Football: Books for Christmas - Have books will travel to France 98

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The Independent Online
Planning to follow England or Scotland to the World Cup in France next summer? Don't leave home without The Rough Guide to European Football: A Fans' Handbook (Rough Guides, pounds 14.99), writes Phil Shaw.

Peterjon Cresswell and Simon Evans, who researched and wrote its 600- plus pages, worked from the premise that a true European away trip is a cultural experience. As well as supplying masses of detail to fill in the gaps left by guidebooks which tell you you can "find a game most Sundays", they provide suggestions of places to eat, drink, shop and sleep.

There is also advice on travel to more than 50 destinations in 27 countries, as well as plenty of nuggety reading to pass the time on long train journeys. When in Marseilles, England supporters should remember to be sniffy about Paris. Their Scottish counterparts will no doubt find Le Jimmy a suitably named bar in Bordeaux.

At nearly twice the size, though not double the price, The European Football Yearbook, edited by Mike Hammond (Sports Projects, pounds 22.95), is a must for the statistically inclined student of the Continental game. It has a team-by-team breakdown of results, appearances and honours for everyone from Andorra to Zagreb, with details of the World Cup qualifying campaign for good measure.

Closer to home, nobody does nostalgia with quite the style of the Derby- based publishers Breedon. Tony Matthews' A-Z of Stoke City is typical of their lovingly designed, fact-packed efforts. Containing potted biographies of 800 Potters, from Lucien Boulimmier (wing-half son of a Parisian ceramic artist a century ago) to the Waynes and Darrens of today, it serves as a timely memento of Stoke's 119 years at the Victoria Ground.

The emphasis in Breedon's Illustrated History series is pictorial, with a pithy narrative. New volumes on Chelsea (by Scott Cheshire), West Ham (by John Northcutt and Roy Shoesmith) and Tottenham (by Bob Goodwin) maintain the high standard.

More expensive but worth every penny, Simon Inglis' Villa Park: 100 Years (Sports Projects, pounds 24.95) is a historical tour de force whose title is too modest by half. The intrigue and incident unearthed by Inglis goes back to 1600. Doug Ellis, Aston Villa's chairman, has a new, pounds 16.5m redevelopment plan. Before touching a single brick, the architects should consult this book.

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