Football Books for Christmas: An exciting assortment for the anorak brigade: Phil Shaw on a fine festive season for the lovers of football facts and figures

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The Independent Online
FOR football's statisticians, historians and anoraks, a breed made almost fashionable by Nick 'I was an anally retentive Arsenal fan' Hornby, hold-alls will be groaning under the weight of this year's crop of giant hardbacks.

Three, in particular, look indispensable. Between them, The Breedon Book of Football Managers, by Dennis Turner and Alex White (Breedon Books, pounds 16.95), and Football League Players Records 1946-92, edited by Barry Hugman (Tony Williams Publications, pounds 19.95), should settle most factual disputes about the English game not resolved by recourse to Rothmans.

Meanwhile, Mike Payne's England: The Complete Post- War Record (Breedon, pounds 16.95) chronicles the national side's roller-coaster progress from the first peace-time international in Belfast to last summer's American nightmare, by which time it was more like a dodgem ride. England's World Cup failure must have been a blow to the sales reps, but they still have a lovingly crafted book to promote.

The fall of Graham Taylor, Howard Kendall et al has put managership under the microscope as never before, so Turner and White's tome is as timely as it is exhaustive. There is a club- by-club analysis covering the Football League and Premiership, plus profiles of all 1,200 men employed by these clubs down the century.

The authors have also established a points system to decide the most successful 'gaffer' ever. Sir Matt Busby comes top - just - from Bob Paisley, with Taylor 21st.

Hugman's guide lists every post-war player who has made so much as a substitute appearance. So if someone claims to have played League football, as a leading chairman did to me, you can check whether they are being economical with the truth (as he was).

Also in statistical vein comes The FA Complete Guide To England Players (Stanley Paul, pounds 14.99), which sets out individual and team records from 1945. A useful if austere-looking book that includes guest contributions, among them Kevin Keegan. Ominously for Taylor's successor, he laments that there are 'precious few exceptional players around'.

Another big number from Barry Hugman is FA Carling Premiership: The Players (Williams, pounds 16.99), which provides a pen portrait and career record for every top-flight peformer. Some are keenly observed; unfortunately, the first I looked up, for David Phillips, contained clumsy errors.

The Guinness Book of the FA Cup, by Mike Collett (Guinness Publishing, pounds 14.99), provides an eloquent history of t'owd tin pot plus a deluge of detail. Listing every result in the competition proper since 1872, Collett displays an entertaining eye for trivia; eg, the revelation that the King's Lynn team had a huge steak dinner, washed down by an egg-and-rum cocktails, shortly before a 1968 tie at Southend. They lost 9-0.

The FA Cup: Club By Club Record Since 1945, compiled by James Wright (Williams, pounds 19.95), is a researcher's piece de resistance and train-spotter's dream, containing the result of all 27,000 Cup matches since the war . . . including the qualifying rounds.

It also doubles as a compendium of lost clubs who not so long ago embarked on a trail they must have hoped would lead to Old Trafford or Highbury. What a shame Parliament Street Methodists, St Frideswides, Portrack Shamrock, Gothic and my favourite, Luddenden Foot, did not survive the 1950s.

Ivan Ponting has no fewer than three new books available. The FA Cup Final: A Post- War History (Williams, pounds 19.95) conveys the flavour of each occasion rather than trotting out what is already known.

For Guinness's Player By Player series, Ponting has also penned volumes on Everton and Tottenham ( pounds 14.99 each). The format is a profile of every player from the past 35 years. Spurs fans who did not see Terry Venables play might read the account of his first White Hart Lane career, and wonder whether his return was doomed from the start.

No one packages All Our Saturdays better than Breedon. Their A Complete Record collection *, which has set the standard for statistically based club histories, boasts revised editions on Everton, Manchester City, Middlesbrough, Spurs, West Brom and West Ham, as well as a new volume chronicling the rise and rise of Queen's Park Rangers.

The Aston Villa Story and The Great Days of Derby County, both by Anton Rippon (Breedon, pounds 16.95 each), eschew stats in favour of stories and pictures of significant incidents and matches from the mists of time to the modern era.

Jeff Kent's stylishly produced The Port Vale Record 1879-1993 follows the Breedon blueprint and, according to the cover, contains 90,000 facts about the Valiants. Available for pounds 14.25 (incl p & p) from Witan Books, 65 Audley Road, Alsager, Stoke-on-Trent ST7 2QW.

The Hampden Story by Russell Galbraith (Mainstream, pounds 14.99), is the saga of a stadium built for the next century, which is what those now restoring the great Glasgow ground must achieve again. It is replete with surprises: how many who regard Hampden as a Scottish shrine realise it was named after a 17th-century English politician?

Finally, two wonderful, largely unsung compilations. The 1,088-page Non-League Club Directory ( pounds 13.95) presents millions of nuggets about a thousand clubs from Accrington Stanley to Zeneca and is deservedly the Williams best- seller.

For aural archivists, Bend It] 93 is a kitsch collection of football songs and soundtrack snippets with a cast ranging from Eric Cantona to Diana Dors. Big in Japan and yours for pounds 8.99 (CD) or pounds 6.50 (tape) from Exotica, 49 Belvoir Road, London SE22 0QY.

* Breedon 'Complete Record' series (all pounds 16.95): Everton by Ian Ross and Gordon Smailes; Manchester City by Ray Goble with Andrew Ward; Middlesbrough by Harry Glasper; QPR by Gordon Macey; Spurs by Bob Goodwin; West Bromwich Albion by Tony Matthews; West Ham by John Northcutt and Roy Shoesmith.