How to win the World Cup

Of all the new books adding to the wealth of words written about the World Cup since the planet's greatest football tournament began, none seems quite so intriguing as Graham McColl's, published this week.

On the face of it, How to Win the World Cup looks like a title that Messrs Capello, Lippi, Del Bosque, Low, Dunga, Domenech and company might form a queue to get their hands on, since every one of the 32 national coaches preparing to lock horns in South Africa will wonder whether he knows the answer.

But this is not a book of theory. It is not a coaching manual, detailing training methods, diet plans or tactical strategies.

Instead, it is an examination of the facts from the 18 tournaments held so far, analysing in forensic detail the circumstances in which each team won, not only looking at form on the pitch but at all the peripheral issues, such as media attitudes, public expectation, the political climate, even the weather.

Did Italy's two victories in the 1930s, for example, owe something to Benito Mussolini's fascists?  And did the scandal of bribery and match-fixing help the Italians win again in 2006?

How important is home advantage? Does the best team necessarily win? And why do the Germans never seem to have a problem with penalty shoot-outs?

McColl, a football journalist based in Glasgow, has written 11 books, including titles on Celtic and Manchester United and '78: How a Nation Lost the World Cup, an entertaining deconstruction of Scotland's high expectations and embarrassing failure in the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.

For more by Graham McColl and more on the World Cup, visit The Sports Bookshelf Shop.  Every purchase you make there helps support this site.



The real purpose of cricket quotations

It is a fact beyond dispute that, outside the nine or 10 nations in which it is a mainstream sport, foreigners don't really get cricket. Even in some of the countries represented at the ICC World Twenty20, which begins in Guyana on Friday, mention of the game will draw more quizzical looks than comprehension.

Of all the things about the game that induce only bafflement, high on the list is the idea that it could have been devised in England. How does anyone invent a game to be played in dry conditions outdoors, over four or even five days, in a country where, on average, rain falls on one day in every three?

The answer may be more simple than you think. Clearly, given the number of new cricket books published each year, it was to give spectators convenient interludes in which to read!

Of course, not all rain stoppages are equal, and while hours of unremitting drizzle are not exactly an uncommon feature of an English summer there are stop-start days as well, which can be frustrating for the reader, especially if he is trying to settle into the rhythm of a more weighty work.

But cricket's literary riches offer the solution to this dilemma, too, in the form of handy little volumes stuffed with nothing but quotations -- perfect to dip in and out of when showers are about.

The Sports Bookshelf's current favourite comes from the yellow-jacketed Wisden collection, edited by Lawrence Booth and entitled "What are the Butchers For?": And Other Splendid Cricket Quotations.

As you would expect from Booth, always a writer with an eye for the quirkier side of the game, it looks beyond the obvious sources. To whet your appetite, try guessing who said what from among the following...

1 -- 'Test Match Special is all chocolate cakes and jolly japes, but I didn't enjoy being called a wheelie bin and neither did my family.'

2 -- 'Cricket is basically baseball on valium.'

3 -- 'I did call him Freddie once, but he said: "No, you can't call me Freddie. I'm Andrew to you."'

4 -- 'To be honest, Mark, I'm struggling.'

5 -- 'Great! Just great!... When does it start?'

6 -- 'I'd buy Luton Town football club.'

7 -- 'Remember to say "Good areas", "Work hard", "Keep it simple"'

8 -- 'How can you tell your wife you are just popping out to play a match and then not come back for five days?'

Click here for the answers.

Lawrence Booth's eye for humour in cricket earned him a large following when he wrote a weekly online column, The Spin, for the Guardian. His move to the Daily Mail might have spelled the end for The Spin but happily it has been reincarnated as Top Spin on dailymail.co.uk.

By the way, it was an American actress, Pauline Chase, who is thought to have asked 'What are the Butchers For?' when she spotted the white-coated umpires at a cricket match in the early 1900s.  Chase starred in the title role of Peter Pan during a seven-year run at London theatres at around the same time, having been introduced to Peter Pan author J M Barrie, who was a cricket enthusiast.

For more by Lawrence Booth or more on cricket, visit The Sports Bookshelf Shop.



Rooney gets a new ghost

The pairing of Hunter Davies with Wayne Rooney as biographer and subject looked like a dream partnership when publishers HarperCollins signed the Manchester United and England star to a £5 million book deal.

Davies has been regarded as a literary heavyweight among writers on football ever since the publication in 1972 of The Glory Game,  a portrait of Tottenham Hotspur that took the reader behind the scenes at a football club with an intimacy that no author had attempted before. It duly earned recognition as a classic work.

The Scottish-born journalist has written more than 30 books, including novels for adults an children, several biographies and numerous titles relating to the Lake District, where he lives for half the year.  His football subjects have included Paul Gascoigne and Dwight Yorke.

Yet sales of Wayne Rooney: My Story So Far, written by Davies as told by Rooney,  have fallen some way short of HarperCollins's expectations.  It did not help that publication came in the wake of a disappointing England performance in the World Cup finals in 2006 but critics have also observed that Davies did not seem able to coax any particularly exciting material from the player.

HarperCollins are planning a second attempt to generate a substantial return on their deal later this year but will not be pinning their hopes purely on a better showing from Rooney and his teammates in South Africa.

