20100530

Heysel study seeks truth


When an accident at a public gathering results in mass casualties, inevitably the moment at which all the causal factors arrive at their fatal collision sparks chaos and confusion.  

When the dust settles, explanations are put forward and culprits sought but often there is no definitive truth, only individual accounts of what appeared to happen.

After Hillsborough and the Bradford fire, in terms of magnitude rather than chronology, the third football disaster of the 1980s was Heysel, where 39 people died, for the most part Italians and supporters of Juventus, at a European Cup final played in a decrepit stadium in Belgium, 25 years ago this week.

Blame at the time and since attached to Liverpool supporters, and in so far as it was Juventus fans being pursued by a Liverpool group who were crushed by a collapsing wall there is no argument with that basic hypothesis.

But there were undoubtedly other elements that contributed to the tragedy.  The stadium, due for demolition and staging its last fixture, was literally falling apart; segregation was flimsy, ticketing badly organised and policing, despite the potential for conflict between rival fans, was poorly planned and badly executed.

Even though the Belgian policeman responsible for the event was subsequently charged with involuntary manslaughter, the timing of the disaster, coinciding with serious hooligan problems in England and a Government, under Margaret Thatcher, that was not well disposed towards football, made it almost inevitable that Liverpool fans would be held responsible.

There have been some valid attempts to uncover more of the story.  The Observer journalist Jamie Jackson, for example, spoke to many witnesses, English and Italian, players ands supporters, whose sometimes harrowing memories formed part of a fine piece published in Observer Sport Monthly five years ago. (The piece, incidentally, was also notable for Jackson’s exposure of a grubby demand to be paid for his recollections by Phil Neal, the former Liverpool captain).

The only book-length account written in English was published in paperback last October.  From Where I Was Standing: A Liverpool Supporter's View of the Heysel Stadium Tragedy, published by GPRF Publishing, is written from the perspective of Chris Rowland, a Liverpool supporter, but does not attempt to exonerate those whose actions were the immediate cause of what happened.

Rowland, a seasoned traveller to football in Europe, accepts that had those Liverpool fans not engaged in increasingly violent exchanges with their Italian counterparts then the fatal charge in Sector Z would not have taken place.

But, taking a broader view supported by extensive research, he argues strongly that, had the final taken place in a modern stadium with only basic practises of crowd control and segregation applied, the disaster would not, indeed could not, have happened.

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20100527

Practice makes perfect...usually


Finding the key to sporting excellence has been testing the intellects of scientists and psychoanalysts for generations. How much is down to natural talent? Is being lucky the secret? Or is it just a matter of sheer hard work?

Journalist Matthew Syed joins the debate in a new book, Bounce : How Champions are Made. The Times writer has carried out an exhaustive study, examining the careers of Tiger Wood, Roger Federer, Usain Bolt, Greg Norman, Lance Armstrong and Michael Jordan among others, looking for clues as to how they achieve consistent success.

He looks at the role of temperament -- why some players choke and others do not when the pressure mounts -- but tends to come down in favour of the hard graft element, citing the 10,000 hours of practice Tiger Woods had clocked up by his mid-teens, mentioning also that Mozart’s musical achievements must have owed something to putting in 3,500 hours at the piano before he was six years old.

His conclusions essentially support the observation once made by the golfer, Arnold Palmer (borrowed later by Gary Player), that ‘the more I practise, the luckier I get’.

It makes you wonder what such analysis would make of Dirk Nannes, the Australian cricketer, to whom I was introduced the other day ahead of Nottinghamshire‘s challenge for the Friends Provident Twenty20 competition.

Nannes is the world’s leading bowler in T20 cricket, needing only two more wickets to reach 100, yet he barely practised at all when he was growing up. By his own admission, he was not a particularly good player and had no ambition to play cricket in adulthood.  He would much rather have been a saxophone player and when that dream did not materialise he turned instead to his next love, skiing.

He turned back to cricket only much later, having spent several years in competitive skiing on the World Cup circuit in Europe and elsewhere.  He was in his mid-twenties before he began playing more than occasionally in club cricket and was almost 30 when his ability to bowl fast -- always a precious commodity in cricket -- earned him a contract with Victoria.

Even now, though, he devotes little time to practising his skills. He remains heavily involved with skiing -- he and his wife, Erin, own a ski lodge in Japan and organise skiing holidays -- and his belated success in cricket has happened almost without any input from himself, other than turning up to play when selected.

