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Can the 2010 World Cup deliver classic reads?


Nothing stirs a football writer's typing fingers quite like a World Cup and with 73 days to go before the 2010 finals kick off in Johannesburg if one thing is certain it is that the trees felled to supply the paper required by the publishing industry would cover many more football pitches than will be needed to play the month-long tournament.

Quantity, therefore, is guaranteed. Quality, of course, is another matter. The Sports Bookshelf will attempt to provide some guidance as to which books might have a shelf life beyond the final on July 11th.

At least half a dozen titles will hit the book shops on April 1st, including the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Official Book, edited by the former World Soccer magazine editor, Keir Radnedge.

Gabrielle Marcotti's authoritative study of England's head coach, first published as Capello: Portrait of a Winner, is repackaged by Bantam Books as Capello: The Man Behind England's World Cup Dream

And Brian Glanville's superb, definitive history of the competition, first published in 1973, has been given its customary update by the doyen of English football writers, reissued by Faber and Faber as The Story of the World Cup: The Essential Companion to South Africa, 2010 (World Cup 2010)

Glanville's book can be rightly described as a classic of the genre, as perhaps might Marcotti's, if nothing else but for the thoroughness of the research, underpinned by quality writing.

However, there is always room for a new perspective, and one almost certainly worth investigation comes from Gavin Newsham, a fine writer whose work has appeared in the Guardian, the Sunday Times, FHM and Maxim magazines among other places.

Newsham has acquired a highly respectable pedigree in sports writing. His biography of golfer John Daly, subtitled Letting the Big Dog Eat, won him the best new writer prize at the National Sporting Club awards in 2004, and he won praise for Once In a Lifetime, his story of the New York Cosmos side of the 1970s.

He turns his attention to football again in Hype and Glory: The Decline and Fall of the English National Football Team (Atlantic Books), which seeks to explain why, since 1966, every World Cup or European Championships for which England has qualified arrives on a wave of expectation only to be followed with disappointment.

Demonstrating his versatility, Newsham is the author of the junior guide to the World Cup, the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Fact File, also published on April 1st.

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