According to reports, the ghostwriter this time will not be Davies but Matt Allen, a somewhat less well-known writer who includes FourFourTwo, Q and Mojo magazines among his journalistic credits and has written books about Jimmy Greaves and Wimbledon's Crazy Gang years.

He has also produced an interesting collection of Where Are They Now? pieces about football stars of the 70s and 80s.

For more on Wayne Rooney, or more by Matt Allen, visit The Sports Bookshelf shop.


Random story of Murray's rise to fame

The rise and rise of Colin Murray shows no signs of reaching a plateau. 

The former Radio One DJ, who quit the music station to move full time to Radio Five Live last summer, has made such a strong impression in such a short time that he has been given a key role in BBC television's coverage of this summer's World Cup finals.

The 33-year-old Ulsterman -- who made his debut on the printed page with A Random History of Football last year -- will front the late-night highlights show during the month-long tournament in South Africa, stepping into a role that had been earmarked for Match of the Day 2 presenter Adrian Chiles before the latter resigned from the corporation earlier this week.

Murray is also due to take Chiles's place on the Sunday night sofa from August.

The week's developments have seen both presenters emerge with their careers enhanced significantly.

According to the early gossip, Chiles had flounced away from what had been a lucrative contract with the Beeb after he learned that Chris Evans, the former Radio One presenter who took over Terry Wogan's show on Radio Two, had been hired to front the Friday edition of nightly magazine programme The One Show.

Within hours, however, it had been announced that ITV had swooped to make Chiles their main man at the World Cup, with a central role in the GMTV breakfast show to follow.

That deal is said to be worth 50 per cent more than the £1 million-a-year contract he had with the Beeb to present Apprentice spin-off You're Fired, as well as The One Show and MOTD 2.

Murray has been moving nicely up the Radio Five ladder, enjoying huge success as host of the Saturday morning comedy quiz show Fighting Talk.  He now fronts Five Live Sport on Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons.

But going to mainstream TV sport is a substantial step up from his roles in Five's sporadic sports output, which have included NFL football and the European Poker Tour and, more recently, putting John Barnes out of his misery as anchor man for the station's UEFA Cup and Europa League coverage.

He has big shoes to step into in succeeding Chiles, whose distinct if not quite full-on Brummie accent has made him easy to identify among BBC presenters and whose so-called blokeish style has won him many fans.  Apart from a certain engaging ordinariness, he succeeds as a host and interviewer because, in his own words, he is "not afraid to ask a stupid question" if he does not fully understand a subject.

Murray appears less "blokeish" than hyperactively "laddish", which works when he is making off-the-cuff and often irreverent comments amid the laughter of a Fighting Talk broadcast, or bouncing jokily off the quirky Pat Nevin on a Five football show but might not translate so readily at moments when the BBC wants a more serious approach, as it certainly will from time to time.  By his own admission, he tends to say what comes into his head first.

Time will tell.  He is clearly a talented lad. In A Random History of Football, his high-tempo presentation style translates readily to the written word in a collection of stories identifying random events that have, in one way or another, helped shaped the history of the game.  Some critics dismissed it as "a bit nerdy" but Murray's radio fans have generally taken to it well.


The true story of Mr Unbelievable

It was the kind of moment, were it to occur in a dream, that would have most football commentators waking up in a cold sweat. You are in your position, the action unfolding in front of you, the voice from the studio is cueing you in with news of a major incident in the game... and you haven't a clue what he is talking about.

Of all the tricky spots to be landed with, few could be more embarrassing. Except, that is, if you are Chris Kamara.

If you are Sky Soccer Saturday's roving buffoon it doesn't matter at all.  In fact, it is something almost to relish, as Kamara discovered after presenter Jeff Stelling asked him about the player just sent off in Portsmouth's match against Blackburn earlier this month.

Stelling's information was entirely correct. Pompey's Anthony Vanden Borre had indeed been shown a red card, for a second bookable offence -- only Chris had managed not to notice. Cue raucous laughter from the studio panel.  For Paul Merson, Matt le Tissier and co, it was manna from heaven. If there is fun to be had, they'll have it -- and nothing makes more fun than a classic Kamara gaffe.   The YouTube clip has attracted more than 1.5 million viewings.

(text continues after clip)

Kamara loves nothing more than a bit of good-humoured banter, even at his own expense, and no one laughed more loudly as Stelling attempted to bring him up to date, although he subsequently explained that there were extenuating circumstances and that an inherent risk of facing camera with your back to the play, especially with driving rain forcing you to find a sheltered spot at the back, is that you will miss some critical incident.

But it is moments like this, as well as his tendency to preface every description with the words 'it's unbelievable, Jeff', that have turned the former journeyman player and moderately successful manager into the cult figure of today.

And now you can not only watch but read all about them, and a good deal more about his life, from his tough upbringing in 1960s Middlesbrough, through his career as a rugged defender and careworn manager to his present status as the star of many an armchair football fan's Saturday afternoon.

Mr Unbelievableis published by HarperCollins and will be in the shops from April 29th.  To order a copy, click on the text link or the illustrated link at the top of this piece.

For more on Chris Kamara and more football, visit The Sports Bookshelf Shop.



