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 Rugby Book award, for which the candidates are:

The Iron Duke, by Bobby Windsor with Peter Jackson (Mainstream).
Blue Blood, by Bernard Jackman (Irish Sports Publishing).
The Grudge, by Tom English (Yellow Jersey).
After the Lemons, by Kevin Coughlan, Peter Hall and Colin Gale (Montroy Media)
The Rugby Coaching Manual, by Keith Richardson (self-published)
Beware of the Dog, by Brian Moore (Simon and Schuster)


The Iron Duke

The no-holds-barred, warts-and-all story of Bobby Windsor, a steelworker who rose from humble beginnings to become a Welsh folk hero, a permanent member of the greatest Lions team in the history of rugby union.  His rugby career as the best hooker in the British Isles during the second golden era of Welsh rugby in the 1970s is a turbulent tale of blood and thunder on the pitch, as well as riotous incidents off it, including unscheduled fights with professional boxers, revelations about illegal payments and what Windsor did to become blackballed by one of the most famous clubs in the world.  Vividly co-written with Peter Jackson, who was the Daily Mail’s rugby correspondent for 35 years, The Iron Duke captures Windsor’s irrepressible sense of humour  on every page, yet there is dark side to the story in the form of a personal crisis that drove him to plan suicide.

Bobby Windsor…was not only technically very skilful, but also equally adept at booting or punching opponents when the referee wasn't looking, and sometimes when he was. In fairness, most of the opposition appeared to join in willingly, then, in the tradition of the day, share a pint or 10 afterwards.
-- Simon Redfern, The Independent. Read more…

Blue Blood

Bernard Jackman played for Connacht, Sale Sharks and made 99 appearances for Leinster, winning many of the game's top accolades, including nine caps for Ireland and a Grand Slam medal in the historic 2008/2009 season.  He joined Leinster in the same year as Michael Cheika arrived as head coach, and in the next five years won a Magners League title, was voted Leinster Player of the Year in 2008, and won the Heineken Cup in 2009.  Jackman, who retired in May 2010, paints a brutally honest portrait of the Leinster dressing-room, and reveals what he saw as the tyrannical, maddening ways of Aussie coach Cheika and offers a fly-on-the-wall diary of Leinster’s brave, but doomed attempt to retain their Heineken Cup title in 2010.   Along with the highs, Jackman experienced the many lows facing professional players in the modern game, suffering multiple injuries by putting his body on the line for his sport.

Blue Blood is no literary masterpiece, but it certainly reminds the reader that top rugby players and coaches are still human beings whose lives extend beyond the 80 minutes we witness on a Saturday afternoon.  One the most insightful and courageous books ever written in the modern era of professional rugby in Ireland.
-- planetrugby.com.  Read more…

The Grudge

Also shortlisted in the ‘Best Biography’ category, The Grudge is Scotland on Sunday journalist Tom English’s gripping account of a rugby match that became the focal point for a clash of political cultures, as Will Carling's England, the embodiment of Margaret Thatcher's Britain - snarling, brutish and all-conquering -- took on Scotland, the underdogs, the second-class citizens from a land that had become the testing ground for the most unpopular tax in living memory, Thatcher's Poll Tax.  At stake at Murrayfield, on the face of it, are the Calcutta Cup and the Five Nations Grand Slam, the biggest prize in northern hemisphere rugby. But what happens in the stadium will resound far beyond the pitch. This is the real story of an extraordinary conflict, told with astounding insight and unprecedented access to key players, coaches and supporters on both sides.

If you were there, you will want to buy this book to bring the mood and match to life again. If you weren’t and were too young, buy it to know what it was like, for we will never see quite such a day again – for good reasons as well as bad. Finally, Carling and Moore had their revenge. Neither ever lost to Scotland again, and indeed we had to wait ten years for another victory over the Auld Enemy.
--- Alan Massie, Scottish Review of Books. Read more…

After the Lemons

A first venture into publishing for the small Bristol print company Montroy Media, After The Lemons would represent a fairytale in the finest sporting traditions were it to scoop the award. Written by Bristol-based sports journalist Kevin Coughlan and former club officials Peter Hall and Colin Gale, it tells the remarkable story of how Bath, coached by the legendary Jack Rowell, came to dominate rugby union in the 1980s and 1990s before the game went professional. It draws on club archives, contemporary reports as well as new interviews with those involved and season-by-season statistics.  Coughlan, Hall and Gale were prompted to pool their experiences after receiving an enthusiastic response to their first instalment of club history published as Before the Lemons in 2003.

So much has been made in football over the last two decades about the great sides Sir Alex Ferguson has built, strategically releasing key players and replacing them with better ones. Well we in Bath would argue Jack Rowell was doing this before Fergie got his feet firmly under the table at Old Trafford.
-- Glen Leat, rugbynetwork.net. Read more…

The Rugby Coaching Manual

Keith Richardson, the former Gloucester and Harlequins coach, was inspired to write his own coaching manual after becoming frustrated with the technical jargon that dominates many similar books.  The result, which he published himself, is aimed at simplifying the concepts of coaching rugby for all coaches, in schools, colleges and universities and clubs right up to the level just below professionalism. In contrast with many more cerebral theories on coaching, Richardson presents ideas in a down-to-earth manner so that coaches can grasp even the most complex theories.

How refreshing to discover something packed with sound advice yet as easy to digest as a forkful of rice.  Pitched at coaches just below pro level, the book also contains illustrations to show correct technique, useful drills and tips on how to manage a training session. Richardson writes as if he were talking to the Gloucester forwards he famously coached.
--- Rugby World magazine. Read more…

Beware of the Dog

Already acknowledged as a fine work by winning the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award for 2010, the former England rugby hooker‘s searingly honest and candid life story 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.  Brian 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. Also on the shortlist for 'Best Autobiography.'

The measure of the manic competitiveness of the man is revealed in this bleak, compelling book…the uncompromising candour also reveals his distinctly unlovable side — there’s no grace shown in victory or defeat, nor any remorse for the blood-spilling brutality of old-school rugby…(but) the boy can write a bit.
--- Brian Schofield, Sunday Times.

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


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