20110628

The greatest tennis rivalry: Federer v Nadal or Borg v McEnroe?

by Jon Culley


Men’s tennis in 2011 may be unsurpassed in terms of technical brilliance and the 2008 Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal has every right to be called the greatest tennis match of all time.

But debate continues over whether Federer-Nadal is the supreme rivalry of the modern tennis era or whether that distinction still belongs to John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg.

Nostalgia clouds the argument, of course.  Stephen Tignor’s new book about the Borg-McEnroe era is therefore a welcome text, describing the revolutionary development of the game in the 1970s and 80s within a historical perspective.

High Strung: Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, and the Untold Story of Tennis's Fiercest Rivalry is first and foremost Tignor’s attempt to evaluate the summers of 1980 and 1981, during which the ice-cool Swede and the combustible American collided in two Wimbledon and two US Open finals, culminating in the moment at which Borg, in an extraordinary breach of protocol, walked straight out of the Louis Armstrong Stadium at Flushing Meadows after losing to McEnroe in the 1981 US final, not stopping even to pick up the loser’s trophy.

With that gesture, the previously stoical Borg, a gentleman of the game when compared with the brash, mouthy, rebellious McEnroe, effectively brought down the curtain on his own career and marked the end of a golden era.

Tignor’s book narrates that period, beginning with their epic 1980 Wimbledon final, famous for the 22-minute fourth-set tie-break on which the match turned in Borg’s favour, and ends with the four-set McEnroe win in New York that prompted Borg’s dramatic exit, his fourth losing final in 10 failed attempts to conquer America.

But it is about more than two players.  Central to the story are the other great characters of the period, players such as Jimmy Connors, Vitas Gerulaitis and Ilie Nastase, charismatic men to whom the sport owed a level of international popularity it had never previously enjoyed.

The book retraces the evolution of tennis between 1971 to 1981, as it left behind the age of amateurs and gentleman that still prevailed as late as 1968, and embraced a new culture involving agents and merchandise deals and self-centred professionalism.

It was an era that also introduced Pancho Gonzalez, Ivan Lendl, Roscoe Tanner and Arthur Ashe and accelerated the technical development of tennis to such an extent that Borg and McEnroe became dinosaurs, more or less, even before reaching a level of maturity which, by today’s markers, would put them in their prime.  McEnroe, the last player to win the US Open using a wooden racket, did not win a major beyond the age of 25, his transition to the new midsize metal-framed racquet favoured by Lendl coming too late for him to reclaim his pre-eminence.

Wearing his heart on his sleeve and prone to tantrums of a kind not previously witnessed on the well-mannered lawns of south-east London, McEnroe rocked the tennis establishment so violently that some would have had him barred from the All-England Club.

But he and Borg and their contemporaries gave tennis the popularity it enjoys today and Tignor, executive editor of Tennis magazine, sets their time in its proper context.

High Strung is published in the UK by Harper-Collins.

Buy High Strung: Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, and the Untold Story of Tennis's Fiercest Rivalry direct from Amazon.

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20110620

Harold Abrahams book places question mark over Bannister's mile record

Author Mark Ryan’s acclaimed biography of the Chariots of Fire hero Harold Abrahams contains the startling revelation that the landmark moment in athletics history at which Roger Bannister became the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes might have been ruled invalid.

Abrahams, who won the 100 metres gold medal at the Paris Olympics of 1924, went on to become a journalist and than an administrator and as such one of the sport’s most influential voices.

He was a key figure as one of the official timekeepers when Bannister completed the Iffley Road course on May 6th, 1954 in three minutes 59.4 seconds

Ryan’s research for the book, Running With Fire (JR Books), included extensive consultation with experts and it was at a meeting with two of them, the former Athletics Weekly editor and statistician Mel Watman, and the athletics historian Kevin Kelly, that evidence came to light that could have led to the legitimacy of the record being challenged.