Wisden a beacon of continuity in changing times

The 147th edition of Wisden, the iconic yellow book whose role in the heritage of cricket goes back further even than The Ashes, runs to 1,728 pages.  As a statistical bible it is unrivalled in sport.

Few significant numerical details are left unrecorded and anyone with a fascination for the minutiae of the game would find the small print absorbing enough.

Yet there is much more to Wisden, especially in the modern era, than mere facts and figures.  More and more it is a feast of fine writing, the long-established 'Notes by the Editor', always a platform for trenchant views, now supplemented by an extensive selection of additional articles covering the major issues of the game as well as some that are perhaps less widely discussed, but no less relevant.

This year, for example, the declining coverage of county cricket in the national press is lamented both by Gerald Mortimer, venerable former sports editor, cricket and football correspondent of the Derby Evening Telegraph, and by Michael Henderson, a freelance writer on sport and music who is always readable and often controversial.

Mortimer, now retired, recalls in 'An Endangered Species' that when he began reporting cricket in 1970 it was wise at certain grounds to arrive early in order to be sure of a seat in the press box, such was the number of cricket writers on the county circuit.  Nowadays, he says, facilities are much improved but often scarcely used away from international matches.

The crisis in the newspaper industry is to blame in part.  No title has been immune from savage cuts in editorial budget and priorities have to be made.  Unfortunately for cricket, the need to trim costs has coincided with the arrival of a breed of sports editor consumed by football.

Readers have noticed, of course, especially those who would look forward each spring to the arrival of a new Wisden, who would also maintain a steadfast loyalty to the Daily Telegraph, once the essential newspaper for cricket lovers with reports on every first-class match.

In that respect, the Telegraph has been fighting a losing battle with The Times in recent years but surrendered any vestige of credibility when it axed almost its entire complement of cricket reporters in 2009, then tried to pull the wool over its readers' eyes by creating a fictitious army of replacements that involved putting made-up bylines on syndicated 'agency' copy.

So-called 'cod' names are not uncommon on newspapers, usually to cover the identity of a moonlighting writer from a rival publication, but this was deception on a large scale, as Henderson describes in his article on 'Cricket in the Media'.

The Telegraph scam was rumbled when fake names began appearing on reports of simultaneous events in different sports and when somebody spotted that Dan Harbles, who apparently reported on cycling as well as cricket, was an anagram of 'handlebars'.

The names in Wisden, you will be reassured to know, are entirely authentic.

Not everyone knows... that John Wisden, founder of the almanack, launched the publication in large part as a means of advertising his tobacco and sports equipment shop in London's Leicester Square in the face of fierce competition from Lillywhite Brothers & Co, who dealt in the same curious mix of goods from premises in Islington.  Copies of the very first edition, published in 1864, a mere 112 pages long and costing one shilling, have changed hands for £12,000. 

Buy Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 2010 through this site and visit The Sports Bookshelf shop for more cricket titles.



World Cup 2010: the key players

Fernando Torres

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres faces a race against time to be fit for the 2010 World Cup finals after undergoing more surgery on his right knee. If his projected recovery time is accurate, he should be able to join his Spain colleagues in South Africa -- but whether he can start the tournament at anything close to match sharpness must be in doubt.

He has already been ruled out for the remainder of Liverpool's failing season, further cutting their chances of finishing in the top four of the Premier League and meaning that he will miss the opportunity to face his old club, Atletico Madrid, in the Europa League.

Given the uncertainties over the future at Anfield, he may even have played his last match for Liverpool.  By the time he returns to fitness, Rafa Benitez may have gone and with the manager who signed him no longer around, Torres may be disinclined to stay on Merseyside, particularly in a team that is less equipped to challenge the elite of Europe than when he joined.

Real Madrid are said to be eager to take him back to Spain.  It is not inconceivable that he and Benitez could be reunited at the Bernabeu.

One of Benitez's few unqualified successes among the legion of players signed, there is no questioning the impact Torres has made on Liverpool.   His 72 goals from 116 appearances across all competitions is a sensational return.  He already has a winner's medal from Euro 2008, where he scored the winning goal in the final, and the bookmakers believe he can repeat the trick in South Africa, making Spain favourites at around 4-1, just ahead of Brazil and England.

A number of books about his life and career have been published, none of them particularly original or illuminating, although the autobiographical Torres: El Nino: My Story, while placing a heavy emphasis on illustrations, does include some insights into the life of a modern-day footballer.

Not everyone knows... that Torres's first position, in junior football, was goalkeeper; that Chelsea and Newcastle both tried to sign him before he joined Liverpool; his 24 Premier League goals in 2007-08 beat the record set by Ruud Van Nistelrooy for most goals by a foreign player in a debut season.

Buy Torres: El Nino: My Story direct from this site.

For more on Fernando Torres, more on Liverpool and more on World Cup 2010, visit The Sports Bookshelf shop.

No 1: Lionel Messi


This Week's Hot Sellers

The Sports Bookshelf's research reveals that sports book buyers bought these titles most during the last seven days.

Easier to tuck into a pocket and lighter in the backpack than Wisden, the ever-popular guide for cricket fans is enjoying its seasonal surge in sales as domestic cricket returns to the sports agenda.

2)Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 2010
The daddy of all cricket books, Wisden has been published every year since 1864. The 147th edition for 2010 contains details of every first-class match in every nation as well as powerful opinion and excellent features.

