Debut ghostwriter relishes her Savage start

Robbie Savage has been one of football’s pantomime villains ever since Martin O’Neill identified him as the man to add snap and bite to his Leicester midfield in the late 1990s.

Instantly recognisable for his mop of wild blond hair, he has been cherished by his own fans but despised almost everywhere else, largely due to his inherent ability to wind up opponents. In short, he has been a tabloid football writer’s dream.

It is only appropriate that his autobiography -- out next week -- has been ghosted by a red-top reporter who has been there to record virtually every controversy along the way, from bust-ups with managers and theatrics on the field to the dire consequences of using the referee’s toilet without permission.

Janine Self has been tracking Savage’s progress since The Sun assigned her to international duty with Wales in 1998 and has witnessed most other episodes in his colourful career on her day-to-day beat in the Midlands.   She has unavoidably written critical things about him and, by her own admission, the two have “had words” on occasions.

But their relationship has become one of mutual respect, which was underlined when Savage’s plans for a life story gathered momentum last year and he insisted that Janine should write it on his behalf.

Savage!: The Robbie Savage Autobiography is published by Mainsteam on August 5th and Janine, who had not taken on a ghosting project before, has told The Sports Bookshelf how the book came about and what she learned in writing it.

“I was talking to him about a story for the paper, I think in about February or March last year,” she said, “and he answered one question, as footballers do sometimes, by saying ‘I’ll keep that for my book’.

“I asked if he was doing a book and he said he would like to.  But he did not have a publisher in mind and though his agent at the time said he knew a literary agent who might set something up, nothing happened and the idea went on the back burner.

“When Mainstream eventually took it on it all came about literally through word of mouth.

“Robbie’s solicitors, Blacks, had a sports arm, headed up by Stephen Lownsbrough.  He knew someone at Mainstream, they got chatting and he said he had a footballer who wanted to write a book.  Great Northern Books had said they might be interested but when no agreement was reached Mainstream stepped in.  We met over lunch in Leeds and it went from there.

“I was grateful to Robbie because publishers of football biographies often take on a project with a writer in mind but Robbie said that I was to do it, that we came as a team.”

The task of turning the Derby player's memories and opinions into words on a page began in earnest only last January, obliging Janine to adopt a disciplined regime of early starts and late finishes so that she could meet an April deadline for the manuscript and keep on top of the football news in her day job.

“I spoke to a number of journalists who had ghosted books for players.  Henry Winter, who has written books with Kenny Dalglish and Steven Gerrard, was massively helpful, as was David Harrison, who had worked with Michael Owen and Alan Shearer.

“I worked out that I would need between 20 and 30 hours of taped interviews to produce the 100,000 words they had asked me to write.

“So I knew what was required in that respect. What I did underestimate was how much pre-research I needed to do.

“Sometimes, for example, he couldn’t remember what the score had been in one game or another so I needed to make sure I could correct any errors.  To do that I would research a whole season before meeting him so that I could prompt him as required.

“I also did not realise it is down to the author to source the pictures and to deal with such things as copyright issues.

“But Robbie was always exceedingly helpful. More often than not we would meet at his house, I’d set the tape running and we would just start to chat.

“It helped that I had followed his career.  The early family stuff obviously had to come from him alone but I was able to contribute to the football side because every controversial story he had been involved in I’d covered myself for The Sun.”

Those controversies had landed Savage with some negative headlines at times and the revisiting of them might have led to some awkward moments in the conversation, perhaps, had he known his interviewer less well.

“I had written critical things about him myself in the past and we have had words on occasions,“ she said.  “But he thinks I have been fair.  And most of the controversy he has caused himself.

“It helped that there was an occasion at Leicester, after Martin O’Neill threatened to fine him over something that appeared in the paper, that I went to see Martin to explain that Robbie had been misquoted.  It convinced Robbie that I could be trusted and saved him quite a bit of money too!”

The writing-up process inevitably made the biggest demands on Janine’s stamina.  She is well used to working under deadline pressure but the task still looked daunting at times.

“The deadline from the publishers was the end of April,” she said.  “I set my own deadline of the end of March, giving me an extra month so that Robbie, his solicitor and his management could see the book and I could make any changes.

“I didn’t transcribe all the tapes because he would go off at tangents.  So I took notes as well, with the tape as a back-up if I wanted to check the detail of something. The order was for 100,000 words and I ended up with 100,000 words of notes alone.  If I had transcribed the tapes I would have had 300,000!