It was the role of Abrahams that came into question as the experts studied the record certificate and photographs taken at the time. Watman had the official certificate with Harold Abrahams clearly shown as one of the three timekeepers, but Kelly had a photograph -- reproduced in Ryan's book -- showing that Abrahams was not standing where he should have been to perform the duties of a timekeeper, namely by the finish line.

Ryan explained: “I found myself in an email conversation between these two experts in which Kevin was saying ‘No, he can’t have been an official timekeeper.  I’ve even got photographs of him showing that he was not standing by the line, by the finishing tape’ and Mel was replying along the lines of ‘Well, you may have those photos but I’ve got the official certificate saying he was a timekeeper.‘

“It may sound ridiculous but it felt at the time like it was a Woodward and Bernstein moment.  I was thinking ‘whoa -- this was the four-minute mile, one of the most famous moments in athletics history and it looked like something was amiss in the way it was officiated.’”

The discovery prompted a discussion between the author and the experts over what they should do about what they had happened upon and whether it should be queried.

“We had a talk but we decided that we couldn’t do that to Roger Bannister,” Ryan said. "We were sure that he had run the mile under four minutes.

"But we were honour-bound nonetheless to point out that the officiating was, shall we say, irregular.”

Buy Running With Fire direct from Amazon

To browse more sports books, visit The Sports Bookshelf Shop.

Read a full interview with Mark Ryan.

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Versatile Ryan breathes new fire into the life of Harold Abrahams

Mark Ryan fervently believes that a good journalist should be able to turn his or her hand to any subject, regardless of prior knowledge, and seems to have proved his point with his biography of Harold Abrahams, the British sprinter immortalised in the movie, Chariots of Fire

Ryan’s new book Running With Fire: The Harold Abrahams Story has already won acclaim in the athletics world for the depth and accuracy of the author’s research as well as the quality of the writing and yet the Mail on Sunday sports writer admits he began the project as something of a novice in the subject.

“I’d done a bit of athletics but not a heck of a lot and I’m certainly no expert,” he said. “But I loved Chariots of Fire and when I began thinking about a book I might do with the 2012 Olympics coming up I found that while there had been books written on Eric Liddell there was nothing about Harold Abrahams.

“I never thought I wasn’t qualified to do it because I’m a hard worker and as a journalist if you put your heart and soul into something, you can do anything.

“I wrote a spy book about the Danish resistance and I knew nothing about that when I started.  But by the time I had finished I was able to point out mistakes in the Museum of Danish Resistance in Copenhagen.”

Ryan’s back catalogue shows his versatility.   He has written biographies of tennis star Justine Henin and England football manager Fabio Capello, and a book about the USA rugby team and their shock success at the 1924 Paris Olympics, entitled For The Glory. His spy story, The Hornet’s Sting, focused on the extraordinary life of Tommy Sneum, the Danish aviator who became a wartime espionage agent for Britain.

Abrahams, who was also a headline-maker at the 1924 Games,  was a massive figure in athletics, not only for beating the American favourites to win the 100m in Paris but in his subsequent years as a journalist and an athletics administrator.  He was one of the timekeepers when Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile at Oxford in 1954.

He was also a proud guardian of athletics history and a stickler for accuracy.  Ryan was determined to do justice to his life and rather than take chances with sketchy facts he made sure he had genuine experts he could call on to supply essential detail and put right any errors.

“I’ve been really, really lucky to have lots of experts helping me, which was one of the big joys of doing the project.   They included Mel Watman, who used to be editor of Athletics Weekly and is part of the National Union of Track Statisticians.  He lives and breathes athletics and he was absolutely brilliant, looking through everything to make sure I didn’t make mistakes.

“There was Peter Lovesey, who is a successful novelist and athletics historian as well, and Kevin Kelly from Herne Hill Harriers.  They and others were just fantastic in making sure the author did not make an idiot of himself.

“It was a fantastic education for me, I absolutely loved it. I hope there is a freshness and enthusiasm to it that perhaps comes from not having spent your whole life in the sport, and from the excitement of learning new things.