3)Invictus: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation
Originally titled Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation, the turning of John Carlin's book into an inspirational movie is reflected in healthy sales in the shops.

4) Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
Christopher McDougall's compelling study of the reclusive Tarahumara Indians of Mexico's savage Copper Canyons, who for centuries have practised techniques that allow them to run hundreds of miles without rest.

5) The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game
Michael Lewis's brilliant story of the Memphis teenager, born to a crack addict mother, who went on to play for the Baltimore Ravens in the National Football League has enjoyed a surge of sales following the success of the 2009 movie based on the book, for which actress Sandra Bullock won a Golden Globe.

Lance Armstrong's own story of his diagnosis with cancer, the gruelling nature of his treatment and his recovery to win the Tour de France, with no painful detail spared, continues to inspire readers.

7)The Man Who Cycled the World
Fund-raising long-distance cyclist Mark Beaumont charts his 18,000-mile ride around the world, ending at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris after 194 days and 17 hours, telling his life story along the way.

8) 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Official BookAs the former editor of World Soccer magazine, Kier Radnedge has long been respected for his expert knowledge of international football and the official FIFA guide to this summer's World Cup finals is as authoritative as you would expect.

Jonathan Wilson's study of football in Eastern Europe, Behind the Curtain, was as engaging as it was informative, but he did give himself plenty of scope.  The evolution of football tactics could have been a subject that was simply too dry to be fun, but Wilson somehow makes it just as entertaining.

10) Trautmann's Journey: From Hitler Youth to FA Cup Legend
Brought to the attention of Sports Bookshelf readers last month, Catrine Clay's examination of the darker side of the Bert Trautmann story, in particular his association with the Hitler Youth and the Nazi movement, has attracted much interest in its first week in the shops.

Click on the links to buy direct from this site.


Burn's classic study of snooker phenomenon

It is 25 years now since Dennis Taylor and Steve Davis kept the nation awake as 18.5 million viewers watched the final of all world snooker finals go to the very last black before the Ulsterman in the daft glasses held his cue above his head with both hands and then wagged his finger at the television camera.

Yet, as the championships begin to unfold again in Sheffield, still pulling in the punters at the iconic Crucible Theatre, still attracting at least respectable television audience, the appeal of the game, and its blue riband event in particular, still owes something to that moment.

The two protagonists are still about the place, delivering their informed punditry on the new generation.  But memories fade, the characters of what was then a soap opera as much as a sport, whose dramas and scandals would be played out at the front of the newspapers as frequently as their performances at the table appeared at the back, have long since slipped away in relative obscurity.

Happily, thanks to the percipience of a writer who was to become something of a literary celebrity, the age has been perfectly preserved on the page.

Gordon Burn, who had written with distinction about Peter Sutcliffe -- the Yorkshire Ripper -- in Somebody's Husband, Somebody's Son, saw in the snooker boom an opportunity to examine a growing public obsession with celebrity through a game blessed with a cast of personalities that was unrivalled in sport.

He spent a year on the snooker circuit, following the dysfunctional lives of Alex Higgins and Jimmy White and the game's other wilder characters and observing the zeal with which Barry Hearn, an accountant from Dagenham turned sports promoter, pursued the chance to generate riches and turn his principle client, the seemingly automatous Davis, into the greatest player in the world.

The result, Pocket Money, remains the best book written about snooker and is deservedly acclaimed as a classic across all sports genres.

It was reissued in paperback two years ago by Faber and Faber. Burn, who died last year aged 61, also wrote about celebrity in football in Best and Edwards: Football, Fame and Oblivion.



A trumpeter for the Pyramid

Having announced himself as a football writer of note with Behind the Curtain, his journey around Eastern European football, Jonathan Wilson seemed to be taking an enormous risk when he set about trying to entertain his newly-acquired audience with a history of football tactics.

It just seemed too dry, too narrow a subject. The kind of person who would identify Dario Gradi as an ideal dinner guest might find it fascinating. But beyond that...?

In fact, Wilson's Inverting the Pyramid: A History of Football Tactics has been among the top sellers among football books since it was released in paperback last June. Up to press, 37,000 copies have been printed and it is being translated into seven languages.

Gary Naylor, aka Mouth of the Mersey and the Tooting Trumpet, provided The Sports Bookshelf with the following review:

"Riquelme has become less a player than a cipher for an ideology". This elegant biography in a sentence turns up on page 326 of Inverting the Pyramid: A History of Football Tactics. If you're even mildly engaged by those twelve words, the 351 pages that surround them will reward you with an extraordinarily rich rollercoaster ride through what is less a history of football tactics, more a history of men thinking about football.

Fortunately our guide, Jonathan Wilson, presents his history in an orthodox chronological structure as we flit from continent to continent, looking on, as the pyramid (the formation in which a team is set up) is not so much inverted as perverted from 2-3-5 to 3-2-2-3 (the classic WM) to 4-1-4-1 and all points in between. Tantalisingly, a possible future of 4-6-0 is mooted - indeed Sir Alex Ferguson's Champions League winners may well have played this formation without us realising.

