Vote for your favourite sports book and win £50 in book tokens

Why not take the chance to win £50 in National Book Tokens by voting for your favourite sports book from among the winners at the British Sports Book Awards, announced earlier this month!  Follow the link to an online form to register your vote an be entered automatically into a draw.
To help you chose, over the next few days the Sports Bookshelf will highlight each of the eight contenders to be named the overall British Sports Book of the Year. Today's category winner:


Anthony Clavane’s superb fusion of personal biography with the history of a football club and of a city attracted enormous acclaim among reviewers and due recognition when it was named Best Football Book by the British Sports Book Award judges.

The story traces the highs and lows of Leeds United, from the dizzy but some would say tainted heights of the Don Revie era to the crash-and-burn years under chairman Peter Risdale’s profligate tenure. The tale has been told many times, but Sunday Mirror journalist Clavane, born and raised in Leeds, gives it a new dimension.

The successes and failures of the club during the author’s lifetime provide the narrative with a central thread, around which Clavane, drawing on his own background, skilfully weaves the history of the Jewish population in Leeds as well as the physical, social and cultural development of the city, drawing painful parallels of dreams failing to find fulfilment in reality. 

An updated edition in paperback, retitled Promised Land: A Northern Love Story, bringing the story up to date to include Leeds United’s failed attempt to win promotion in the season just ended, is out in July.

Clavane knits together three different narratives: Leeds’s painful transformation from grimy manufacturing base to strong financial centre; the gradual integration of his own Jewish orthodox community; and the crazy, zigzagging trajectory of the football club itself. [He] writes translucent, simple prose, full of vivid details. Leeds United becomes a prism for the city: the “New Jerusalem” that could never quite escape the stain of its industrial past. Both insightful and humane, this is sportswriting at its very best.
-- Simon Briggs, The Daily Telegraph.

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Vote for your favourite sports book and win £50 in book tokens

Why not take the chance to win £50 in National Book Tokens by voting for your favourite sports book from among the winners at the British Sports Book Awards, announced earlier this month!  Follow the link to an online form to register your vote an be entered automatically into a draw.
To help you chose, over the next few days the Sports Bookshelf will highlight each of the eight contenders to be named the overall British Sports Book of the Year. Today's category winner:


Brian Moore’s bleakly honest life story had already collected the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award for 2010 before it was announced as winner of the Best Autobiography category at the British Sports Book Awards.

The former England rugby hooker‘s candid and unsettling memoir tracks the highs and lows of a highly successful rugby career but goes much further, revealing painful memories of sexual abuse suffered as a schoolboy and the feelings of rejection he encountered as an adopted child, as well as later battles with depression and drink.

That said, Moore has been applauded for his presentation of those revelations, which do not dominate the book as much as they grabbed the headlines. While the vivid descriptions of his state of mind make compelling reading, there are enough rugby stories to satisfy most appetites. Moore has been hailed as an exceptional writer and his acceptance speech conveyed his pride at being recognised for his work.

Moore, or 'Pitbull' as he came to be known, established himself as one of the game's hard men and has subsequently earned a reputation as an equally uncompromising commentator, never afraid to tell it as he sees it. Beware of the Dog: Rugby's Hard Man Reveals All, is published by Simon & Schuster.

Moore, at primary school, being sexually abused by a male teacher…is an unsettling revelation, not just because of the criminal misery Moore and others endured, but also because its exposure here is placed in that icky middle ground between a cathartic personal statement and a sales-stimulating scoop. Disdain for that should be directed at the editors — Moore, to his credit, just lays out the facts, accepts that the experience damaged his relationships but didn’t define his life, then moves on to the rugby. --- Brian Schofield, The Sunday Times. Read more...

Winners in the other categories were
Best Biography -- Trautmann's Journey, by Catrine Clay
Best Football Book -- Promised Land, by Anthony Clavane
Best Cricket Book -- Slipless in Settle, by Harry Pearson
Best Rugby Book -- The Grudge, by Tom English
Best New Writer -- Bounce, by Matthew Syed
Best Racing Book -- The Story of Your Life, by James Lambie
Best Illustrated Title -- '61 The Spurs Double, by Doug Cheeseman, Martin Cloake and Adam Powley

Vote HERE for your favourite book from the winners of each of the award categories at the British Sports Book Awards at and you'll be entered -- free of charge -- in a draw to win £50 of National Book Tokens. Closing date June 12th. Full terms and conditions on the voting form.


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Read about the other award winners.



Squeaky Bum Time -- how Fergie's classic line might actually have been misquoted

Squeaky Bum Time -- of all the words to have tumbled from the lips of Sir Alex Ferguson during his 37 years as a football manager, those three have become the most famous. The phrase can be found in a dictionary now, variously defined but taken generally to mean ‘the tense final stages of a sporting competition’.

Yet Daniel Taylor, who has assembled a collection of Ferguson quotes under that title, says that there remains a doubt over whether they really were the words he used one morning in the spring of 2003 as he tried to find a humorous way to describe the state of that year’s Premier League title race.

He should know.  As the man responsible for The Guardian newspaper’s coverage of Manchester United, Taylor was present at the press conference in question with his notebook open and his voice recorder running.  But he admits that none of the reporters present can be 100 per cent certain of exactly what Sir Alex said, even to this day.

“His accent can make him a bit difficult to follow sometimes and we actually weren’t sure whether he’d said ‘squeaky bum time’ or ‘squeeze your bum time’,” Taylor told The Sports Bookshelf.

“Even playing it back didn’t make it absolutely clear.  In the end it almost came down to a vote among the journalists over which version we would go with.  ‘Squeaky bum’ won and so that’s how it was reported.

