Paul Kimmage in line for second 'bookie prize' after judges add Engage to shortlist

Paul Kimmage, who won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award in 1990 with the cycling claasic, Rough Ride, has been shortlisted for this year’s prize for Engage: The Fall and Rise of Matt Hampson, even though the acclaimed story of the paralysed England Under-21 rugby player was not originally submitted for the prize.

This means the shortlist for this year’s ‘bookie prize’, the richest award of its type in the world, will consist of seven titles rather than six.

William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe explained: “Although the book had not been submitted for the prize at the time our longlist was announced, the members of our judging panel nevertheless agreed to consider it once it was brought to their attention.

“We would normally have selected six titles for the shortlist but the addition of Engage means there will be a magnificent seven titles this year, so no other author has been denied a place by its inclusion. This decision takes into account the feeling that it would be unfair to penalise a blameless author and subject.”

Read more: Engage -- a harrowing story brilliantly told

Also shortlisted is A Life Too Short, by Ronald Reng, which tells the tragic story of German national goalkeeper Robert Enke, who took his own life at just 32 years of age, as well as Racing Through the Dark, the controversial autobiography of British cyclist David Millar, and Among The Fans, award-winning sportswriter Patrick Collins's account of a year observing a range of different sports and their many and varied supporters.

Now in its 23rd year, and with a prize worth £27,500 for the winner, the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award 2011 shortlist covers a range of sports, including football, rugby, cycling, running and – more unusually – bullfighting.

The shortlist in full:
1. Among the Fans: From Ashes to the Arrows, a Year of Watching the Watchers by Patrick Collins (Wisden Sports Writing)
2. Into The Arena: The World of the Spanish Bullfight by Alexander Fiske-Harrison (Profile Books)
3. The Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Stop by Bill Jones (Mainstream Publishing)
4. Engage: The Fall and Rise of Matt Hampson by Paul Kimmage (Simon & Schuster)
5. Racing Through the Dark: The Fall and Rise of David Millar by David Millar (Orion)
6. A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke by Ronald Reng (Yellow Jersey Press)
7. 32 Programmes by Dave Roberts (Bantam Press)

The William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award is the world's longest established and most valuable literary sports-writing prize. As well as a £23,000 cash prize, the winning author will receive a £2,000 William Hill bet, a hand-bound copy of their book, and a day at the races.

The judging panel for this year’s award consists of broadcaster and writer John Inverdale; award-winning journalist Hugh McIlvanney; broadcaster Danny Kelly; and columnist and author, Alyson Rudd. Chairman of the panel is John Gaustad, co-creator of the award and founder of the Sportspages bookshop.

The winner will be announced at a lunchtime reception at Waterstone’s Piccadilly (London), Europe’s largest bookstore, on Monday 28th November.



After KP furore, look what Swanny thinks about captain Cook!


Now he’s back on home soil again, Graeme Swann is embarking on a promotional tour for his new book, The Breaks Are Off, between November 3rd and 7th, starting in Nottingham next Thursday. 

Swann courted controversy in the book by commenting on Kevin Pietersen’s brief reign as England captain, which did not go down well with the current coach, Andy Flower.

The world’s No 3 ranked Test and one-day international bowler is just home from an ODI series in which England were woeful, losing 5-0 to India.  Their current one-day captain is Alastair Cook.

Cook gets a few mentions in The Breaks are Off , too. The opening batsman is mildly rebuked for being “the messiest colleague you could have” in the dressing room and ribbed for being “a real goody-two-shoes” after being entrusted with the critical responsibility for waking Swann up when there is a flight to catch.

Swann comments on Cook’s captaincy, too.  “He stumbles and stammers when he speaks…he’s best summed up as a bit of a rambler, so I always have to stare at the floor during his team talks in a bid not to laugh.”

But that, sadly, is as damning as the appraisal gets. In fact, Swann says that, in his first series as ODI captain, against Sri Lanka, Cook’s “leadership was outstanding in those five games” as England won 3-2.