But it would be a huge disservice to the writer to give the impression that this is a technical theoretical treatise - like the best popular history, the writer wears his learning lightly without ever talking down to his readers. And, also characteristic of the genre, the narrative is packed with unforgettable portraits of extraordinary men. Wanderers like Jimmy Hogan embedded football thinking in central Europe and Bela Guttmann proselytised his 4-2-4 gospel from continent to continent. Great teams, as well known as Hungary's 1953 vanquishers of England and as forgotten as Austria's inter-war Wunderteam, are brought to life as if they were playing last week. Influential players, like the tragic Matthias Sindelar and coaching innovators like Arrigo Sacchi are placed within the wider ebb and flow of football thinking and given due credit for their willingness to theorise, then practise new ways of playing football.

One puts the book down with two overwhelming feelings. Firstly, that the game is so very much richer than is generally perceived in Britain - never mind 6-0-6 callers pleading for a "bit of passion" as the panacea for all English footballers' shortcomings, how about the sheer blinkeredness of those paid to explain the game, from TV pundits to writers in the Press Box? Secondly, that the game is evolving more rapidly than ever before and that British managers and coaches (one florid-featured Manchester-based pensioner excepted) are as emotionally and psychologically distant they have ever been from such developments. If I live thirty more years, I am more convinced than ever that I will not see England win a World Cup.

Oh, just one last thing. On page 284, Watford didn't beat Everton 5-4, they lost 4-5. I know - I was there and nothing quite beats that, even if Wilson's book comes mighty close.

You can read more by Naylor under his Tooting Trumpet hat at 99.94, which presents "cricket analysis from beyond the boundary".

Wilson's latest book The Anatomy of England: A History in Ten Matches is due for release on May 20th.

For more by Jonathan Wilson and more on football, visit The Sports Bookshelf Shop.




Larwood biography honoured again

Duncan Hamilton has collected another award  for his widely acclaimed biography of Bodyline bowler Harold Larwood ahead of the book's publication in paperback on April 29th.

Harold Larwood,the William Hill Sports Book of the Year and best biography at the National Sporting Club's Sports Book of the Year awards, was named Wisden Book of the Year at a dinner to mark the 147th edition of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack.

Hamilton is celebrating his second 'double'. Having previously won the William Hill award for Provided You Don't Kiss Me, his account of his journalist-manager relationship with Brian Clough, he now has two 'Wisdens' to his name, having won in 2009 for Sweet Summers: The Classic Cricket Writing of JM Kilburn.

Reviewing the Larwood book for the Almanack, Robin Martin-Jenkins, the Sussex cricketer, described it as "a biographical tour de force, reading like a great, sweeping historical novel."

Readers who have enjoyed Hamilton's work can look forward to more this summer.

Due to go on sale in July, A Last English Summerpresents his observations on the current state of county cricket, a portrait of the game intertwining history, biography and anecdote with observations made on a journey through the 2009 season.

Follow the link to pre-order.  For more Duncan Hamilton and more on cricket, visit The Sports Bookshelf Shop.



Is Portsmouth Cup fairytale still eclipsed by Sunderland?

Portsmouth's advance to the FA Cup final, in this of all years, confirms that the most famous club football competition in the world still has the capacity to turn up fantastic stories.

If Pompey, relegated and in administration and with the future of their players in doubt, were to go on and beat Chelsea in the final next month, it would rank among the biggest shocks in Cup history.

But would it rival Sunderland's victory over Leeds in 1973 for the ultimate accolade, the greatest final upset of all time?

Lance Hardy, whose book about the against-the-odds triumph of Bob Stokoe's Second Division team was shortlisted at the 2010 Sports Book Awards, would doubtless say not.

In a recent interview, Hardy pointed out that Sunderland knocked out Manchester City and Arsenal on the way to the final, both of whom were in the top four of the First Division at the time.

Had Barnsley gone all the way in 2008, after eliminating Liverpool and Chelsea, their achievement might have been spoken of in the same breath.  But Barnsley went out in the semi-finals and Portsmouth beat Cardiff in the final.

“With the huge gulf between the top four and the rest nowadays, I don’t know if Sunderland’s achievement can be repeated,” he said.

Hardy, a writer and television producer, was himself only five when Ian Porterfield's goal and Jim Montgomery's stunning save from Peter Lorimer entered football folklore.  Colour television was in its infancy and the combination of an orange ball and Sunderland's red and white stripes captured the nation's imagination, never mind the fanatics on Wearside.  It was the first televised match Hardy remembers watching -- and it hooked him both on the Roker Men and football.

The book itself describes the final in painstaking detail. Hardy spoke to 'Stokoe's family, players from both teams, and virtually everyone down to the Roker Park janitor and tea lady' according to Simon Briggs in the Daily Telegraph. 

There is also strong stuff on the difficult relationship between Stokoe, the Sunderland manager, and his Leeds counterpart, Don Revie, between whom there was historical bad blood.

'Hardy brings out the deep enmity between the two managers – the slippery Revie against the utterly upright Bob Stokoe, who always claimed that Revie had tried to bribe him to throw a match 11 years earlier.' --- Simon Briggs in the Daily Telegraph. Read his review here.

Buy Stokoe, Sunderland and 73: The Story Of the Greatest FA Cup Final Shock of All Time direct from this site or visit The Sports Bookshelf shop to browse more football titles.  Lance Hardy also helped darts star Bobby George with Bobby Dazzler: My Story.