“I like to bowl a couple of times a week,” he said.  “I do need that to keep the radar tuned.  But I don’t tend to bowl eight overs in the nets and I never bowl the day before a game unless I get told I have to.  I think in the Twenty20 World Cup I didn’t bowl a ball in the nets during the whole tournament.

“I don’t think about the game much when I’m away from the ground, because I always have a lot of other things going on. When I finish a game I just forget about it.”

And living as he does in a ski resort -- high in the Australian Alps on Mount Buller, 129 miles north of Melbourne -- he does not have too things around him to remind him of his other job.

“That can be a good thing and a bad thing,” he said.  “Because I don’t think about it, I don’t know a lot about cricket.  But I’m not sitting around stewing on a result. When I walk into my house and see my kids it doesn’t matter whether we won or lost, I’m still the same.  And maybe that means I feel under less pressure.”

Despite this lack of attention, however, Nannes has been successful almost everywhere he has played Twenty20.  He has won two Australian titles with Victoria, an English one with Middlesex in 2008, played in an Indian Premier League semi-final with Delhi Daredevils, helped Holland stun England in the 2009 World Twenty20 (before Australia finally recognised his talents) and, most recently, reached the 2010 final with Australia, losing to England but finishing as the tournament’s leading wicket-taker with 14.

Maybe he is just the exception that proves the rule.

To buy this title, published by Fourth Estate, follow this link. For more sports books visit The Sports Bookshelf Shop

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20100524

Premier League will test Holloway philosophy


As much as Blackpool’s players will need to make big adjustments after their fairytale promotion to the Premier League, so Ian Holloway, their engagingly characterful manager, may find his values tested by the challenge ahead.

Holloway’s personal history has given him a grounded outlook on life, shaped both by his football career and the difficulties encountered in his family life.  Three of his four children were born profoundly deaf and his wife is a cancer survivor.

Three years ago, speaking after the publication of his biography, the loquacious Bristolian told his interviewer, the Independent’s Brian Viner, that he did not want to go down the path of Sir Alex Ferguson, with whom he will now have the chance to occupy neighbouring dug-outs, at least twice, and be a football obsessive.

"I'm 44 now, and I'm targeting 50 as the age to retire,” Holloway said. “I don't want it to say on my headstone, 'I wish I'd spent more time at home'.

“I admire and respect Fergie, and I've read his book. He says his sons got to the age of 16 and he hadn't really been there for them, but then he thinks, 'Ah well, I'm the manager of Manchester United'. Well, I think, 'You've missed out, my old friend'."

Holloway was managing Plymouth Argyle then, a job which, at the time, he had no intention of leaving in a hurry.  Most managers find the League’s most westerly outpost an agreeable place to live and appeared to be no different.

But times change. Less than two months later, Holloway had quit Argyle to become manager at Leicester, where he stayed for only seven months before agreeing to leave after the Midlands club were relegated to League One.   He resurfaced at Bloomfield Road in May last year and while he has always been ambitious, in his own eccentric way, it is hard to imagine he saw Blackpool bursting from their football backwater quite so quickly.

He has already changed in some ways.  In his determination not to take football too seriously, he made jokes and bizarre analogies his stock-in-trade and his press conferences became legend.  But he has cut back on the humour lately, confessing after Blackpool had beaten Nottingham Forest in the Championship play-off semi-final that he wanted now to be seen as a serious football manager, rather than a figure of fun.

In that 2007 interview he insisted he worked to live, rather than the other way around, and that if he ever got the balance wrong his daughters were there as a reproach. That balance has never faced a challenge as big as the one confronting him now.

Holloway's biography,Ollie: The Autobiography of Ian Holloway, originally published in 2007, was revised and updated in 2009, with three additional chapters.

For more on Ian Holloway and more on football, visit The Sports Bookshelf Shop.

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20100521

How Steve Hodge swapped his shirt for the fury of a nation


England and Argentina have not been friends on the football field since Antonio Rattin was sent off at Wembley in 1966 quarter-finals, when the South Americans suspected a conspiracy between England and Germany to ensure their elimination from the tournament.

A goal by Geoff Hurst -- the only one of the game -- was allowed to stand despite Argentine suspicions of offside by German referee Rudolf Kreitlein, who reportedly sent off Rattin, the captain, for "violence of the tongue", even though he spoke no Spanish.

