‘Tis almost the season of stocking fillers and Secret Santas, so to kick of the preparations here’s our Strictly Impartial Book of the Month Club: guaranteed no celeb player biogs here!
As the definitive story of the genius concept/trainwreck of the North American Soccer League, Ian Plenderleith’s Rock ‘n Roll Soccer is obsessively detailed, hilarious and subtly mindblowing – a revolutionary revision of history based entirely on original research and interviews with a litany of movers, shakers and ex-players.
This is obviously one of the best football books for years, moving way beyond the standard jokey cliches of the NASL – the fat old pros in cowboy-fringed shirts, the rule-tampering, the cheerleaders – to reveal the nascent American league of the 70s and 80s as nothing less than a blueprint for our own ‘modern’ game.
That’s right: everything we sniggered about back then is now pushed into our cheery upturned faces week on week, rebranded as the ‘Premier’ League. Ha ha ha ha: three points for a win, names on jerseys, squad numbers, an avalanche of stats, multi subs, no backpasses, female-friendliness and bullshit marketing by the agency-load. The difference is, the NASL was experimental, innovative and creative.
Don’t worry, this is far more than merely enlightening and entertaining; there are plenty of anorak rock ‘n’ roll parallels and arsey jokes, too.
What else is dead good? Well, how about the story of Leeds fan Gary Edwards who hasn’t missed a United first-team match anywhere in the world since 1968? Could this be the next football book to cross over into mainstream culture? Oh, I say: it’s a rollercoaster ride (in a hearse called Doombuggy) of aggro, filth, heartbreak, tragedy, decorating, Yarksher humour, righteousness and getting cheated out of the European Cup. Blimey, we don’t half wish we owned the film rights.
What else? Shirt Tales & Short Stories is the best of the Got, Not Got books so far. Why? Because it’s so delightfully simple. Like old football kits? Succumb, and your Christmas morning will be ruined by shirt-based parlour games. Which player’s face do you see wearing this Admiral Man U 1977 Cup Final shirt? We’ll see your Stuart Pearson and raise you Gordon Hill. What’s your favourite? How can anybody’s favourite kit be a bleedin’ Watford kit? We’ve been there already, see.
Finally, as in all good bookshops, the Specialist section. The books for aficionados with unusual pecadilloes. Whatever one of them is. In short (or indeed shirt), Arsenal fans will be needing Simon Shakeshaft’s lavish coffee table tome to supplement Shirt Tales which doesn’t get beyond the controversial all red of the 60s, the bruised banana, the golf-course myth, the Charlie George classic, the weird Charlie Nicholas with the funny collar and the Cup Final cannonball saga.
Meanwhile, Cov fans will be crying out for brown kit, 1987, cartoon elephant cuddly toys, original electronic scoreboards, pop ‘n’ crisp days and the return of Jimmy Hill this Xmas – all readily available in this truly special addition to the GNG stable. Just guess how many Girl of the Match progs there are lined up for your Sky Blue advent calendar…