“You start to panic, thinking you’re never going to get it finished, and I still had to do my job for The Sun, who had given me permission to do the book, so long as it was in my own time.

“They would not have been happy if I had not been available to work so I would get up at 5am and work on the writing up until 8.30 on days when I was on duty for the paper, and from 5am until midnight on days off.

“But I met my own deadline as planned and delivered the manuscript to Robbie at Derby’s training ground. He read it all in one day and was extremely professional about it, marking everything that needed amendment or correction.”

Now that it the end result is about to be released to the wider world, Janine feels a sense of fulfilment at completing the job and believes, too, that her subject is pleased with the way he is portrayed.

“He has been very complimentary about it. He thinks it captures the person he is.  He is grateful, too, that there is not that much swearing and he has apologised to his mother for what there is.

“I’ve tried to tell the story in an easy-to-read, tabloid newspaper style, writing a tabloidy type of intro at the start of every chapter. Because the football fans who have followed his career will have done so through the tabloids.”

There is no shortage of tasty tales, from the extraordinary initiation ceremonies he went through as a trainee in the Beckham generation at Manchester United, through the League Cup final against Tottenham in 1999, in which his antics effectively led to opponent Justin Edinburgh being sent off, to his falling-out with managers Steve Bruce at Birmingham and Paul Jewell at Derby, and ‘Jobbiegate‘, as was dubbed the bizarre story of using referee Graham Poll’s facilities without permission after he was caught short.

He pulls few punches, although Janine says Savage “did not want to be seen as setting out just to have a go at people and be nasty.

“He did not want to just go out and hammer people but there are people he clearly doesn’t like.”

Despite the long hours,  Janine has found her debut in print a rewarding experience and it has whetted her appetite for more.

“I thoroughly enjoyed doing it.  I quite like locking myself away in my study and getting on with something.

“I’d love to do another one although I suspect with Robbie as a first subject I may have been spoilt.”

Click here to buy Savage!: The Robbie Savage Autobiography (Mainstream).

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Insights and anecdotes -- but shirt tales keep the real Hodge under wraps

A review by Jeremy Culley

The infamous role of Diego Maradona in Argentina’s 1986 World Cup quarter-final with England has become one of football’s greatest paradoxes.

The performance, defined equally by the genius of his bewitching second goal as it was by the despicability of his controversial first, propelled his standing in the eyes of the English public from that of a world class player to an all-time great, albeit a flawed one.  

But, for England’s embittered fan base, the memories of this match, which provided possibly the greatest goal and the biggest injustice in modern football history, extend to many of Maradona’s supporting act as well. Who could forget a furious Peter Shilton charging at the referee after the diminutive Maradona had miraculously leapt above him to score Argentina’s first? Or John Barnes bringing some flair to the occasion from a white shirt? Or Gary Linekar heading in to give England hope, and himself a sixth goal of the tournament?

Strange then that the defining contribution from an Englishman to proceedings has not become quite so legendary. Without Steve Hodge slicing a volleyed clearance early in the second half, the ’Hand of God’ would never have happened. Hodge, from Gedling, on the outskirts of Nottingham, has a particularly interesting take on the day, having swapped shirts with Maradona before discovering the extent of his cheating. This tale is told in Hodge’s autobiography, 
The Man With Maradona's Shirt, so called because the famous Number 10 jersey resided in Hodge’s loft until he allowed the National Football Museum in Preston house it in 2002.

That day in Mexico City would turn out to be Hodge’s last World Cup finals appearance, as selection decisions and injury would conspire against him in Italy four years later. A measure of Steve Hodge as a man is the lack of ill-feeling he holds towards Maradona, for cheating him out of his only World Cup, or to Sir Bobby Robson, who denied him the chance to play in a second. Indeed he remembers with great sadness playing in an England legends team against their German counterparts at St James’ Park, a match held in Sir Bobby’s honour, just days before his death.

His experience of the management of Robson, Terry Venables at Tottenham and Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest has given Hodge more right than most to convey opinions on the game, as well as a multitude of hilarious anecdotes to recount as well. He spent the best part of his career with the inimitable Clough, having been signed by Forest as a schoolboy, before returning for a second spell after periods at Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur.

His book is inevitably filled with priceless Clough moments but also contains more sobering aspects of his time at Forest. He provides a fascinating insight into the effects the Hillsborough disaster had on Clough and the Forest squad, an area generally overlooked when reprising the tragedy, and offers some opinions on Clough’s health problems later in life.