Secrets of Mickelson the Master

No instruction manual could teach a golfer to play the extraordinary trees-to-green shot that Phil Mickelson produced at the 13th on the way to winning his third US Masters in Augusta.

There is much a player can learn, nonetheless, from the winner of the 2010 green jacket and his phenomenal skills with wedge and putter in Mickelson's Secrets of the Short Game, which can now expect a spike in sales.

Mickelson believes that even a golfer of only average ability can become a highly effective short-game player by paying proper attention to mechanics and set-up and combining that scientific approach with a willingness to be imaginative. Published last autumn, the 224-page manual passes on some of the wisdom Mickelson has acquired over 35 years, since his first steps in the game as a small boy.

By holding off Britain's Lee Westwood, Mickelson joined the company of Nick Faldo, Sam Snead and Gary Player in having won three Masters titles.  But for the presence of four-times winner Tiger Woods on the circuit, Mickelson would probably have been seen as a genuine great even before now.

Given the trauma in his personal life in the last 12 months -- both his wife, Amy, and his mother, Mary, were diagnosed with breast cancer within seven weeks of one another last summer -- the 39-year-old American will be guaranteed a best-seller when he gets around to writing the full story.

In the meantime, his 2005 autobiography, One Magical Sunday: But Winning Isn't Everything, describes, almost stroke by stroke, the 2004 US Masters triumph that ended his long wait for a first major title, with much about his life told 'between holes'.

Not everyone knows... that 13 is clearly a lucky number for Mickelson, who played the 13th on the Augusta course in six under par over the four rounds, with two birdies and two eagles.

For more golf titles, visit The Sports Bookshelf shop.


This Week's Hot Sellers

The Sports Bookshelf's research reveals that sports book buyers bought these titles most during the last seven days.

1) Playfair Cricket Annual 2010
Easier to tuck into a pocket and lighter in the backpack than Wisden, the ever-popular guide for cricket fans is enjoying its seasonal surge in sales as domestic cricket returns to the sports agenda.

2) Ten Years of talkSPORT
Gershon Portnoi's no-detail-spared account of the highs and lows of the radio station's first decade of life still excites readers with its revealing tales of Stan Collymore, Alan Brazil et al.

3) Torres: El Nino: My Story
Since its release last September, the Liverpool and Spain striker's own story has proved the most popular among the annual crop of football autobiographies.

4) The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game
Michael Lewis's brilliant story of the Memphis teenager, born to a crack addict mother, who went on to play for the Baltimore Ravens in the National Football League has enjoyed a surge of sales following the success of the 2009 movie based on the book, for which actress Sandra Bullock won a Golden Globe.

5) It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life
Lance Armstrong's own story of his diagnosis with cancer, the gruelling nature of his treatment and his recovery to win the Tour de France, with no painful detail spared, continues to inspire readers.

6) Open: An Autobiography
Andre Agassi's drug-taking confession ensured his life story made headlines and sales but beyond the sensationalism lies a deeply human story that has won acclaim for its honesty.

7) 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Official BookAs the former editor of World Soccer magazine, Kier Radnedge has long been respected for his expert knowledge of international football and the official FIFA guide to this summer's World Cup finals is as authoritative as you would expect.

8) Inverting the Pyramid: A History of Football Tactics
Jonathan Wilson's study of football in Eastern Europe, Behind the Curtain, was as engaging as it was informative, but he did give himself plenty of scope.  The evolution of football tactics could have been a subject that was simply too dry to be fun, but Wilson somehow makes it just as entertaining.

9) Lucky Break
Racehorse trainer Paul Nicholson's luck may have deserted him recently, with the defeat of Denman and Kauto Star in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and of joint-favourite Big Fella Thanks in the Grand National after jockey Ruby Walsh had to give up the ride due to injury, but his autobiography -- shortlisted at the British Sports Book Awards -- continues to sell well.

10) Trautmann's Journey: From Hitler Youth to FA Cup Legend
Brought to the attention of Sports Bookshelf readers last month, Catrine Clay's examination of the darker side of the Bert Trautmann story, in particular his association with the Hitler Youth and the Nazi movement, has attracted much interest in its first week in the shops.

Click on the links to buy direct from this site.



McCoy books place in history

There can have been few more popular winning jockeys than Tony McCoy in the history of the Grand National.

The 35-year-old Ulsterman today won the great steeplechase at the 15th attempt on Don't Push It, enabling him at last to fill in the one missing line in his cv.  He had won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the King George VI Chase, The Queen Mother Champion Chase, the Champion Hurdle and the Irish National in a career amassing more than 3,000 winners.

The most successful jumps rider of all time, he has been champion National Hunt jockey 14 times, setting the record for the number of winning rides in a single jumps season at 253 in 1997-98 before breaking Sir Gordon Richards' record of 269 in a season for all types of racing when he rode 289 winners in the 2001-02 campaign.

Yet he had never finished better than third in the Aintree classic until Don't Push It's victory by five lengths from Black Apalachi this afternoon.

The result also ended owner JP McManus's quest to win the National.  His familiar green and gold hoops had been carried round the gruelling course by 33 horses before he was finally able to cheer one of them home first.

