If you have been following the saga of England’s perilous adventures through the qualifying matches for the 1982 World Cup finals, then doubtless you are anticipating a feast of football action from Spain this June.
If you are not a football fanatic, but have a son between six and sixteen beware! By the time Bulldog Bobby, Jimmy Hill, the collected battle speeches of Ron Greenwood, and forty-three action replays of every England goal on the rocky road to Bilbao, have pounded your senses simultaneously from every television network in the next few months, you’ll be there with the best of them in front of the `box’. Rosette on chest, heart in mouth, regulation England kit on the children, singing the National Anthem with a tear in your eye, as `our lads’ battle with the likes of France and Czechoslovakia, in the early stages of the competition.
In fact, wherever you are in the British Isles, there’s no hiding place, with England, Scotland and Northern Ireland having all won through, to the concern of the Spanish police and the delight of the `package holiday’ trade.
Seriously though, there should be a veritable gourmet’s banquet of all that is good, both in technique and innovation, to showcase a game which when it reaches its heights of perfection can satisfy the most demanding aesthetic.
Naturally, there will be a consequent upsurge of interest in the game from the massive media coverage, expressing itself in various forms, from increased spectator attendance at football games, additional player participation in the many leagues and standards of competition available, and perhaps even a peripheral rise in the reading habits of the sport’s followers.
If you intend to strike while the iron is hot and are looking for material to inform, to entertain or to sustain this interest and excitement, we hope our selection of available material will point you in the right direction.
The Great Marathon Football Match
Janet & Allan Ahlberg, Picture Lions, 0 00 661931 2, 90p
Originally in hardback (Collins), this marvellous, innocent tale of the Brick Street Boys’ attempts to raise the money to buy a new football kit, has been recently released in paperback. For any age from six upwards, enjoy Janet Ahlberg’s illustrations of football as you’ve never ever seen it played (and never will again!), lose yourself in the Marathon match, which by supper time had reached 98-98, and ‘by bedtime nobody knew what the score was, but Stanley said it was quite a lot.’
If you missed it the first time round, go out and buy it now!
Colin McNaughton, Heinemann, 0 434 94991 4, £4.95 (hardback)
You won’t need telling that Colin McNaughton is a football fan – his enthusiasm for the game leaps out of the pages of this superbly, sympathetic tale of the heroic Bruno and his ‘match of the season’ against Leroy’s Lions. Funny, sad, gently poking fun, a brilliant book woven around McNaughton’s zany illustrations.
Again, from six to sixteen, something to enjoy for all in this one.
Petronella Breinburg, Puffin, 0 14 03.1112 2, 80p
Petronella Breinburg’s sensitive account of a London based West Indian boy’s attempt to keep his football team together in the face of many problems is well worth a read. For nine-year-olds and younger, this is a lively story which realistically describes children, their ups and downs, their loyalties, and their sense of achievement after struggling together to reach their ‘goal’.
Cup Final For Charlie
Joy Allen, Hamish Hamilton (Gazelle), 0 241 10691 5, £1 .95
Young Charlie goes to the 1979/80 Cup Final – West Ham 1, Arsenal 0- with Uncle Tim. He’s an Arsenal supporter, but never mind because the climax of the story concerns a rope swing over the canal in the car park and not the match at all. Just about enough football interest to keep a young fanatic reading – but they could feel a little let down; no mention of any players, not even Trevor Brooking who scored in the thirteenth minute (I’m indebted to David Barber’s We Won the Cup, Pan, 0 330 26401 X, £1.75, for that piece of information. Invaluable for quizzes, challenges and solving arguments.)
Lion Cubs Rule
Leslie Coleman, Blackie, 0 216 90880 9, £2.95
More football action in this story of the Lion Lane Under Twelves’ battle with their rivals, tricky, ‘professional’ Gipsy Park Juniors. The Cup Final looms and morale is low in the Lion Cubs’ dressing room as they grapple with the Gips’ dirty tricks on and off the field. But the arrival of a three-foot tall stranger who claims to be Chairman of the non-existent Supporters Club changes things for everybody including Debby who plays football as well as any boy.
Tens and upwards
Goalkeepers are Different
Brian Glanville, Puffin, 0 14 03.0646 3, 95p
For the ten-plus age group, Brian Glanville (recently announced as Sports Reporter of the Year by the Sports Council and Sports Writers’ Association) calls on all his vast experience of reporting and writing about the game to produce a story packed with fascinating insights into the ‘real life’ of a footballer.
The novel has a magnetism which makes it a compulsive ‘start to finish’ read. Glanville’s well honed reporter’s skills in describing the action, the thrills, the goals and the incidents occurring in an actual game raises the book far above so many that are written about the sport. As an account of what it feels like to be a professional footballer, the realism behind the headlines, informing and yet sustaining the interest of the pre-teen audience, this book is a must!
