Books: Fun and philosophy of football `nannies'

BOOK OF THE WEEK
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The Independent Online
The Umbro Book of Football Quotations

by Phil Shaw and Peter Ball

(Ebury Press, pounds 9.99)

If you had any doubts about football being the "new rock'n roll", as the Sunday lifestyle sections bill it, a glance through the index of the fifth edition of this consistently popular anthology will convince you.

Where once it was Ron Atkinson, Ken Bates and Bill Shankly there now appear the names of Demi Moore, Damon Albarn, Robbie Williams and Bjork. Throw in the Countess of Elgin, the Bishop of Haslingden and Giorgio Armani and you have a fair indication of the eclectic support modern football attracts.

This new popularity is reflected in a vast increase in football coverage. Never before has so much been written and spoken about the game, just ploughing through the "nannies" [nanny goats - quotes] in the Monday morning tabloids could take the best part of a day.

This, one might think, would make compiling this collection easier than ever. However, more does not necessarily mean better. As footballers and their managers have become more media conscious they have become increasingly adept at the politician's habit of speaking without saying anything.

Phil Shaw, who has covered football for the Independent since its launch, and Peter Ball of the Times, have filtered through the dross to produce more than a thousand fresh quotations. They include items from around the globe and across the spectrum from park football to the World Cup.

Euro 96 has a chapter all of its own - including the immortal line from Stuart Pearce to Gareth Southgate: "Don't worry, the next six years fly by." Southgate has since said the line was never uttered but it has entered football's mythology regardless and deserves its place.

The old favourites remain - Ron Atkinson has 16 entries and another four about him. Manchester United's modern dominance is underlined by a preponderance of quotes by and about Eric Cantona and Alex Ferguson while Barry Fry and Kevin Keegan are also heavily featured.

There are lines that make you laugh, lines that make you think. Gary Lineker, repeating the advice of his former manager Gordon Milne, said: "If somebody in the crowd spits at you, you've just got to swallow it". Then there is Francisco Maturana, the coach of Colombia, saying a month before Andres Escobar's murder: "Through football we're trying to show that Colombia is about more than cocaine, violence and death."

There are also a series of lines which the speaker must wish he had never uttered. These include George Graham's comment , on the day he was sacked by Arsenal, that "rumours of my impending resignation have proved somewhat premature."

An ideal, unsolicited Christmas gift.

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