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.
The Sports Bookshelf spotlights the candidates for each prize, with links to selected reviews.

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

Football - Bloody Hell!, by Patrick Barclay (Yellow Jersey).
Promised Land, by Anthony Clavane (Yellow Jersey).
Trautmann's Journey, by Catrine Clay (Yellow Jersey).
Family, by Michael Calvin (Integr8 Books).
Bill Nicholson, by Brian Scovell  (John Blake).
In Search of Alan Gilzean, by James Morgan (BackPage Press).
The Anatomy of England, by Jonathan Wilson (Orion).



Football - Bloody Hell!

Journalist Patrick Barclay, who has written with great distinction about football for all of the English press’s quality daily newspapers, examines the career of the most controversial and compelling figure in the game today, asking whether he should be regarded as the greatest manager of all time. Ferguson’s success is unparalleled and duly acknowledged by the author but attention is also focused on the other sides of the Manchester United manager, not always showing him in a favourable light.  It is only now, as Ferguson nears the end of his career, that conclusions can be drawn and Barclay’s study, drawing on many interviews with fellow managers, former players, colleagues and commentators, shows him to be a relentless character whose ability to intimidate, control, cajole and encourage has driven that success.

A book in which thoroughness of research, richness of detail – particularly concerning the early years in Scotland – and proper celebration of achievement are never allowed to occlude the author's unsentimental view of his compatriot.
--- Richard Williams, the Guardian. Read more…

Promised Land

Anthony Clavane’s superb fusion of personal biography with the history of a football club and of a city attracted enormous acclaim among reviewers.  The story 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 ambitious tenure, has been told many times, but Sunday Mirror journalist Clavane, born and raised in Leeds, gives it a new dimension.  While the highs and lows experienced by Leeds supporters during the author’s lifetime hold the tale together as a central thread, Clavane has managed to relate the history of the team to the evolution of the Jewish population and the physical, social and cultural development of the city of Leeds in an affectionate and poignant celebration of an era in the life of a northern English city that may never be repeated.

When you put down the book, you feel you know not just the story of a football team but the city it represents; its rawness and talent, its achievements and its failures and, maybe most of all, its resilience. Another native son, Keith Waterhouse and his creation Billy Liar, get almost as many mentions as the brilliant, tortured Leeds manager Don Revie and icons like Billy Bremner, John Giles and John Charles, but with no loss of focus on the central parable.
--- James Lawton, The Independent. Read more…

Trautmann's Journey

Shortlisted in three categories -- ‘Best Biography‘, ‘Best Football Book’ and ‘Best Publicity Campaign’ -- Catrine Clay’s book takes one of football’s most famous stories as the starting point, tracing the life of Bert Trautmann, celebrated in this country for completing the 1956 FA Cup final with a broken neck, back to his roots in Germany, a country already in the grip of National Socialism. Clay explains how Trautmann, hero of English football, joined the Hitler Youth at the age of 10 and was fighting for his country at 17 but underwent a transformation when he was brought to England as a prisoner of war.  Bernhardt, a Nazi confined to a POW camp in Cheshire, becomes Bert, who plays amateur football while working on a bomb disposal unit in Liverpool, then joins Manchester City, whose fans ultimately forgive his past life as an enemy and take him to their hearts.

Impressive though his sporting career has been, Clay’s readers will be more intrigued by Trautmann’s crawl through the dark woods of history and by the deftness with which a thoughtful biographer has given depth and substance to the plainly told story of an uncommon life.
--- Miranda Seymour, Daily Telegraph. Read more…


Award-winning sportswriter Michael Calvin was given complete access to the inner workings of Millwall Football Club during the 2009-10 season, from the first day of pre-season training to a Wembley play-off final 333 days later. The result was an intimate portrait of a football club that has been compared with Hunter Davies’s classic The Glory Game.  A club with burdened by a history with a dark side, Millwall operate in a parallel universe to the Premier League. Yet they are a real club, rooted in community in a way that has been lost to most of the game. There are no huge budgets, no hyper-inflated egos -- the players are family men, close to their roots, men who understand who they are playing for, and why it matters. Calvin takes the reader into the dressing room, boardroom, and on to the streets to tell a story that will appeal to the true football fan.

