Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Book review: Ideas From Massimo Osti

November 23, 2012

Ideas From Massimo Osti : by Daniela Facchinato

First Published : 2012

ISBN 978-8862082358

Score out of 5 : 

As it’s Stone Island’s 30th Anniversary this year, there’s been a lot of re-newed (revised?) interest in that label and the original brain behind it – the late Massimo Osti. Stone Island themselves have released an Archive book – which I’ve yet to get my hands on as I’m abroad until next month – but it’s sat in its packaging at home, so I will review it in time.

This book, however, is a lot cheaper, and I’ve been told it’s far superior to SI’s effort. And that’s not hard to see why – Osti was a fashion genius, probably the greatest male fashion designer ever, and Stone Island was just one branch of his overall genius tree (am I making sense or talking bollocks here?).

I’m not going to spiel much more about this massive tome, I took a load of phots of it the minute it arrived in the post, and then read it cover to cover. It’s superb, if you’re an Osti fan/geek (hands up, I’m guilty), or into This Thing of Ours in any shape or form, then it’s a must buy. Get it bought for Xmas – at last, something you CAN say you want from Santa. Enjoy this small preview – and as always, my phots don’t do the book any justice whatsoever. See you next month. Ciao.

Book review: Dressers

September 18, 2012

Dressers: 80s Lads Culture, One-Upmanship, Football, Fashion & Music : by Stanley Smith (yeah, ok)

First Published : 2012

ISBN 978-0-9570340

Score out of 5 :

The production and publishing history concerning this book about the famous(ish) Saturday Service of Motherwell FC is a story in itself. Release dates put back without warning, pre-orders gathering virtual internet dust on last pages of email accounts, compulsory tabloid hysteria about ‘nazi salutes’ and other horseshit. But it eventually saw the light of day, and was worth the hype, even of the ‘outraged’ kind.

Motherwell are well known by the ITK illuminati (a group which I’m quite happily admitting I never was a member of) for having one the earliest, and certainly best dressed, crew of footbal lads north of the border. They boast in their ranks über-casual ‘Kerso’, who has one the finest collections of The Stuff on the planet, and is a very nice bloke to boot apparently (again according to those ITK agents).

It’s just as well Kerso was SS, because I think he’s loaned most of the material for the frankly quite brilliant photos in this tome. The clothes on show here are the best you’ll see on the backs of any lads, anywhere, anytime. They are a credit to Scotland, a country usually renowned for tartan & Timberland whoppers and the shirt, scarf and bigotry cavemen who follow the two big Glasgow clubs.

The first half of the book contains the only weak point – a blow by blow account of how the SS battered everything in it’s path back in the day, yawn, another fantasy football hooligan account of this week’s latest ‘hardest mob on the planet’. The only saving grace of this section are the accompanying phots. I don’t know or care if the Saturday Service ran Rangers’ ICF round and round the concourse at Ibrox, but the pictures, some of them press cuttings, have some well dressed young chaps doing what young chaps (used to) do every Saturday. Even the permed mullet assassins have some nice threads in here.

The second half of the book is the meat in this casual gravy, it’s all about the clobber. And there are some beautiful items on show, from early 80s tennis gear, through to 1990s Osti chic. If Phil Thornton had had this kind of photo collection for his seminal (and still best) book on the subculture, they would be studying ‘casuals’ for University degrees today. Quite outstanding.

All in all, a very, very good book from Motherwell’s finest, and if you have more than a passing interest on the subject of football, fashion & fighting, you can’t really not buy this. Recommended.

Book review : Provided You Don’t Kiss Me

July 18, 2011

Provided You Don’t Kiss Me, 20 years with Brian Clough : by Duncan Hamilton

First Published : 2007

ISBN 978-0-00-724711-0

Score out of 5 :

On the one hand, Clough was capable of being unforgivably rude, unecessarily cruel, appallingly bombastic and arrogant, and so downright awkward that I wanted to drop something heavy on his big head. On the other hand, he could be extravagantly generous, emollient and warm, ridiculously kind, and loyal to whoever he thought warranted it, and he often went out of his way to be no bother to anybody. Ken Smales, Forest’s secretary, said that Clough could be like a sheep in wolf’s clothing or a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but that ‘mostly he was just himself’, a description which perfectly encapsulated my problem in the minute or two before our daily meetings: which Brian Clough was going to turn up?

