Books of the Year: Sport

A momentous cricket match spearheads these reveries, which will cheer supporters of every stripe

'Tis the cricket season to be merry, after England's surging start to the Ashes series Down Under – and 500-1: The Miracle of Headingley '81 (John Wisden, £9.99) is just the book to reinforce the feel-good factor. England's extraordinary win against Australia in that Test is examined in forensic detail and chronicled with flair by Rob Steen and Alastair McLellan. If you didn't see the match, enjoy this definitive account; if you were lucky enough to watch it, revel in the proceedings all over again.

Not such a happy time for England supporters on the football front, World Cup humiliation in the summer being followed by another crushing defeat when bidding to host the 2018 finals. Those who view the tournament and its organisers, Fifa, with a jaundiced eye will find plenty to confirm their distaste in John Spurling's Death or Glory: The Dark History of the World Cup (VSP, £14.99), while The Anatomy of England: A History in Ten Matches (Orion, £14.99) by Jonathan Wilson explores the historical roots of the team's malaise. This fascinating, kick-by-kick reappraisal of 10 key games in England's international football history is wary of generalisations, though Wilson does identify an English "lust for speed and fear of thought" as a central problem.

A lust for violence in his playing days is owned up to by this year's William Hill winner, the former England rugby union hooker Brian Moore, in Beware of the Dog (Simon & Schuster, £17.99), his gripping though uncomfortable account of a troubled childhood and the self-destructive, nasty streak he has battled ever since. Bobby Windsor, Wales's legendary hooker of the 1970s, never shrank from combat either and according to his autobiography The Iron Duke (Mainstream, £16.99), he enjoyed every bloody minute of it. While his memoirs are flawed by some hide-bound, "in my day" observations, he does the game a service by reminding those who mourn the advent of professionalism just how unpleasantly patrician the game's administrators could be in the amateur era.

The Phantom of the Open by Scott Murray and Simon Farnaby (Yellow Jersey, £12.99) explains how Maurice Flitcroft also fell foul of sporting officialdom, in his case the R&A, guardians of the Rules of Golf and organisers of the Open. In 1974, Flitcroft, a 46-year-old crane driver from Barrow who had never played a round of golf before, carded 121 in an Open qualifier, still the worst score ever recorded in the event's 151-year history. He might have left it at that but for the hysterical overreaction of the R&A's blimpish secretary, a man apparently composed of 50 per cent rule book, 30 per cent blazer and 20 per cent gin. Over the next 14 years, Flitcroft sneaked through the entry process again and again, with predictably haphazard and often hilarious results, and in this sympathetic portrait he comes across as a clever, warm and witty man, far more sinned against than sinning.

The golf commentator Peter Alliss is the bête noire of Matthew Norman in You Cannot Be Serious! The 101 Most Infuriating Things in Sport (Fourth Estate, £14.99). According to Norman, Alliss is "an archetype of misplaced English arrogance of a rankness that would – were what he must know as 'the PC Brigade' a more effective military outfit than he might have us believe – have been wiped out long ago". One could argue about a number of the choices, but that's hardly the point; it's all good knockabout stuff, written with pungently cruel phrase-making as Norman hacks into his victims with the skill of a master butcher. No seasonal goodwill here, and all the funnier for that.

Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Arts and Entertainment


These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

    UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London