But it was in 1986 that their mutual dislike became irreversible, thanks, of course, to Diego Maradona and the "Hand of God" goal in the quarter-finals in Mexico, which was generally seen by the little maestro's country as a justifiable act of retribution for the Falklands War of four years earlier.

England missed the chance to avenge their sense of injustice when Germany eliminated them from the 1990 tournament at the semi-final stage, denying them the chance to meet Argentina -- and Maradona -- in the final.  Beaten on penalties when they met in France in 1998, in the match notorious for David Beckham's red card, England did manage a 1-0 win at the group stage in 2002, but with Maradona long retired the sense of satisfaction had something missing.

This time, though, England's time may come.  Maradona is Argentina's coach and should both teams come through their groups they could find themselves face to face, perhaps as early as the quarter-finals but maybe even in the final.  If the latter possibility materialises, there would never be a better time to settle the score.

A whole nation's desire for retribution seemed to be coursing through Beckham's veins after his goal settled the 2002 encounter -- yet the experience of the players on the field is not always in line with the partisan emotions erupting in front of television screens at home.

Take 1986, for example.  At the end of the game in the Aztec Stadium, after England's gallant attempts to force extra time had failed, the incredulous fury of the fans back home grew and grew as the tape of Maradona's opening goal was subjected to replay after replay. On the field, however, an England player was walking up to the man into whose metaphorical effigy several million pins had already been driven, tugging the front of his shirt as he did so. And in the time it takes to smile and shake hands, he was in possession of Maradona's number 10.

That player was Steve Hodge.  Rapt in admiration at Maradona's second goal, the one that confirmed his status as the greatest player on the planet (technically, at least), Hodge had seized his chance.   He knew what had happened.  For goodness' sake, it was his backpass -- or miscued clearance, depending on how you interpret it -- that put the ball in the vicinity of Maradona's head.   Some teammates, notably Kenny Sansom, felt Hodge was in some part responsible for the goal, having forgotten an instruction to push forward if Maradona was looking for a one-two.

But never mind the baying for Maradona's blood, Hodge had his shirt.  It was, you imagine, a spontaneous act, the traditional exchange of favours between gladiatorial adversaries.  If it was a calculated business move, however, then Hodge was clearly a shrewd cookie.

He still has the shirt, stored safely in a bank vault and only occasionally allowed to see the light of day. He turned down an offer of £25,000 for it some years ago.  Its value now would be considerably more and will soar again if Maradona is finally made to pay his moral dues in South Africa next month.

With what may be perfect timing, Hodge has chosen this summer to bring out a book whose title commemorates his prized capture. The Man With Maradona's Shirt offers readers the chance to share Hodge's observations on the 1986 World Cup and much more, based on diaries he kept during his playing career, covering his time working under Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest, alongside Glenn Hoddle, Chris Waddle and Ossie Ardiles in a brilliant Spurs midfield, and in the company of a 'somewhat shy' Frenchman called Eric Cantona at Leeds.

Publishers Orion say The Man With Maradona's Shirt provides an intimate glimpse behind the scenes of football at the top level that stands comparison with Pete Davies's All Played Out and Tony Cascarino's Full Time.  Buy the book now and you can be the judge of that.

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20100519

Life as seen by Bumble


Ever walked into a city centre pub while there is an Ashes Test in town to find Sir Ian Botham sitting on a bar stool, discussing the quality of the ale with the locals?

Or maybe stumbled into a modest curry house late at night to find David Gower tucking in at the next table?

Thought not. But substitute David Lloyd for either of those two names from the Sky commentary box and there is a fair chance the answer would be 'yes'.

Lloyd, known to colleagues and viewers alike as 'Bumble', has a face every bit as familiar but where his on-screen chums might prefer to unwind away from public scrutiny, the garrulous Lancastrian has a list of favourite watering holes to make a beeline for once stumps are drawn and the on-air light goes out.

They are not the kind with soft, deep sofas and chic decor and fancy chefs catering for a well-groomed and well-heeled clientele. If you've frequented the Circus Tavern in Manchester or Whitelocks in Leeds, you'll know the kind of place that Bumble prefers.

And the thing with David Lloyd is that none of it is for show. He may have scored a Test match double hundred and been a successful England coach but if he comes across as an ordinary bloke who likes a laugh and a natter that's because he is precisely that.