Seven years after his death Brian Clough is still talked about in football circles, ‘legend’ ‘maverick’ ‘best manager England never had’ and all the other cliches that the ‘jumpers for goalposts/ Big Ron Manager’ stereotypes still throw out about the man. The many highs and equally numerous lows of his long football life are well known to everyone who loves the beautiful game on these islands. That’s why I picked up this biography of Clough with reservations, but I was very wrong. This is the best book on any subject I’ve read in a long time.

Duncan Hamilton was a precocious 18 year old, his new sports journalist’s notebook still fresh in his hands, when he first met Clough. Over the next 20 years he had one of the best seats in the whole circus that was the life of Brian Clough. Yet this is no hagiography, although the writer’s admiration for Clough is obvious he doesn’t hold back from the bad shit – and gives a touching portrayal of the old Clough, battling against relegation and his biggest enemy, the bottle.

For Brighton fans there’s little about Clough’s time on the south coast before he left for his infamous 44 days in charge of ‘Dirty’ Leeds, but Hamilton was a reporter for the Nottingham Evening Post, and Nottingham Forest was where his biggest successes came, along with his saddest failures (the long, slow death of his partnership with Peter Taylor is given a candid re-telling here).

You can’t have a book about Clough without mentioning some of his irreverent wit, there’s plenty in here, but more importantly, there’s something of the simplicity of his football philosophy. In today’s game, where you can’t get into a changing room without tripping over nutrionists and psychologists, Clough stands for something that’s gone missing – the common touch, the unfancy approach, and yet for a man whose appearances at team training sessions were erratic to say the least, his teams played fair and played good, attractive, and (early on at Derby and Forest at least) winning football. For this alone, he’s probably missed by supporters of the game everywhere. Here’s a few lines from very many of a very, very good book indeed:

Clough believed that everything in life was overcomplicated and that most coaches were guilty of overcomplicating football, as if it were ‘something like nuclear physics and Einstein had written a book about it’. A pained expression crossed his face whenever he heard coaches talk about ‘systems’ or saw chalk lines scratched on the blackboard. He looked at ‘Subbuteo men being pushed around a felt pitch’ with disgust. ‘Get the ball,’ he said. ‘Give it to your mate or try to go past someone. Score a goal. Make the people watching you feel as if there’s been some skill, some flair in what you’ve done.’

If only the Sam Allardyces of this brave new football world had that outlook on what is really a very simple game.

Book review: Calcio, a history of Italian Football

June 29, 2011

Calcio, a history of Italian Football : by John Foot

First Published : 2006

ISBN-13 978-0-00-717575-8

Score out of 5 :

Romeo Benetti played for Milan, Juventus and many other clubs in the 1970s. His appearance alone was terrifying. A huge muscle-built man, with a big face, he sported a large red moustache. Rarely did he come away from a challenge without the ball. His job in every team he played for was a simple one – win tackles, and then give the ball to the appropriate playmaker. Benetti was the epitome of the mediano – defensive midfield ball-winners who were – and are – a key component of every successful football team.[…] Nobody enjoyed being marked by Benetti. You never had a moment’s peace, or a yard of space, and you came off the field feeling as if you had been at war, not in a football match. Players like Benetti were the water carriers or, to use one of my favourite Italian football phrases, distruggitori di gioco – destroyers of play. Over the years, Italian football made destruction of play into an art form.

Back when I started watching football in the 1980s Italian football was a far-off exotic animal, you only ever had fleeting glimpses, like their national side destroying the second-best Brazilian side ever in the 1982 World Cup in Spain, likewise West Germany in the final (with Marco Tardelli and that goal celebration). Then there was the low point of Heysel in 1985, but it was still an unknown (but very much a threat) to any British fan whose club or country wanted to progress away from our shores.

That all changed (the knowledge, not the threat) in 1992, with Channel 4 and Football Italia. After watching that first unforgettable live TV game, a thrilling 3-3 draw between Sampdoria and Lazio I was hooked on Calcio (the Italian word for football which also means ‘kick’), and a (fairly uncommited) Sampdoria fan. I’ve had since 1992 a keen interest in Calcio as in broader Italian culture (the most stylish people in Europe, with the best cuisine), and anything about their version of the beautiful game.