Don’t let your prejudices about the pariahs of English football stop you buying Mike Calvin’s brilliant new book about the Lions’ promotion season…one of the most in-depth books you will read about any football club.  And probably the most gripping.  It doesn’t just document a successful year -- it is a tale of how this unique football club helps its own to cope with the tragedies of everyday life in one of the toughest areas of our capital city.
--- Simon Mullock, Sunday Mirror. Read more…

Bill Nicholson: Football's Perfectionist

Revered as one of the most honest football managers in the business, Bill Nicholson turned Tottenham Hotspur into the finest team in Britain in the early 1960s.  Veteran journalist Brian Scovell’s book, the first biography of Nicholson, commemorates the 50th anniversary of Tottenham's pioneering 1961 Double, which Nicholson followed up in 1963 by becoming the first manager to win a European trophy. By moulding players such as Dave Mackay, Danny Blanchflower, John White, Cliff Jones and Jimmy Greaves into an almost perfectly balanced team, he set new standards of attacking play. Born in Scarborough in 1919, Nicholson took the night train to London at the age of 17, signed for Spurs on £2 a week and spent the rest of his life with the club as player, coach, manager, scout and President, until his death in 2004. Also shortlisted for ‘Best Biography’.

Tottenham Hotspur have endured frustrations in the European Cup before, not least against Benfica in 1962 when a string of controversial refereeing decisions left Bill Nicholson’s team seething in defeat. A fascinating heavyweight appraisal of Nicholson by the veteran reporter Brian Scovell provides a timely reflection on Spurs’ previous tilts at European glory.
--- Henry Winter, Daily Telegraph. Read more…

In Search of Alan Gilzean

Alan Gilzean was a truly great footballer.  Jimmy Greaves regards him as the best striker he ever played with; Don Revie, the former Leeds United and England manager, described the former Tottenham striker as the best touch player in Europe. But after he retired in 1974, following a short spell as manager of Stevenage Athletic and a job as depot manager with a north London transport firm, Gilzean effectively disappeared.  After hearing claims that Gilzean was living as a down-and-out, sports journalist and Spurs fan James Morgan was filled with a fierce desire to separate fact from fiction and his quest to find out the full story takes him on an exhilarating personal journey all over Britain, from the player‘s birthplace, in the small Perthshire village of Coupar Angus, to Dundee, London and beyond.  Morgan s portrait of the original King of White Hart Lane restores him to his rightful place in football folklore.

Morgan‘s obsessive quest to track down the Scot led to a book whose title, In Search of Alan Gilzean, may not seize the imagination. Yet this diligent search for a man who, after being the undisputed King of White Hart Lane, abdicated to become a commoner before all but disappearing, is strangely compelling.
-- Nick Townsend, The Independent. Read more…

The Anatomy of England

Jonathan Wilson, the award-winning journalist, seeks to place the 1966 World Cup and the other perceived bright spots in the history of the England football team in the context of the 20th century, during which progressive coaches advancing the virtues of technique have been repeatedly spurned in favour of the traditional English values of pluck and muscularity.  Wilson takes ten key England fixtures - from defeat in Madrid in 1929; to Steve McLaren's evening to forget at Wembley in 2007 - and hacks back through the myth, conjecture and personal recollections, to get at the games themselves, and explore how what actually happened on the pitch shaped the future of the English game. Bursting with insight and critical detail, yet imbued with a wry affection, this is a history of England like no other before.

Jonathan Wilson belongs alongside David Goldblatt and the daddy of them all, Brian Glanville, in the triumvirate of great British football historians. Wilson’s Inverting the Pyramid is the seminal modern work on football tactics. Anatomy of England is its companion volume.
-- Simon Kuper, Financial Times. Read more…

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


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