Over recent years, the use of statistics in sport has become increasingly common. Match of the Day and Sky Sports routinely present us with the basic stats at the end of matches – shots, shots on targets, fouls, etc. These stats are useful, insightful to a point. Even if you see the stats at the bottom of a print media match report, you can get a sense of how balanced the match was, whether the winners deserved their win.
What are the best novels written about football? If you’ve got a contender in mind, odds are that it’s either a little-known book from a little-known author, a novel which doesn’t centre on football but only features it, or The Damned United.
Understandably a fair amount of what’s out there is football fiction books for boys – which makes sense given that it can be an all-consuming interest at that age. I read and enjoyed a few of Michael Hardcastle’s novels when I was growing up, lightweight novels centring around junior boys’ teams that I remember enjoying reading, but which left no lasting impact on me.
There also seems to be a market for football hooligan books, but realistically that’s centring around a subculture tangentially related to football rather than the game itself.
The football fiction that break into wider awareness tends to receive more ridicule than praise. For example the football manager Steve Bruce self-published a series of novel starring a football manager (Steve Barnes) who keeps getting dragged into murder investigations. The ridicule they’ve received is is a little unfair. Not because the books are good, which doesn’t seem to be the case, but because they seem to have been written for the fun of writing them, completing a trilogy during 1999.
Bruce isn’t alone as a footballer dipping his toe into the world of fiction. Theo Walcott, Jimmy Greaves and Terry Venables have also written novels about football – the latter being the fantastically titled They Used to Play on Grass.
The Leaky Wiki, a satirical website which I wrote for between 2011 and 2013, eventually fell apart, somehow unable to make huge profits despite internet sarcasm being in high demand and low supply.
Using the Wayback Machine I’ve combed through the wreckage, recovering what was mine, which I’ll re-publish here on my blog in the coming weeks and months.
My first piece for The Leaky Wiki came back in November 2011, a distant time, very different from today, when there were questions about why Qatar had been chosen to host the 2022 World Cup. It’s like another lifetime entirely.
Qatar World Cup NOT Chosen as a Result of Bribery, Leaked Emails Show
Shocking emails have been leaked today, which show that Qatar was chosen as host of the 2022 World Cup, not because of bribery, as had been previously widely assumed, but because FIFA delegates genuinely believed them to be the best choice as host.
Critics have pointed out that the bid was plagued with problems as Qatar had no existing football infrastructure, and the heat regularly reaches fifty degrees Celsius in the summer. Sepp Blatter even announced that they may play games indoors, and alternately may move the whole competition forward to January.
‘It just made sense that Qatar was chosen because of bribery,’ commented one leading Premier League footballer, who asked to remain anonymous. ‘I mean, I’m no brain cutting person, I struggle to keep track of which Page 3 girl I’m banging. But even I know that when choosing the hosts, it makes sense to make sure the players will be able to stand up during matches.’
These new revelations have shaken what little faith there was in an organisation that has elected Sepp Blatter as it’s president 4 times, with many administrators wondering why Qatar would be chosen were it not for financial self-interest.
‘Qatar has no football history or infrastructure,’ said one leading English FA administrator. ‘I’m the guy who keeps suggesting we put David Beckham forward as part of our bid teams, despite his sounding like a ten year old girl, and not a very bright one at that. But even I can’t understand how the delegates can be so stupid. We had all thought that the fact that we were promised more votes than we received for our bid was a betrayal, but I’m starting to think that the delegates didn’t realise our ‘donations’ to their domestic football programmes were meant to be an implied bribe. Honestly, I have no idea how you’d work with that kind of person.’
In related news, other emails leaked at the same time reveal Saudi Arabia to be a frontrunner to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
Another quick Squawka link. Cardiff City Football Club have been a bit of a basket case in recent weeks. The chairman, Vincent Tan, while not sacking the manager, Malky Mackay himself, seems to have been pantomining a display of what ‘constructive dismissal’ looks like, briefing against him in the press, before growing bored with his performance art and sacking the manager outright.
One of the mad chairman’s more legitimate complaints was that Mackay overspent on summer recruitments. So, writing for Squawka, I’ve taken a statistical look at their summer signings.
Click here to read Was Cardiff’s Summer Spending a Success?
Hello again! After more than a month without updating the blog, I’m back again, to write a quick ‘what I’ve been up to’ blog post.
Over the Christmas period I’ve written four stats-based articles for Squawka, one of them written while obeying the writer’s stereotype of being very tipsy and having a drink in my hand.
Before Liverpool played Manchester City, I compared David Silva and Philippe Coutinho, the flair players dribbling in from the left for both sides.
Click here to read David Silva v Coutinho
Also on Liverpool, I looked at the style of play and impact of Liverpool’s Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson at Liverpool, asking if, between them, they could compensate for the missing Steven Gerrard.
Click here to read Why Liverpool’s Midfield Are Proving They Can Cope Without Most Creative Red
On Boxing Day, I covered the Tottenham v West Brom match for Squawka, taking a statistical look at the events leading to a 1-1 draw in Timothy Sherwood’s first match as Tottenham’s permanent manager.
Click here to read Tottenham 1-1 West Brom
And finally, published on the 27th, I took a look at three players who the Express reckon Manchester United are trying to sign – Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus, Atletico Madrid’s Koke, and Southampton’s Adam Lallana. (This is the piece I wrote when tipsy, which might be evident by the fact that one point I asked the reader “who do you think you’re looking at? Eh? Eh?”. Or maybe I got away with it.)
Click here to read Moyes Wishlist? Three Hugely Talented Superstars Who Could Join Man Utd.
And that’s my writing elsewhere brought up to date for now – I’ll be writing about other things in the days to come…
New today, the latest in the Lower League Week I write for BornOffside, covering the big events in League 1 and League 2. Stories include the FIFA regulation stopping Shaun Derry continuing as a player, the bad form of Peterborough, Crewe and Portsmouth, Gillingham losing in the FA Cup, and a really, really bad miss.
Click here to read Lower League Week: Notts County and Leyton Orient Battle Red Tape
Another link, this time to something new. Published today on BornOffside, I’ve responded to Dietmar Hamann’s autobiography extract, published on Sunday in the Independent.
In it, Hamann compared Michael Ballack and Paul Gascoigne’s reactions to being booked in World Cup semi-finals, arguing that Gascoigne’s emotional reaction would see him becoming a national pariah rather than a hero… and that Gascoigne represents what’s wrong with English football.
However, I disagree with a lot of what Hamann said, and have written a response for BornOffside.
Click here to read Dietmar Hamann has England’s Problems All Wrong