This book really is a must if you want to know the background and rich history of the Italian game. Pretty it ain’t – calciopoli is only the last in a long line of ludicrous football scandals to afflict the sport. But the beauty, la passione, is there for all to see. A long chapter entitled ‘Foreigners’ highlights the baffling lack of success of British players in Italy (apart probably from John Charles or Liam Brady), compared to the huge successes of players from Holland (Van Basten, Gullit, Rijkaard). There’s lots more, the legendary and tragic Grande Torino side of the 1940s, heroes on the pitch from brutal mediani like Romeo Benetti to the outrageously talented abatini (young priests) like Gianni Rivera. If you like football you’ll love it, if you enjoy Italy you’ll also love it, it’s a fantastic read.

Book review: The Rough Guide to Cult Football

June 15, 2011

The Rough Guide to Cult Football : edited by Andy Mitten

Year Published : 2nd edition 2010

ISBN 13: 978-1-84836542-1

Score out of 5 :

To be fair, Ron himself was born in Liverpool’s Old Swan, and has had some trouble with Scousers. “Going to Anfield was like Vietnam”, he said of his visits as Manchester United manager. He was once tear-gassed on a trip there, and had to put up with baffling Kop banners reading “Big Ron’s Leather” and “Ron’s Tart Is a Slag”.

I’ve done a fair bit of travelling in my time, and before I went somewhere I would usually buy a Rough Guide travel guide, because a) I like info on cheap hotels in third world shitholes, b) Rough Guides are British, unlike them hippy Aussies who churn out the Lonely Planet guidebooks.

But Rough Guides do other quirky stuff too, and their guide on the beautiful game is one of the oddest. Thinking it might have some information like how to navigate say a Faroe Islands v Northern Ireland World Cup qualifier, I bought a copy at Heathrow en route to work abroad. Not a bit of it, with chapters on “The Legends”, “The Gaffers” and “The Rivalries” the Rough Guide to Cult Football is no travel book.

The idea is great, a potted history of the oddness that follows the game everywhere, from fandom to the many whackos and spivs who have populated football from the start. There’s also sober stuff about legends of the game and memorabilia, it’s a great read, perfect for clocking time on the bog. My only gripe is that there should be a lot more in it. I’ve lugged the Rough Guide to China around China, and if those writers can flesh out 1140 heavy pages on one fifth of the world’s population, surely they can better that on the game that is adored by many more teeming billions.

Book review: Football Fascism and Fandom

May 31, 2011

Football Fascism and Fandom : by Alberto Testa and Gary Armstrong

First Published : 2010

ISBN 978 1 4081 2371 3

Score out of 5 :

“In this calcio bought for money – where Buffon [the Juventus and national team goalkeeper] is worth more than all the Chievo football team – there is no longer any space for values. The tifoso has been replaced by the spectator, the manager-fan by professionals; the football fan-players have disappeared, replaced by mercenaries ready to change their teams every year. The UltraS mentality is to fight this to ensure that football passion can defeat money; to give the stadium back to their legitimate owners [the supporters]. To fight such repression is not violence; it is the will to conquesr what has been sacrificed in the name of business. UltraS follow the team everywhere. The television is for spectators [not UltraS]; the UltraS refuse compromises with anyone. UltraS honour the team shirt regardless of who wears it. UltraS fight il calcio moderno [modern football].”

So speaks the direttivo of the Boys UltraS group, affiliated to AS Roma. A far cry then from the typical utterings of the legion of British ex-hoolies in their memoirs. This book is a revelation, most football people know of the Italian Ultràs, but how many have heard of the new breed, the mostly fascist UltraS?

The two authors, while both academics, have got in amongst the UltraS of the two big Roman clubs – AS Roma and the Irriducibili of SS Lazio. The distinction between the old school Ultràs and the new breed is, in simplest terms: The former are bound to the team and the local area and are strictly football-related; the latter put their group and ideology (in the case of Roma & Lazio a fascist ideology) first, the team and club are just part of their everyday life and they are often involved in activist politics and campaigns away from the stadium, including violent ones. There is nothing like the UltraS anywhere else in Europe, and it makes for an eye-opening read to hear about them. The main theme is how serious these boys (and occasional girls) take all this football and politics stuff, they mean business.