“He has never corrected us and it is now in the dictionary as a recognized expression -- but there is a 50-50 chance it was actually ‘squeeze your bum time'!”
‘People say mine was a poor upbringing. I don’t know what they mean. It was tough, but it wasn’t bloody poor.  We maybe didn’t have a TV. We didn’t have a car. We didn’t even have a phone.  But I thought I had everything, and I did: I had a football.”  -- On his upbringing in Govan, 1991.

“He was towering over me and the other players were almost covering their eyes. I’m looking up and thinking, ‘If he does hit me, I’m dead.’” -- On a dressing room argument with Peter Schmeichel, 2006.
The book, published by Aurum Press and just in the shops, is subtitled “The Wit & Wisdom (& Hairdryer) of Sir Alex Ferguson” and Taylor says it has provoked a few comments, mostly supposing that the ‘wit’ section must be fairly short.

“I did get a few Tweets along those lines,” he said. “He tends to be seen in the way he showed himself to be the other day, with the reporter who asked him about Ryan Giggs, as this grumpy, horrible bully and there is no doubt that that side of him is there.

“But when he is relaxed -- mainly when he is away from the media -- he does like to have a laugh and he is happy to send himself up.”

Not that Taylor is any kind of apologist for his subject, having been on the wrong end of Ferguson’s unforgiving side over his previous book about Manchester United, published in 2007. This Is The One: The Uncut Story of a Football Genius does not sound like a hatchet job but the headlines it provoked saw Taylor banned from attending the manager’s weekly audience with the media.

“I had written to him in the January prior to publication saying that I was doing this two-year diary which was due out in the May,” he said.  “The reply I got from the press office was that there was no problem.

“But when it came out The Independent carried a review picking out some of the more colourful stories about Sir Alex, which gave the impression that it was a stream of anecdotes about Fergie shouting at people.

“He took that as treachery, refusing to acknowledge that I had told him what the book was going to be about, and banned me from future press conferences.”

“He was certainly full of it, calling me ‘boss’ and ‘big man’ when we had our post-match drink after the first leg.  But it would help if his greetings were accompanied by a decent glass of wine. What he gave me was paint-stripper.” -- On José Mourinho, 2009.

“I get the papers every morning and I have a good laugh about them. I get my cup of tea, I look at what you’ve written. I get an aspirin to make sure I get over it. Then I go about my day’s work…still laughing.” -- On the press, 2006.

Ferguson’s often stormy relationship with the press has a section of its own. Some of his tirades are relatively amusing; others are peppered with four-letter vitriol.

You sense that Taylor wishes Ferguson would show his more appealing side a little more often.  It comes out in much of the material Taylor has pulled together -- his admiration and respect for many of his players, his poignant memories of his tough upbringing in Govan, the self-deprecating asides -- but tends to be hidden from view in the presence of the media.

“He is impossible to read,” Taylor said.  “There are times when United have lost a game in midweek you expect that on a Friday he is going to be in the worst mood ever, but he will take you by surprise by being cheerful and light hearted.  Then on another occasion, when they have won in midweek, he will be completely sour.

“He has so many different faces.  I’ve seen him with other people and been taken aback by how charming and convivial he can be and you can actually detect the surprise in people that he doesn’t appear to be the ogre he was painted as.

“He doesn’t have the same relationship with the press that he used to have.  We’re all a bit too young for him.  Most of his friends in the business are the older guys, the likes of Hugh McIlvanney and Bob Cass.

“The present group in Manchester are mostly in our 30s  and he doesn’t know any of us very well. And he took a decision a few years ago that he doesn’t want to get to know us.”

Buy Squeaky Bum Time: The Wit & Wisdom of Sir Alex Ferguson direct from Amazon

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New biography will cast fresh light on story of cricket legend Fred Trueman

Ian Botham once described Fred Trueman as cricket’s first ‘superstar’ and while there are others with equal claims on that title there is no doubt that the Yorkshire and England fast bowler attracted attention in a way that set him apart from most of his contemporaries.

Instantly recognisable for his unruly mop of black hair and fearsomely expressive features, Fiery Fred had a volatile temperament to go with his venomous pace.  His capacity to ruffle the cricket establishment as well as opposing batsmen won him an army of fans.

Given that he has been the subject of two biographies as well as memoirs that he penned himself, it might be thought there is little about him that is not already documented but a new life story written by journalist Chris Waters, to be published later in the year, promises fresh material and a more detached appraisal.

The Yorkshire Post cricket correspondent interviewed more than one hundred former players, both teammates and opponents, as well as members of his family and discovered that the brash persona and forthright views Trueman carried forward into his media career concealed a character who was somewhat less confident and more insecure than might have been supposed.

“There have been two previous biographies, one by John Arlott in 1971 which was Portrait of a Fast Bowler, which was exactly what it said in the tin,” Waters said.  “Don Mosey, who was a friend of Trueman’s, did another in 1991.

“It was a surprise how much new material there is about him that has not been written about, particularly about his family background, which has not really been covered at all.  To me that has been the most interesting part, to see where he came from, because the other biographies only scratch the surface of that.”

Waters said that almost everyone whose memories he sought was freely co-operative and willing to talk.

“One of the best contacts has been Bob Platt, the former Yorkshire inswing bowler who partnered Trueman many times.  They were very close to the extent that Platt used to take holidays at Trueman’s villa in Spain.  He has been able to offer me a really close insight into Trueman as a teammate.

“Fred’s widow Veronica has been extremely helpful and his sister Flo gave me a huge insight into his family background.

“The most interesting thing was to learn about the tough circumstances he came up from. He painted a rather bucolic picture of his background, almost as if he grew up in some idyllic Yorkshire country setting, where in reality his family came from a bleak, South Yorkshire mining community and in a way were almost perceived as part of a social underclass.

“The family lived literally on the edge of a pit yard, in a row of terraced houses, miners’ cottages, right next to the Maltby Main pit.