McCoy revealed that it was not confirmed that he would ride the Jonjo O'Neill-trained Don't Push It ahead of stable companion Can't Buy Time until Thursday.

He wept after crossing the line as rival jockeys offered their congratulations, the victory confirming McCoy as the greatest jump jockey of all time.

It demands a revision of his life story, McCoy: The Autobiography, written in collaboration with racing journalist Steve Taylor and published in 2002.

Not everyone knows... that Tony McCoy was only 17 when he rode his first winner, Legal Steps, at Thurles in 1992; that, at 5ft 10ins tall, his frequent riding weight of 10 stone is around a stone and a half below his natural weight; that he is a close friend of rival jockey Ruby Walsh, who often visits his family home in Lambourn, Berkshire.



Now talkSPORT audience can readSPORT too

Commercial radio station talkSPORT reckons its 2.5 million weekly listeners are among the biggest buyers of sports books in the country. Now they plan to satisfy their audience's appetite for the written word after signing a five-year book deal with publishers Simon & Schuster.

At least three titles will be published this year. The first, The talkSPORT Book of World Cup Banter, edited by journalist and author Bill Borrows, is due out on April 29th.

A talkSPORT Book of British Sporting Legends is due to follow in the autumn.

Adam Bullock, commercial director of talkSPORT, told The Bookseller: "Our core audience of 2.5 million talkSPORT listeners every week are the country’s biggest sport fans – and the biggest buyers of sports books in the UK.

"The station has had great success in developing its magazine and music publishing. Now, with our book publishing partner at Simon & Schuster, we are going to be producing a series of books that will be the ultimate guide to all that’s most interesting in sport today."

  talkSPORT's popularity is reflected in the success of Ten Years of talkSPORT, a  behind-the-scenes account written by the deputy editor of talkSPORT's online magazine, Gershon Portnoi, which has sold more than 10,000 copies.

 Follow the link to pre-order The Talksport Book of World Cup Banter: All the Ammo You Need to Settle Any Argument

 For more about talkSPORT or more by Bill Borrows, visit The Sports Bookshelf Shop.



A World Cup history in caricature

It will take something special to stand out from the crowd among the plethora of books celebrating the 2010 World Cup.

However, artist German Aczel has managed to give the tournament a unique perspective, producing a wonderful history in caricature.

Aczel, born in Argentina but now resident in Munich, where he works for Bravo Sport magazine, has taken many of the iconic photographs from the 18 tournaments so far staged and created brilliant drawings that capture vividly the character of the individuals and the drama of the event.

The famous image of Bobby Moore (above, left), the Jules Rimet Trophy proudly held aloft, being borne on the shoulders of teammates at Wembley '66 will be popular with England fans, certainly more so than the illustration of Diego Maradona's 'Hand of God' moment in Mexico 20 years later.

With pencils and watercolours, Aczel also brings new life to some of the tournaments never-to-be-forgotten moments, such as Marco Tardelli's manic goal celebration (pictured below) in the 1982 final and Paul Gascoigne's tears in Italia 90.

With text by Randall Northam, whose SportsBooks company is the publisher of World Cup 1930-2010, the book tells the story of each tournament in comic strip style and sketches the sequence of play leading to many of the best and decisive goals. There is a section, too, looking ahead to this year's tournament, with Wayne Rooney (right) among the stars-in-waiting.

Aczel, who moved to Europe after marrying a German girl, revealed his talent at a young age, winning prizes for his work in his hometown of Buenos Aires and staging his first exhibition at 20.  He drew illustrations for Argentina's La Nacion newspaper and the sports magazine El Grafico and has also worked in Brazil.

For more World Cup 2010 books visit 
The Sports Bookshelf Shop.

SportsBooks, formed in 1995, has acquired a reputation for making room in its catalogue for the quirky and off-beat as well as more mainstream titles, publishing "books we think deserve to be out in the marketplace."


World Cup 2010: the key players

Lionel Messi

The best is almost certainly still to come so far as Lionel Messi: The Book is concerned.

Luca Caioli must be feeling pleased with his publishers, inasmuch as the release here of his biography on the Argentine maestro, which appeared in the shops in January, may have come at just the right moment after Messi reinforced his reputation as the world's best player with that magnificent performance against Arsenal.

Messi: The Inside Story of the Boy Who Became a Legend (Corinthian) can expect a good run between now and the World Cup finals as Argentina prepare for a tournament in which they will carry great expectations despite a bumpy qualification.

But at 22 Messi has most of his career still ahead of him and he will be fighting off suitors when he decides the time is right to tell his own version of the story.

Caioli, an Italian journalist based in Spain who has written similar life stories of Fernando Torres and Ronaldinho, tracks Messi's life back to Rosario, an inland port city of more than one million people to the north-west of Buenos Aires.

Originally published in Spanish, the story explains how Messi's move to Spain at the age of 13 came about, detailing how the cost of the treatment he needed for a growth hormone deficiency played a role in his joining Barcelona rather than the River Plate club at home.

It takes the reader through Messi's sensational progress with the Catalan club, from his debut at the age of 17 through to his 38-goal season in 2008-09, when Barcelona won the Coppa del Rey (Spanish Cup), La Liga and the Champions League.