I’ll not go on much longer, but this book would have got 5 Cass’s out of 5 if it wasn’t for this boob (read it below) by the authors, it may not seem like much, but to someone who takes pride in knowing his football fashion, it can’t be overlooked:

Instead of the black bomber jacket or the Doc Martens boots of the stereotypical European extreme right groups, the UltraS wear expensive jackets, such as those made by the English[?!?] company, Stone Island, or Aquascutum labels or the Italian CP Company.

There, I had to highlight it, I just hope no English-hating Roma Boys read the book, that’s all.

Book reveiw: Modern Football is Rubbish

May 30, 2010

Modern Football is Rubbish : by Nick Davidson and Shaun Hunt

First Published : 2008

ISBN 978 1899807 71 0

Score out of 5 :

This little book hits the spot. A brief flight through all that has been lost to the long-suffering British football fan; from Jossy’s Giants to embrocation, Saint & Greavsie to floodlight pylons – where have they all gone? And where the fuck is Jimmy Hill? It also cocks a snoop at today’s pale imitation of the beautiful game; Sky Sports News and yo-yo clubs (forever in limbo between the Premier League and the Championship), shady foreign owners and out of touch millionaire footballers. Where did it all go wrong?

The authors play this for laughs, the chapter on “Dogs on the pitch” had me literally laughing out loud for a whole hour – my wife thought I was losing it, but it’s the kind of humour that tickles me no end. This book is a perfect pick-me-up for any time of the day – I read most of it in the bath or on the khazi.

But, for all the fun it does have a serious message – the game of football is in serious trouble and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. It’s also a good reference point for nostalgia fans (without being all mushy at the same time), it brings back things we all should remember – and never forget – that have quietly disappeared in favour of money, “product” and profit margins. After you’ve finished reading it you’ll feel a sharp pang of sadness that these things have gone, and if you’re like me you’ll go back to “Dogs on the pitch” and laugh again and again.

“Like a bottle of Blue Nun, a dog on the pitch offered brief respite from the monotony of life in the ’70s.”

Book review: Theatre of Silence

May 15, 2010

Theatre of Silence: The Lost Soul of Football : By Matthew Bazell

First published : 2008

ISBN : 978 1 903490 32 7

Score out of 5 :

This was a book that promised much – I was expecting a good rant about the current state of the beautiful game. Alas, it was an opportunity missed. Matthew Bazell, the Millwall-loving Arsenal fan, could have laid it out so much better – he had plenty of facts and good research – but too often went for cheap jokes, cringeworthy jokes as it happens.

When Bazell does get serious, he makes good, pertinent points. Reading the following paragraph, you have to wonder if Bazell has a crystal ball beside his writing desk (this was written before the current recession, and the tragi-comic demise of the likes of Portsmouth and Crystal Palace), for he is 100% bang on the money here:

There is something that hasn’t happened in Britain during the years of the Premier League, in which football should fear happening again in the future. It’s something that has happened many times before and is something that will no doubt happen again one day – especially in a country in which millions of people are living in debt. The thing I’m referring to is a recession. A wider economic recession within the country could seriously harm football in a way that it never has done before. In the past, football has survived these hard times for two very simple reasons:

1. The game was affordable entertainment. Therefore people could still attend matches even when undergoing hardship.

2. The players’ wages were not high enough to burden the club.

Now the opposite is true for both player wages and admission prices. A wider economic recession is a reality that is unavoidable. We don’t know when it will happen, or how bad it will be, but history proves that at some point in the future, our country will face some very hard times. The last time we fell on these times was in the early 1990s, around the same time that Premier League was being formed. during a recession, people will not spend such crazy money to watch football when they are struggling to pay off the bills, the mortgage or the rent. So the consequence for football could very well be half-empty stadiums and players on wage bills higher than the club’s weekly revenues. Who will envy the Premier League then?

If only he could have written more of this – it’s brilliant punditry. I won’t copy some of his jokes here, you can read them for yourself, but they ruin the good stuff. The main problem then is that Bazell can’t decide if he’s writing a serious or fun sideswipe at football’s elite, and boy do they need a serious savaging. It’s worth a read, but could have been so much better

Book review: Perry Boys

April 6, 2010

Mouthy Mancs on the March

Perry Boys : By Ian Hough

First Published : 2007

ISBN 978 1 903854 65 5

Score out of 5 :

It would be easy to dismiss this book as the shrill boasting of your typical mouthy Manc, his big head gorged on the ridiculous success and ubiquity of the behemothic commercial enterprise that is Manchester United Football Club. And on this level you would be 100% correct. But there’s a lot more to this book than that, just let me get the negatives out of the way first.