“That part of the story is very moving and emotive, really.  I think people looked at them strangely because they were seen as living in the middle of nowhere, removed from the rest of the community, this quite large family living in a cramped house with the boys in one bedroom, the girls in another and the grandmother sleeping in the living room.

“His father was a miner but not all the family worked in the pits.  Others were gardeners or gamekeepers, a variety of things.  But suffice to say it was an impoverished background, which was not the picture he described.”  (Continues after the video clip)
WATCH Fred Trueman in action in this video clip, which shows him taking five wickets without conceding a run against Australia at Headingley in 1961 and six wickets for four runs against West Indies at Edgbaston in 1963. The clip finishes with his 300th Test wicket at The Oval in 1964.

Waters says the book is more about Trueman the man than Trueman the player although the development of his character is set against the background of his career on the field with Yorkshire and England.  Every great sporting story has defining moments and Waters was particularly keen to dig beneath the surface of Trueman’s first venture overseas.

“His first tour,  of the West Indies, had a massive effect on the rest of his career because he was accused of various misdemeanours and came home with a reputation as a bad boy.  I spoke a lot with Trevor Bailey, Tom Graveney and Alan Moss, who were at the time the only three who had been there with him who were still alive.

“I’ve really tried to get to the bottom of what happened and what he was supposed to have done and my own view is that he was badly treated.”

Bob Platt provided much insight into Trueman as a colleague. “He was a very colourful character in the dressing rooms but also insecure as well,” Waters said.  “There were things that you did not necessarily expect to find out about him because he had this bravado and swagger on the field.  But he was not that confident within himself.”

Born in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, Waters grew up in Lincoln and began his journalistic career in Worcester before returning home to a four-year stint on the Lincoln Chronicle.  From there he moved to the Nottingham Evening Post, for whom he covered his first season of cricket in 2000 and has been reporting on Yorkshire for the Post since 2004.  This is his first book.

“Trueman is perhaps a difficult subject to start off with,” he said.  “In some ways he is a great subject to start with because there are so many stories about him to but in other ways he is very challenging.

“He had a very colourful life and there was quite a bit of controversy and you have to try to do it as sensitively as you can without losing the impact.

“I did not want to write anything that was just a hagiography because there has been a lot of that about him.  You don’t want blind reverence and I don’t think people expect that now.

“At the same time you don’t want to just gratuitously upset people, but you want to be honest.”

Fred Trueman: The Authorised Biography is due for publication by Aurum Press in October. The preliminary cover design, featuring Trueman in his later years puffing on his ever-present pipe, conveys a wonderfully atmospheric feel of latent menace.

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I just try to write as well as I can every day, says award-winning Atherton

Part two of an exclusive interview. See Part One. 

Mike Atherton was following a well worn path when he swapped cricket for a career in the media on his retirement as a player in 2001.

There was a period recently when the cricket correspondents of all four of England’s heavyweight, formerly broadsheet daily newspapers were former England Test players, with another two occupying similarly prominent positions on the Sundays.

As a high-profile figure in the game, having captained England in a record 54 Tests, Atherton offered the added attraction of celebrity as well as insight and his services were always likely to be coveted by newspaper editors.

In those circumstances, he was only too aware that some might doubt his credentials as a journalist and that only made him more determined to show his writing ability justified the column inches those editors were willing to give him.

“I think it is important as a sportsman going into the press box that you do the job as well as you can,“ he said. “You should take it seriously and write your own stuff.  I feel it is fraudulent really to have a ghosted piece under your own name.

“From the first piece I did for the Sunday Telegraph in 1993 I’ve written everything that has appeared under my name apart from one piece, when I resigned as England captain, which my colleague Scyld Berry had to help with.”

After 10 years full time in his new identity, nowadays combining his role as cricket correspondent of The Times with broadcasting for Sky Sports, Atherton has a new book -- Glorious Summers and Discontents -- bringing together the best of his journalistic work and he has taken time to speak to The Sports Bookshelf and reflect on his writing career so far.

“The first thing I would say is that I haven’t missed playing,” said. “When I finished playing I was ready to finish and I was quite comfortable with what I had done.  There has never been a sense of wanting to be out there.

“And it is a craft of sorts, writing, so you are replacing one craft with another, trying to do it well and improve, which inevitably you do.  The more you do it, the better you get, or you should do.

“It is nice now to be in the background a bit more, to watch and observe.  It is always better when you have something to say, of course.  As you will know, there are times when you sit down and think ‘what the hell am I going to say today?’

“But when you do have something to say it is good to have that platform to write. If a piece comes out nicely it is slightly more lasting than what you might say as a broadcaster.”

Glorious Summers and Discontents represents not only a decade in cricket but 10 years in Atherton’s development as a writer, which has in the last couple of years earned deserved recognition by the Sports Journalists’ Association, who have honoured him with awards for sports columnist, specialist correspondent and sports writer of the year.

If there has been a progression in his work, he believes that it reflects the difference in tone that comes with time out of the game.

“You can see a change, although not so much a different style,” he said.  “When you are still playing you are writing about people you know, people you are playing with, people you are playing against, which gives you a certain insight but a lack of distance.

“When you stop playing, and you don’t know the people so well and you are not playing against them, you have that distance and, essentially, you can write what you like.

“You do develop your own style although I wouldn’t say I was a particularly stylised writer.  I guess you find what you like writing about and what works for you and.”

What does work for Atherton, happily, is the heavy workload he takes on during Test matches in particular of spending much of his day behind the microphone for Sky and yet still tapping out a thousand words or above for The Times.

“The only reason I took the Times job was that it was the year that The Times were moving to new presses so the deadlines were pushed back apart from Fridays, when it is still a bit tight at seven o’clock.

“With the deadlines as they were -- that is, seven o’clock every day -- I don’t think it I could have done it.  Fridays can be hairy but the executive producer at Sky is very good and just gives me one stint after tea.

