the Dutch as a dominant factor.  All in all a fantastically researched book full of memories (Ipswich Town features quite heavily) and unknown facts all told at breakneck speed. Would heartily recommend it!

Related: The Farther Corner, A Tournament Frozen in Time and Tears at La Bombonera – Gareth Coates football book recommendations

When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson (@hendojon)

This book takes you back to a time where, as the title describes, footballers were only earning just about enough to get by, unlike their counterparts today. The author centres around the ‘50s and 60s but you also get an insight into football in the wartime years and the time when the FA Cup was king amongst other tales of days gone by. Excellently researched from talking to a wide range of players and including engaging anecdotes on legendary managers by the likes of George Eastham, Cliff Jones and Gordon Milne amongst many others and involving tales involving the likes of  Bill Shankly and Brian Clough, this book is a thought-provoking look back at a different footballing era. The author also discusses such subjects as the slavery law which remained in place until the early 60s, signing on fees, contracts for life and the abolishing of the maximum wage in 1960 led by Jimmy Hill and after a threat to strike. A very interesting read that takes you back to the days when the clubs were in total control and players were little more than just a commodity. 

The next four on my hit list are:

  • The Greatest Footballer You Never Saw – The Robin Friday Story (Reading & Cardiff cult Hero)
  • Mind Games by Neville Souhall – A book on his mental health struggles throughout his career.
  • Family by Michael Calvin – A year with access all areas behind the scenes at Millwall.
  • The Ghosts of Cathkin Park by Michael McEwan – The inside story of Third Lanark demise.

Football in Berkshire has compiled a list of all our book recommendations via the website GoodReads – see them all listed here.

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