The author's treatment of his subject is benevolent throughout, which may suggest that it lacks balance, but given that Messi, with his cheekily innocent looks and boyish enthusiasm on the field, is so widely admired right now, perhaps that doesn't matter too much.

It is a little ironic, though, that the reverence Messi has earned in Europe is not quite matched at home in Argentina, where critics in the media have questioned his commitment to the national team, even dubbing him 'El Catalan'.

It is true that he has yet to reach a level playing in the blue and white of Argentina that compares with the brilliance that Arsenal encountered in Nou Camp.  Conspiracy theorists have even speculated that Diego Maradona, Argentina's coach, might be suppressing Messi's talent so as to preserve his own standing as the country's greatest ever player.

If he can leave a legacy for the World Cup in South Africa, however, all such notions will be dispelled.

Not everyone knows... that Messi was sent off for elbowing after only two minutes on the field when he made his international debut as a substitute against Hungary in August 2005; that he was given the coveted 'number 10' shirt for Maradona's first game as national coach... and that he has a Chinese language blog.

Buy Messi: The Inside Story of the Boy Who Became a Legend direct from this site.

Go to the Sports Bookshelf Shop for more on Lionel Messi and more by Luca Caioli.

To see Messi's Chinese blog, go to http://622001160.qzone.qq.com.

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Gerrard story desperate for successful new chapter

Review: by William Sansome

For Steven Gerrard, this season has been one of epic disappointment.

Last season's runners-up spot was the closest Liverpool have come for some time to a first domestic title since 1990. Yet this campaign’s challenge fell abysmally short long ago while their prospects of competing in the Champions League next year seem fainter by the day.

The Huyton-born England man has also watched Fabio Capello choose Rio Ferdinand as the successor to John Terry as England captain, despite his own credentials being arguably more compelling.

All this as the Liverpool and England midfielder nears the end of his prime years, with the possibility of having to leave his beloved Anfield to pursue further glory becoming ever more real.

But out of adversity often springs success and for Gerrard, who will be 30 in less than two months' time, this has been a defining aspect of his career. His autobiography, Gerrard: My Autobiography, winner of ‘Sports Book of the Year’ at the British Book Awards in 2007, brilliantly describes the far from straightforward path to stardom he has taken.

His career was nearly finished at the age of nine, when he kicked a garden fork during a kick-about on a field near his home, almost leading to his toe being amputated.

Crucially, though, his reaction to the loss of his cousin, Jon-Paul Gilhooley, illustrates his determination to motivate himself through adversity. Gilhooley, sharing Gerrard’s passion for Liverpool, was one of the 96 people killed in the Hillsborough disaster. He travelled to the FA Cup semi-final with Nottingham Forest but never returned and Gerrard has been inspired by the untimely death of his cousin every time he has donned the Liverpool red since.

This passion may well be the factor that keeps him at Anfield for his whole career, and certainly influenced his decision to refuse the approaches of Chelsea in 2006, another subject covered in detail in the book.

There are candid accounts of Gerrard’s feelings over setbacks he had to overcome. As a schoolboy at Liverpool he battled in the shadow of ‘boy wonder’ Michael Owen to establish himself, and to become a leading world footballer he had to recover from the bitter disappointment of being ruled out of the 2002 World Cup through injury.

Finally, in leading Liverpool to their greatest triumph in the Premier League era, in the 2005 Champions League final, he not only motivated himself but was able to rally the dressing room in what seemed like a hopeless situation. Liverpool’s fifth-place finish, below Merseyside rivals Everton, had meant there was no guarantee of future Champions League football and AC Milan’s 3-0 half-time lead in the final looked unassailable.

With all this in mind, no one would rule out Gerrard reacting to this stagnant Liverpool season by inspiring his country to glory in South Africa, a feat which will inevitably demand a postscript to his gripping life story.

If you have a favourite book you'd like to review, submit it to the Editor via the comments box.  You can praise or criticise, but please be fair. The Editor reserves the right to decline publication if the review is unsuitable.

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World Cup boost for Joe Cole's new book?

Can Joe Cole make a late run into Fabio Capello's plans for the World Cup finals?

With an autobiography due out in August, a good World Cup would certainly do wonders for his book sales.

Apparently written off by the Italian before being left out of the England squad for the friendly against Egypt, the Chelsea midfielder seems at last to be showing signs of a return to his most effective form.

His fine goal against Manchester United last Saturday set up the Old Trafford victory that gave Chelsea a two-point lead in the race for the Premier League title.

It was only the second time he has found the target all season, having struggled to convince Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti he should be a regular starter while trying desperately to get back to his best after nine months out through injury.

Capello said in February that Cole "was not like the player I remember", casting huge doubt on the 28-year-old's chances of going to his third World Cup finals.

But the England coach will be at Wembley for Chelsea's FA Cup semi-final on Saturday and will decide for himself whether Cole has improved enough to come into the reckoning.

Joe Cole - My Autobiography will not be available until mid-August but readers of The Sports Bookshelf can pre-order a copy now by clicking on the link.

In the meantime, committed Joe Cole fans could try Ian Macleay's Joe Cole: The Biography published in February last year as a new version of the 2006 hardback Cole Play: The Biography of Joe Cole. Follow the links to buy direct from this site.

To read more about Chelsea and more by Ian Macleay, visit the Sports Bookshelf Shop.