The 10 Greatest Football Books, part 2

0224072676Here's the second part of our Ten Greatest Football Books list. You can read part one here.

My Father and Other Working-class Football Heroes, by Gary Imlach
Like Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch, My Father… is more of a memoir than a straight football book. Imlach, whose face you may know from his time presenting TV coverage of American football and the Tour de France, tells the story of his complex relationship with his footballer father, Stewart Imlach, a talented winger who represented Scotland at the 1958 World Cup. When Imlach Snr died, the author realised that he never really knew his father as a man, but merely in terms of his achievements on a football pitch. This touching book won William Hill's 2005 Sports Book of the Year and deservedly so – like most good sports books, this is about so much more than a game. BUY IT

Futebol_1 Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life, by Alex Bellos
What does football mean to Brazil and vice versa? Many of the answers can be found in Bellos's rigorous study of the beautiful game and its inextricable relationship with the mythical yellow shirt. Although there is a whiff of the dissertation about Futebol… Bellos is a good enough writer to ensure that the book's tone reflects the gloriously colourful subject matter – if this is a history lesson, then you won't want the end-of-lesson bell to ring. BUY IT

02923279_b003 Stamping Grounds: Liechtenstein's Quest for the World Cup, by Charlie Connelly
Football is a great subject for a standard travelogue, Liechtenstein less so, you might think. However, put the two together and Bang! you have literary dynamite, or something like that. Stamping Grounds is the classic tale of the underdog. It follows Liechtenstein's attempt to qualify for the 2002 World Cup; Connelly travels to all of its qualifying matches… hang on, this isn't really selling it, is it? Suffice it to say, this is a very funny, well-written book about a very quirky little country. Perfect holiday reading material. BUY IT

7135849_2 The Ball Is Round: A Global History of Football, by David Goldblatt
If Alan Partridge were reviewing this book, he'd say something along the lines of 'Oof, big book isn't it? Wouldn't want to drop it on my foot!' And it is a big, big book – almost 1,000 pages long. It covers the brilliant careers of Pele, Maradona and Best, the great teams in history (Brazil 1970, Hungary in the 1950s) and generally aims to explain how football has developed since its conception into a global monster. That Goldblatt can take this bewildering mass of material and transform it into a coherent whole is admirable. Every football fan should find the time to read it; 990 pages and you'll still want more. BUY IT

000716291x02lzzzzzzz Soccer in Sun and Shadow, by Eduardo Galeano
The lyrical title says it all. This is a book written from the heart and as such it's infused with a joyful admiration of the game. Like the songs of The Beatles, we know the major football histories and characters so well that it's difficult to find new ways to describe them. But Galeano, a distinguished Uruguayan journalist and author, succeeds. The English translation captures beautifully the poetry and passion in Galeano's writing. BUY IT

So what did we miss? If you feel that we got it wrong or left out one of your favourites, let us know…

March 27, 2007 in Gear & games, Lists | Permalink | Comments (8)

10 reasons why Ian Holloway should be appointed England manager

Holloway_21 He is not Steve McClaren.
2 Even after a dull 0-0 bore draw with Israel, Ollie would still entertain us with his post-match interview. Whereas McClaren...
3 Ian Holloway could motivate a stone (although whether this is a big a feat as motivating a bunch of overpaid egotists is up for debate!)
4 Ollie is happily married and a true family man. He is therefore unlikely to throw up any embarrassing Sven-style scandals.
5 He would have the balls to substitute Frank Lampard.

10 reasons why Ian Holloway should be appointed England manager continued

6 He's not afraid to stick it to FIFA.
7 He wouldn't be scared of picking David Beckham.
8 The last time England had a half-decent manager it was Mike Bassett and he came from a Championship side.
9 Imagine what he would if he won the World Cup...
10 He's an all-round legend and we love him very much!

What do you reckon? Holloway for England?

[Rob Parker]

March 26, 2007 in International football, Lists | Permalink | Comments (4)

Top 10 Footballers who could play Bond villains

No Mr Bond, I expect you to dive…
1 Franck Ribery
Born to play: ruthless scar-faced pyscopath with a bullet lodged in his brain and vengeance on his mind.
See: Robert Carlyle as Renard in The World Is Not Enough.

