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World Cup book review

Release date: 19th April, 2006
Publisher: Various

List Price: £17.99
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World Cup books review

1. The England Compendium by Clive Batty [Vision Sports Publishing]
2. 78 - How a nation lost the World Cup by Graham McColl [Headline]
3. England's Last Glory by David Miller [Pavilion Books]
4. This Time by Harry Harris [John Blake Publishing]

Save between 20% and 45% on all four books at www.4sportsbooks.co.uk



With the domestic football season careering to a predictably hectic finale, most fans may find themselves increasingly diverted from our 'up-and-at-'em' style of play as they catch tantalising glimpses of this summer's probable World Cup stars.

Think Ronaldinho the other night in the Champions League clash against AC Milan and start your countdown to Germany 2006.

Given football's incredible global popularity, publishers are understandably keen to ensure their World Cup titles are on the shelves as near to the end of the domestic season as possible, thus providing supporters with enough background, history, facts and figures to satisfy the most avid 'statto'. Fans who can absorb it all will make John Motson sound under-prepared.

Not as though everything on offer is a compilation of statistics, although trivia features prominently among a clutch of titles.

The genre's liveliest example is Clive Batty's The England Compilation, a book which opens with the less than modest claim of being "the greatest England football trivia book ever." However, Batty has included too many recycled quotes and provides the briefest reviews of England's performances at World Cups since 1950, but his book does contain several gems. In particular, his 'Overcapped' and 'Undercapped' XI's should provide plenty of material for subjective conversation.

Immediately prior to the 1978 World Cup, one Scottish international player said of his manager, "Ally McLeod believes tactics are a new kind of peppermint," a comment always likely to raise a wry smile. In truth, McLeod was a much better coach than he was given credit for, yet he made the mistake of persuading a nation that they had a genuine chance of winning the trophy. More than 30,000 Scottish fans assembled at Hampden Park just to see the team off!

Scotland certainly had some great players in 1978, but Graham McColl's entertaining account, written with the obvious advantage of hindsight, also serves to emphasise the extent of Scottish football's subsequent decline.

David Miller's England's Last Glory provides another trip down memory lane. It offers a compact, easy-to-read account of the 1966 World Cup - hindsight again playing an important role here - which, he says, ended with "the most celebrated day in British sport."

For those who were not around at the time and wonder about Zhechhev's place in the tournament's history or how the long-standing enmity with Argentina began, Miller's tale is ideal.

Finally, Harry Harris clearly expects another day of celebration for British sport if we are to draw any inferences from the title of his latest book, This Time÷. This is a mammoth effort by Harris and well worth having by your side as an accompaniment to this summer's feast of football: an opportunity to mix stats with background and build-up.

The author believes there is a symmetry between 1966 and 2006, even comparing the relative merits of Sir Alf Ramsey and Sven Goran Ericsson. He goes on to sing the praises of players such as Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney and David Beckham, although in all probability, possibly only two of these plus Gerrard, Lampard and Terry would have made it into Sir Alf's 1966 squad. Of these, perhaps four would be guaranteed a place in the starting line-up.

Ah, but now we're back to subjectivity with the type of argument that fans love; which four would it be? Answers on a postcard please÷





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