It is a personality that permeates agreeably through the pages of Start the Car: The World According to Bumble, published by HarperCollins, which is not so much a cricket book as an anthology of Lloyd's observations, many of them focused on cricket, naturally, but wandering off on many a fascinating diversion.

There is a good deal about Accrington Stanley, for whom he once played under the name David Ramsbottom in the hope that Lancashire would be unaware of his double life, and bits about fishing, motorcycles, music and the possibilities opened up by Twitter, which he has embraced with such enthusiasm you wonder how he can possibly be 63.

The list of favourite pubs mentioned earlier is revealed on page 213 but there are serious passages, too, with some strong views on how English cricket failed to appreciate the potential of Twenty20, of which he is a fan, and on how, for all that Twenty20 might have given the game an adrenaline fix, Test cricket will never be surpassed as its pinnacle.

Bumble's thoughts are skilfully crafted by Richard Gibson, a freelance sports writer who was 10 years a cricket reporter for the Press Association, in 310 hugely readable pages. It is due to be published on May 27th.

Buy Start the Car: The World According to Bumble online.

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20100518

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) 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.

2)Bounce: How Champions are Made
It was the golfer Gary Player, borrowing words uttered in 1929 by Arnold Palmer , who said: 'The more I practise, the luckier I get'. In Bounce, Times sportswriter and former world table tennis champion Matthew Syed argues that Palmer and Player were right: there is no such thing as natural talent and success in sport is the consequence instead of huge amounts of practice. Taking in the latest in neuroscience, psychology and economics, Bounce examines the real nature of talent, what kind of practice actually works, how to achieve motivation, drugs in sport and life, and whether black people really are faster runners. Syed meets a Hungarian father whose educational theories saw his daughters become three of the best chess players of all time and explains why one small street in Reading - his own - has produced more top table-tennis players than the rest of Britain put together.

3) 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Official Book
As 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.

4)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.

5) 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.

6) The Sun Guide to the 2010 World Cup
An informative preview of the 32 teams and 800 players competing in South Africa, which analyses every player's club record to create a unique rating system identifying and ranking the top strikers, defenders, midfielders and goalkeepers, plus
group-by-group analysis Sun pundits.

7) 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.

8) Mr Unbelievable
Chris Kamara retraces his life from tough beginnings in Middlesbrough to his current cult status as the hilariously hyperactive star among the army of ex-professional players at the heart of the success of football results programme Soccer Saturday.

9) I Said No Thanks: The Autobiography
The story of Rangers striker Nacho Novo, who famously said 'no thanks' to Celtic when about to leave Dundee in 2004, deciding to sign for Rangers instead.

10)Horses in Training 2010
An annual listing of almost 19,000 horses spread among more than 700 trainers in Britain, Ireland and France.

Click on the links to buy direct from this site.

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20100514

Vote for your favourite cricketer


My Favourite Cricketer is an anthology of some of the finest writing on the sport taken from the world’s number one cricket magazine, The Wisden Cricketer.
Editor John Stern has assembled a collection of personal tributes that celebrate the enduring character and spectator appeal of 46 of cricket’s most-cherished and colourful performers. An array of sports writers and celebrated cricket fans recall and reminisce about their most-admired players. 
Publishers A&C Black want to know who the nation's favourite cricketer is and have invited readers of The Sports Bookshelf to submit their votes. 
You can pick your top three from the list below and email to myfavourite@acblack.com where the votes will be collated. The Sports Bookshelf will disclose the results next month. Everyone who votes will be entered into a prize draw, with five copies of My Favourite Cricketer to be given away as prizes.

Wasim AkramAlan Knott
Mike AthertonAllan Lamb
Ken BarringtonHarold Larwood
Bishan BediJohn Lever
Allan BorderGeoff Miller
Geoff BoycottJim Parks
Ally BrownGraeme Pollock
Brian CloseMike Procter
John DyeClive Radley
Phil EdmondsDerek Randall
Farokh EngineerJohn Reid
Angus FraserBarry Richards
Joel GarnerGarry Sobers
Adam GilchristJohn Snow
Graham GoochBrian Statham
Darren GoughChris Tavaré
David GowerSachin Tendulkar
Tom GraveneyJeff Thomson
Wes HallFred Trueman
Graeme HickVictor Trumper
Eric HolliesDoug Walters
Len HuttonArthur Wellard
Douglas JardineGraeme Wood


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20100511

Moments in history: Four minutes that cost 56 lives


Tragedy invariably inspires acts of humbling selflessness.  The Bradford City fire, which claimed the lives of 56 football supporters 25 years ago today, encouraged many, both on the day as survivors battled in horrifying circumstances to save the less fortunate, and subsequently.