“I felt the pressure, the pressure to do Harold Abrahams proud and do the right thing by him.  Fortunately, Sue Pottle, his adopted daughter, and all the family members have come back to me and said how happy they are with it.

“And one of the athletics historians said it was the best athletics biography he’d ever read.  That sounds like me blowing my own trumpet but it was such a thrill to hear him say that.”

Ryan’s research revealed the depth and complexity of Abrahams as a man and he was captivated by the story of the athlete’s difficult romance with the British opera singer, Sybil Evers, which took place not only while Abrahams, by now a journalist, was at personal risk by travelling to Hitler’s Germany as a Jew, but while he was also undergoing psychotherapy because of a phobic fear of marriage.

“Abrahams was going to the Berlin as a Jew reporting for the BBC, who did not want him to go because they were scared of offending Hitler, incredibly,” Ryan said.  “He went under his own steam but while this was going on his the love letters show that he was in therapy, totally phobic about marriage, incredibly mentally fragile.

“And yet he had this fantastic woman, his opera singer fiancee, supporting him, being very patient with him, trying to reassure him that their relationship would be okay and would not all end in heartbreak.   I found myself being almost jealous because the strength of that relationship was amazing.

“It is a wonderful story. He went to the Hitler Olympics and his description of Jack Lovelock’s victory in the mile became one of the iconic pieces of commentary because he became so emotional about the race he began cheering Lovelock on like a supporter, exclaiming when he won ‘my God, he’s done it’.

“Nobody had ever behaved like that before at the BBC and it created such waves that he came back triumphant on a professional level and at the end of that year summoned the courage to marry Sybil Evers.

“It was done at two days’ notice, with no relatives invited, a sudden, spontaneous thing because they knew that if they made a big deal about it he would get the phobia and not be able to do it.”

Abrahams suffered less for his Jewishness than some might suppose, in Ryan’s estimation.

“Chariots of Fire was true in that there was anti-semitism but there was probably less than the film suggested,” he said.

“He suffered anti-semitism at school in Repton and to a lesser extent at Cambridge,” he said.  “Overall he did not suffer anti-semitism all that much but what he did was to use such anti-semitism as he did suffer to his advantage.

“He sort of had a switch inside his head -- if he needed the anger, the fire in him to run, he would call upon any perceived anti-semitism.  He admitted once that even when he was not suffering anti-semitism he would imagine that he was, wondering whether when anything went wrong in his life it was because he was Jewish.

“There was a moment before he ran the 100m final in Paris, when the American section of the crowd was cheering for Jackson Scholz and Charlie Paddock, that Harold employed this mechanism in his brain where he would say to himself ‘everybody hates me, but I’m used to that from the anti-semitism and I will use that anger to help me win the race’.

“That’s the way he thought.  I think he fed more off the American fans and the feeling of alienation that he was used to than any British support he had there.”

Ryan hopes Running With Fire, published by JR Books, will find an audience in the run-up to London 2012, when the re-release of Chariots of Fire will focus new attention on Abrahams and his contemporaries.

“In a way, it would make a nice sequel.  I have approached a few production companies for the BBC about maybe taking the events of 1936 and turning them into a drama-documentary.

“To me, the idea of a very mentally fragile Jewish guy going to the most frightening place in the world at the time, with his romance almost crumbling due to his phobias, and yet somehow turning it all around and coming out on top, is such an amazing story.”

Buy Running With Fire: The Harold Abrahams Story

Mark Ryan’s other books are:

Justine Henin: From Tragedy to Triumph
Fabio Capello: The Boss
For the Glory: Two Olympics, Two Wars, Two Heroes
World Rugby, The Greatest Rugby Moments & Players of the Last 100 Years
and
The Hornet's Sting: The Amazing Untold Story of Britain's Second World War Spy Thomas Sneum


To browse more sports books, visit The Sports Bookshelf Shop.

