“The pretence of a normal marriage kept my secret safe. Jemma was getting nothing out of the arrangement. I was being hideously unfair, terribly selfish, yet, at the moment of crisis, I was consumed by self-pity: ‘****. People are going to know something’s wrong now. Everything I have hidden so well for so long is going to be discovered. For the first time in my life, I’m on my own’.”
John delves into the culture that surrounds the game to discover how and why it has got under the skin of the British public like no other sport. He explores the history of the football shirt in style and design; how and why sponsorship became the norm; the culture of food inside the ground, around the stadium and in the pubs and clubs and how the modern trend of fine dining changed the match day experience (explaining why prawn sandwiches are the perfect expression of the class-politics of football in Britain).
‘ “If ever a fighter had been able to demonstrate that boxing was a twentieth-century art, it must be Ali”, says Norm, and his achievement in this masterly book is of a similar order, demonstrating that writing about sport can also be a twentieth-century art’
While in Borstal, Smith discovers a talent for long-distance running, and this brings him to the notice of the Governor, who takes a keen interest in sport as a means of rehabilitating young offenders, and he is entered in a cross-country race against other Borstals. (The Governor believes that for one of his inmates to win the race would bring prestige to his institution). Smith has a real talent for the sport and could easily have won the race, but quite deliberately chooses to lose it, stopping running just short of the finishing line to allow another runner to pass him. He does so as a deliberate gesture of contempt for the Governor and for the whole of the Establishment which he despises.
This is a moving account of how a young man has overcome a devastating accident to become an amazing person capable of rising above his severe disabilities and become an inspiration for everyone. His story brings tears and laughs and shows Matt’s incredible strength of character. It is ironic that many of the sporting peers he played with are often referred to as heroes and yet here is a man with true hero status.
Martí Perarnau was given total access to Bayern Munich during season 2013-14. This book represents the first time in the modern era that a writer has got this close to one of the elite teams of world football.
At the invitation of Pep Guardiola, he shadowed the Catalan, his staff and his superstar players during training and on matchdays. Bayern smashed domestic records on their way to the double, but were humiliated by Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final. Perarnau was with them every step of the way.
Like all successful Lion’s tours the 1974 cohort have come to be remembered for their on the field achievements but that isn’t even half the story. The author has superbly captured the political and social context in which this tour took place and which is all too often overlooked in most sporting texts.
This isn’t just a story about the 1974 tour, it’s the story behind it. Well researched and well told, the perspectives of those involved provide rare insight. A must for all sporting enthusiasts!