After the latest series, and mindful of the Pietersen furore, it may not be something he is prepared to discuss right now, although anyone who has queued patiently for a signed copy of the book could always ask.

Swann will be signing The Breaks are Off at Waterstone’s Nottingham from 12.30 to 2pm on November 3rd and at their branch in Lincoln on November 4th  (12.30-2pm).

He is scheduled also to appear at Waterstone’s in Northampton, Bromley, Guildford, Bristol and London‘s Leadenhall Market.  Contact individual stores for details.

Buy The Breaks are Off direct from Amazon.

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Stumps drawn for good but new book ensures that lost cricket grounds will not be forgotten

For a journalist with a taste for nostalgia and a lifelong love of cricket, the chance to delve into the then and now of some of Britain’s vanishing cricket grounds was an offer Chris Arnot couldn’t resist.

It came from Aurum Press, who were looking for a likely author to write a book entitled Britain’s Lost Cricket Grounds after the writer originally commissioned had to withdraw from the project.

Given that his only other venture into books had been a celebration of 60 years of The Archers, the Coventry-based freelance journalist might not have seemed an obvious choice but the opportunity showed that if you have an ambition to do something different, don’t keep it to yourself.

“I wanted to write a cricket book and I’d been in touch with Graham Coster at Aurum with another idea that was not taken up,” Chris told The Sports Bookshelf. “He had remembered that.  It helped too that he is a Guardian reader and had seen some of the pieces I had written for them.

“When he asked me to do Britain's Lost Cricket Grounds he told me it would be a labour of love and he was right.  From October last year to April this I travelled around the country to do the research and it was a hugely enjoyable experience.”

Picking 40 lost grounds -- all swept away, in the name of progress, never to see another ball bowled -- Arnot unearthed some memorable stories and some wonderful characters and brings them together in a beautifully written, amply illustrated volume that is rich in history and anecdote.

As a Birmingham boy brought up watching MJK Smith, Dennis Amiss, Tom Cartwright and Jim Stewart in the Warwickshire teams of the 60s and 70s, some of the venues are close to Chris’s heart, not least the Courtaulds Ground in Coventry.

“We had a big Test ground at Edgbaston but it would be empty for county matches and players enjoyed going to the smaller grounds around the county because the crowds seemed bigger,” he said.

“Courtaulds was one of a number of factory grounds which took great pride in hosting county matches.  I’ve covered some others in the book, such as the Hoffman ground in Chelmsford and Imperial Tobacco in Bristol.

“It was a matter of enormous prestige among factory owners to stage county cricket and they would employ full-time professional grounds men to ensure the pitches were of the highest standard.”

Courtaulds employed 5,000 people at one time but the recession of the 80s took its toll and by the early 90s the numbers had dwindled to 450.  Warwickshire played there twice a season between 1946 and 1967, witnessing great deeds from the likes of Rohan Kanhai and Barry Richards, and continued to use the venue on a less frequent but still regular basis until 1983.

The factory closed in 2007.  The old ground remains an open, green space but there are few reminders of the great deeds of old and the only crowds likely to gather there now are for car boot sales.

Other sites offer even fewer clues as to their former existence.  The Central Ground in Hastings, once a handsome Sussex venue flanked by colourful Victorian boarding houses and overlooked by the ruins of the 11th century castle, is now submerged beneath the Priory Meadow shopping centre.

“I went there on Monday, January 17, a day that the BBC declared to be the most miserable of the year, largely on account of it being the day that the post-Christmas credit card bills drop through the letterbox,” Chris said.

“Appropriately enough, it was chucking it down with rain.  The idea that such a beautiful and historic ground is now just another soulless modern shopping centre is profoundly depressing.

“In a gesture towards local sensibilities, the developers paid a sculptor to do a sculpture of a cricketer in bronze, as if that would somehow make it okay.  I met the old club groundsman there and he told me that where they had sited it was actually nowhere near the wicket.”