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20110613

Promised Land is your choice as Sports Book of the Year

Anthony Clavane’s book Promised Land: The Reinvention of Leeds United is the public’s choice as Sports Book of the Year.

As readers of The Sports Bookshelf will know, eight category winners at the 2011 British Sports Book Awards were put to the vote in an online poll, which closed yesterday.

The Awards organisers announced today that Clavane’s book, which brilliantly interweaves social and football history, had come out on top in the poll, beating ‘61: The Spurs Double and Beware of the Dog, by Brian Moore, into second and third places respectively.

Promised Land won the Best Football Book award when the judges’ verdicts were revealed at the Savoy Hotel last month. ‘61: The Spurs Double was named Best Illustrated Title and Beware of the Dog crowned Best Autobiography.

Sunday Mirror journalist Clavane, born in Leeds but who now lives in Wivenhoe, Essex, said: “It is really pleasing that the book has won the public vote. I’m glad it appears to have had an appeal beyond football.

“It took me a few years to research and write, but I wanted to pay tribute to the community I came from.  I’ve found the story of my city and its team to be a fascinating one and it’s nice to see that many people outside Leeds think so too.”

Rowan Yapp, from publishers Yellow Jersey Press, said: “Promised Land is a brilliant piece of storytelling and we are thrilled it is Sports Book of the Year.

“To write about not only your football club but also your city, your ancestors and what shaped you is an ambitious undertaking. To do this with such passion, humour and humanity on every page is a really great achievement.”

An updated, paperback version of Promised Land, freshly subtitled 'A Northern Love Story' will be available from July 7th.

The British Sports Book Awards exist to celebrate the best in sports books of all kinds.  About 50 publishers submit books for consideration, and a panel of sports journalists, pundits and ex-professional sportsmen determine the best of those put forward.  The 2011 awards were the ninth so far.

Read an interview with Anthony Clavane.

BUY Promised Land: The Reinvention of Leeds United or
PRE-ORDER the paperback edition Promised Land: A Northern Love Story

Read more about the British Sports Book Awards

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20110611

Vote for your favourite sports book and win £50 in book tokens

Tomorrow is the last chance to win £50 in National Book Tokens by voting for your favourite sports book from among the winners at the British Sports Book Awards, announced earlier this month.  Follow the link to an online form to register your vote an be entered automatically into a draw.
To help you chose, The Sports Bookshelf is highlighting each of the eight contenders to be named the overall British Sports Book of the Year. Today's category winners:

BEST NEW WRITER

What are the hidden factors which allow the most successful sports stars to rise above their competitors? Are they shared by virtuosos in other fields?

Award-winning Times sportswriter Matthew Syed, a former Commonwealth table-tennis champion, seeks to discover what lies behind world-beating achievement in sport and other walks of life.  The answers - taking in the latest in neuroscience, psychology and economics - challenge conventional ideas about what it takes to become the best.

Syed debunks the cherished belief that some competitors are born brilliant and questions the idea that they can be restricted by genetic make-up or social background.  He discovers the impact on performance of intense religious belief, and why athletes and others ‘choke’

From the upbringing of Mozart to the mindset of Mohammed Ali - via the recruitment policies of Enron - Bounce weaves together stories, insights and statistics in a thought-provoking read.

Along the way, Syed talks to a Hungarian father whose educational theories helped his daughters become three of the best chess players of all time and explains why one small street in Reading - his own - has produced more top table-tennis players than the rest of Britain put together.

Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice

BEST RACING BOOK

The Story of Your Life is an intriguing and turbulent history of a newspaper Charles Dickens praised for its 'range of information and profundity of knowledge', and which Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, simply endorsed with the remark: 'Of course I read The Sporting Life'.

It was the Queen Mother's love of horseracing that made her such an avid reader of the Life and coverage of that sport forms the core of this book, but there is so much more to fascinate the reader including eyewitness accounts of the first fight for the heavyweight championship of the world and Captain Webb's heroic Channel swim of 1875.

The paper's strident campaigns for racing reforms are also chronicled along with its coverage of major news stories, from Fred Archer's shocking suicide to its own untimely demise.

Its travails in the law courts are documented from its first year, when it was forced to change its title, to its last, when it had to pay libel damages to the training team of Lynda and Jack Ramsden and their jockey, Kieren Fallon.

Buy The Story of Your Life: A History of "The Sporting Life" Newspaper (1859-1998)

BEST ILLUSTRATED TITLE

The officially endorsed pictorial record produced to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Tottenham Hotspur's famous League and Cup Double in 1961 -- the first 'Double' achieved in the modern era of football -- won the award for Best Illustrated Title.

Beautifully presented within its own real-cloth slipcase adorned in silver with the book's title and the iconic badge worn by the team during this historic season, 61: The Spurs Double showcases previously unseen photographs and memorabilia and tells the story of the season through original newspaper cuttings, tickets and match programmes.

Put together by the editorial team behind the Spurs Opus, the book was produced with the full co-operation of leading figures and the official approval of the club, who allowed unique access to the historical archives at White Hart Lane.

The 1961 Double was truly a remarkable feat given the competition the team faced that year. Unlike today, any one of 10 teams could be a contender for the league title and every top-flight team fancied their chances of winning the FA Cup.

Buy 61: The Spurs Double

Winners in the other categories were
Best Autobiography -- Beware of the Dog, by Brian Moore
Best Cricket Book  -- Slipless in Settle, by Harry Pearson
Best Football Book -- Promised Land, by Anthony Clavane
Best Rugby Book -- The Grudge, by Tom English
Best Biography -- Trautmann’s Journey, by Catrine Clay

Vote HERE for your favourite book from the winners of each of the award categories at the British Sports Book Awards at and you'll be entered -- free of charge -- in a draw to win £50 of National Book Tokens. Closing date June 12th. Full terms and conditions on the voting form.


VOTE NOW

To browse more books on sport, visit The Sports Bookshelf Shop.

Read about the other award winners.

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20110609

Vote for your favourite sports book and win £50 in book tokens

Times is running out for the chance to win £50 in National Book Tokens by voting for your favourite sports book from among the winners at the British Sports Book Awards, announced earlier this month.  Follow the link to an online form to register your vote an be entered automatically into a draw. The closing date is next Sunday, June 12th.
To help you chose, The Sports Bookshelf is highlighting each of the eight contenders to be named the overall British Sports Book of the Year. Today's category winner:

BEST RUGBY BOOK 

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, brought to a head when Scotland was identified as the testing ground for the introduction of the most notorious piece of taxation legislation in living memory, the Community Charge, otherwise known as the Poll Tax.


Poll Tax was Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's baby and was universally unpopular.  The view that it was inherently unfair was widespread but took on an extra dimension north of the border, where it was seen as an English tax.

Given that rugby, with its roots in the public school system, had maintained its place as the sport of the privately-educated, Conservative-voting, wealthier classes in the English social pyramid, it is not hard to grasp see why the England rugby team was seen as Thatcher’s team in the eyes of aggrieved Scots, with Will Carling -- himself an ex-public schoolboy and a City type -- her figurehead.

The when the two nations met in 1990, with the Calcutta Cup and the Five Nations Grand Slam at stake, the match was portrayed also as a snarling, brutish and all-conquering England against a downtrodden Scotland bent on revenge.

In the event, Scotland won 13-7 and English has told the story with astounding insight and unprecedented access to key players, coaches and supporters on both sides.