“The combination actually works quite well.  When you are speaking you order your thoughts in your head, which helps when you come to write. When you are writing it keeps you sharper for broadcasting, because you have been to the pre-match press conferences and that sort of thing. The two help each other.”

The words flow more readily on some days than others, he admits.   But he believes experience is beginning to yield benefits.

“I would not say the writing comes easy but as you get more experienced you start to understand that some days you can start writing earlier than others.

“You get to understand the rhythm of a test match.  There are times when you know there is going to be a declaration and the final hour is going to be crucial, so you have to bide your time.  But there are other times, say, when Kevin Pietersen has scored a brilliant hundred by four o’clock and you know that is going to be the main part of the piece.”

Troubled continually by back problems, Atherton was a relatively young 33 when he quit playing and his media career will almost certainly exceed the duration of his playing span, although he is not looking far ahead.

“I’ve never been any good at setting a path down and thinking ‘where do I want to be in 10 years time?’ or anything like that,” he said.  “I don’t have any ambitions as such beyond just trying to do the job well every day.

“There are times when you think ‘what is this crap going to look like in the paper tomorrow?’ but I think it was Scyld (Berry) who said to me once that the bad pieces never turn out quite as bad as you fear and the good ones never quite as good as you hope and that’s probably a fair summation of it all.”

See Part One of this interview

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As it happened - Atherton's take on a decade of cricket drama

Exclusive two-part interview -- Part Two tomorrow

When Mike Atherton first set foot in a cricket press box as a writer rather than a player he knew there would be some who would resent his presence.  He had captained an England team to which winning seldom came easily and his relationship with the journalists who would now be his colleagues had at times been stormy.

It is one reason he was determined that if nothing else he would prove himself at least worthy of respect, doing the job as well as he could, striving to improve.  Honoured by his peers two years in a row at the Sports Journalists’ Association’s annual awards, he has clearly achieved that particular goal.

“I don’t write for awards but of course it is nice to get some recognition,” he said.  “But for me what’s really important if you are a former sportsman and you go into the press box is that you treat it seriously, write your own stuff and do the best job you can.

“There will inevitably be some who will think you shouldn’t be there, that you are taking other people’s jobs and I understand that point of view.

“But even though I had, let’s say, a reasonably robust relationship with the media as captain, for the most part people have been supportive and appear to hold no grudges. And vice versa -- because there was plenty of nasty stuff written about me. But I was not going to carry that forward either.”

It is now almost 10 years since the final Test of the 2001 Ashes series brought down the curtain on Atherton’s career. Already established then as a columnist with the Sunday Telegraph, he quickly cut his teeth in broadcasting with Channel Four and joined Sky Sports in 2005, bringing a pleasing style that mixed authoritative commentary with a sense of humour.

But he continued to write and in 2008 his journalistic career moved to a new level when he was appointed cricket correspondent of The Times in succession to Christopher Martin-Jenkins.  With a daily platform his writing flourished, in particular in the regular columns that supplement his reporting of the England team.

Now, the best of his work -- taken from the Sunday Telegraph and Wisden Cricket Monthly as well as The Times -- in the last decade has been assembled in a new book, Glorious Summers and Discontents, a collection of pieces, chosen by himself, which also serves as a chronicle of 10 years in cricket.

“The first half of the book deals with lots of issue areas such as Kevin Pietersen, the Allen Stanford affair, Twenty20 and match fixing, while the second half includes a few games and a few players I have enjoyed watching,” he said.

“Journalism is a bit ephemeral and not really intended to be preserved in book form but it is nice to see these articles put together because there are some of them I quite like.”

As a cricketer who has written a noted history of gambling, it is clear that Atherton’s curiosity stretches beyond the immediate boundaries of his working environment and some of his choices reflect that.

“There is one on the West Indian former cricketer Richard Austin that I was particularly proud of,” he said.  “He is a crack addict in Jamaica.

“I’d actually come across him on my last tour there as captain in 1998 when the team stayed at the Hilton Hotel and Austin was living in the car park opposite, under a bush.

“I had always been interested in the story of the West Indian cricketers who went to South Africa on the rebel tour. Unlike in England, where we have not only rehabilitated our rebel cricketers but in many cases given them top jobs, in the Caribbean they were really ostracised because they were black men who were perceived to have taken blood money.

“And a few of them have really struggled.  Austin is a crack addict and a fellow called Herbert Chang is living rough on the streets in a place called Greenwich Town on the docks in Kingston.  Bernard Julien just had to leave, Lawrence Rowe went to the States.

“There was a broader theme to the piece but Richard Austin was the one I remembered because I had seen him play league cricket in Lancashire when I was a kid.  He was a brilliant sportsman and to see the contrast with that and him living on the streets was incredible.

“During my last tour there for The Times I enquired about where he was and Michael Holding helped me find him. The deadlines when you are filing from the West Indies make it quite a full-on tour and to get out on the streets of Kingston and actually find him was quite an effort in itself, but I think it made quite a nice piece.”

Read Mike Atherton’s piece on Richard Austin as it appeared in The Times

Buy Glorious Summers and Discontents: Looking Back on the Ups and Downs from a Dramatic Decade, published by Simon & Schuster, direct from Amazon

TOMORROW -- Mike Atherton talks about learning the craft of writing and the challenges of working with a microphone in one hand and a pen (or rather a laptop) in the other.