They determine eventually that the pitch on which Tony Greig was once out attempting a fifth consecutive six lies in what is now a covered mall, between Boots and River Island.

It is a scene Chris re-enacts elsewhere on his journey, notably in an Asda store in Lancashire, where the Rochdale Cricket Club secretary, Alistair Bolingbroke, pinpoints the spot where generations of the town’s batsmen would have taken guard against West Indian professionals from Learie Constantine through Roy Gilchrist and Sonny Ramadhin to Joel Garner and Colin Croft, at what was once the club‘s Dane Street ground.

“Alistair showed me his off drive next to the meat counter as I tried to imagine what it would have been like for those club cricketers facing West Indian pros in the Lancashire League.”

Some magnificent photographs will invoke poignant memories, although the hankering after times past has to be set against the knowledge that in some cases there would be no club at all now but for lucrative deals to sell off prime sites.

“You can understand in those cases why the clubs move out,” Chris says. “They get a good pay-off from a developer which safeguards the future of the club but more often than not they will move to a modern sports centre or some other soulless ground that just doesn’t have the character of their old home.

“It is a shame because cricket is part of our national identity and the old grounds have so many stories.”

His personal favourites come from the stately surroundings of Stanford Hall, a Georgian mansion set in a vast estate on the Nottinghamshire-Leicestershire border which became famed in the inter-war years of the last century as the most prestigious country house cricket venue in the country.

“It was owned by Sir Julien Cahn, who had made his fortune selling furniture on hire purchase and bankrolled Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club between the wars.

“What I really liked about this story is that Sir Julien would pay for the world’s top cricketers to come and play for him and be entertained at lavish parties.  In many cases these players were just ordinary blokes and they really would go away with stories of wine, women and song laid on at Sir Julien’s expense.

“But he did not want only to watch the world’s finest cricketers in action, he wanted to be on the field with them.

“Yet he was no player.  He went to the crease wearing inflatable pads, blown up to such a pressure that if the ball hit them it would bounce off like a tennis ball against a wall.

“He was described as the slowest bowler ever seen in first-class cricket, so slow that JM Barrie, who worked in Nottingham as a journalist before going on to write Peter Pan, once said that if he didn’t like a particular delivery he could run after it and fetch it back.”

Chris also tells the story of how Cahn once tried to persuade Harold Larwood, the Nottinghamshire bowled who became unwittingly infamous because of the Bodyline series, to apologise for his part in the furore caused by his bowling, even though he had only followed his captain‘s instructions.

“It was not clear why Sir Julien did this but the theory was that as a Jewish man who had made his money from trade he felt the need to ingratiate himself with the MCC at a time when snobbery and anti-Semitism were rife among the English upper classes.

“Larwood, to his credit, declined the invitation.”

Cahn died in 1944, after which Stanford Hall was bought by the Co-operative Union and the cricket field continued to host village cricket. The Co-op sold the site in 2001, since when the old pavilion has survived plans to convert the hall to an hotel and to build apartments.  The estate recently changed hands again, passing into the ownership of Britain’s wealthiest landlord, the Duke of Westminster, who wants to create a rehabilitation centre for wounded servicemen.

Chris is thinking now about a follow-up project along similar lines with lost football grounds as its subject.  If it is as engaging and thoroughly readable as Britain’s Lost Cricket Grounds, it will be one to look forward to.

Buy Britain's Lost Cricket Grounds: Forty Hallowed Homes of Cricket That Will Never See Another Ball Bowled direct from Amazon

Browse more cricket books at The Sports Bookshelf Shop

Chris Arnot is also the co-author, with script writer Simon Frith, of The Archers Archives.



Now Michael Vaughan has his say over Swann's Pietersen comments

Nothing helps a book sell more than a little controversy and Graeme Swann’s remarks about Kevin Pietersen’s captaincy of the England cricket team will have done no harm in shifting copies of his autobiography, The Breaks Are Off.