Paul Firth, who was in the stand engulfed by the blaze with his father-in-law and a friend, found himself immersed in thick, acrid smoke and escaped only because he noticed that the choking, disorientating cloud around him seemed less black to his left than it did in the other direction and chose to go that way, which led him to the safety of the pitch.

"How I got there I've never, never known," he said in a recent interview. Given that it took only four minutes, from the first wisps of smoke as rubbish beneath the wooden stand caught light, for the whole structure to be turned into an inferno, he counts himself remarkably lucky.

Five years ago, he brought together his own recollections and those of others in a book entitled Four Minutes to Hell: The Story of the Bradford City Fire, the aim of which in part was to raise money for the Burns (continued below)

BBC TV marked the 25th anniversary of the Bradford fire with this moving film on Football Focus


Research Unit at Bradford University, which was set up in response to the Valley Parade blaze but which relies on charitable donations to keep it going.

The book contains contributions from injured survivors, from families who lost a loved one, professional footballers involved with the rescue efforts, from police officers and the surgeon in charge of treating many of the 270 who were hurt.

The way in which the Bradford community responded to the disaster, including the creation of the Burns Research Unit, is also recalled, as well as the way in which the Popplewell Inquiry changed the face of football grounds across the country.

Originally published by the now defunct Parrs Wood Press, Four Minutes to Hell raised around £2,000 towards the Unit's upkeep. Firth republished it himself in paperback in 2007.  His personal fundraising campaign included participation in the City of Salford 10k race last September, which brought in £750

Supporters of the Unit are aiming to raise £100,000. Should you wish to contribute, you can do so at http://www.justgiving.com/bcfcburnsunitappeal

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20100509

World Cup 2010: the key players


Cristiano Ronaldo

Portugal have the misfortune to be in the toughest group of all in the World Cup finals.   While North Korea ought to be no barrier to their progress into the second stage, their place in the round of 16 will have to be obtained at the expense of either Brazil or the Ivory Coast, the nation of Didier Drogba, who will have Sven Goran Eriksson at the helm.

Yet in Cristiano Ronaldo they have one player whose absence would certainly be to the detriment of the later stages in South Africa.

There were plenty of Manchester United supporters who would not have been disappointed to see Ronaldo's star on the wane after his £80 million transfer to Real Madrid last summer.

But he has transferred his prodigious talents from the red of United to the white of Madrid without even a hint of a stumble. He set a club record when he scored in his first four appearances in La Liga and chalked off another personal ambition only last week when he scored his first hat-trick for the club against Mallorca.

The goals raised his tally for the season in the Spanish championship to 25, an impressive total although six fewer than Barcelona's Lionel Messi.

Under manager Carlos Queiroz, Portugal have developed as a side with the potential to be a major force.  As well as Ronaldo, players such as his former Manchester United teammate Nani, Ricardo Quaresma of Inter Milan, the highly experienced Simão and Tiago from Atlético Madrid and several former members of Jose Mourinho's Porto team, such as Carvalho, Ferreira and Deco at Chelsea and Maniche at Koln, and Pedro Mendes at Sporting CP, could pose a significant threat.

The group stages will be a real test of their credentials, however, and the meeting with Brazil in Durban on June 25 promises to be a must-see match.

Ronaldo's career from his joining CD Nacional, through his rejection by Liverpool as a 16-year-old to his success with Manchester United is documented by the journalist Tom Oldfield in a 2008 biography Cristiano Ronaldo: The £80 Million Man.

Oldfield has a biography of the Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal due out in paperback later this month.

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20100508

Why budding authors must Know The Score

The collapse of Know The Score Books after five years and numerous worthy titles comes is a sobering moment at a difficult time for the industry.

The Warwickshire-based publisher has become known for a prolific output since it appeared in 2005.  The more outstanding among more than 80 titles include soccer manager Dave Jones's autobiography, No Smoke, No Fire and the merry tales of sports writer Christopher Davies, Behind the Back Page.

Former Daily Mirror chief football writer Harry Harris and football historian Ivan Ponting have had several books published under the Know The Score imprint.

