20111230

Ridley marks milestone with crafted chronicle of the Premier League

Recommended in football books

Two decades ago, to mark the last season of English professional football in its traditional single-league, four-division structure, sports writer Ian Ridley embarked on a journey around the domestic game, from the top right down to grassroots level.

He aimed to capture a snapshot of football at what he knew was a watershed moment in its history, with the birth of the Premier League about to bring about a transformation.  His book, Season in the Cold, won critical acclaim.

At that point, football in England was in crisis, tainted by hooliganism, with attendances in decline at antiquated stadiums, and debts on the rise.  These were the factors which had collided catastrophically in two disasters, at Bradford and Hillsborough.  The Taylor Report into the latter, its recommendations leading to the compulsory development of all-seater stadia, had set the wheels of change in motion but the establishment of the Premier League and the riches generated by the new cash cow of satellite television would take change to a whole new level.

Now Ridley has retraced his steps to paint a new, updated picture of the state of the game in a sequel, There's a Golden Sky.   As in 1991-92, he analyses the state of the top clubs, but also stops off at many places further down the football pyramid, such as Crewe and Blackpool and Portsmouth, and takes the pulse of the non-League game for which, as former chairman of Weymouth and the current chairman of St Albans City, he has a particular affection.

He finds football at the highest level enjoying unprecedented wealth, the leading players earning astronomical rewards, yet ponders whether it has lost touch with reality. There's a Golden Sky, which takes its title from the opening verse of the football anthem, You'll Never Walk Alone, includes some fascinating interviews, including the chairmen of Wembley FC and Truro City and the Chelsea supremo, Bruce Buck, referee Mark Halsey and fallen star Paul Gascoigne.  He revisit’s the Doncaster Belles women’s team and searches for the soul of the game back on Hackney Marshes.

There's a Golden Sky serves as a history of football in the last 20 years, chronicled by one of the best writers working in football today.

Ian Ridley began his career as an editorial assistant on Building magazine and was sports editor at the Worksop Guardian before joining the Hemel Hempstead Evening Post Echo.  His first post on a national newspaper was with the Guardian and he has since written for the Daily Telegraph, the Independent on Sunday, the Observer, the Mail on Sunday and the Daily Express.

In addition to Season in the Cold, His previous books include biographies of Eric Cantona and Kevin Keegan and Floodlit Dreams, which described his term as chairman of Southern League club Weymouth.  He has also collaborated on autobiographies with Tony Adams, Paul Merson and Steve Claridge.


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