After England coach Andy Flower raised the book’s profile by expressing his views on the matter last week, former skipper Michael Vaughan has had his two penn’orth, echoing Flower’s sentiments.

In the book, Swann described Pietersen as “a good player, a really fine batsman, but never the right man to captain England”.

For all Pietersen's talent, Swann added, the controversial star was “not one of those natural leaders.”

Flower‘s view is that it is "not a good idea for current players to be talking about their fellow players."

Now Vaughan has come down on the same side of the argument, criticising the Nottinghamshire off-spinner for speaking out of school.

Speaking to the sportinglife.com website, Vaughan said: "When you make comments on individual players that you've played with, what gain has Graeme Swann got or the team got from him mentioning that?

"Andy Flower won't be happy because he likes to keep a very tight ship. He hates anything getting leaked out and he'll be immensely disappointed with what Swann had to say about KP."

Pietersen did not strike many commentators as exactly made for the role when he was named as Vaughan’s successor as captain in August 2008, although he started his reign with a Test win over South Africa followed by a 4-0 one-day series success against the same opponents.

But his relationship with then coach Peter Moores quickly broke down and he resigned the following January.

In this website’s view, Swann’s comments are hardly outrageous and I have not noticed Pietersen disagreeing with them, at least in public.  Moreover, Flower insists that the relationship between the players -- currently on tour in India together -- has not been affected.

Ironically, assuming the footnote after the Sporting Life story is there for the usual reason, Vaughan made his remarks during an interview to publicise England - Top Of The World, a DVD in which he and current Test captain Andrew Strauss look back at the 2011 Test series against India.

Buy The Breaks are Off - My Autobiography, by Graeme Swann, direct from Amazon.

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Trueman biography reveals real story of 'the finest bloody fast bowler that ever drew breath'

Fred Trueman’s memorable contention that he was ‘the finest bloody fast bowler that ever drew breath’ was made tongue-in-cheek by the great Yorkshire and England cricketer but to his army of admirers in the 1950s and 60s it was a boast he would have been quite entitled to make.

The quotation found its way into cricket folklore 40 years ago after John Arlott wrote Fred: Portrait of a Fast Bowler.  Trueman, taking the view, one imagines, that ‘fast bowler’ was hardly an adequate description, jokingly suggested that his version would have done a better job.

Yet serious or otherwise, the phrase rang true and still does with many Yorkshire supporters, who should seek out the new portrait just published by Aurum Press.

Fred Trueman: The Authorised Biography is the product of long and painstaking research by Chris Waters, the cricket correspondent of the Yorkshire Post, who sought to look beyond the brash, Jack-the-lad image that Trueman was once happy to live up to and find the truth.

It was something even Arlott, for all his perceptiveness, did not quite manage.  His book, while recognising some of the complexities of the real Trueman, was largely concerned with his playing career.

Waters, driven by journalistic curiosity, delved deeper into Trueman’s childhood and looked more closely at his life away from the cricket field, talking to scores of colleagues, relatives and acquaintances within and beyond the game to paint a picture of his character and what shaped it.

It describes the extraordinary circumstances into which Trueman was born, for example, and debunks the myth that Fred was a fearsome drinker, revealing too that while his conduct during his first marriage was far from saintly he was, behind the façade, an emotionally vulnerable man whose marriage to his widow, Veronica, is said by some friends to have saved his life.

For those interested to learn more, the Yorkshire Post has  been running some fascinating edited extracts in a three-part series.

Earlier this year, The Sports Bookshelf carried an exclusive interview with Chris Waters about the writing of his book, which you can read here.

Buy Fred Trueman: The Authorised Biography direct from Amazon.

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Why I'm Not Really Here should really be there among contenders for William Hill prize

The contenders for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year include some fine additions to the genre but as ever there are omissions that make talking points.

One is former Manchester City footballer Paul Lake’s excellent autobiography, I'm Not Really Here, the absence of which from the William Hill longlist published earlier this month is lamented by Brian Viner in today’s Independent.