David Tossell, whose Grovel! The Story and Legacy of the Summer of 1976 was runner-up in the Best Cricket Book category in the 2007 British Sports Book Awards, has written another cricket title, Following On: A Year with English Cricket’s Golden Boys, which was due to be published by Know The Score last week.

Know The Score has been embroiled in a number of legal disputes, with the publisher claiming some authors owe them money, with other authors inevitably left with nothing to show for their hard work.

Industry observers believe that Know The Score was guilty of over-reaching itself in the number of titles it could reasonably assume to fund at a time when the recession has been bearing down on sales numbers.

Apart from being bad news for a number of writers, the demise of Know The Score serves as a warning to budding authors about the problems of entering the market at this time.  Anyone thinking of taking the plunge might do well to refer to prolific author Norman Giller's words of advice on the Sports Journalists' Association website.

Giller, author of a staggering 84 books, spells out the steps to take and the pitfalls to avoid in Uncle Norm's 5-step guide to self-publishing.

For books by Norman Giller including Jimmy Greaves at Seventy: The Complete, Authorished Biographygo to the The Sports Bookshelf Shop.

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20100506

New book recalls golden days of Yorkshire cricket


Andrew Collomosse was a 13-year-old schoolboy when Yorkshire won cricket's County Championship in 1959, breaking a Surrey stranglehold on the competition that had kept the championship pennant flying at The Oval for seven consecutive seasons.

It was Yorkshire's first title since 1946 and marked the beginning of a golden era in Yorkshire cricket. Over the next decade, the side captained initially by Ronnie Burnet, then Vic Wilson and, from 1963 onwards, by Brian Close, would win seven championships of their own, as well as the Gillette Cup twice.

Collomosse grew up in awe of the likes of Close, Fred Trueman, Ray Illingworth, John Hampshire, Philip Sharpe and Jimmy Binks.  They and the other members of that all-conquering Yorkshire team were his boyhood heroes, their names every bit as magical as Andrew Flintoff or Kevin Pieterson or Stuart Broad might be in the minds of today's generation of cricket-loving youngsters.

By 1969, Collomosse was earning his living as a journalist and had the privilege of witnessing the victory over Derbyshire in the Gillette final at Lord's as a reporter for the Wakefield Express, an occasion marred only by having to leave halfway through to cover Huddersfield Town's match against Queen's Park Rangers at Loftus Road.

Collomosse went on to work for the Daily Express and has furthered his reputation as a football and cricket writer since going freelance 21 years ago, covering hundreds of matches for numerous publications.


The pictures show the 1959 team (above), which included Dickie Bird (3rd left, back row) and the 1969 line-up (below), from which Illingworth, Trueman and Taylor had gone. In the 1969 picture are (back row, from left) Balderstone, Hampshire, Nicholson, Hutton, Chris Old, Boycott, Cope.(front) Sharpe, Binks, Close, Padgett, Don Wilson.

That Yorkshire team of the 1960s made such an impression as Collomosse grew up he decided to track down the surviving members to bring fresh colour to his own memories and to hear their take on those glorious years.

He put together the material he gathered in a new book entitled Magnificent Seven: Yorkshire's Championship Years to be published in June by Great Northern Books.

"Sadly, Burnet, Trueman and Vic Wilson, along with Chris Balderstone and Tony Nicholson, are no longer with us but of the survivors, with the exception of Geoffrey Boycott, all agreed to share their recollections with me," Collomosse told The Sports Bookshelf.

"Without exception they went out of their way to be as helpful as they could and I was touched by their hospitality and friendship.

"What struck me throughout the series of interviews is that they seemed genuinely unaware of the iconic status they held among so many Yorkshire supporters."

By their association with the Yorkshire Players' Association, opening batsman Bryan Stott and off-spinner Geoff Cope helped Collomosse locate the other members of the team.

Brian Bolus and Ken Taylor have 'defected' to Nottingham and Norfolk respectively, although they remain a lot closer to God's Own County than wicketkeeper Binks, who is enjoying his autumnal years in Sacramento, California.

"Jimmy worked for a hydraulics company in Hull but became disillusioned with living in Britain in the 1970s," Collomosse explained. "When when the chance came to work in the same line of business in America, he took it, moving to Iowa at first and then southern California."

Each year is seen through the eyes of one player or two in tandem, from Stott in 1959 to Sharpe in 1969, with Illingworth and Close offering an overview in the foreword and afterword.

