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From the unashamedly nostalgic Got, Not Got and the thought-provoking If Only: An Alternative History of the Beautiful Game, to Andrew MurtaghŐs superbly-written Gentleman and a Player, Pitch Publishing are always likely to come up with something different. Take a look at their current range:
Redemption: From Iron Bars to Ironman By John McAvoy with Mark Turley
Release date: 06th January, 2017
Publisher: Pitch Publishing
Our Price: Ł11.89
You Save: Ł5.1 (30%)
Sports books of the year
Today: The top five of 2017
Having whetted the appetite with five of the yearâs best sports books (it was numbers ten to six last week), here, with the accompanying roll of drums, are the yearâs top five, presented, naturally, in reverse orderâŠ.
At number five is David Bolchoverâs The Greatest Comeback, the story of BĂ©la Guttmann, a man who could justifiably be called footballâs first âsuper coachâ. However, the tactical abilities which saw him employed by more than twenty clubs during a career that stretched well into his sixties, was only part of his incredible story. His willingness to travel in order to further his football career earned him the nickname âWandering Jewâ (too rarely used in jest), yet his Jewishness is integral to this remarkable and well-researched tale.
4. The Talent Lab by Owen Slot. The turnaround in Great Britainâs Olympic fortunes since Atlanta in 1996 has been nothing short of dramatic. From a miserable return on investment 21 years ago, in 2012, Team GB were third in the medal table; at last yearâs Rio Olympics, they took second place. Yet, as Slot shows, it wasnât as though sport was starved of cash between 1996-2012.
3. A Clear Blue Sky by Johnny Bairstow and Duncan Hamilton is as far from a statistical re-run of JBâs career to date as you could imagine. Instead, readers are presented with a gripping, page-turning evocation of the human spirit, a story of triumph and lots of sadness in the face of extreme adversity.
2. Like The Beautiful Game? which shone a bright spotlight on domestic footballâs darkest corners, revealing its distasteful capacity to attract kleptomaniacal club chairmen and administrators for whom greed and incompetence were a way of life, David Conn does an equally impressive job on a global level in The Fall of the House of FIFA.
Hold the drumroll, cue the trumpetsâŠ
Number one on our list of 2017âs sports books is Redemption by John McAvoy with Mark Turley. The book features one of the best introductions to a sporting title youâre ever likely to read. Within a few paragraphs, you have an empathy with the narrator embarked on a 106 km foot race from London to Brighton after he explains why tackling such distances appeals. âEndurance sport hinges on pain, which is why it attracts a certain type of athlete,â he says. âYou begin an event with your fitness and strength, but you finish it only with stubbornness.â
READ OUR REVIEW OF REDEMPTION HERE:
Redemption features one of the best introductions to a sporting title youâre ever likely to read. Within a few paragraphs, you have an empathy with the narrator embarked on a 106 km foot race from London to Brighton after he explains why tackling such distances appeals.
âEndurance sport hinges on pain, which is why it attracts a certain type of athlete,â he says. âYou begin an event with your fitness and strength, but you finish it only with stubbornness.â
Around ten miles from the finish, he draws level with a female, number 76, who believes sheâs in second place. They run together as she tells him how, while recovering from breast cancer which resulted in a double mastectomy, she realised she had ânever used her body to the fullestâ and so began running longer and longer distances to achieve âfrequent inspirationâ. She wins, although you feel the narrator was happy to let her.
After such an engaging opening, itâs easy to understand how some people have read Redemption in one sitting because youâre prepared for more of the same, a rare, perhaps profound, insight into ultra-running and how it affects the body and mind. Yet what follows comes as a complete surprise.
Unlike other youngsters, whose first memories might be of playing for the school team, embarking on an epic bike, or some other pivotal moment that paved the way for a life in sport, John McAvoy, the narrator, differentiates himself from the mainstream.
âIâm an Ironman,â he declares. âIronmen go through hell every time they raceâŠmaybe I always liked hell.â His defining youthful moment came in 1999 in a pub car park in Dulwich, south east London, for it was here that he handed over ÂŁ600 to a man with bad teeth and nicotine-stained fingers in return for a sawn-off shotgun and 20 cartridges.
McAvoy comes from a family steeped primarily in crime. When Uncle Billy is released from prison, the narrative could come straight from an episode of the Sopranos, though Billy is adamant that the family are not gangsters.
This crime-soaked back story creates a compelling dimension to what might be called a âstandardâ sporting tale and it is not long before John finds himself in prison for armed robbery.
His redemption came in the form of physical exercise, specifically indoor rowing. While in gaol, he broke three indoor world rowing records, including the longest-ever continuous row, an astonishing 45 hours. Upon release, he set his sights on becoming a professional Ironman competitor; following the introduction to this gripping book, few would bet against him achieving success in this toughest of athletic pursuits.
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