Viner interviewed Lake, a brilliant midfielder whose career was wrecked by a knee injury before he could realise his enormous potential, at City’s Etihad Stadium ahead of this weekend’s Manchester derby and noted that his subject was feeling “a little deflated” on the day they met.

He writes: “The long list of contenders for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award has just been announced, and his book isn't on it. It should be. It's the best football autobiography I've read since Paul McGrath's Back From The Brink, and a similarly heart-rending chronicle of the vicissitudes of a sporting life.”

Now 42, Lake was forced to hang up his boots at the age of 27 after six years of operations, rehabilitation and failed comebacks.   No one knows what he might have achieved had he not suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in September, 1990.

Although Lake is back in the City fold as an ambassador in the community, his book highlights how the decisions made by the club during his treatment effectively wrecked his chances of rebuilding his career on the field.

He does, at least, have one very special memory of his time as a player, even though it was so badly limited, having been part of the City team -- indeed, a very influential part -- that beat United 5-1 in the 1989 derby at Maine Road, which remains one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s biggest humblings.

City fans can meet Paul Lake at the Waterstones store in the Stamford Quarter, Altrincham on Saturday, October 22. Paul will be signing copies of I'm Not Really Here from 10.30 – 11.30am.

I'm Not Really Here: A Life of Two Halves is published by Century.

Further reading -- Poignant tale of the player who might have been Manchester City's greatest star

William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2011 -- the longlist

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Fans of retiring David Haye will not be kept waiting to revisit ups and downs of champion's career

After David Haye’s announcement that he is quitting the boxing ring with immediate effect, fans at least will not have to wait long to relive his career.

The former WBA world heavyweight champion, who lost his title to Wladimir Klitschko in Hamburg in July, tells his story in Making Haye, the authorised biography, which will be published on October 27th by Quercus.

Making Haye claims to offer ‘behind-the-scenes, never-before-told insights into some of the most pivotal ring wars of David Haye's turbulent, and at times controversial, professional boxing career.’

Don’t expect it to be too critical, however.  The author, Elliott Worsell, a boxing journalist who has followed Haye’s career since he was fighting as an amateur 10 years ago, is also the main contributor and features editor for Haye's official magazine, Hayemaker, and a close confidant of the Bermondsey-born fighter.

Nonetheless, admirers of the charismatic champion, who now plans to turn his talents towards an acting career, will enjoy every chapter.

Browse more boxing books


Swann recalls how a bloody nose from Darren Gough marked his debut as an England cricket tourist

After a late update to include his temporary elevation to England captain (for last month’s two Twenty20 matches against West Indies), cricketer Graeme Swann’s autobiography hits the bookstands this week.

As a foretaste, readers of The Sun can learn in today’s edition how the Nottinghamshire off-spinner’s first England tour included a painful late-night collision with teammate Darren Gough’s fist.

The incident occurred during a difficult period in the player’s career.  Picked to tour South Africa as a 20-year-old, Swann failed the essential requirement for a happy trip by falling out of favour with coach Duncan Fletcher and subsequently suffered homesickness.

He was eager to be a popular tourist in a social sense but his antics did not impress all of his colleagues, Gough apparently among them as their encounter in the toilets of a Johannesburg hotel would seem to suggest.

At 32, Swann is now an established star of the England team and is twice an Ashes winner.  But he had to endure a seven-year wait between his first appearance for England and his second and The Brakes Are Off reveals the true nature of his relationship with Fletcher.

Swann wrote the book with the help of journalist Richard Gibson, who will be hoping for another best seller after the success of Start the Car, his collaboration with TV commentator David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd.

Gibson is currently working with England fast bowler James Anderson on another cricket autobiography.

Graeme Swann: The Breaks are Off - My Autobiography is published by Hodder and Stoughton.  Buy direct from Amazon.

