Sport Books: Club tales that are not always received with warmth

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The Independent Online
The word "official" is frequently used to lend a spurious authority to a book. More often than not, it also turns out to be code for "sanitised version". Now Tottenham have banned a book about their greatest season, Ken Ferris' The Double (Two Heads, pounds 9.99), from being sold at White Hart Lane because it is unauthorised, i.e. no licence fee has been paid for the "right" to write about Spurs.

The publishers also claim that Spurs will not even sell them advertising space in the club magazine. Which is a shame, because the story of the historic 1960-61 campaign, and what became of the players, is not widely known among football supporters under 40.

Title notwithstanding, Bryon Butler's The Official Illustrated History of the FA Cup (Headline, pounds 25) is a sumptuous celebration of 125 years of the greatest knock-out competition of all.

Butler's mellifluous tones have told the story of many a giant-killing on radio. The same lyrical, romantic quality, allied to a lynx-eyed attention to detail, illuminates the text. Yet, if anything, the pictures are even more evocative: there is at least one from every final, including a portrait of Morton Peto Betts, match-winner for The Wanderers in 1872, which was discovered in a cricket pavilion in Kent.

Football lovers and followers of particular clubs alike (not necessarily the same thing) will delight in Butler's homage. For those looking for something more specific there is the Illustrated History of Leeds United by Andrew Mourant (Hamlyn, pounds 17.99), an addition to a coffee-table series which includes updated histories of Arsenal, Celtic, Liverpool, Manchester United and Spurs (authorised, naturally). Hamlyn also offer Player by Player editions on Arsenal and Liverpool (pounds 14.99), both combining Ivan Ponting's pithy pen portraits with superb action pictures.

Tapping the same market, with a statistical bias, Breedon Books have produced lavish new large-format books on Rangers (by Bob Ferrier and Robert McElroy, pounds 16.99) and Leeds United (by Martin Jarred and Malcolm Macdonald, pounds 16.99) in the Complete Record series. Also from the Derby- based publishers, in collaboration with the Express & Star newspaper, comes Memories of Molineux, full of old-gold golden oldies (also pounds 16.99).

Football literature's equivalent of the independent rock labels are still out there proving that they do not need permission from the corporate culture. The Boys from up the Hill: An Oral History of Oxford United (Crowberry, pounds 9.99), by Geron Swann and Andrew Ward, contains the first-hand accounts of players (Ron "The Tank" Atkinson) among them, managers, directors and fans of a village club's rise and rise.

Jeff Kent, who collected a similar anthology of anecdotes about his favourite club, has now compiled Port Vale Personalities: A Biographical Dictionary (pounds 14.75 plus pounds 1.65 P&P from Witan Books, 8 Nelson Crescent, Cotes Heath, via Stafford, ST21 6ST). Every player from 120 years is featured, along with the terrace hard-case who became a Pentecostal minister.

The European Football Yearbook 96-97, edited by Mike Hammond (Sports Projects Ltd, pounds 22.95), contains 1,120 pages and covers club football from Aberystwyth to Zagreb as well as the international scene. The same company's Aston Villa: Double Winners 1896-97, edited by Bernard Gallagher (pounds 5.95), takes a magnifying glass to a bygone age. No "official" tag in sight, but Villa, aware of both its historical significance and commercial potential, happily sell it in their shop.

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