Football is the predominant subject of the book -- no bad thing for fans who buy it, admittedly -- but the balance is probably too heavily weighted towards Hodge’s career. His personal life and activities away from the game are rarely mentioned, something which would give the book an extra dimension. Professional problems are explored in detail, such as his feeling of homesickness when living in London during his time with Spurs and his despair at being left out of the 1991 FA Cup final by Brian Clough. But his experiences away from the game, those of a single bachelor for the majority of his career and subsequently of a married man with three children, are mentioned only in passing, which is to the detriment of an otherwise excellent recount of a football career which, for 17 years, was spent with the best players and at the highest level.

The Man With Maradona's Shirt.

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Thomas and Le Tour

The approaching climax of the 2010 Tour de France brings to mind the extraordinary courage of the former England football international and Crystal Palace captain Geoff Thomas, who announced his recovery from leukaemia by riding the 21 stages of the tour route in 2005.

The account of his epic journey, Riding Through The Storm, is a brilliant, gripping read, portraying vividly the pain and exhaustion of covering 2,200 miles on two wheels but also, with raw clarity, the ordeal Thomas went through from his diagnosis to his return to health.

Thomas raised £150,000 for cancer research by completing the course in 2005 but that was only the beginning.

The 45-year-old former midfield player, who won nine full international caps, subsequently set up the Geoff Thomas Foundation, which continues to work tirelessly to generate funds for research.

This year, alongside former Palace teammate John Salako and Foundation chairman Graham Silk, and other members of the GTF team, Thomas completed his third 550km London to Paris ride, an event for amateurs that involves three days in the saddle.

Chairman Silk, whom Thomas befriended through his consultant in Birmingham, is another who has suffered from leukaemia. ‘’This is without doubt one of the hardest things I have ever done,” Silk said. “There were moments during the ride that I wasn’t sure I was going to finish but the support from everyone was fantastic and being able to ride into Paris and be met by my family is something I’ll never forget.’’

Buy Riding Through The Storm: My Fight Back to Fitness on the Tour de France.

Visit The Geoff Thomas Foundation.



Joe Cole postpones his memoirs after World Cup flop

England’s dreadful performance at the World Cup has persuaded Joe Cole to delay the publication of his autobiography by at least a year in the hope that a good first season at Liverpool will provide the story with a happy ending.

The midfielder’s deal with Simon & Schuster had been geared towards an August 19th release date and the inside story of England’s calamitous South Africa campaign was to have been a key selling point.

But Cole, who signed for Roy Hodgson at Liverpool last week, has sensibly reasoned that England fans who have already had their summer spoiled may not be keen to relive their Bloemfontein blues in the run-up to Christmas.

He has also been clever enough -- or, at least, his publicists have -- to realise that his new following among Merseyside fans may not be too interested in his final days at Stamford Bridge.

Simon & Schuster say that the deadline for publication in time for this year's Christmas trading period was missed, in any event, while Cole considered what to do.

Confirming the change of plan, Mike Jones, editorial director for non-fiction, said: "Joe really didn't want the book to end on a down note, both because of the disappointment of the World Cup and also not knowing at that point which club he was going to play for.

"Joe will still cover the World Cup campaign [in the book] and also his first season at his new club."

Publication is now scheduled for autumn next year.  Simon & Schuster will be keeping their fingers crossed that Cole’s stock is back up again by then, although not as much as Liverpool, who are paying him £90,000 a week.

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Tom Watson and the 2009 Open

Not even a hint of a fairytale this time for Tom Watson, who missed the cut after two rounds of the Open at St Andrews.  Perhaps the veteran champion will use his unwanted free time to relive his dramatic near-miss in 2009, which so nearly ended in one of the greatest sports storied of all time.

He hardly needs to read a book to know what happened, of course.  Others not so familiar with every detail from Turnberry a year ago could do much worse than pick up a copy of Robert Winder’s Open Secrets: The Extraordinary Battle for the 2009 Open.

Winder, a former literary editor of the Independent and author of two novels,  made his first venture into sports writing in the 1990s, culminating in an acclaimed book, Hell For Leather: A Modern Cricket Journey, that was based on the 1996 cricket World Cup in Pakistan.

He could not have picked a better year in which to turn his attentions to golf.  Winder followed every turn of the 2009 Open championship, from the qualifying process through to the 72nd hole of the four rounds, unaware of course that it would end with Watson facing an eight-foot putt on the final green to become not only the oldest winner of the Open but to top the all-time list of champions with six victories.