2 Nemanja Vidic

Born to play: Strong-but-silent SPECTRE heavy who never says a word but is more than capable of taking Bond in a fist fight.
See: Robert Shaw as 'Red' Grant in From Russia With Love.

3 Joleon Lescott

Born to play: Nutty, angular-haired assassin who thinks it's acceptable to sleep with a 103-year-old Roger Moore.
See: May Day, played with appalling woodenness by Grace Jones in A View To a Kill.

4 Andrei Shevchenko
Born to play:
poker-playing terrorist sympathiser with a tendency to bleed from his eye. Mmm, nice.
See: Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre in the most recent Bond flick, Casino Royale.

5 Carlos Tevez
Born to play:
A South American/East End drug lord with problem skin.
See: Robert Davi as Franz Sanchez in Licence To Kill.

6 Garth Crooks
Born to play:
sinister dictator-turned-drug dealer with a penchant for voodoo/asking inane questions.
See: Yaphet Kotto as Mr Big/Dr Kananga in Live and Let Die.

7 Jose Mourinho
Born to play:
arrogant, island-dwelling assassin with a deadly aim and three nipples.
See: Christopher Lee as Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun.

8 Frank Lampard

Born to play: short, fat henchman to a man with three nipples (see above).
See: the late, great Herve Villechaize as Nick Nack in The Man with the Golden Gun.

9 Cristiano Ronaldo

Born to play: cocky and reckless young sidekick to South American drug lord.
See: Benicio del Toro as Dario in Licence to Kill.

10 Rio Ferdinand
Born to play:
big-haired temptress who likes to play it casual at the back. Yo' got merked beeyatch!
See: Gloria Hendry as double-crossing CIA agent Rosie Carver in Live and Let Die.

[Ollie, Pies Ed.]

March 23, 2007 in Lists | Permalink | Comments (7)

Seven sulky French footballers

Eric_cantona1 Eric Cantona
The ultimate sulky French footballer, Cantona is so moody that he made it into our 10 Football bad boys list. With a temper to match his brilliance, Cantona's sulks cut short his international career and infamously led to him doing time for kung-fu kicking a Crystal Palace fan.
Sulk highlight: "When the seagulls... follow the trawler... it's because they think... sardines will be thrown into the sea."

Anelka2 Nicolas Anelka
The Incredible Sulk has caused friction wherever he has been. Is he one of football's greatest sulkest or just the mouthpiece of his money-grabbing brothers/agents? He manufactured a move from Arsenal - where he played the best football of his career - to Real Madrid... and proceeded to moan as soon as he got there.
Sulk highlight: "I have asked the journalists to stop putting my picture in the papers. If they carry on doing it, I won't talk to them. I play football to have fun, not to be a star."

Gallas3 William Gallas
The, erm, versatile defender allegedly refused to play for Chelsea and threatened to score an own goal if picked after one too many games away from his preferred centre-back position.
Sulk highlight: "Mourinho got it wrong with me in the way he approached the situation. He dealt with it badly and put pressure on me. They didn’t cover my place as well as they thought they had and Chelsea have had problems at the back all season."

Zidane 4 Zinedine Zidane
A footballer as sulky as his skills were silky. Zizou had a surprisingly short fuse which saw him dismissed 14 times during his career, most notably against Italy in the World Cup final for his headbutt on Marco Materazzi.
Sulk highlight: "I can't regret my actions because that would mean he had the right to say what he did. I can't, I can't say that. No, he didn't have the right to say what he did."

Leboeuf5 Frank Leboeuf
A different brand of sulking built on arrogance and resting on World Cup-winning laurels. In 2002 Leboeuf was voted the French league's most overrated and arrogant player by other players. During his infamous appearance on sports panel show They Think It's All Over, the ex-Chelsea man responded to any questions he got wrong with his Sulk Highlight...
Sulk highlight: "I don't care, I won ze World Cup."

Henry 6 Thierry Henry
Old Tel loves nothing better than a good sulk, especially if he is underperforming in a big match. He's so hard done by. He is so much better than the defenders he is facing that it would be unfair to make too many runs. Probably best to stand arms outstretched tutting at his team-mates.
Sulk highlight: "It started when I was young. I was 11 or 12 and I used to score goals and my Dad would say, ‘You didn’t [create] any.’ I created some and he said, ‘You didn’t score.’ People who know me know that I’m never satisfied with myself."