Read Part Two

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Syed's opus takes a bad Bounce for one unconvinced reviewer

Bounce, Matthew Syed’s thesis on the matter of whether sporting talent is inherent or acquired, may have received critical acclaim, even to the extent of winning the prize for Best New Writer at the British Sports Book Awards this week.
But that is not to say it is everyone’s cup of tea. Certainly not in the case of Michael Henderson, Syed’s former colleague on The Times, whose review in The Spectator is sceptical in general and takes exception in particular when the author steps beyond the boundaries of sport to suggest that Picasso and Mozart owed the brilliance of their work not to genius but to hours of practice. Renowed for his acerbic observations both as a sports writer and an arts critic, Henderson is bang in form.
“Picasso…apparently needed years of experience to paint Guernica. Well I never!" he rails. “More important, one might have thought, he had a temperament, a vision…that doesn’t feature in Syed’s reductive interpretation.”
He goes on…
“Mozart is also brought down a peg or two…it was the 3,500 hours of practice before his sixth birthday that set him on his way. Remember that the next time you listen to Così fan tutte or the D minor piano concerto.”
Not content with attacking the theories espoused,  Henderson turns on the author himself, whom he seems to believe ought to have spent more hours honing his own writing skills.
“Syed,” he says, “adopts the breathless manner of a sixth-former desperate to impress the examiners and scatters clichés over the pages with the gladdest of hands.”

Click here to read the full review…

…or judge for yourself by buying Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice.

Read more about The 2011 British Sports Book Award winners.



Your chance to have your say on the best of the best

The judges have had their say in naming their winners in each category at the 2011 British Sports Book Awards -- but deciding the overall winner is down to you.
And by voting for your favourite Sports Book of the Year from the winners of each of the award categories, you could win £50 of National Book Tokens.
Follow this link to the British Sports Book Awards website and enter your choice in the on-line vote.
Your details will then go into a draw to win £50 of National Book Tokens.
The winners in each category were:

Best Biography: Trautmann’s Journey, by Catrine Clay
Best Autobiography: Beware of The Dog, by Brian Moore
Best Football Book: Promised Land, by Anthony Clavane
Best Rugby Book: The Grudge, by Tom English
Best Cricket Book: Slipless in Settle, by Harry Pearson
Best Racing Book: The Story of Your Life, by James Lambie
Best Illustrated Book: ‘61 The Spurs Double (Vision Sports)
Best New Writer: Bounce, by Matthew Syed

Vote for your favourite - the online vote will run until mid-night on Sunday June 12th and the winner will be announced on June 13th.

Read more about the winners and the competition they beat...


Lowe may have to re-title collection as Greatest Games...bar one

Stoke City author Simon Lowe will doubtless not mind at all if his latest title needs an amendment after the final whistle has sounded on the FA Cup final.
Lowe, a columnist on the Sentinel newspaper in Stoke, teamed up with fellow writer David Lee to compile Stoke City’s Greatest Games, a comprehensive celebration of the 50 biggest triumphs in the history of the Potters.
The selection was drawn from an official poll conducted among fans by the club website, www.stokecityfc.com. The 1972 League Cup final victory over Chelsea, plus promotion celebrations and famous triumphs over the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, Leeds United, Arsenal and Chelsea feature strongly, as do some less glamorous but nonetheless exceptional wins over Bury, Stockport, Cardiff, Reading and Luton during the club’s leaner years further down the league.  Interviews with stars of the highlighted games enliven the stories.
Lowe is also the author of Match of My Life: Stoke City, in which 16 former players relive their own greatest games, as well as Stoke City: 101 Golden Greats, Delilah Roars Again: Stoke City 1984-2009 and Potters at War.
He also ghosted Just One of Seven: The Autobiography of Denis Smith, who spent almost 20 years as a player at Stoke and was a member of the 1972 League Cup-winning side, before embarking on a career in football management.
Meanwhile, Stephen Foster, who has written two books on the joys and travails of being a Stoke fan in exile (if living in Norwich can be so described), is planning a third volume with the Cup final as its climax.
Foster’s She Stood There Laughing, published in 2004, was notable for its self-deprecating humour and earned some complimentary reviews, as well as healthy sales.  He followed up with And She Laughed No More in 2009.
The author revealed on his blog (walkingollie.wordpess.com) that he is planning to publish She Stood There Laughing to Amazon Kindle now that the original paperback is out of print.

Buy Stoke City's Greatest Games

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Joy for Clavane as Promised Land is voted Best Football Book among 2011 British Sports Book Awards winners

Anthony Clavane’s Promised Land, his brilliant personal history of Leeds United, has triumphed in the Best Football Book category at the 2011 British Sports Book Awards at the Savoy Hotel in London this evening.
The award is overdue recognition for Sunday Mirror sports writer Clavane, whose book, published by Yellow Jersey Press, relates the history of the team to the evolution of the Jewish community in Leeds and the physical, social and cultural development of the city. (See the shortlist for Best Football Book; read The Sports Bookshelf's interview with Anthony Clavane).
The other winners of the major categories included more success for Harry Pearson, whose Slipless in Settle (Little, Brown) impressed the judges most in the Best Cricket Book category. (See the shortlist for Best Cricket Book; read more about Slipless in Settle).
Pearson’s hilarious take on the northern club cricket scene has already been voted MCC/Cricket Society book of the year.
Trautmann's Journey (Yellow Jersey), the fascinating story of Wembley hero goalkeeper Bert Trautmann's Nazi past, by Catrine Clay, was voted Best Biography. (See the shortlist for Best Biography; read more about Trautmann's Journey).
Rugby star Brian Moore also became a double award winner when his Beware of the Dog (Simon & Schuster), the William Hill Sports Book of the Year, won the award for Best Autobiography. (See the shortlist for Best Autobiography; read more about Beware of the Dog).
The Grudge (Yellow Jersey), Tom English’s splendid story of the politically-charged 1990 Calcutta Cup match, won the prize for Best Rugby Book. (See the shortlist for Best Rugby Book; read more about The Grudge).
The Story of Your Life (Matador), an entertaining history of the Sporting Life newspaper by James Lambie, beat off strong competition in the new Best Racing Book category.(See the shortlist for Best Racing Book).
And Matthew Syed won the prize for Best New Writer for his Bounce (Fourth Estate), a compelling examination of whether winners in sport are born or made.(See the shortlist for Best New Writer; read more about Bounce).
The Best Illustrated Title went to ‘61 The Spurs Double, published by Vision Sports.
It was an excellent night for Yellow Jersey Press, publishers of Promised Land, The Grudge and Trautmann's Journey.
Best Publicity Campaign went to Mari Yamakazi for It's All About the Bike (Particular Books), by Robert Penn, which is just out in paperback, while WH Smith was voted Best Retailer.

