Football: Ferguson's growl adds class to growing United industry

Books For Christmas Football

AS THE red machine rolls on, winning competitions from Barcelona to Tokyo, it is almost a surprise that the Booker Prize eluded Manchester United this year. But even this was not for want of trying. Before heading for the Amazon next month, and another trophy tilt, United have done their bit to deforest it by churning out, or inspiring, books by the barrow- load.

United's dominance of the growing football-book market is so great they have even spawned a sub-genre of books by and for people who hate them. Taken together, a brief survey round a trio of bookshops last week uncovered 52 separate United-related titles, a significant number produced by the club itself.

These included the life stories of Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole but, interestingly, not the year's heavyweight, Sir Alex Ferguson's autobiography, Managing my Life. While the hand of his ghostwriter, Hugh McIlvanney, can be clearly seen in some passages, the tome carries Ferguson's authentic voice. While some "autobiographers" merely provide their ghosts with a few hours bland, taped testimony Ferguson, now one of Britain's most prolific authors, produced 250,000 words in longhand which McIlvanney had to distil considerably before he could add his own flavouring.

The chapters on United (almost half the book) provide a lot of background detail on his building of the club and some interesting observations on the game, but the section dealing with his earlier life, as a youngster and player in Glasgow, are more compelling, particularly in relation to his time as a bar-owner.

Loyalty and betrayal are the leading themes with Brian Kidd, Gordon Strachan and Paul Ince among those singled out for score-settling while tribute is paid to his family and key individuals, such as Dick Donald, his chairman at Aberdeen.

Yorke and Cole's books are as different as the men they portray. Cole's is a straightforward ghosted football autobiography detailing his progress from schoolboy rebel to treble-winner. Strong on his time at Newcastle and Manchester it caused the obligatory stir on serialisation with his comments on Alan Shearer's apparent unalienable right to an England place.

Yorke's is different, partly for being that increasingly rare football book, the authorised biography. Hunter Davies, author of the football classic The Glory Game, has traced Yorke's career in detail, from the earliest days in Tobago to the Barcelona triumph. Davies' narrative is interspersed by regular contributions from Yorke and conversations with the major influences on his life and career.

It is literate, well-researched and interesting but, for all Davies's promptings, Yorke never quite reveals enough of himself for it to hold the attention of a non-football orientated reader which appears to be one aim.

Peter Schmeichel's contribution to the Old Trafford library devotes one chapter to Ian Wright and much of another to a dispute with a Danish newspaper but is otherwise a typical "autobiography". Paul Ince - "self-centred and arrogant" - comes in for criticism and Ferguson for praise. Among the revelations are the day Ferguson was going to sack him, that his father is Polish and his belief that MUTV adds to the pressure on United players.

On the shelves Liverpool lag behind but, as on the pitch, they are showing signs of promise. The title of John Keith's Bob Paisley - Manager of the Millennium may be somewhat opportunist and ambitious but this look at the former Liverpool manager's achievements underlines how far United still have to go to match their Lancashire rivals.

Paisley's wisdom permeates differing contributions from two of his former players, Alan Hansen and Graeme Souness. Hansen, as might be expected, is strong on his analysis of teams and players. Less expectedly, he is also revealing on himself. Souness's book is mainly about his management years and contains several interesting tales.

John Barnes never played under Paisley, but he remains heavily influenced by the Liverpool way as he begins life in management. While there is a chippiness about his book - highlighted by the lingering discontent, by this bemedalled former England international, at not being made player of the year when playing for Sudbury Court in the Middlesex League nearly 20 years ago - it also reveals him as a man of strong will and thoughtful ideas. After reading it you are inclined to believe that, given time, he could succeed at Celtic Park.

The confessions of reformed alcoholics have become a sub-section of their own in football publishing, but there is room for one more and it is not just Aston Villa fans who will find interest in Paul Merson's diary of last season. By contrast Kevin Phillips' autobiography is aimed squarely at Sunderland fans which is both a shame and curious because he has had an unusually interesting life for a footballer and his ghost is a long- time friend.

One of Phillips' predecessors in the England attack, Steve Bloomer, has finally had his life committed to print more than a century after he first played for his country. Exhaustively researched and often fascinating, Peter Seddon's book sheds light on a bygone era.

So, too, does David Downing's evocative and thorough Passovotchka, the story of Moscow Dynamo's 1945 visit to this country. Though dry in parts it tells well an extraordinary and little-known tale.

The early part of Dave Bowler's detailed England biography, Three Lions on the Shirt, also combines footballing and social history to good effect while autobiographies by Brian Moore and Brian Glanville put a personal slant on the game's changing nature and its media coverage.

Glanville's withering description of Graham Kelly and Bert Millichip as "Kelly the Jelly and Bert the Inert" showed that one line can carry as much power as a whole book. That is underlined in a book of one-liners, the the latest edition of the Book of Football Quotations, by The Independent's Phil Shaw. This perennial and entertaining stocking-filler contains 1,500 new soundbite observations on the great and the good, and the sacked and the dropped.

But none of these books, whether by or about superstars, whether speedily ghosted or painstakingly compiled, succeed in combining the familiar and the unknown as well as Chris Hulme's Manslaughter United. In all respects but one Kingston HMP is a football team like any other with the same struggle to subjugate petty jealousies and insecurities to the greater good of the team.

The difference is that it is a prison team consisting of nine lifers and two warders. Hulme spent a season with them and the result is both unsettling and uplifting. It captures a football world which is both very similar, but utterly different from the one inhabited by Manchester United's talented millionaires.

Glenn Moore

THE READING LIST

Managing my Life by Alex Ferguson with Hugh McIlvanney (Hodder & Stoughton, pounds 18.99)

Dwight Yorke by Hunter Davies (Manchester United Books, pounds 14.99)

Andy Cole: The Autobiography by Andy Cole with Peter Fitton (Manchester United Books, pounds 14.99)

Schmeichel: The Autobiography by Peter Schmeichel with Egon Balsby (Virgin, pounds 16.99)

John Barnes: The Autobiography by John Barnes with Henry Winter (Headline, pounds 16.99)

A Matter of Opinion by Alan Hansen with Jason Tomas (Patridge, pounds 16.99)

Souness: The Management Years by Graeme Souness with Mike Ellis (Andre Deutsch, pounds 17.99)

Paul Merson: Hero and Villain by Paul Merson with Ian Ridley (Collins Willow, pounds 16.99)

Second Time Around by Kevin Phillips with Luke Nicoli (Collins Willow, pounds 14.99)

Steve Bloomer: The Story of Football's First Superstar by Peter Seddon (Breedon Books, pounds 14.99)

Passovotchka: Moscow Dynamo in Britain by David Downing (Bloomsbury, pounds 16.99)

Three Lions on the Shirt by Dave Bowler (Victor Gollanz, pounds 18.99)

The Final Score by Brian Moore (Hodder & Stoughton, pounds 17.99)

Football Memories by Brian Glanville (Virgin, pounds 16.99)

Manslaughter United by Chris Hulme (Yellow Jersey Press, pounds 10)

Bob Paisley: Manager of the Millennium by John Keith (Robson Books, pounds 17.95)

The Book of Football Quotations by Phil Shaw (Mainstream, pounds 7.99)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
science
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HSE Manger - Solar

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: HSE Mana...

Data Governance Manager (Solvency II) – Contract – Up to £450 daily rate, 6 month (may go Permanent)

£350 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently looking...

Powertrain Design Engineer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I hope you are well. My client based in ...

Java Developer - Banking - London - Up to £560/day

£500 - £560 per day: Orgtel: Java Developer FX - Banking - London - Up to £560...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried