20120228

Didi Man with a big place in Liverpool folklore

SPORTS BOOK OF THE WEEK


The Didi Man: My Love Affair with Liverpool

Published by: Headline (Hardcover)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?


If Luis Suarez had only asked, a little advice from Dietmar Hamann could have spared the Uruguayan a lot of trouble.

The German international midfielder spent seven years on Merseyside, during which, quite apart from playing a major role in Liverpool’s epic triumph in the 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul, he demonstrated everything that is correct about how a foreign player in England should conduct himself.

Intelligent and eloquent, even in a language not his own, Hamann won universal respect in the Premier League and particular affection among the Liverpool fans not least because of the evolution of his accent.  Just as the Dane, Jan Molby, seemed gradually to turn into a pukka Koppite, so Hamann appeared to learn his English from Jamie Carragher.  By the time he left, in 2006, he was calling himself the world's "only German Scouser".

Nicknamed The Didi Man with a nod towards another Merseyside icon, Ken Dodd,  at 6ft 3ins Hamann hardly qualifies as Diddy.  Yet it seems perfect for him as someone determined to embrace local culture.  So anglicised did he become that he even developed a fascination with cricket and managed to get a game for Alderley Edge Second XI in the Cheshire County League.

This book for the most part is a look back on his time at Anfield, told with warmth and a personality that reflects his humility and self-deprecating humour.  His part in the Istanbul legend, when he came off the bench at half-time, despite a broken toe, to inspire Liverpool’s fight back from 3-0 down, ensures a permanent place in the affections of the Kop.  The feeling is clearly mutual.

Who is the author?


Although Dietmar Hamann's name is on the cover, the words were assembled by Malcolm McClean, a writer and entrepreneur based in Alderley Edge.  He previously collaborated with Tottenham goalkeeper Brad Friedel on his book, Thinking Outside the Box.  He has written an entrepreneurial self-help guide, Bear Hunt, as well as To The Edge: Entrepreneurial Secrets from Britain's Richest Square Mile.

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20120227

London 2012 supremo Sebastian Coe to publish autobiography in November

SPORTS BOOK NEWS

Among his many reasons to hope the London Olympics is a resounding success, Sebastian Coe can now include his autobiography, due to be published in November.

The double gold medal-winner and head of the London 2012 Organising Committee has agreed a deal with publishers Hodder and Stoughton for a memoir to be released on November 8th.

As well as telling the story of the successful bid to bring the Games to this country, which Coe led, and his subsequent role in making them happen, the book will cover Coe's achievements as a middle-distance runner, winning four Olympic medals including the 1,500 metres gold in 1980 and 1984, plus his career in politics.

He became a Conservative MP in 1992 and was former leader William Hague’s chief of staff.  He was made a life peer in 2000.

Hodder’s sports editor Roddy Bloomfield said: "It is naturally a great honour for Hodder that Seb Coe has finally accepted our proposal. At last, we can expect to be allowed inside the mind of one of the most successful British athletes of all time."

Coe, who collaborated with journalist David Miller in a number of titles covering his career on the track, more recently wrote a book on leadership, drawing on his experiences in sport, politics and business, entitled The Winning Mind: What it Takes to Become a True Champion.

Read more about The Winning Mind at amazon.co.uk

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20120221

Fred Trueman book on Cricket Society-MCC Book of the Year shortlist

An starkly honest biography and an elegant romantic novel are among five titles short listed for the Cricket Society and MCC Cricket Book of the Year award for 2012.


Fred Trueman: The Authorised Biography wins well deserved recognition for Chris Waters, cricket correspondent of the Yorkshire Post, who set about assessing the Yorkshire and England fast bowler’s life with the blessing and co-operation of family members yet managed to deliver an objective account that and does not always find in his subject’s favour.

The judging panel headed by Vic Marks, the former Somerset and England player who followed Trueman into the Test Match Special commentary box at the end of his career, will announce their choice in the Long Room at Lord’s on April 16.

The five contenders -- sifted from a field of 24 -- also include a nicely crafted biography of the former Warwickshire captain Frank Foster , a fascinating but ultimately tragic character who has a right to be seen as his county’s greatest player, in the opinion of author Robert Brooke.

Foster, whose career was curtailed by the Great War and did not resume following a motorcycle accident in 1915, played in the Triangular Tournament that brought together England, South Africa and Australia in the Test series of 1912 and is the subject of Patrick Ferriday’s Before the Lights Went Out, which also impressed the panel enough to make the cut.


The same period, subsequently recalled as cricket’s ‘golden age’, forms the backdrop to the work of fiction among the contenders, the novel Half of the Human Race by Anthony Quinn, whose unlikely imagined romance between a gentleman cricketer and a suffragette creates an evocative and insightful portrayal of a cosily complacent, conservative England -- of which cricket is a microcosm -- threatened by a revolution of unexpected origins.

The quintet is completed by Australia - Story of a Cricket Country, a collection of essays and articles assembled by Christian Ryan -- whose biography of Kim Hughes, Golden Boy, was best cricket book at the British Sports Book Awards in 2010 -- to tell not only the history of Australia’s cricketing success but the way in which the game helped shape that country’s character.

The five books on the shortlist:

(Click on the links for more information)
F.R.Foster: The Fields Were Sudden Bare, by Robert Brooke (ACS Publications).
Before the Lights Went Out: The 1912 Triangular Tournament, by Patrick Ferriday (Von Krumm Publishing).
Half of the Human Race, by Anthony Quinn (Jonathan Cape).
Australia - Story of a Cricket Country, by Christian Ryan (Hardie Grant Books).
Fred Trueman: The Authorised Biography, by Chris Waters (Aurum).

The 19 that missed out:


Britain's Lost Cricket Grounds, by Chris Arnot (Aurum).
The Cambridge Companion to Cricket, edited by Anthony Bateman and Jeffrey Hill (Cambridge University Press).
Higgy - Matches, Microphones, and MS, by Alastair Hignell (A&C Black).
Australian Autopsy, by Jarrod Kimber (Pitch Publishing).
Jack Hobbs: England's Greatest Cricketer, by Leo McInstry  (Yellow Jersey Press).
Not Out First Ball, by Roger Morgan-Grenville and Richard Perkins (Bikeshed Books).
The Last Flannelled Fool, by Michael Simkins (Ebury).
The Following Game, by Jonathan Smith (Peridot Press).
The Breaks are Off: My Autobiography, by Graeme Swann (Hodder & Stoughton).
Twentieth Century All-Rounder, by Clive van Ryneveld (Pretext Publishers).
Ian Botham: The Power and the Glory, by Simon Wilde (Simon & Schuster).
Cricket and Broadcasting , by Jack Williams (Manchester University Press).
Behind the Boundary: Cricket at a Crossroads, by Graeme Wright (A&C Black).
Cricket's Historians, by Peter Wynne-Thomas (ACS).

All 24 books were nominated by either Cricket Society or MCC Members and not publishers. Marks and fellow judges David Kynaston and Stephen Fay, representing MCC, and John Symons and Chris Finch, for The Cricket Society, will determine which takes home the £3,000 prize, won last year by Harry Pearson for Slipless in Settle.

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20120214

Close, D'Oliveira and Packer - the three men at the heart of a cricket revolution

SPORTS BOOK OF THE WEEK

Cricket at the Crossroads: Class, Colour and Controversy from 1967 to 1977

Published by Elliott and Thompson

What’s it about?

The Swinging Sixties may have been notable for free love and psychedelic drugs and a new hedonistic pop culture but for the majority the Britain of 1967 was still essentially conventional and conservative, especially among its professional middle classes.

This was particularly true of cricket, which clung to the established demarcation lines of the class system as stubbornly as any area of society.  Until 1962, the annual match between Gentlemen and Players -- identifiable on scorecards by the position of their initials, before or after the surname – was still contested.  The fixture was a throwback to the kind of distinctions that set apart officers and the other ranks and domestic staff (downstairs) from their masters (upstairs) and the establishment cliques that ran cricket were not minded to challenge the traditional sociological order.

But outside the game the divisions were narrowing.  The line between working class and middle class was starting to blur and the economic dominance of the south was under threat.  There was a shift in cricket, too.  Where Surrey, led by the Charterhouse-educated England captain and amateur, Peter May, had dominated the County Championship in the 1950s, the 1960s was the era of Yorkshire, whose captain for much of the decade was the hard-nosed professional, Brian Close, whose roots were unashamedly working class.

Indeed, between 1967 and 1977, the decade that is the focus of Cricket at the Crossroads, the game experienced seismic change, propelled into a new era by three major crises.  Close, in fact, was the central figure in one of them, when his removal as England captain in 1967, despite a record of six wins and a draw from seven Tests, seemed to indicate that class prejudice was very much alive and well.  Less than two years later came the D’Oliveira affair, a significant moment in the breaking down of political apartheid in South Africa but one which again at times put the cricket establishment in an uncomfortable spotlight.  Finally came the emergence of Kerry Packer and World Series Cricket, moving the balance of power in the game for good.

Cricket at the Crossroads examines the personalities and attitudes that influenced this tumultuous era in cricket, using material drawn from original research and interviews to paint a vivid picture of the game in the 1960s and 70s, not only revealing what was going on behind the scenes as players sought to break the grip of the administrators, but setting it within a socio-economic context in a way not previously attempted.  It is a lively and entertaining read, for good measure.

Who is the author?


Guy Fraser-Sampson, who teaches at the Cass Business School in the City of London, has written a number of best-selling titles about finance and investment and his expertise is regularly sought in television and radio discussion programmes.  He has nurtured a love of cricket since he was a schoolboy, however, and his fascination with the influence of class and racial prejudices on the game in the 1960s and 70s led him to attempt to marry sporting and social history in his first cricket book.  A versatile writer, he has also won praise for Major Benjy, a novel written as a continuation of the Mapp and Lucia series penned by E. F.  Benson, and written with the blessing of Benson’s literary estate.