For more information or to buy any of the winning books, follow the links here:

Promised Land: The Reinvention of Leeds United
Slipless in Settle: A Slow Turn Around Northern Cricket
Trautmann's Journey: From Hitler Youth to FA Cup Legend
Beware of the Dog: Rugby's Hard Man Reveals All
The Grudge: Scotland vs. England, 1990
The Story of Your Life: A History of the Sporting Life newspaper
Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice
61: The Spurs Double
It's All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness On Two Wheels

Catrine Clay, pictured with Gabby Logan, won Best
Biography for her study of Bert Trautmann

Anthony Clavane receives his award from Queen's
Park Rangers manager Neil Warnock



2011 British Sports Book Awards



The shortlists have been announced for the ninth British Sports Book Awards, organised by the National Sporting Club. The winners will be named at a ceremony at The Savoy Hotel on 9th May.
The number of categories rises to 10 this year with the introduction of ‘best racing book’ and ‘best sports book retailer’ in addition to best biography and autobiography, best football, cricket and rugby books, best illustrated title, best new writer and best publicity campaign.

After the awards are made, the winners in each category will be entered into a public vote to find the best overall sports book of the year -- a campaign that will be supported by booksellers throughout the country in the run up to Father's Day.

Today’s spotlight is on the Best New Writer award, for which the candidates are:

On The Road, by Daniel Harris (Speakeasy Books)
Sailing the Dream, by Mike Perham (Bantam Press)
Bounce, by Matthew Syed (Fourth Estate)
Overdrive, by Clyde Brolin (Vatersay Books)
Animals!, by Neil Clack (Pitch Publishing)
The Fixer, by Steve Bunce (Mainstream)


On the Road

Written by a former City lawyer with an obvious talent for writing, On The Road began life as a blog on ESPN’s Soccernet website. For all that the result may be honest and amusing, the idea of describing the day-to-day highs and lows of football fandom is hardly new but Harris sets himself apart by following the 2009-10 Manchester United season without setting foot in Old Trafford, having decided to mark his opposition to the running of the club by the American Glazer family by staying away from home matches. Though written in a fast, modern style, On The Road is nonetheless intelligent and well-informed and the author’s background in law and business give his thoughts on the running of his club a certain authority.

His stories would draw chuckles of recognition from many…and are told with wit, creativity and love. He also has a flair for description: the Reebok Stadium is ‘what a space station made by Ikea might look like‘.
-- Jack Pitt-Brooke, The Independent. Read more…

Sailing the Dream

Mike Perham had already been sailing for almost 10 years and had crossed the Atlantic alone when he decided to take his skills to the high seas and circumnavigate the globe single-handed. Yet Robin Knox-Johnston, who had been first to do it, non-stop, in 1968, still said it could be suicidal and the head of the Royal Yachting Association told him not to go. The reason was that, for all his experience, Perham was only 16.  He ignored their advice and in August 2009, at the age of just 17 years, 5 months and 11 days, became the youngest person to have sailed solo around the world. Sailing the Dream tells the story of an amazing voyage, a nine-month odyssey full of technical and navigational challenges that would stump sailors twice Mike's age, in which his yacht was repeatedly damaged by the force of nature but in which he battled on against 50-foot waves in 50-knot winds at speeds of up to 28 knots. When he completed his journey on August 27th 2009, he surpassed the record of Zac Sunderland, an older 17 year old American, set only six weeks earlier.

The telling of a remarkable adventure by a remarkable young man, Sailing The Dream will engage sailors and non sailors alike: judicious explanations of nautical terms never feel patronising; respect for the dangers encountered never descend into sensationalism; and Mike’s emotion for the wildlife and the beauty of the sea never feel forced. 
--- Little Ship Club. Read more…


What are the hidden factors which allow the most successful sports stars to rise above their competitors? Are they shared by virtuosos in other fields?  Award-winning Times sportswriter Matthew Syed, a former Commonwealth table-tennis champion, seeks to discover what lies behind world-beating achievement in sport and other walks of life.  The answers - taking in the latest in neuroscience, psychology and economics - challenge conventional ideas about what it takes to become the best.  From the upbringing of Mozart to the mindset of Mohammed Ali - via the recruitment policies of Enron - Bounce weaves together stories, insights and statistics in a thought-provoking read. Along the way, Syed talks to a Hungarian father whose educational theories helped 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.

Fresh, ground-breaking and tackling subjects with broad appeal, Bounce is sure to be one of the most talked about books of the year. He takes on the myth of the child prodigy, emphasizing that Mozart, the Williams sisters, Tiger Woods, and Susan Polgar, the first female grandmaster, all had live-in coaches in the form of supportive parents who put them through a ton of early practice…a compelling narrative.
-- Publishers’ Weekly. Read more…


Clyde Brolin draws on exclusive interviews with 100 of the world's quickest men - from Stirling Moss through to Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton - in a quest to discover what Ayrton Senna was getting at when he described having been through an “out-of-car experience” during a qualifying lap for the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix.  Overdrive reveals the grand prix greats have all shared aspects of Senna's epiphany at their finest hours. Stars of other sports recognise the existence of a mystical 'Zone' but in motor racing only the masters tame it, almost bending time and space. Overdrive is the first book to look deep inside their crash helmets and tell the story of how they do it.

By the end…Brolin is still struggling to explain the phenomenon that fighter pilots call “breakout” (where they feel they’re sitting on the wing looking into the cockpit at themselves). But he has a good time trying.
--- Simon Briggs, The Daily Telegraph. Read more…


England v Argentina is a fixture with baggage, a clash of playing styles and cultural misunderstandings that has provided international football with some of its most controversial incidents -- Ramsey's ‘animals’ comment at Wembley in 1966, Maradona's Hand of God goal in Mexico in 1986, Beckham's infamous red card at France ‘98 and his redemptive penalty four years later in Japan.  Argentinian-based British journalist Neil Clack uncovers the story of how a once gentlemanly event has developed into one of the bitterest of grudge matches in world football.   With a chapter dedicated to each of the 15 internationals played between the two countries, the story is told through the eyes of the players who played in those matches, accompanied by extensive background research, tactical analysis and personal anecdotes.

Neil Clack's excellent history of the rivalry between two of the game's great nations… springs to life when he speaks to men who were involved in the games. 
-- Tom Green, When Saturday Comes. Read more…

The Fixer

To describe Leading boxing journalist and broadcaster Steve Bunce as a new writer is stretching it a bit but this is certainly a new venture for him: a novel. A fast-paced boxing thriller, The Fixer takes the reader into the murky secret world of deals, fights and fighters that lurks in the shadows of the glitz and glamour of top-level professional boxing, where men such as Ray Lester, Bunce’s lead character, operate. Ray Lester is ‘The Fixer‘, bringing boxers together and making fights happen. The story grants exclusive access to a realm where the fixer -- not the fighter -- is king. Generously described by Tony Parsons in the Daily Mirror as ‘like a Raymond Chandler for the 21st century. A hard-boiled, two-fisted, wise-cracking novel…as a thriller writer, Bunce wipes the floor with Stieg Larsson.’

As a boxing writer of 25 years standing, [Bunce] is well aware of the legal constraints he is under in a notoriously litigious sport, and so has opted for fiction to allow him to paint a picture of boxing that a more straightforward piece of journalism would not allow.
-- Sports Journalists’ Association. Read more…

The contenders in the other categories, making up the 10, are:


Jochen Rindt, by David Tremayne (Haynes Publishing)
W.G.Grace Ate My Pedalo, by Tyers and Beach (Wisden/Bloomsbury)
Another Journey Through the Links, by David Worley (Aurum)
Manchester United 1878-2010, by Alex Murphy (Simon and Schuster)
Twickenham, by Neal Cobourne, Jim Drewett and Iain Spragg (RFU/ Vision Sports)
'61 The Spurs Double, by Doug Cheeseman, Martin Cloake and Adam Powley (Vision Sports)


McCoy, ed. Brough Scott (Racing Post Books; Liz Ampairee)
On Tour, by Bradley Wiggins (Orion; Jessica Gulliver)
The Phantom of the Open, by Scott Murray & Simon Farnaby (Yellow Jersey; Louise Rhind-Tutt)
It's All About the Bike, by Robert Penn (Particular Books; Mari Yamazaki)
Trautmann's Journey, by Catrine Clay (Yellow Jersey; Bethan Jones)



See the shortlists for Best Autobiography,  Best BiographyBest Football Book,  Best Cricket BookBest Rugby Book and Best Racing Book.


2011 British Sports Book Awards


The shortlists have been announced for the ninth British Sports Book Awards, organised by the National Sporting Club. The winners will be named at a ceremony at The Savoy Hotel on 9th May.
The number of categories rises to 10 this year with the introduction of ‘best racing book’ and ‘best sports book retailer’ in addition to best biography and autobiography, best football, cricket and rugby books, best illustrated title, best new writer and best publicity campaign.
After the awards are made, the winners in each category will be entered into a public vote to find the best overall sports book of the year -- a campaign that will be supported by booksellers throughout the country in the run up to Father's Day.

Today’s spotlight is on the Best Racing Book award, for which the candidates are:

Kauto Star & Denman, by Jonathan Powell (Weidenfeld & Nicolson).
The Story of Your Life, by James Lambie (Matador)
Bayardo, by Peter Corbett (Rinaldo Publishing)
Masters of Manton, by Paul Mathieu (Write First Time)
Bioenergetics and Racehorse Ratings, by Bob Wilkins (Overdee Press)
Timeform Chasers and Hurdlers 09-10 (Portway Press)
The Art of the Race, by Amanda Lockhart (Envisage Books)


Kauto Star & Denman

Kauto Star and Denman captured the imagination of the world beyond horse racing in a way not seen since the eras of Arkle, Red Rum and Desert Orchid.  Both trained by Paul Nicholls, they are two steeplechasers of the same age but different personalities. Kauto Star, a handsome bay, was born in France, where he was dubbed 'L'Extraterrestre' after winning the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park four times in a row  -- matching Desert Orchid's record -- and the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice. Some say he is the leading steeplechaser of all time. Denman, an indomitable Irish Chestnut, ruthlessly efficient and blessed with great stamina, is known as 'The Tank'. In 2008 he beat Kauto Star into second place in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, a result reversed the next year. Award-winning journalist Jonathan Powell tells the story of their life and times and the drama of their many victories - and occasional spectacular failures.