If (Martin) Johnson really wants to crank things up, he need only read aloud a few extracts from The Grudge, a quite outstanding new book by Tom English about the epic 1990 grand slam showdown. There was nothing remotely phoney about the antagonism between Scotland and England then – in Will Carling, Brian Moore and Margaret Thatcher the Scots had some choice pantomime villains. 
--- Robert Kitson, The Guardian. Read more…

Buy The Grudge: Scotland vs. England, 1990

Winners in the other categories were
Best Autobiography -- Beware of the Dog, by Brian Moore
Best Cricket Book  -- Slipless in Settle, by Harry Pearson
Best Football Book -- Promised Land, by Anthony Clavane
Best Biography -- Trautmann's Journey, by Catrine Clay
Best New Writer -- Bounce, by Matthew Syed
Best Racing Book -- The Story of Your Life, by James Lambie
Best Illustrated Title -- '61 The Spurs Double, by Doug Cheeseman, Martin Cloake and Adam Powley

Vote HERE for your favourite book from the winners of each of the award categories at the British Sports Book Awards at and you'll be entered -- free of charge -- in a draw to win £50 of National Book Tokens. Closing date June 12th. Full terms and conditions on the voting form.


VOTE NOW

To browse more books on rugby, visit The Sports Bookshelf Shop.

Read about the other award winners.

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20110607

Intimate story of the Beauty and George Best

WHAT THEY HAVE SAID ABOUT....Babysitting George, by Celia Walden


Celia Walden, beautiful, privately-educated, the daughter of a Conservative MP and, since June last year, wife of television personality and former newspaper editor Piers Morgan, would seem the ideal journalistic fit for Daily Telegraph, for whom she is now a columnist.

Her Thursday scribblings offer a commentary, with a sometimes caustic edge, on life, or at least on life towards the upper end of the social spectrum.  It is a long way from the kind of work she was assigned as a young reporter on the staff of the Mail on Sunday in 2003.

Very different indeed, for example, from the job handed to her on a Sunday morning late in the July of that year, which involved dropping everything to fly to Malta, where her task would be to ‘babysit’ the paper’s star columnist, one George Best.

As a 26-year-old girl with, by her own confession, "little interest in footballers or alcoholics and still less curiosity for the travails of an alcoholic former footballer," she seemed decidedly ill-suited to be minder for Best, who had been writing about life with his new, transplanted liver only for temptation to get the better of him again, culminating in his decision to flee London for a life of sun and chardonnay in a Mediterranean hiding place.

But Walden’s editor, aware that there is no such thing, feared his columnist might easily share his intoxicated thoughts with a rival paper willing to ply him with drink, and decided that a pretty, young, female reporter was the right person to ensure that it didn’t happen.

Given Best’s reputation as a lothario, regardless of how much alcohol was in his system, it seemed an unusual choice but Walden's good looks naturally aroused Best’s curiosity and enabled his unlikely guardian to establish a platonic but nonetheless intimate relationship with the fallen footballer.

She has now turned her recollections of that relationship into a book, Babysitting George, published by Bloomsbury.  In the words of the publishers, it is a “tender and beautifully written account of a unique relationship between a young journalist and a dying star, (which) questions the cold, exploitative nature of tabloid journalism, the terrifying, all-consuming nature of addiction and the deeply humane, implausible friendships that can change one's life forever.”

Here’s how it has been received by a number of reviewers:

Walden compellingly records a hero’s decline and decline: “Celebrities, for us,” she says, “exist solely to entertain and be judged. By the end of that summer, the entertainment had stopped and the judgments had been made. And after the expectation of his death came its anticipation.”
The last time she sees him is in a cheap hotel, and his appearance is so apt, and so aptly described, that you have to read it for yourself. It encapsulates a celebrity’s relationship with his own fame, which is this book’s achievement throughout.
-- Tom Payne, Daily Telegraph. Read more…

Celia Walden's new George Best-related memoir, often seems to be asking the question: is there anything more unappealing than a muck-raking tabloid journalist? Happily, the answer lies within its pages. There is something worse: muck-raking tabloid journalism with pretensions towards something grander….It is undoubtedly a sad tale and one that is made all the more so by the spectacle of Best being dug up once again and marched about the place in his vomit-caked dressing gown, obediently coughing up one last exclusive.
-- Barney Ronay, The Guardian.  Read more…

