A column’s seasonal staple: what to read on the beach this summer?
A column’s seasonal staple: what to read on the beach this summer? Usual form is a rave notice, in matey holiday spirit, for any new book by an old friend. I plead guilty as charged. But this one’s still a terrific book. Be aware, mind you, as you loll in the sun that the Premiership football season will be in full spate by the time you’re home. The crazy carnival of kick whirrs into life again just two Saturdays hence. Not that it’s really been away, what with the transfer market’s monstrous money-changing all summer as well as the latest Beckham saga in California overwhelming the public prints with more contrived hot air than even that engendered by Master Potter’s lit launch.
It is only a matter of weeks, too, till the England football XI continues its confused and stuttering attempts to qualify for the 2008 European championships, so easily the most apt holiday read for football obsessives looking to limber up for impending tribulations is the 300-page impeachment by the game’s veteran sage, Brian Glanville, who turns beady eye, spikey quill and exasperated despair on the flawed and mostly hapless band of fellows responsible for guiding over the last half-century successive underachieving (and nearly always extremely boring) England teams. Glanville’s publisher Headline bestows the desolate chronicle, England Managers (£18.99) with the sub-heading ‘The Toughest Job in Football’. Only ‘tough’, I fancy, because the string of incumbents (with one knightly exception) since the 1950s have made the job description so by being so ruddy mediocre in the first place. Not entirely their own fault, I daresay, for a number of them were appointed not so much for any piercing football intellect, but for their ability to look smart in the blazer.
The ultimate joke figure Eriksson — the more ludicrous he became the more the FA paid him — escapes fairly lightly (is Brian mellowing in old age?) but for the rest the unstoppable old boy is on tip-top blazer-cutting form: ‘If McLaren were the reductio ad absurdum of England managers, a worse choice even than Graham Taylor, Alf Ramsey was the finest by a nautical mile …Bobby Robson so nearly got his team to the 1990 World Cup, but emphatically rode his luck. Don Revie was a greedy disaster, Ron Greenwood called to the colours well after he had reached his meridian. Glenn Hoddle talked himself out of the role, Terry Venables juggled the job with his prolix business life. Have England reached the nadir with McLaren? Or would it be fairer to demand who was responsible for putting him there? … A black, bleak immediate future seems to loom.’
Still the master blaster! The cover of England Managers carries due and relevant homage from a younger generation: ‘Most football writers fall into two categories: those who have been influenced by Glanville, and those who should have been’ — Patrick Barclay, Sunday Telegraph.
What else to pack? It has been a bleak year for sporting books. Celebrity is all: ghosts and agents rule. Cricket book of the summer was Stephen Chalke’s illuminating The Flame Still Burns (Fairfield Books, £16), the biography of good Tom Cartwright, published, wretchedly, in the very week of the subject’s death; and last week, to help greet the Indian tourists, I thoroughly enjoyed Lala Amarnath: Life & Times (SportsBooks, £16.99), well and fondly written by Rajender, youngest son of the imperishable player and character who died seven Augusts ago. Some fabled Indian cricket mysteries are at last revealed.