Soccer at Sandford
Rob Childs, Blackie, 0 216 90890 6, £3.75 (hardback)
Rob Childs trains and manages the eleven-year-olds’ team at the school where he teaches. In an exciting first novel, he has managed to combine his experiences coaching youngsters and knowledge of the game, with a facility at writing children’s dialogue. As a result the book is believable, technically interesting and full of credible episodes from the boys’ matches.
I especially liked his description of the problems caused by Gary, the brilliant but temperamental star of the team. I think everybody who has coached or worked with a boys’ football team can empathise with this portrayal, and can probably name a Gary or two or their own.
The First Goal
Michael Hardcastle, Armada, 0 00 691794 1, 75p
Michael Hardcastle, Armada, 0 00 691 757 7, 80p
Michael Hardcastle, Armada, 0 00 691795 X, 75p
Just three of the many Michael Hardcastle football stories available on the market. Ideal material for lads to identify with, all these tales centre around Mark Fox, who inevitably manages to score the crucial goal at the vital moment! Kick Off is very typical of the series and the style. Lots of atmosphere, bright and lively accounts of the games, leaving you as breathless as the schoolboy teams involved, goals galore, good entertainment for the pre-teens at a reasonable price for an average 125 pages.
Half a Team, the sixth Michael Hardcastle story in his series about the shifting fortunes and relationships of the teams in the Junior Sunday League, goes into paperback in May, Magnet, 0 416 25210 9, 75p.
Shoot on Sight
Sean McCann, Hodder 8 Stoughton, 340 26428 4, £4.25 (Hardback)
Sean McCann, Knight, 0 340 25497 1, 75p
Like Glanville, McCann is a football reporter putting his knowledge of the game to excellent use. Shoot on Sight is the sixth novel in a series about Georgie Goode and his gang, and they are all excellent entertainment for the 10-13 age range.
Shooting Stars is an easy introduction to the series. It’s in paperback, it’s a quick moving story, McCann knows what he’s talking about, and there’s plenty happening to keep the reader on his toes. The later books of the series, Hot Shot and Shoot on Sight have widened the appeal by mixing in some intrigue with the goals.
Thanks to Sam
Lance Salway, Macmillan Education, 333 26093 7, 65p non-net
Lively, exciting action for ten-pluses woven around a simple story of the annual football match between neighbouring villages with the consequences for the local youngsters.
Fast moving, undemanding, sometimes a bit too ‘gollygosh’ for most kids to swallow, but the fights and chases usually intervene just in time to salvage the story from embarrassment and sustain the interest.
It’s only a game
Eamon Dunphy, Penguin, 0 14 00.5355 7, 95p
Eamon Dunphy was a league and international footballer, who drifted through the lower divisions in the latter stages of his career. When he ‘hung up his boots’, he wrote this superb book about his experiences as a player. Nobody is spared – the managers, directors, players, supporters – everyone feels the sharp end of Dunphy’s biting humour. An amusing satire, and yet serious criticism of what is after all ‘only a game’ and not the be all and end all of life itself, as some nameless television commentators would like us to believe.
Dunphy has got a lot to say about his varied career, and he says it well, sustaining interest throughout the book. If you saw the play adapted for television from the main theme of the novel, read the book, it’s much better!
The Goalkeeper’s Revenge
Bill Naughton, Puffin, 0 14 03.0348 0, 65p
A collection of short stories, beginning with the title story. Tightly constructed, brilliantly told, with a twist in the tale, it’s a real ‘goalkeepers revenge’. Each tale is constructed and told equally well – they’re not all about football, although sport does come into each story. The dialect and the environment which Naughton paints so well, revived memories of childhood scrapbooks of Lofthouse, Finney and the Busby Babes. Nostalgia, certainly, but helped me to enjoy the stories even more.
Behind the Goal
John Griffin, Longman, 0 582 20089 X, 90p non-net
Six short stories based around the activities of a group of youngsters supporting Nottingham Forest, but in fact, fiction, language and experience, relevant to teenage readers whoever they support. John Griffin reveals an excellent grasp of this adolescent sub-culture, with its tribal rites, chants and sense of brotherhood. Recommended reading for 13s and upwards.
Barry Hines, Penguin, 0 14 00.2951 6, 90p
The author of Kes revealed all the sensitivity in this earlier novel that gained him so many admirers for his treatment of the boy and his kestrel. The theme is similar, although in this case the alienation is personified by the character of Lenny Hawk, who had the footballing gifts to take him to the League club of his choice. School boy escapades evolved into adolescent problems, increasing brushes with authority in whatever form it crossed his path, a giant social chip on his shoulder, and gradually the gift becomes submerged.
Barry Hines’ novel is a remarkable social commentary, a tale which must have been realised in many young men’s lives while striving for the end of the rainbow through the skill in their feet.