Robert7 Laurent Robert
A career defined by regular swings between the sublime and the ridiculous, and equally frequent fall outs with managers. Robert can count Graeme Souness, Alain Perrin and Luis Fernandez among those on the receiving end of his sulks.
Sulk highlight: "We would have won it if Souness had the intelligence to see what was going on. If he keeps going like he has, he'll get fired and deserve it."

[Rob Parker]

March 21, 2007 in Lists | Permalink | Comments (5)

John Oster's guide to not getting an international call-up

John_oster1 Tell the manager you might not play for him even if he does select you
"To be honest, I'm not sure whether I want to play under John Toshack anyway after everything that's happened."

2 Slag off all your potential squad mates if you were to get called up
"It's frustrating when you see players in the Wales team who wouldn't get into our reserves side at Reading."

3 Prove you are not a Big Time Charlie
"The only consolation is that this has nothing to do with my footballing ability."

4 Make sure the manager knows you are settled at your club and concentrate on the day job
"My situation isn't ideal. If it remains the same then I will probably look to go elsewhere and get some football."

5 Call in some good character references
"Craig Bellamy phoned me up the other week asking me to speak to him (Toshack), but there's no way I'm going to." [Rob Parker, Via BBC]

March 20, 2007 in International football, Lists | Permalink | Comments (0)

The 10 Greatest Football Books, part 1

Why waste your money on dull, cliché-ridden, ghost-written autobiographies by the likes of Fat Frank & Stevie G, when you could invest in a proper football book. Like this brilliant lot (in no particular order):

Marc Fever Pitch, by Nick Hornby
I'm no Arsenal fan, but I still remember the first time I read Hornby's brilliant and powerful memoir. Fever Pitch is as much about the author as it is Arsenal, and that's exactly why it manages to get to the heart of what it is to be a dedicated football fan – specifically the blind loyalty, encompassing both triumph and despair. The wonderfully poignant passage about Gus Caesar's rise and fall, in particular, sticks in my mind to this day. A stone-cold modern masterpiece. BUY IT

0224059548 All Played Out: The Full Story of Italia '90, by Pete Davies
The perfect tribute to a truly memorable World Cup – Gazza's tears, Platty's remarkable swivel finish against the Belgians, Bobby Robson's smart grey suit, Gary Lineker's awesomely un-English tan, the typically ruthless Germans doing us on penalties. All Played Out drips with nostalgia; you can almost hear New Order's World In Motion playing on a loop as you read it. BUY IT

0316557366 The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro, by Joe McGinniss
Engrossing account of a small Italian town's first ever season in Serie B, with more twists than your average soap opera. What makes the book special is the way the community and team adopts McGinniss as one of their own. The (American) author occasionally gets carried away and starts to think he knows more about the game than he does (he even offers tactical advice to Castel's manager!), but generally this is a cracking read. BUY IT

The_greatest_footballer The Greatest Footballer You Never Saw: The Robin Friday Story, by Paul McGuigan and Paolo Hewitt
Friday, Reading FC's greatest cult hero (he played for them between 1973-1976), was the archetypal flawed genius. He probably had enough talent to play for England, but he loved a drink and… you already know the rest (see G. Best). Friday was once sent off for kicking Mark Lawrenson in the face. Friday then took a protest shit in Lawrenson's kit bag. A classic tale of a colourful character who wasn't prepared to play by the rules and ended up paying th price. BUY IT

Url Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football, by David Winner
Everything you need to know about the country that gave the world total football and the genius of Johan Cruyff. Winner really gets to the heart of Dutch football culture and its neurotic, intellectualising mentality and discovers how it contributes to the nation's consciousness as a whole. Fascinating stuff. BUY IT

Check back next Tuesday to read part two of this list

March 20, 2007 in Gear & games, Lists | Permalink | Comments (4)

Top five Premiership goals of the weekend

Not a vintage weekend for Prem goals. Here are the five best…

1 Wayne Rooney, Man Utd v Bolton Wanderers
Wonderful interplay between Messrs Ronaldo & Rooney, with a cheeky finish to boot.

