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MOTD Football Yearbook by Terry Pratt & Sky Sports Football Yearbook 2004/05 Edited by Glenda Rollin & Jack Rollin

Release date: 29th July, 2004
Publisher: Various

List Price: £various
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Match of the Day Football Yearbook 2004/05
By Terry Pratt
BBC Books price: £11.99 (Save £8.00)

Sky Sports Football Yearbook 2004/05
Edited by Glenda Rollin & Jack Rollin

4SportsBooks Price: £13.99 (Save £6.00)

One of football's greatest spin-offs embraced by fans everywhere is not the sponsor-emblazoned replica shirt but the quiz question. The spontaneous quiz, often taking place in the car after the game, questions posed by a self-appointed chairman against a background smell of fish and chips, is something of a national institution.

Across the land at ten to six each Saturday as traffic lights turn red and the car lurches to a halt, people can be heard asking, "Who scored Bristol City's first league goal of last season?" (Lee Peacock in the 12th minute of the opening game against Notts County) or "Which Premiership referee showed more yellow cards than any other last term?" (Alan Wiley - 82).

Football fans are expected to know these sort of things which is where the ubiquitous football yearbooks come into their own - settling disputes, causing tenners to be reimbursed and tempers calmed.

There are two weighty tomes on offer this season which everyone, from the casual back seat quiz master to the fully-fledged anorak, will be able to glean enough information to maintain a steady supply of questions ranging from the easy to the outrageously difficult.

The first and longest established is the Sky Sports Yearbook, which this year runs to 1056 'fact filled pages'. The question this book immediately poses is, "How long will it be before people stop calling it 'Rothmans'?", the brand name which became synonymous with comprehensive football statistics.

This is the 35th year of the book's publication and Sky's second year as its title sponsor; it remains as comprehensive as ever. Credit is due to the publishers who have managed to incorporate five full pages on the Euro 2004 finals including a photograph of Charisteas heading home the winning goal against Portugal.

This yearbook (I nearly called it the Rothmans again) has become the equivalent of the football supporter's comfort blanket. You know what to expect from it and you would have to be searching for some pretty obscure information if you couldn't find it here. As ever, this is the title against which every other statistical compilation is measured; despite the appearance of other, data-driven football books, top spot remains occupied by the Sky Sports Yearbook.

Sensibly, the BBC has sought not to compete directly with football's equivalent of Wisden producing a football yearbook which, the cover proclaims, is "The most comprehensive football book ever." I cannot agree with that, but Terry Pratt and his data managers have come up with something completely different, a method of analysing football whereby the effectiveness of a team or a player, or indeed referees, is measured with the direct aid of statistics.

This works to a degree, especially where the author's conclusions are indisputable, for example Ruud van Nistelrooy is statistically proven as Manchester United's 'key' goalscorer. But according to the same methodology, the stats also show an injury-riven Freddie Ljungberg as Arsenal's key midfielder last season. It's the type of conclusion likely to cause uproar among supporters.

Nevertheless, the BBC deserves credit for tackling football stats from a different angle while the book's presentation, bearing in mind its content (primarily numbers and wonderfully colourful charts) is absolutely first class. Mention should also be given to the excellent analysis of the main European leagues, making it a joy to read.

Existing and budding quiz masters everywhere will probably require a copy of both titles to test fully the extent of their pals' footballing knowledge.

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