Everyone knows the ending, in which Watson missed by inches the putt that would have given him par for the hole and held off the challenge of Stewart Cink.  Yet Winder has the writing skills to make it come alive again.

Winder is strong in resisting the urge to romanticise Watson, who had undergone a hip replacement only weeks earlier and had been matched to a pre-determined script by the English media.  Watson insisted he had earned the right to be in a play-off with Cink through the quality of his drives and Winder makes a full acknowledgement.

He also challenges the idea, popular in golf in particular, that practice can eliminate bad luck.  Watson’s downfall at the final hole was brought about by a run of the ball that was purely down to chance, pitching at the front of the green but hitting a piece of firm ground that caused the ball to accelerate beyond the hole and off at the back, ultimately costing him a shot and taking the match into a play-off.

Winder, whose diverse range also includes Bloody Foreigners, a best-selling history of immigration to Britain, is a fine, descriptive writer and among non-technical golf books Open Secrets is regarded as one of the best.

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The story of Spanish football

No World Cup victory for Spain should be allowed to pass without a new recommendation for the acclaimed study of Spanish football, Morbo: The Story of Spanish Football.

Originally published in 2001 and updated in 2003, its examination of why the brilliance of Spain’s La Liga sides has not translated into success for the national team has been superseded by events but there is still much about the book that stands the test of time.

Morbo -- a Spanish word which defies precise translation but represents the mutually shared antagonism and hostility between clubs -- is particularly strong on how regionalism, history, language and politics underpin support for clubs all over the country.

The reader learns how the fierce enmity between Barcelona and Real Madrid is only one of many deeply entrenched rivalries, some of which make Liverpool’s differences with Everton, or Tottenham’s feelings towards Arsenal look almost friendly by comparison.

The book, published in 2001, marked the beginning of a new career for its author, Phil Ball, who was an English teacher at a comprehensive school in Hull but, after working in Peru and then Oman. settled in San Sebastian, in the Basque county, where he witnessed "nationalists" letting off fireworks to celebrate Spain’s defeat by South Korea in the 2002 World Cup.

Ball has also written White Storm: The Story of Real Madrid (2002), which tackles the club’s history from a social perspective in a similar way. It was published in Spanish in September 2009 under the title Tormenta Blanca.

His 2004 book An Englishman Abroad: Beckham's Spanish Adventure charted English footballer David Beckham’s spell at Real Madrid.

He moved away from football in 2006 with The Hapless Teacher's Handbook, in which he went back to the classroom to write with humour about his years in teaching.

He continues to write about football as a contributor to ESPNsoccernet and When Saturday Comes and has also written for the The New York Times and Financial Times.

Indeed, in his summing-up of the South Africa triumph, on the ESPNsoccernet site, he writes:

‘In the past, Spanish sides have always looked capable of winning tournaments, only to fall prey either to their strange inferiority complex, their lack of cultural and political unity, or their tendency to lose their heads. The first two have been talked about a-plenty now, but the third not so much.

‘For a nation that is traditionally better on ideas than following them through, the squad showed a new meticulous side to the national character, an ability to plan, keep your head, and deliver.’

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Celebrating the Home of Golf

It is with good reason that St Andrews, on the eastern Scottish coast a couple of hours north of Glasgow, is known as the home of golf.  According to the oldest known historical documentation, the game has been played there at least since 1552. 

Although the Scottish Reformation was just around the corner, nothing much could happen at that time, even in the way of leisure pursuits, without the say-so of senior clergy and it was Archbishop John Hamilton who apparently declared that it was okay for the folk of Scotland’s oldest university town to indulge in “playing at golf” on land adjacent to the “waters of [the river] Eden”.

There is some evidence to suggest that as early as the 12th century, before even legendary commentator Peter Alliss was born, shepherds in the area amused themselves by knocking stones into rabbit holes.

No one then saw the need to adopt formal rules.  That came 600 years later when, in 1754, a group of 22 enthusiasts, “being admirers of the ancient and healthful exercise of golf” formed the Society of St Andrews Golfers.  One of these chaps had a copy of the rules laid down by the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, founded in 1744, and it was agreed that golf contests in St Andrews would abide by this code.