Download the Kindle version

Read today’s extract in The Sun

Buy Start the Car: The World According to Bumble in paperback or Kindle edition



Michael Johnson enjoys the Bounce effect with Gold Rush in running for Bookie prize

After the success of Bounce, the thesis on what makes a champion that won Matthew Syed the best new writer prize at this year’s British Sports Book Awards, another slice of analysis is in the running for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2011.

This time it comes from Michael Johnson, four-times Olympic champion turned commentator and motivational speaker, who has interviewed the collective winners of more than 50 Olympic gold medals in his search for the factors that set winning athletes apart from others.

Gold Rush, which draws on 400-metre star Johnson’s own career and on interviews with Usain Bolt, Carl Lewis, Seb Coe, Ian Thorpe, Steve Redgrave and Michael Jordan among others, is on a longlist of 14 for the award dubbed the ‘Bookie Prize’, which has a cash prize of £23,000, making it the richest award of its type in the world.

Competition for Johnson includes cyclist David Millar, for his autobiography Racing Through the Dark, and award-winning sportswriter Patrick Collins, whose Among the Fans, based on a year spent observing a range of different sports and their supporters, is a first offering from the new imprint, Wisden Sports Writing.

Other notable contenders include  A Life Too Short by Ronald Reng, which tells the tragic story of German national goalkeeper Robert Enke, who took his own life at just 32 years of age.

"Get in There!", the biography of the great England centre forward Tommy Lawton, co-written by his son, Tommy junior, with former Nottingham Evening Post editor Barrie Williams, joins Carlo Ancelotti’s autobiography, The Beautiful Games of an Ordinary Genius, among a strong football representation, and there is a place too for Babysitting George, journalist Celia Walden‘s recollection of an unusual professional relationship with George Best.

Journalist Bella Bathurst’s wide-ranging The Bicycle Book is a more left-field choice, as is Into The Arena, Alexander Fiske-Harrison’s portrait of bullfighting in Spain.

Congratulations are due to Bill Jones, whose biography of 'Ghost Runner' John Tarrant, the athlete who would gatecrash major road races after he was banned for professionalism, is deservedly on the list, and to Dave Roberts, a supporter of The Sports Bookshelf, after his 32 Programmes, about the survivors of the football programme cull he had to undertake when he and his wife upped sticks to move to America, was also chosen.

The longlist In Full:

Carlo Ancelotti: The Beautiful Games of an Ordinary Genius by Carlo Ancelotti with Alessandro Alciato (Rizzoli International Publications)

The Bicycle Book by Bella Bathurst (HarperPress)

Among the Fans: From Ashes to Arrows, a Year of Watching the Watchers by Patrick Collins (Wisden Sports Writing)

Into The Arena: The World of the Spanish Bullfight by Alexander Fiske-Harrison (Profile Books)

Gold Rush: What Makes an Olympic Champion? by Michael Johnson (HarperSport)

The Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Stop
by Bill Jones (Mainstream Publishing)

Racing Through the Dark: The Fall and Rise of David Millar by David Millar (Orion)

The Smell of Football by Mick Rathbone (Vision Sports Publishing)

A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke by Ronald Reng (Yellow Jersey Press)

32 Programmesby Dave Roberts (Bantam Press)

The Following Game by Jonathan Smith (Peridot Press)

Babysitting George by Celia Walden (Bloomsbury)

"Get in There!": Tommy Lawton - My Friend, My Father by Barrie Williams and Tommy Lawton Junior (Vision Sports Publishing)

Behind the Boundary: Cricket at a Crossroads by Graeme Wright (A & C Black)

The judging panel for this year's award consists of broadcaster and writer John Inverdale; award-winning journalist Hugh McIlvanney; broadcaster Danny Kelly; and columnist and author, Alyson Rudd. Chairman of the judging panel is John Gaustad, co-creator of the award and founder of the Sportspages bookshop.

The shortlist will be announced on October 28th and the winner will be revealed at a lunchtime reception at Waterstones Piccadilly (London), Europe’s largest bookstore, on November 28th.