Powell’s story of this famous jump racing rivalry, which has been likened to Bjorn Borg’s epic struggle for tennis supremacy over John McEnroe and Seb Coe’s efforts to get the better of Steve Ovett on the athletics track, makes a strong contribution to the history of National Hunt racing
-- The Sports Bookshelf. Read more…

The Story of Your Life

The intriguing and turbulent history of a paper Charles Dickens praised for its 'range of information and profundity of knowledge', and which Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, simply endorsed with the remark: 'Of course I read The Sporting Life'. It was the Queen Mother's love of horseracing that made her such an avid reader of the Life and coverage of that sport forms the core of this book, but there is so much more to fascinate the reader including eyewitness accounts of the first fight for the heavyweight championship of the world and Captain Webb's heroic Channel swim of 1875. The paper's strident campaigns for racing reforms are also chronicled along with its coverage of major news stories, from Fred Archer's shocking suicide to its own untimely demise. Its travails in the law courts are documented from its first year, when it was forced to change its title, to its last, when it had to pay libel damages to the training team of Lynda and Jack Ramsden and their jockey, Kieren Fallon.

The Story of Your Life charts the progress of the paper from its first day in 1859 to its last. It’s not just a collection of stories, however. You can almost hear the typewriters clattering and see the smoke-filled Fleet Street office.
-- Steve Carroll, York Press. Read more…


Bayardo's achievements were considerable. He was champion at age two, three and four, as a juvenile he was unbeaten in seven starts. He won 10  races that today are categorised among the prestigious Pattern races, at distances of between five furlongs and two and a half miles and in all he won 22 of his 25 races. In addition he won at Ascot each year he was in training and was considered by his jockey Danny Maher, an American who was twice England’s champion jockey and won three Epsom Derbies, to be the best horse he ever rode.  Yet Bayardo has been almost forgotten and neglected for too long. Author Peter Corbett attempts to capture a flavour of the period covering Bayardo's life and career sets the scene for what is a fascinating time: the relatively brief but extravagant world of the Edwardians and the time up to the Great War. Bayardo's racing career is set in its historical context with racing and individual races of his time compared with racing today, so that Bayardo can be compared with other great horses since the beginning of the 20th century.

Bayardo depicts some very unsavoury characters, whose nefarious activities permanently changed racing in Britain, and details their colourful lives and achievements, together with their eventful and, on occasions, volatile relationships.
--- eclipsemagazine.co.uk. Read More…

The Masters of Manton

‘Old’ Alec Taylor, ‘Young’ Alec Taylor, Joe Lawson and George Todd were the founding trainers at Manton, the historic training yard in Wiltshire. Their colourful stories are collected for the first time in Paul Mathieu’s new book, The Masters of Manton, which offers a panoramic view of the horses, trainers, owners, jockeys, lads and hangers-on who populated the Marlborough downs over four generations. In it are profiled the great eccentrics of racing in Victorian times. Meet the wilful Caroline, Duchess of Montrose; her rich but browbeaten husband Stirling Crawfurd; the wastrel George Payne; and Sir Joseph ‘Scratch’ Hawley, who sacrificed an Oaks winner to protect his Derby gamble.  Plus the men who supported Manton in the hard times after the First World War: Lord Astor and the short-lived Joseph Watson, first Lord Manton. The 43 classic winners include the triple crown winners Gay Crusader and Gainsborough. The roll-call of jockeys in the book extends across the four greats: Fred Archer, Steve Donoghue, Gordon Richards and Lester Piggott.

Mathieu’s scholarly yet sensational study of Manton and the characters who surrounded it — stern, surly and secretive trainers, aristocratic wastrels, commission agents dressed in gangster chic — is a fascinating contribution to racing history.
-- Robin Oakley, The Spectator. Read more…

Bioenergetics and Racehorse Ratings

Bioenergetics is the subject of a field of biochemistry that concerns energy flow through living systems. Academic author Bob Wilkins, an engineer and former university lecturer, describes a scientific study of competitive running and develops a mathematical model which balances the energy supply from both anaerobic and aerobic sources with the energy required to accelerate the body, sustain running, and overcome air resistance.  When applied to horse racing it allows the relationships between distance, time, weight carried, going, and other factors, to be evaluated. The model is applied to racing on turf in Britain, but it is easily adapted to racing on other surfaces and tracks.  The result of the model is a Power Equation, which can be used to assess performance in a race in terms of a power rating.  This book is not about how to pick winners but about the link between equine exercise physiology and racehorse ratings. A basic under-standing of mathematics is required to follow the development of the model.

Don't be put off by what is quite heavy applied maths in places. Wilkins writes clearly and well, and it is possible to follow his arguments without understanding all of his methods. 
-- The Racing Forum. Read more…

Timeform Chasers & Hurdlers 2009/2010

First published in 1975-76 season, Chasers and Hurdlers 2009-10 marks the 35th annual in the series. Chasers and Hurdlers is the end result of careful, independent scrutiny of the racing records of every horse that ran over fences in England, plus a good number of the better Irish and French performers. Timeform's conclusions are arrived at impartially and are always presented so as to be of practical use to those who bet.  While primarily an aid to the punter, Chasers and Hurdlers also has some permanent value as a review of the achievements of the season's more notable horses. In addition to 10,000 entries, the book is enhanced by some 350 photographs, including action images of all the big races and posed portraits of the top performers.
The Art of the Race

The Art of the Race uses the beautiful black and white photography of Amanda Lockhart to tell the story of horse racing from start to finish, from the moment of a racehorse's conception to the highs and lows of action on the track. With support and co-operation from horse racing's key figures and organisations, including The Jockey Club, Lockhart -- who specialises in black and white reportage style book and exhibition projects -- was granted unique access to all aspects of the sport. With additional photographs by race-photographer Dan Abraham, the thrills and spills of many of the world's most famous races are also captured. The pictures are supported by informative captions, and an introduction by Sir Mark Prescott.

One of the attractions of racing is the colour, but the genius of black and white is that it concentrates the mind on the subject, the shapes and the gritty sense of what’s going on.
-- Marcus Armytage, The Daily Telegraph. Read more…

See the shortlists for Best Autobiography,  Best BiographyBest Football Book,  Best Cricket BookBest Rugby Book and Best New Writer.