Collomosse, who currently writes on cricket for Wisden Cricket Monthly and the Daily Telegraph, has a literary pedigree as a ghost writer, notably penning autobiographies on behalf of Jimmy Armfield and Nat Lofthouse.  Magnificent Seven is his eighth book but the first with only his name on the cover.

For more books by Andrew Collomosse and more on cricket and football, visit The Sports Bookshelf Shop.

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20100505

IPL concept would have seen W G Grace at head of queue


Twenty20 cricket and the riches of the Indian Premier League might seem to have turned cricket into a game far removed from the one in which W G Grace enjoyed fame in the late 19th century but in some ways not a lot has changed.

The amply proportioned doctor might not have attempted nor wished to compete with the fleet-footed fielders essential to any successful T20 team, while the idea of trying to scramble at least a quick single off every ball would not have interested him at all.

Yet in his day Grace was every bit as willing to sell his talent to the highest bidder as a Kevin Pieterson or an Andrew Symonds.

Indeed, he did so in 1899, when he abandoned Gloucestershire in order to accept £600 per year -- equivalent to about £60,000 today -- to be captain, secretary and manager of the newly-formed London County, a team set up in a short-lived attempt to give the capital a presence in first-class cricket.

Grace was officially an amateur yet made a handsome income from playing cricket. Ironically, the professionals who made up the 'Players' teams in the famous matches between 'Gentlemen and Players' tended to be much less well rewarded.

This hypocrisy -- and the wide social divisions that existed within the game -- is the focus of a celebrated study of the game in Grace's era by historian David Kynaston, which has been reissued by Bloomsbury some 20 years after its original publication.

W.G.'s Birthday Party focuses on the Gentlemen v Players match of 1898, around the time of Grace's 50th birthday, as a lens through which to examine the hierarchy and tensions endemic in cricket at the beginning of the modern era, creating a detailed and entertaining portrait of late-Victorian society.

Kynaston, famous for presenting history in a way that makes the reader feel he is actually there, witnessing events as they happened, has written two outstanding portraits of the 1940s and 1950s, Austerity Britain, 1945-1951 (Tales of a New Jerusalem) and Family Britain, 1951-1957 (Tales of a New Jerusalem).

The tradition of Gentlemen v Players continued until as recently as 1962, when the bi-annual fixture was played at Lord's and Scarborough, the last matches featuring appearances by Ken Barrington, Brian Close and Fred Trueman on the 'Players' side with Ted Dexter, Tony Lewis and the Reverend David Sheppard, who went on to become Bishop of Liverpool.

For more on cricket and more by David Kynaston, visit The Sports Bookshelf Shop.  Support this site by buying on line through our links.

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20100501

New book celebrates life of Joe Fagan


Maybe this is not the best moment to remind a Liverpool fan of the days when their team stood at the pinnacle of English and European football, their success not measured in the occasional consolation trophy (and even the 2005 Champions League now seems a little bit like that) but in domestic championships and continental glory nights, year after year.

In the evolution of book, timing can only ever be shaped by  informed guesswork and perhaps journalists Andrew Fagan and Mark Platt supposed that the first week of May, 2010 would find Liverpool supporters celebrating.

Perhaps they foresaw this as the year in which Rafa Benitez finally took his place alongside Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Kenny Dalglish among the managerial giants of the modern era.

Instead, now that another season has effectively passed with ambitions unfulfilled, they can hope only that Joe Fagan: The Authorised Biography, published next Thursday by Aurum Press, serves to inspire the team to strive even harder to end the club's 20-year title drought next year.

Fagan spent 26 years on the Liverpool coaching staff but was manager for only the last two.  Yet he managed to win the League Championship, the European Cup and the League Cup in his first season in charge, reaching three finals and finishing League runners-up the following year.

He announced his retirement on the day of the Heysel Stadium disaster in May 1985.

Journalist Andrew Fagan, who has written for the Daily Telegraph and the Independent, is Joe's grandson and this account of his grandfather's life draws for the first time on Joe
Fagan’s own diaries, as well as many interviews with players, colleagues and contemporaries to create a unique portrait of one of the founder-members of Shankly's inner circle 'boot room' staff and the workings of the club during its golden era.

Mark Platt, a writer and broadcaster with LFC TV, is the author of several books on Liverpool Football Club.

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