Buy Cricket at the Crossroads direct from Amazon

More Books by Guy Fraser-Sampson

Amazon’s current top five cricket bestsellers

Fred Trueman: The Authorised Biography, by Chris Waters
Britain's Lost Cricket Grounds, by Chris Arnot
Graeme Swann: The Breaks are Off - My Autobiography
Start the Car: The World According to Bumble, by David Lloyd
The Last Flannelled Fool, by Michael Simkins

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20120210

How snooker star Willie Thorne found the bottom of life's deepest pocket but climbed out again

SNOOKER BOOKS

Willie Thorne: Taking A Punt On My Life


Published by Vision Sports Publishing

What’s it about?


At the peak of his fame, former snooker star Willie Thorne led a life that presented him pretty much as a walking caricature. A leading player during snooker’s boom years in the 1980s, he did everything that the media wanted from the central characters of their new back page soap opera.

He worked hard at the table and partied hard away from it; he made good money from his skill with a cue and if it didn’t last him long there was plenty more where it had come from as sponsors and television executives queued up for a piece of the action. He revelled in his celebrity, indulged his hangers-on and when there was female attention to be enjoyed he was not inclined to resist.

20120206

Up Pohnpei -- how an English football journalist took charge of the world's worst national football team and turned them into winners

SPORTS BOOK OF THE WEEK

Up Pohnpei: A quest to reclaim the soul of football by leading the world's ultimate underdogs to glory

Published by: Profile Books (Hardcover]

What’s it about?


Football journalist Paul Watson and his film-maker pal Matt Conrad decide late one evening in Watson’s London flat to become international footballers, an unlikely ambition for two lads in their early 20s with no professional experience but one they think they can fulfil if they first identify the world‘s worst national team.
Research leads them to Pohnpei, one of a group of islands in the Pacific known as Micronesia, about 1800 miles north of Australia. The team is ranked 220 in the world, its last known result is a 16-1 defeat to Guam, after which the coach quit and the team effectively disbanded.

The idea runs into a snag when they discover they will need to live on the island for five years before they become eligible to play. So they offer instead to become coach and assistant coach, a job which involves not only assembling a new team but establishing an island league so the players can showcase their talents, which in a population of 34,000 with a 90 per cent obesity rate require considerable nurturing.

20120201

All On Red offers an insider's view of Liverpool during their golden era

New in Football Books

All on Red: Ten Years at Anfield - A Liverpool fan's dream job


At first glance, All On Red might seem like just another offering from a football fan who fancies himself as a writer but Frank Gamble’s take on life as a Liverpool supporter comes from a slightly different perspective.

For a decade from 1979, Gamble was a particularly privileged fan, mixing work and pleasure as lottery sales manager of the club’s Development Association.

It was a decade in which Liverpool won six League titles, two European Cups, four League Cups and one FA Cup.  For Gamble, the experience of being behind the scenes at this time was unforgettable.  There were plenty of fans who shared his love for the club but few who had been asked to share their opinions with Joe Fagan, Bob Paisley and Roy Evans in the famous 'boot room'.

That happened to Gamble after one big European night at Anfield when, searching for his boss, commercial director Ken Addison, he stumbled across the club’s football brains trust in the middle of their customary post-match debriefing and found himself almost struck dumb when Fagan, then the manager, asked for his thoughts on the game.

“Joe Fagan was the nicest man I ever met in football by a country mile,” Gamble wrote. “His achievements in his first season replacing Bob (Paisley) have never received the acclaim they truly deserve.”

But All on Red, as an account of the Liverpool Gamble knew, is not without criticism.  He felt the club wasted the commercial opportunities presented by their success on the field, accusing chairman John Smith of being obsessed with cost-cutting when he should have been investing and of stifling Addison‘s creative flair by rejecting his ideas.

Manchester United 'light years ahead'


“These were the days and times that Liverpool should have pushed the pedal to the floor in terms of pulling away from our rivals commercially but certain people just couldn’t see the bigger picture and golden opportunities were missed,” he wrote.

By comparison, Manchester United were “light years ahead even then -- in February 1983.”

“We have been playing catch-up to this day and although commercial revenues have grown immensely in recent years we were slow out of the blocks and it cost us.”

Gamble, who now works in the energy sector, left Anfield in 2009 and went into print with All on Red only then.

He also gives an insider’s take on the Heysel tragedy, which he attributes in part to the atmosphere in Britain at the time, recalling a year of unrest at football grounds in the lead-up to the fateful night in Belgium that reflected the “angry society” that he felt existed in the country.

Gamble says he wrote the book to demonstrate how it felt to be a fan whose passion for a club became his livelihood and as such he has produced a supporter’s story that, for once, is unique.

All On Red: Ten Years at Anfield - A Liverpool fan's dream job, by Frank Gamble, is published by the excellent Cheltenham-based publisher, Sports Books.

Buy All on Red direct from amazon.co.uk

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