The Football Crónicas, edited by Jethro Soutar and Tim Girven (Ragpicker Press, 2014)

If you’ve ever played football at any level then you’ll probably be aware of the importance of ‘banter’ with your teammates. It adds to the enjoyment. It’s part of the experience. Hammering each other about being shit at football, about misplaced passes and wild shots on goal that are more likely to see the ball flying into a tree than bursting the net. Whether it’s sat in a freezing changing room before a Sunday league game or waiting outside a five-a-side pitch on a Thursday evening it’s taking the piss out of each other that helps to build spirit amongst the players. One insult, whether in jest or not, that you’re generally unlikely to hear in a football changing room is that “you’re so gay…you even want to shag men in cartoon strips.”

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Tales from the Top Flight by Chris Darwen (The Higher Tempo Press, 2016)

Tales from the Top Flight, Chris Darwen’s third book, is a review of the 2015-16 Premier League season in a diary format. Anyone familiar with the author’s first two books, the fictional series following the career of “Johnny Cooper”, manager of Mansfield Town in Chris’ Championship Manager saves, will be aware of the format as it follows a similar pattern.

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SPAIN: The Inside Story of La Roja’s Historic Treble by Graham Hunter (Back Page Press, 2013)

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The beauty of any great book is when the author allows the reader to feel as they are part of it. If it is a crime thriller, you turn each heart-thumping page hoping the heroic protagonist escapes the clutches of the evil killer. In Spain by Graham Hunter, it is easy to visualise yourself as the 24th man in the all-conquering Spanish squads that created history in winning three consecutive major international tournaments. You’re made to feel part of the dressing room, the journeys to and from the stadiums and training complexes, part of the jokes and the camaraderie that made the side so successful. This is done through excellent first hand accounts from the author, as well as direct quotes from the key actors involved, including management, players and support staff. Hunter was given access to the training facilities, players and even invited into the winning dressing rooms following the latter two triumphs.

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The Five-a-Side Bible by Chris Bruce (Backpage Press & Freight Books, 2015)

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It’s not hard to believe that 5-a-side has overtaken the 11-a-side version of the game, and now counts on a whopping 1.5m active adult players. The pitches are reliable, there are less stud-wielding maniacs, it doesn’t take up as much time, is easier to arrange, and is sociable if you play with your mates. Saying that, the carpet burns aren’t pleasant, especially in the shower afterwards, and the black rubber crumbs are guaranteed to infuriate mothers and girlfriends everywhere.

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Ahead of the Game: Brentford FCs 2014/2015 Season by Greville Waterman (Bennion Kearney, 2015)

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For Brentford fans this book will act as a Bible of what was one of their most successful seasons of recent years. Ahead of the Game is a fans-perspective diary of blog entries of the 2014/15 season by hardcore fan Greville Waterman. The author has an admirable dedication to, and an almost encyclopedic knowledge of, the Bees, having been a match-goer since he was young and even completing a short stint on the club’s board.

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Worst in the World: International Football at the Bottom of the FIFA Rankings by Aidan Williams (Bennion Kearny, 2015)

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By Dan Williamson

Twitter: @winkveron

When we talk about international football, on the rare occasion when we’re not discussing Blattergate, it is usually eulogising the mega-nations and the world’s most high-profile players. Zlatan, Ronaldo, Bale, Messi; Germany, Spain and Brazil. However, there are 208 countries currently participating in FIFA-sanctioned football matches and tournaments. So what of the rest? Author Aidan Williams, with his first book, explores those nations at the other end of the rankings. The underdogs, the have-nots, the teams that celebrate if they manage to keep the scoreline in single figures or score a solitary goal.

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¡Golazo!: A History of Latin American Football by Andreas Campomar (Quercus, 2014)

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By Dan Williamson

Twitter: @winkveron

It is often said that football is “only a game”. However, if one region contradicts this, it has to be Latin America. ¡Golazo! attempts to cover the entire history of the region, from  Aztec ball-playing rituals of the Fifteenth Century to the modern-day. It charts the introduction of the beautiful game to Latin America by British immigrants in the Nineteeth Century and all of the key moments in between.

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Football Manager Stole My Life: 20 Years of Beautiful Obsession by Iain Macintosh, Kenny Millar & Neil White (Backpage Press, 2012)

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By Dan Williamson (@winkveron)

What I like about this book is that it makes me realise I’m not the only one. In fact, it makes me appear normal. I’m 32 now and still play the legendary 97/98 with a friend once a month, as well as playing FM15 on my own occasionally. I recall my first ever league winners fondly. An Internazionale side featuring Eric Roy, David Batty, Benoit Cauet, Nicola Berti and other 97/98 luminaries. I don’t play as much as I used to though. I no longer spend 12 hours a day parked in front of a computer, or pull “cham man” all-nighters like I did when I was 16. Yes I’ve conducted imaginary press conferences in my head but that pales into insignificance compared to some of the stories in these pages.

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Matchdays: The Hidden Story of the Bundesliga by Ronald Reng (Simon & Schuster, 2015)

By Dan Williamson (@winkveron)

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Matchdays, by Ronald Reng, is a fascinating history of the Bundesliga-era told through the story of maverick football figure Heinz Höher who initially rose to prominence as a player with local side Bayer Leverkusen when German football was still very much a regional affair. The German Bundesliga is today one of the most prominent leagues in world football, thanks to the success of the national team and in particular Bayern’s performances in the Champions League. The German game is lauded for fan ownership, safe standing, cheap tickets and a thriving fan culture. It’s therefore hard to believe that before 1963 the Bundesliga didn’t exist! When the inaugural Bundesliga season kicked off in 1963 Höher was plying his trade with Meidericher SV. Following a brief spell in Holland with Twente he returned to the Bundesliga, ending his playing days with VfL Bochum who he would also go on to manage. His career as a coach also took him to Greece and Saudi Arabia, as well as a successful spell back home with 1.FC Nuremburg. When he was later unable to get a real job, he began coaching the kids of Greuther Furth. It was there that he encountered youngster Juri Judt who would become his pet project and somewhat of an obsession. Judt was drilled incessantly by Höher and tipped for big things. Judt predictably didn’t live up to the lofty hype bestowed upon him by Höher yet has had a decent career amassing over 200 professional appearances as well as four for Germany’s U21 side. He is currently plying his trade in the third tier of German football.

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