Even though this is a story we know, a strand of the nation's soap opera that ran for decades, Walden tells it with heart and insight. The Best she shows us was smarter than she let on to her journo friends. She knew what they wanted to hear: that he was a lech, a maniac, drunk as a skunk. That's what she'd tell them. But the real Best, with his sly intelligence, shy charm, sudden coldness - that, she shows us, was a different man altogether.  She's kind to him. She brings him back to a life mercifully free of red-top cliches.
-- David Robinson, The Scotsman. Read more…

Buy Babysitting George from Amazon.

Browse more football books at The Sports Bookshelf Shop.

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20110605

Vote for your favourite sports book and win £50 in book tokens


Why not take the chance to win £50 in National Book Tokens by voting for your favourite sports book from among the winners at the British Sports Book Awards, announced earlier this month!  Follow the link to an online form to register your vote an be entered automatically into a draw.
To help you chose, The Sports Bookshelf is highlighting each of the eight contenders to be named the overall British Sports Book of the Year. Today's category winner:

BEST BIOGRAPHY

Not surprisingly, there was nothing in Manchester City’s FA Cup win last month to compare with the drama of the 1956 final, never to be forgotten for the bravery of City goalkeeper Bert Trautmann, who completed the match despite breaking a bone in his neck.

The story retains its fascination, as publishers Yellow Jersey discovered when Catrine Clay’s examination of Trautmann’s life proved a hit with sports book readers after it was published in hardback last spring.

Trautmann's Journey won critical acclaim, too, making the shortlist of six for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award and subsequently earning the judges’ agreement as the best biography at the British Sports Book Awards.

Clay has focused on the story of the German footballer away from the field of play, leaving the part of his life for which Trautmann is best known until the final two chapters. 
It is the years that preceded Trautmann’s capture as a prisoner of war in 1945, which led to his arrival in Lancashire, that fascinated Clay, better known previously for making historical documentaries for television.

The Trautmann portrayed is a young man Clay believes was typical of his generation of Germans in being seduced by Nazism, a man whose physique and athletic ability made him in many ways the perfect fit for the Aryan ideal, and who embraced the ideals of the party without apology, yet who signed for a top-level English football club only four years after the end of the second world war.

Clay…uses Trautmann as an "everyman" figure to illustrate the experience of his generation of Germans. His story is told against, and intercut with, that of Germany's history from 1923, the year of his birth, to the end of the second world war. It is an ambitious, sophisticated scheme.
-- Huw Richards, The Guardian. Read more…

Buy Trautmann's Journey: From Hitler Youth to FA Cup Legend

Winners in the other categories were
Best Autobiography -- Beware of the Dog, by Brian Moore
Best Cricket Book  -- Slipless in Settle, by Harry Pearson
Best Football Book -- Promised Land, by Anthony Clavane
Best Rugby Book -- The Grudge, by Tom English
Best New Writer -- Bounce, by Matthew Syed
Best Racing Book -- The Story of Your Life, by James Lambie
Best Illustrated Title -- '61 The Spurs Double, by Doug Cheeseman, Martin Cloake and Adam Powley

Vote HERE for your favourite book from the winners of each of the award categories at the British Sports Book Awards at and you'll be entered -- free of charge -- in a draw to win £50 of National Book Tokens. Closing date June 12th. Full terms and conditions on the voting form.



To browse more books on football, visit The Sports Bookshelf Shop.

Read about the other award winners.





20110603

Vote for your favourite sports book and win £50 in book tokens

Why not take the chance to win £50 in National Book Tokens by voting for your favourite sports book from among the winners at the British Sports Book Awards, announced earlier this month!  Follow the link to an online form to register your vote an be entered automatically into a draw.
To help you chose, The Sports Bookshelf is highlighting each of the eight contenders to be named the overall British Sports Book of the Year. Today's category winner:

BEST CRICKET BOOK 

Harry Pearson has been observing northern life with affectionate humour in various ways since announcing his credentials as a writer via The Far Corner, his ‘mazy dribble through north-east football’ in 1995.

