Annabel's House of Books

Noli domo egredi, nisi librum habes – Never leave home without a book.

Not reading about The Beautiful Game!

Brazil 2014 – The World Cup starts today!

CPFCOh woe, woe and thrice woe on the telly front for the next month! I come from a family of fanatic Crystal Palace FC supporters who will all be glued to their TVs watching the World Cup. Admittedly, if England were to get into the knock-out stages, even I would probably watch bits of it – but only England, and only the later matches.

Similarly, I have no desire to read any novel where football – that is soccer, rather than an other national variant, is the main subject. Surprisingly, football novels of any note are not very thick on the ground so this list of books I’m not going to read isn’t very long. (Please note the titles do go through to my Amazon affiliate link just in case you are interested – I’ll earn pennies!). I will not be reading:

Red-or-DeadThe Damned Utd nor Red or Dead by David Peace.

The Damned Utd about Brian Clough’s 44 days as manager of Leeds Utd is legendary. I should add that I have seen (and enjoyed) the film (DVD, 2009), but that was about Michael Sheen’s amazing performance more than anything else.

Red or Dead is a novelisation of Liverpool FC’s long association with manager Bill Shankly, who famously said:

Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.

puffin footballGoalkeepers are Different
 nor The Rise of Gerry Logan by Brian Glanville.

Glanville is perhaps the UK’s greatest writer about football including these novels.  I was amazed to find that the Gerry Logan book from 1965 is republished by Faber Finds and Franz Beckenbauer has declared it to be ‘the best book on football ever written’!  Apparently the character of Logan is based broadly on Danny Blanchflower.

Goalkeepers are different is a children’s novel, and I expect my brother probably read it as a child, along with Glanville’s The Puffin Book of Football, which I remember seeing on his shelves.

The Arsenal Stadium Mysteryarsenal by Leonard R Gribble

This crime novel from the 1930s was adapted into a film (1939, DVD). It was perhaps the first feature football film and many Arsenal players from the 1938-9 season were included in the cast.  During a charity match between Arsenal and amateur side the Trojans, the Trojans’ key striker mysteriously collapses in full view of the capacity crowd – it transpires he was poisoned.  The film in particular appears to have been much loved.

venables 2venables 1They Used to Play on Grass by Terry Venables and Gordon Williams – or is it Gordon Williams and Terry Venables as on the original (right). They’ve switched the author’s order on later editions… I wonder why?!

Venables and Richards were also responsible for the crime detective Hazell – penning a trio of novels which were developed into a TV series in the 1970s starring Nicholas Ball – does anyone remember that?

footballfactoryThe Football Factory by John King.

This debut novel about a disaffected Chelsea fan who becomes a hooligan may be ground-breaking in a way, but when you look it up on Amazon, you’ll also find lots of memoirs by real-life yobs about their hooliganism inspired by it – not novels and not good.

fever-pitch* * * * *

My last inclusion on this short survey of football novels is not a novel, it’s a memoir and I couldn’t miss it out. If I ever do read a soccer book – this will be the one – and primarily for Nick Hornby’s writing.

The book is, of course, Fever Pitch  by Nick Hornby, and if I did read it, I would be sure to get it’s latest livery incarnated in the Penguin Modern Classics catalogue.

And so in the immortal words of Kenneth Wolstenholme as Geoff Hurst scored England’s fourth goal in the 1966 World Cup final:

They think it’s all over, … it is now!



  1. Great post, Annabel! I’m lucky enough to live in a football-free house and will not be reading any of these either but I love the jacket of the Puffin Book of Football. Good luck over the next few weeks. There are consolations, though – just think of all that lovely, uninterrupted reading time.

  2. This just made me laugh and laugh! I won’t be reading any of them either.

    Do you know, when I first met my partner, he told me that he wasn’t interested in football? I couldn’t believe my luck. He also told me that he couldn’t tell lies either… Sigh.

    Still, the good thing is that when the footie is on I don’t have to talk to him so can read happily and without interruption. Oooh, I see Susan has just mentioned that too. Three cheers for more reading time!

    • Luckily, there’s just me and my daughter in our house – my footie-mad family are elsewhere, but the TV schedules will be completely dominated by in on the mainstream channels – in the news too, that’s what irks me. And working in a boys’ school – it’s a bit football crazy at work too!

  3. I too will be ignoring the footie – fortunately the only person with a passing interest is OH and then only if there’s the possibility of a penalty shoot out (for some reason he likes these?) Ah well – plenty of time for reading over the next few weeks then!

  4. I am the opposite. I love football and am just counting the hours to the starting match. But read books about football? Not happening, watching the game is so much fun :)

  5. This made me laugh a lot too … and no I won’t be reading (or watching) anything to do with football … but what I wonder is, how come the things I do do, like reading, and writing, and eating and sleeping and drinking and going to the theatre and exhibitions and for walks and buying books and so on and on … don’t have such an impact on those I love (who do some of these things with me)? WHAT is it about football that it has to take over the lives of even those who have no interest in it? (I think). Perhaps that says more about me than it does about those I love who love the game?

  6. I don’particularluy like football all that much although I’ve read quite a number of auto- and other biographies (but only the big names) which I have enjoyed. I don’t recall Brian Glanville’s book on football but for what it’s worth he is regularly seen at the Palace and even asked me a question on one occasion. Go on and watch the world cup, you might even enjoy it and it’ll give your eyes a rest from all that reading.

  7. When I said I didn’t like football all that much I meant to say ‘football books’!!!!!!

    • Football (auto)biogs – EVEN BIGGER YAWN! But I would say that, wouldn’t I father dear.

      Telly-wise, unless England get through to the knock-outs (unlikely so I hear!), I’m saving myself for WMBLDN

  8. Yay! World Cup! This has been a tradition in my household forever. Great recommendations.

  9. Heh! Mr Litlove is not much of a sport-watcher, but he does watch England in the World Cup – usually from behind a cushion. I will be joining you on your abstinence from footie-related books, though one of these days (not soon) I might be persuaded into trying Fever Pitch. And then again, maybe not. :)

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