Kicked into Touch
Fred Eyre, Senior Publications, 0 903839 63 X, £1 .95
Apprenticed to a famous football club on leaving school, Fred Eyre’s character’s world comes to an end when he breaks his leg and is released by his club, untrained for any other role in society. By learning fast in the world of business, possessing a good sense of humour, and with some luck, Eyre becomes a successful businessman. In between, he plays for and coaches a vast range of semi-professional clubs, preserving experiences and anecdotes from his travels around the fringes of the Soccer world. He may have been ‘kicked into touch’ as a heartbroken youngster but the way in which he has turned that experience to his own benefit provides a lesson for today’s youngsters starry-eyed with the prospect of being tomorrow’s million pound transfer.
Learning about Football
Ladybird, 0 7214 0697 1, 50p
In the tradition of ‘Ladybirds’ this provides comprehensive, basic coverage of most aspects of the game. Its history, dating back to 1681 is signposted in a time chart, the pitch, the ball, footwear, the laws, skills and fitness, are among the subjects covered in simple language. Ideal reference book for non-combatant parents pressganged in front of the set for the June finals from Spain, and faced with embarrassing questions from young sons. Even a basic section on tactics if you want to appear really knowledgeable – excellent value for 50p, well illustrated.
Soccer – Skills, Tricks !t Tactics
Simon Inglis, Usborne, 0 86020 544 4, £1 .85
Rather more sophisticated treatment of the basics of the game, but essentially again, the armchair spectator’s encyclopaedia for easy reference, a glossary to the intricacies and jargon of the television presentation of the matches. Lots of tips for the youngsters to go out into the park or school playground and practise, with the skills illustrated clearly in picture sequence strips.
A clear spread on the laws of the game which help you to decipher the offside rule and discover the difference between a direct or an indirect free kick. Indispensable for any age from ten to grandparents!
Discover the World of Football
Sparrow, 0 09 923650 8, 70p
Similar production to the Usborne book, tracing the history of the game from its origins, through the uncomfortable realisation that foreigners could not only play it, but actually beat us at it! Sections then deal with how a ball is made, the rules of the game, tactical formations, basic skills and exercises, and an interesting section on diets for footballers.
I found some of the artwork disappointing, and lacking in clarity, which was a pity, because the book contained interesting items not covered in either the Ladybird or the Usborne treatment of the theme. Good value for 70p.
Football Quiz 1981/82
Gordon Jeffery, Armada, 0 00 691945 6, 95p
Everything you could possibly want to know. Photo quizzes, national badges, jumbled letters, alphabetical quizzes, all interspersed with photo-biographies of famous names from the game today, from Ardiles to Dalglish. Information sections on the game at home and abroad, plus World Cup facts pack out the pages. If you don’t know who was the youngest ever player in a Football league match, this is the book for you.
Famous Names in Soccer
Jim Bebbington, Wayland, 85340 790 8, £2.95
One page biographies of the major names in world football from the past thirty years until the present day, each faced with a black and white photograph.
The text is concise, factual, uncritical, about each player’s career and his major achievements in the game. Among those featured are Pele, Bobby Charlton, George Best, Denis Law, the late Bill Shankly and Kevin Keegan.
Brian Glanville, Hamish Hamilton, 241 10594 3, £3.25
The probable England captain in the World Cup matches in Spain is featured in Brian Glanville’s succinct contribution to Hamish Hamilton’s Profiles series. Criticism is interwoven with high praise in the above average text for books of this genre, as Glanville recounts Keegan’s career from his childhood in a Yorkshire mining village, through his rise to fame with Liverpool, consequent adventure in European football with Hamburg and subsequent return to play for Southampton and captain England.
Duncan Scott-Forbes, Heinemann, 0 435 27004 4, 70p
A potted round-up of the game throughout the world for the lower Secondary market. Simple format includes A Great Match, A Great Player, a quick summary of world football, the inevitable glossary, including (sign of the times?) ‘violence’ and ‘boring’. Restricted appeal.
Also available (late March) but not seen by us so far:
World Cup 82
Philip Evans, Knight, 0 340 27747 5, £1.25
Book of Footballers
Brian Glanville, Puffin Plus,
14 03.1508 X, £1 .25
An alphabetical, biographical guide to the footballing personalities who have achieved prominence through their high levels of skill, from the pioneers in the game’s infancy to today’s million pound superstars.
Glanville has included in this special World Cup edition (original publication 1978) many of the contemporary figures who will be the centres of attraction in Spain this June.
On a subject that is often over lavish in praise, and short on criticism, it is refreshing to find that Glanville’s comments are always interesting, pithy, and non-sycophantic. His selection is personal, as he stoutly proclaims in the preface, but through it he has endeavoured to illustrate the game’s development. He retains a sense of perspective about today’s media inflated stars, through a realisation that critical evaluation of a player and his true significance is often re-assessed with the passing of time. ‘Today’s footballers one has had to take on trust.’
An ideal reference book which will help to bring to life for the armchair viewer, many of the ‘names’ which will fill our screens this summer.
Bill Boyle teaches in a middle school in the Wirral. He and many of his pupils are happy to be described as Football Crazy.