20111129

Punditry reaping the benefits as Red Nev takes his love of an argument from page to screen

Sports books for Christmas

Gary Neville’s studio manner might need polishing but the former Manchester United captain and England defender winning over the sceptics as a media commentator for his willingness to engage in meaningful debate.

It struck a positive note, certainly, with the Independent’s venerable columnist James Lawton, who described Neville’s verbal jousting with the wise but prickly Graeme Souness during the Sky Sports coverage of Liverpool’s match against Manchester City on Sunday as something that “should be weighed in gold” by their bosses “blowing away the studio double-talk that has tumbled so relentlessly down the years.”

In Neville’s case, he has picked up where he left off, to an extent, in his autobiography Red, which has been one of the top sellers in sports books during 2011.

** Sports Book Deals in Amazon's 12 days of Christmas promotion **


Red was notable for the way in which Neville -- England's shop steward during the Rio Ferdinand strike threat -- did not shy away from taking aim at some very high profile targets, in particular the managers he served during an 85-cap international career that, he said, felt at times like “a massive waste of time”.

Glenn Hoddle, Kevin Keegan, Sven-Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren all suffered a broadside.  Terry Venables was spared but even Fabio Capello, who had Neville in his squad for a couple of games without picking him in the team, did not escape, despite initially making a good impression.

Neville lambasted Hoddle for his embracing of faith healer Eileen Drewery, Keegan for taking England back to the era of card games and race nights, Eriksson for being in thrall to David Beckham and McClaren for then kicking Beckham out.

Not surprisingly, his views on Sir Alex Ferguson are somewhat less obviously critical but this is not so much out of fear as unapologetic admiration.

Red is one of a dozen or so sports books featuring in Amazon’s ‘12 days of Christmas’ promotion, which runs until December 11th and offers discounts of up to 65 per cent.

Manchester United fans are particularly well catered for.  The lavishly illustrated Paul Scholes autobiography, Scholes: My Story, is another on the list.  Scholes was a media shy man of few public words during his playing career and the words, written with the aid of experienced football scribe Ivan Ponting, can hardly be compared with Gary Neville’s as a source of insightful controversy.  Yet My Story, while dominated by photographs, has been praised for reflecting Scholes’s mischievous sense of humour and his undoubted pleasure at being part of the Manchester United family.

The ginger midfielder’s love for United would make him an ideal candidate to receive a gift-wrapped copy of Sir Alex Ferguson: The Official Manchester United Story of 25 Years at The Top, the club’s own tribute of Fergie’s quarter of a century at Old Trafford.

Ivan Ponting also collaborated with former United legend Denis Law in another picture-led story, crafting Law’s comments to make pleasant, good-humoured reading between the illustrations in Denis Law: My Life in Football.
Pictures feature heavily, too, in Glorious: My World, Football and Me, which allows Paul Gascoigne to describe the moments and events that he feels defined his career in his own voice.

Readers looking for a more absorbing narrative away from football will be attracted by Rafa: My Story, in which the accomplished interviewer and writer John Carlin coaxes out some deep insight into the mind of Spanish tennis champion Rafael Nadal, revealing much of the emotional side of a player noted for guarding his privacy, and details about the home life of which Nadal had not spoken before.

Racing Through the Dark, the take-no-prisoners story of the doping culture in cycling that shape the career of David Millar, offers an even more gripping and gritty tale, one that was short listed for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2011, while Tony McCoy, 16-times champion jockey and winner of every major National Hunt racing prize, has been short listed for William Hill Irish Sports Book of the Year for My Autobiography  (his second, in fact),  written with the help of the Irish racing journalist and broadcaster Donn McClean.

The promotion offers a couple of titles with Olympics fans in mind in the shape of Gold Rush, an analysis of what makes an Olympic champion conducted by four-times Olympic gold medallist Michael Johnson, and Sir Steve Redgrave’s choice of Great Olympic Moments.

Lawrence Dallaglio’s World Cup Rugby Tales might seem a little tame in the light of the shame brought upon themselves by England players at the latest tournament but the former England captain will nonetheless delight rugby fans who prefer their anecdotes with traditional earthiness but a little less controversy.

And no football fan’s Christmas stocking would be the poorer for the presence of The Worst Football Kits of All Time, Dave Moor’s full-colour celebration of some of the most outrageous strips foisted upon the poor players and bemused supporters, even before commercial pressures drove designers to outrageous lengths to boost replica sales.  Some of the horrors were those worn by Victorian gentleman long before club shops were even imagined.

The full list of titles.  Click on the link to buy.

Red: My Autobiography, by Gary Neville (Bantam Press)
Scholes: My Story, by Paul Scholls (Simon & Schuster)
Sir Alex Ferguson: The Official Manchester United Story of 25 Years at The Top (Simon & Schuster)
Denis Law: My Life in Football, by Denis Law and Ivan Ponting (Simon & Schuster)
Glorious: My World, Football and Me, by Paul Gascoigne (Simon & Schuster)
Rafa: My Story, by Rafael Nadal and John Carlin (Sphere)
Racing Through the Dark: The Fall and Rise of David Millar, by David Millar (Orion)
A.P. McCoy: My Autobiography, by A.P. McCoy (Orion)
Gold Rush, by Michael Johnson (HarperSport)
Great Olympic Moments, by Steve Redgrave (Headline)
World Cup Rugby Tales, by Lawrence Dallaglio (Simon & Schuster)
The Worst Football Kits of All Time, by Dave Moor (The History Press)

To browse more sports books for Christmas, visit The Sports Bookshelf Shop

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