The group were clearly well connected and, in 1834, through the patronage of King William IV, the Society of St Andrews Golfers changed its name to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. There is still no higher authority in the game.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Open Championship, first staged at St Andrews in 1873 after the original host course at Prestwick had agreed to enter into a rotation agreement with the Royal and Ancient and Musselburgh, which hosted the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.

To commemorate the occasion, authors Henry Lord and Oliver Gregory -- the latter a graduate of St Andrews University -- have combined with photographer Kevin Murray to produce a lavishly illustrated exploration of the town and its seven golf courses, not only the famous Old Course, where the championship will tee off on Thursday, but the New Course, the Jubilee, Eden, Strathtyrum and Balgove courses and the latest addition, the stunning Castle Course, perched on cliffs overlooking the town and opened in 2008.

St Andrews: The Home of Golf, with a foreword by Seve Ballesteros, who won the second of his three Open championships at St Andrews in 1984, is published by Corinthian.

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Moving stories reveal stark realities of northern culture

A review by Andy Wilson

Sport as social history, anyone? Two rugby league books that have been published in recent weeks – one biography, one autobiography, whose subject matters really are chalk and cheese – are as fascinating for their insights into the development of northern working-class culture over the last few decades as for the professional stories of the players involved.

John Holmes grew up in 1950s Kirkstall, a couple of miles from Headingley, where he would wear the blue and amber of Leeds with great distinction in a career spanning the next four decades.

'There was a strong sense of community within that area of Leeds,' recalls his brother Phil, who began working with his own son, Phil Jr, an English teacher at Leeds grammar school, to tell John's story shortly before his death from cancer last autumn at the age of 59. 'A row of shops would provide everything any family would require ... bakers, Bradbury's butchers, a paper shop and, for the children, the most wonderful yet frustrating shop in the neighbourhood – Stead's Toys, situated where McDonald's is today.'
Terry Newton grew up in 1980s Wigan, and the first couple of chapters of his autobiography include a stabbing, a couple of thefts, a few fights, and 'getting pissed on Merrydown or Diamond White cider'. That's progress, presumably.
Both turn out to be tragic and moving stories, sympathetically told – in Newton's case by Phil Wilkinson, the Wigan Evening Post and Observer writer who, like the Holmes family, has done an excellent job.
Holmes had already lost his younger sister, Barbara, and his first wife, Jenny, to cancer before being diagnosed himself in early 2008. His brother and nephew relate how he handled such trauma with the same understated dignity and stubbornness that had made him an astonishingly modest local Leeds hero, who for years after his retirement would catch the bus into Horsforth every Friday night to watch Sky's Super League coverage with a select group of friends in the pub.
There are passages in Newton's book that are equally moving, notably those concerning the death of his younger sister, Leanne, as a result of heroin addiction. Certainly the book succeeds in revealing an endearing side of a player who was more loathed than loved during his career, even before he had worldwide notoriety thrust upon him earlier this year as the first sportsman ever to test positive for human growth hormone.
The former Leeds, Wigan, Bradford and Great Britain hooker had been working on the book for months before that bombshell. As he says in a blunt prologue that sets the tone for what follows: 'This book wasn't supposed to start like this. I'd practically finished it when I had to break the news to Phil Wilkinson, my ghost writer, that we might have to redo the ending.'

They have redone much more than that, and Newton's account of why, then how – and how easily – he took HGH (human growth hormone), and of being caught, is as riveting as it is worrying. He estimates that around 30 rugby league players may have been administering the injections – in Newton's case in secret, with the phials hidden behind a toolbox in the garage where neither his wife nor children could find them.

He states as fact that at least a few were, including the player who sold him the first package for £150 at a service station on the M62. Slightly more encouragingly, he claims that they have all stopped as a result of Newton's ban, which came after he had been targeted for a blood test.
At the age of 31, and with another 20 months of his two-year suspension to run, Newton is now running a pub called the Ben Jonson – 'apparently it's named after a poet, and not the Canadian drugs cheat,' he notes – and wants to help warn a new generation of players away from risking a dangerous and potentially career-ending quick fix.
'Not every player will be like Kris Radlinski or Sean O'Loughlin or Paul Deacon, who had nice upbringings and were always sensible lads,' he says in a telling passage. 'There are also plenty of players who are on the same wavelength as me.
'Rugby league is a rough game and of course it attracts people from rough backgrounds, but it shouldn't be ashamed of that – it should be proud of it. Rugby league gave me a path out of trouble, and there are people in the game who grew up on rough estates like me, who probably need a bit of advice to put them back on the straight and narrow.'
Leeds in the 50s and 60s, where John Holmes and his two older brothers used to make their rugby ball out of rolled up newspaper, pinch the odd sip of Tetley's from the jug they would carry down to the Cardigan Arms and then back to their dad, and later feast on scraps from the family fish and chip shop in Horsforth, suddenly sounds impossibly romantic.
Both books also contain plenty of good rugby tales - Newton's recollections of Wigan and his early days with Leeds, and Holmes's unlikely route to tackling Bob Fulton out of the 1972 World Cup final, which involved a Widnes player falling off a tower of chairs. The warmth of the tribute that was paid to Holmes following his death last autumn, with the biggest parade of former team-mates I can remember before Leeds's play-off victory against the Catalans Dragons, removed any doubts that he will be remembered as one of the club's favourite sons.