The very essence of being cool is not having to tell people that you are, in fact, very cool. Unfortunately Ian Hough reminds his reader of how cool he, his fellow Perries, and Manchester (“the best city”) especially, are. In fact he reminds us on every other page. He boasts so much about it he actually begins to sound more like the mythically one-dimensional “arrogant cockney c*nts” he so obviously despises.

But what really got my goat was his placing of the Manchester casuals at the forefront of the genesis of “the Nameless Thing” alongside the late 70’s scousers, the latter being – pre-Hough – universally recognised as the originals by general consensus. I haven’t got a problem with Hough moving the Manc Perries back in time and in size of numbers, if that massages his ego. I do have a problem with him rejecting the rest of the island, telling us they are “divvies” who only caught onto the casual craze in 1983 when the Mancs and scousers became “bored” with the scene and moved on. Evidence suggests otherwise – look at the pictures of the young tearaways on the terraces of Fratton Park in “Rolling With The 6.57 Crew” for instance (supposedly a bastion of southern counties divvies, according to Hough), these boys were in Pringles and trainers in 1980!

It may be a question of numbers, maybe the north west did have a larger contingent of lads versus cavemen, but to say it was exclusive to that area needs to be seen without the red-tainted glasses Ian Hough uses. I had a sneaking suspicion throughout that the author had his tongue firmly in his cheek when he wrote these bits, and possibly the whole book shouldn’t be taken so seriously, but with oodles of heaped up salt instead.

With that caveat dealt with, what about the rest of the book? Hough is an intelligent, quirky writer. His stream of consciousness style reminded me of the Gonzo narrative of the late, great Hunter S, or even Michael Herr. For that reason alone this book scores 4 stars (or Casses). I enjoyed his spiel, his cross-referencing Darwinism, molecular biology etc, is a welcome remove from the standard “train-pub-tear up” hoolie memoir. The best bits of the book are when he describes the Manchester of his youth, you can almost smell the sooty, damp streets of Salford. Likewise his tales of travelling and high jinks in such places as the US, Oz and Israel. It’s when he goes into bragging mode that the book loses focus.

All in all, it’s a decent stab at describing the Manchester section of the early casual movement, I enjoyed it immensely and read it in a couple of days. If you’re a cockney you’ll have to bite your lip when reading this, but it’s only banter, even if it is laid on a bit thickly.

Book review: Rolling With The 6.57 Crew

March 22, 2010

Pompey Playing Up

Rolling With The 6.57 Crew – By Cass Pennant & Rob Silvester

First Published : 2004

ISBN 1 84454 072 3

Score out of 5 :

I’ve decided to start reviewing footy related books on the blog, just to add something different to the general themes of following the Albion and casual clothing. The reviews won’t necessarily be about the latest books, just ones I have read recently and that are loosely related to all things football.

I also have a guilty pleasure to admit to – hooligan memoirs. I’ve never been in trouble at a game in my life, or so much as growled at opposing fans, but while I don’t condone or glorify hooliganism, it is something inextricably linked to the very fabric of the game, like it or not. I’m also fascinated with the motives, the people involved, and the actual events from these often vicious times. But not all the football related books I read are about young men kicking the shit out each other, biogs and polemics about the state of the modern game float my boat too. Just don’t expect to see Nick Hornby being lionized on this site.

First up is a book co-written by the Tom Clancy of “Hoolie Lit” – Mr Cass Pennant. Cass was a famous member of the infamous ICF of West Ham, and he loves to tell a tale does Cass. The book, though full of spelling and grammatical errors, is a rollicking ride in the wake of the nutty skates of Portsmouth FC from the early skinhead days of 68-69, through the casual heyday of the early eighties, and the slow decline of large-scale bedlam at football in the nineties and noughties. I always read these kinds of books with a large handful of salt, and this one especially, as the skates run everyone all over the place it seems. Co-author Rob Silvester was a hardcore member of the “6.57”, a crew named after the time of the early Saturday morning train leaving Portsmouth for London, where these boys usually launched themselves on each naughty awayday up and down the country.

It’s a good read nonetheless, and describes well some of the undoubtedly tough characters produced by the very insular and school-of-hard-knocks city that is Portsmouth, very entertaining.