You Cannot Be Serious by Matthew Norman

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The Independent Online

Subtitled "The 101 Most Infuriating Things in Sport", this has more than a whiff of Michael Henderson's 2009 polemic, 50 People Who Fouled Up Football, in tone as well as title. In both cases one could argue about some of the choices, but that's not really the point; the enjoyment lies in the relish with which the authors skewer their victims. Norman's hitlist includes one or two who come into the category of kicking a dog while he's down, such as poor old Pele: "genius that he was on the pitch, off it he struggles to make the cut as a half-wit". But this is more than compensated for by other choices. One can only applaud his assessment of Willie Carson: "ghoulish munchkin... by looks, demeanour and nature designed to understudy the psychotic and murderous ventriloquist's dummy Chucky"; and Mark Nicholas: "a cocky drawler [whose] self-besottedness shines blindingly from every glance to camera". Part of the fun for Norman includes the settling of old scores; the horseracing commentator Derek "Thommo" Thompson once insulted Norman's family, and is repaid with: "If Alan Partridge had an elder brother known to the family as Durhh even before suffering severe neurological damage in a point-to-point fall, for that role Mr Thompson would be cast to type". And objectivity be damned, as a diehard Spurs fan Norman happily lays into those he feels have done the club a disservice, including past and present chairmen Alan Sugar and Daniel Levy and former managers George Graham and David Pleat. All in all, good knockabout stuff, written with pungent phrase-making and marred only by its presentation; one of the most infuriating things in publishing is a book with neither a contents page nor an index.

Published in hardback by Fourth Estate, £14.99