Uploaded by zamalektv

2 Paul Robinson, Spurs v Watford
As seen earlier today on Pies. One to tell his grandkids about.

3 Andrei Shevchenko, Chelsea v Sheffield Utd
Great first touch and a sledgehammer shot.

4 Jermaine Jenas, Spurs v Watford
Smart header by the much-derided midfielder.

5 Ji-Sung Park, Man Utd v Bolton Wanderers
Tucked away coolly after fine work by Ronaldo.

Uploaded by zamalektv

March 19, 2007 in Lists, Video clips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Top 20 most slappable Premiership players

Some players have faces that are crying out to be hit with a fierce jab-cross-uppercut combination, rather than the usual girly slaps dished out on the pitch. Here is our list of Premiership players who we'd like to slap down.
1 El-Hadji Diouf
Bolton's spitting striker is truly the king of slappable (is that even a word?) Premiership players. And here he is picking up some sort of medal to celebrate the fact.

2 Lee Bowyer
Wouldn't you love to rearrange that face? Oh, looks like God beat us to it.

3 Craig Bellamy

'Craig, can I have a quick word…' SLAP!

4 Arjen Robben

His face seems permanently twisted into an expression that can only be described as 'Slap me hard'.

5 Ashley Cole

Show him the money, now. Lots of it. And he used to be such a nice boy. Shame.

6 Lucas Neill

West Ham's saviour (no sniggering at the back).

7 Gary Neville

We had to make room for Chairman Nev. Maybe he just needs a hug?

8 Tim Cahill

If you like boxing so much, have a punch on us.

9/10 Rio Ferdinand/Anton Ferdinand

An appealing 'two-prats-for-one' mega deal.

11 Cristiano Ronaldo

As much as Pies admires young master Ronaldo, there are still times when he demands a gentle slap across his tanned cheeks.

12 Michael Brown

Feisty little man with a weaselly head.

13 Emmanuel Eboue

Where to begin? Such a dislikable player.

14 Robbie Keane

Your cheeky Irish charm and crap goal celebration isn't fooling anyone.

15 Ricardo Carvalho

His head's too small for his body. Hey, who said this was rational?

16 James Beattie

All talent and no application. Seems to care more about his hair than his career.

17 Frank Lampard

And you thought we'd forgotten him. Shame on you.

18 Jermaine Pennant

Perhaps a slap will wipe that cocky/gormless look off his face.

19 Jens Lehmann

In the interests of tabloid-style xenophobia, we are obliged to have one German on this list. Mad Jens fits the bill, perfectly.

20 Robbie Savage

One for our older readers. Savage would have been gutted not to make this list. You're still a contender Robbie!

Pies is 100% certain that you'll all have your own ideas about who we've missed off this list. So let's hear 'em…

March 14, 2007 in Lists | Permalink | Comments (35)

Top 10 one-club players

We live in an era of Baby Bentleys, getting merk'd by Jar Jar Binks and WAGs, so it's nice to know that there are players out there who value loyalty above cold cash. Ah, you say, but these players all play for big clubs, so why would they want to move? Fair point, but most of the stars in this list will have had big offers from other clubs, and yet they chose to stay, so 'nuff respect to them all.

Totti_gallery__323x4000 1 Francesco Totti (AS Roma, 1993-)
Much maligned and underrated, it's easy to forget that Totti, one of the world's best creative forwards and a World Cup-winner, has stayed loyal to Roma for almost 15 years (and they are not even one of Italy's biggest clubs - I'd put them on a par with Everton and Spurs over here), despite many offers to move to bigger clubs throughout his career. Well done sir, Pies salutes your unflinching loyalty, not to mention your lovely wife.

Click below to read the rest of the list…

Paolo_maldini_maldini_768227 2 Paolo Maldini (AC Milan, 1984-)
Totti sneaks in ahead of Maldini, purely because AC Milan are one of the world's biggest clubs, unlike Totti's Roma. But Maldini is simply a phenomenon, and already recognised as perhaps the greatest defender of all time. He's now 38 and still going strong, some 23 years after he started playing for Milan. When he finally does retire, his No.3 shirt will also be retired. Quite right too. Oh, and he's also one of the nicest guys in football. Pies hearts Paolo.

73296 3 Ryan Giggs (Man Utd 1990-)
Giggsy has now clocked up more than 700 appearances for United, and yet he could have had his pick of the Europe's greatest clubs. OK, so United are one of Europe's greatest clubs but still, you have to admire his loyalty to Old Trafford/Sir Alex Ferguson. Some fans may accuse Giggs of lacking ambition because he never moved on when he had the chance, but he's won so much in a United shirt that you can't really have a pop at him for that.