In Slipless in Settle, which won him the MCC/Cricket Society Book of the Year award before the British Sports Book Awards judges gave it their vote as Best Cricket Book, he turns his attention to club cricket -- but not in a way that is awash with sentiment even if there is a sense of warm appreciation.

The club cricket in which Pearson immersed himself is serious stuff. It is a world populated with characters that lend themselves perfectly to his gift for humorous description but highly competitive, but the game is played by cricketers aware of the history of the former pit villages and mill towns they represent, clubs that have, down the years, produced some of England’s greatest players and spent fortunes on importing the biggest names in the international game to boost their battle for local supremacy.

Pearson's writes with an easy charm, painting an engaging portrait of a world that has been home at different times to Andrew Flintoff and Learie Constantine and a cast of thousands of more or less honourable others, sharing pies and mushy peas at the tea bar and two types of mild in the clubhouse.

Nobody has a better eye for northern sporting character than Pearson. There is the groundsman he encounters with "a face so creased and lined by exposure to the elements he made later-period WH Auden appear a candidate to become the new face of Revlon"... and there’s the bowler whose appeal was "a blood-curdling yell delivered from a bow-legged squat that gave the impression of a man with piles sitting down on the wrong end of an invisible shooting stick".
--- Jim White, The Daily Telegraph. Read more…

Winners in the other categories were
Best Autobiography, Beware of the Dog, by Brian Moore
Best Biography -- Trautmann's Journey, by Catrine Clay
Best Football Book -- Promised Land, by Anthony Clavane
Best Rugby Book -- The Grudge, by Tom English
Best New Writer -- Bounce, by Matthew Syed
Best Racing Book -- The Story of Your Life, by James Lambie
Best Illustrated Title -- '61 The Spurs Double, by Doug Cheeseman, Martin Cloake and Adam Powley

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20110602

Hodder delivers clever title for Graeme Swann's spin on a life in cricket

Graeme Swann
Congratulations are due to publishers Hodder and Stoughton for coming up with what is surely the year’s cleverest title for a sports book. 

It will appear on the cover of England spin bowler Graeme Swann’s autobiography, due out in October, after someone with an eye for a play on words had spotted an opportunity to have some fun.

“’The Brakes Are Off’ was the idea on the table but because Graeme bowls off-breaks it was crying out for ‘brakes’ to become ‘breaks’,” Swann’s ghostwriter, Richard Gibson, told The Sports Bookshelf.

“So ‘The Breaks Are Off’ it will be.  I wish I could claim the credit, but it’s down to Roddy Bloomfield at Hodder.”

Gibson has delivered the final manuscript for The Breaks Are Off, which promises some interesting insights into the recent history of the England cricket team from one of its more colourful characters.

Swann, 32, had to endure a seven-year wait between his first appearance for England and his second but has made up for lost time, establishing himself as the highest ranked spin bowler in the world.

Twice an Ashes winner now, Swann has enjoyed some notable success in recent seasons but his career has had some low periods too and the book reveals the true nature of his relationship with former England coach Duncan Fletcher.

Swann’s first England tour in 1999-2000 was also Fletcher’s first and, as a 20-year-old eager to be seen as a ‘good tourist’ in the social sense, he did not endear himself to the hard-nosed Zimbabwean, not helping his cause by missing the team bus twice.

Gibson said: “Graeme talks a lot about his time under Fletcher and about his relationship with Kepler Wessels, his coach at Northamptonshire.”

It was after falling out with Wessels, who played Test cricket for Australia and South Africa, that Swann left Northampton to join Nottinghamshire.  Kepler’s son, Rikki Wessels, is now one of Swann’s teammates at Trent Bridge.

You can already pre-order The Breaks Are Off from Amazon.

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