Andy Wilson writes on rugby league and cricket for the Guardian newspaper.
Reluctant Hero: The John Holmes Story, is published by Scratching Shed Publishing Ltd. 
Coming Clean, is published by Vertical Editions.

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Brilliance unsurpassed

Holland are in the World Cup final. Inevitably, the chatter among the sports columnists is of laying the ghosts of 1974 and 1978, when the best team in the world evolved around the sublime talents of Johan Cruyff yet lost both of the two World Cup finals they reached.

The current Dutch side is not a patch on that one, for all the tendency to believe that Wesley Sneijder is possessed of mystical powers.  Football is a more prosaic game these days, even in those countries with a history of magnificent individualism.

There is no harm in looking at the present through nostalgic eyes, however.  And this, therefore, is the perfect moment to revisit David Winner’s classic analysis, Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football, a work inspired by the conceptual genius of Total Football but which goes well beyond the game in its scope, setting football in the context of Dutch society and explaining how the country’s history and the character traits of its people so much influenced the way Dutch teams play.

Winner cast light, too, on why Dutch teams have so often been found wanting at critical moments, a habit that has attracted comparisons with England, although our disappointments can have been nothing compared with the wailing that must have been heard in Amsterdam and Eindhoven, Maastricht and Middelburg at the failings of a genuine golden generation.

Originally published in 2000, Brilliant Orange stands the test of time for its sheer originality among football texts.  Beautifully written, wonderfully evocative and expansively thought-provoking: very Dutch, in fact, although the author is a Londoner who lives in Rome.

Sunday’s final may be another missed opportunity.  On the other hand, it may lead to some of the most joyous, uplifting football to have illuminated World Cup history to be celebrated afresh.  Yet just as Sneijder’s team will never match Cruyff’s, nor even the Gullit-Van Basten side of the 1990s, so Brilliant Orange is unlikely to be bettered, either.

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Has Hamilton delivered another Corker?

Already a double winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award, can Duncan Hamilton make it a hat-trick with his latest work?

The Yorkshire-based journalist and author, who scooped the award for his books about Brian Clough and Harold Larwood, has already attracted high praise for the quality of his prose in A Last English Summer, published this month by Quercus.

It impressed Mike Atherton, the former England captain now establishing himself as a wordsmith of note in The Times.

While noting that the view of cricket Hamilton conveys in his journey through an English season is ‘unashamedly romantic and sentimental‘ and ‘not necessarily [one] that many would recognise today’, Atherton enjoyed Hamilton’s turn of phrase so much that his review quotes verbatim from a wonderfully accurate and detailed description of a Dominic Cork appeal.

Cork has the body of a 37-year-old man, but the effervescence of a teenager on a night out. Appealing for a catch or an lbw decision is like a long, wounded squawk, as if someone has hit him on the toes with a builder’s mallet. It’s accompanied with stage theatrics. These begin with the acrobatic, gun-turret swivel, so that Cork directly faces the umpire, and is followed by the pleading pop-eyed gaze and outstretched arms, which turn him into human form of the Angel of the North. If these well-oiled, showboating dramatics prove unsuccessful, he looks away to his right and raises his chin slightly in disgust before slinking away, like a spurned, hurt suitor who can’t believe that his heart has been broken when his case and cause are so justified.

‘Read that to anybody who has played with Cork,’ Atherton observes, ‘and they would name their man in a jiffy’.

A Last English Summer, dedicated to his grandfather in memory of English cricket as his forebears knew it, takes Hamilton on a journey around the familiar landscape of the county grounds but also gives him a taste of village and club cricket from leafy Hambledon in Surrey to Accrington of the Lancashire League.

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