Raul_gonzalez_znow_byl_1203767 4 Raul Gonzalez (Real Madrid 1994-)
Mr Madrid, the all-time top scorer in the Champions League and for the Spanish national team, is rightly a hero in his home town. Madrid fans love their captain like a son. Now approaching 30, Raul will probably never leave Madrid, and it's easy to see him taking a coaching role when he hangs up his boots. Again, he had plenty of big-money offers, but spurned them all.

Scholes_paul_mufc_profile_2005 5 Paul Scholes (Man Utd 1993-)
Ah, we come to the Ginger Prince, Scholesy, the Ginger Nina. Call him what you like, Scholes is simply one of England's greatest ever creative midfielders. He ranked No.9 in Pies' 100 Greatest Premiership Players mega-list. We said about him: "The most admirable thing about Scholes is his utter professionalism. To use a cliche, he lets his football do all the talking. And what a footballer he is – in our opinion he's the best English midfielder to have played in the Premiership. His touch, vision and mid-range shooting are all world-class. If he could tackle, then he'd be even higher up this list."

Jcarragherengland 6 Jamie Carragher (Liverpool 1996-)
Carragher was signed as an apprentice by Liverpool in his teens and he's still going strong at Anfield. He's been in wonderful form this season, particularly in Europe, leading to many experts claiming that he is currently England's best centre-back. It's no exaggeration to say that Carra is one of the most popular players in Liverpool's history. Most fans on The Kop do indeed dream of 'a team of Carraghers…'

Img226048 7 Alessandro Costacurta (AC Milan 1985-)
In many ways, Costacurta is a poor man's Paolo Maldini. In this case, however, that is no slight; now 40, Costa has been a world-class defender in his own right for ages. He'll retire at the end of this season, and although his shirt won't be retired too, he'll still go down as one of Milan's all-time greats. Oh, and like Maldini he has a rather attractive WAG to look after him in his dotage.

Gary_neville__manch_227632s 8 Gary Neville (Man Utd 1992-)
Really, Neville has had no choice but to stay at Old Trafford. After all, who else would take him? Cut the Neviller and he bleeds United Red. Whether you like England's most renowned badge-kisser or not (and many non-United fans can't stand him), you have to admire his professionalism, longevity and amazing levels of performance. How often does he have a shockingly bad game? … Exactly.

Xavi 9 Xavi (Barcelona 1998-)
Barca's vice-captain joined the club when he was just 11, and he's still there some 17 years later, despite several lucrative offers from other big clubs in Europe. Xavi  is contracted to Barca until 2010, with a buyout clause of £100 million. That shows you just how much he is valued at the Nou Camp.

Guti 10 Guti (Real Madrid 1995-)
An underrated playmaker, Guti has been in and out of Madrid's starting XI more times than Emile Heskey's tripped over his boot laces. Despite that, he has not looked to move to a lower-profile club, where he would be guaranteed of regular first-team football.

Any other one-club stars you'd like to nominate? Fill your boots…

March 13, 2007 in Lists | Permalink | Comments (22)

Top Five Goals of the Weekend

1 Ugo Ehiogu, Celtic v Rangers
Is that really Ugo Ehiogu? If so, where did he find the skill to manage this finish? Most out of character.

2 Ronaldo, Inter Milan v AC Milan
Fatty's goal in the Milan derby was a lovely finish, but all for nothing, as Inter went on to win 2-1 and complete the double over their city rivals for the first time since 1981.

INTER -milan
Uploaded by balllondor

3 Hamuer Bouazza, Plymouth v Watford
'Slack marking from the corner,' but a cool strike.

Plymouth 0 - 1 Watford - Bouazza Goal
Uploaded by FootballHeaven

4 Wayne Rooney, Middlesbrough v Man Utd
Sweet finish to end a sweeping move.

Middlesborough V ManU - 0-1 Rooney
Uploaded by fredFiftyFour

5 Hossam Ghaly, Chelsea v Spurs
Keystone Cops defending by Chelsea, but a storming run and fine finish by the usually rubbish Ghaly. Not the greatest goal you'll ever see, but it made me laugh, and sometimes that's enough.

March 12, 2007 in Lists | Permalink | Comments (0)