One of a kind

Pat Nevin may be the first footballer to cite Jane Austen and PG Wodehouse among his inspirations. But then the former Chelsea and Everton winger was never one to follow the crowd. In his new book, The Accidental Footballer, this self-confessed outsider offers a unique and entertaining perspective on the English game in the 1980s and 90s

WORDS Simon Hart

Interview
Pat Nevin has a tale about his life as a footballer in the 1980s to illustrate the huge gulf that exists between the Chelsea he played for and the club of today. It concerns a pre-season trip to Wales, when the Chelsea players found themselves staying in a hall of residence at Aberystwyth University. The absence of en-suite bathrooms sparked a scrap between two of his fellow forwards, winger Paul Canoville and striker Kerry Dixon, over who got to sit in one of the few available tubs.

“At the end of these hard training runs on sand dunes, there were baths for the first eight that got back,” says Nevin. “You could run a bath, lie in it and recover; everyone else had these dribbling showers. So there was always a race to get back. One day Paul Canoville gets back among the first eight and so starts to run the bath, then goes back to his room to get all his oils and unctions. He comes back and there’s Kerry Dixon standing in his bath.

“I’ve just joined this club as a student – and hopefully a semi-intelligent person – and there’s a 6ft 2in white guy and a 6ft 1in black guy stark naked, standing in a little bath punching the living daylights out of each other. We had another player called Micky Droy who was much taller than them at 6ft 4in and built like a monster; he went over and just grabbed them both like two kittens and said, ‘Away.’”

It is a tale typical of The Accidental Footballer, Nevin’s enlightening and entertaining memoir about his life playing the game in the 1980s and 90s – first as a part-timer at Clyde in his native Scotland, combining football with his studies, and then down in England with Chelsea, Everton and Tranmere Rovers. A beret-wearing lover of indie music, the jinking little winger with the elfin looks was viewed as being different; he saw it otherwise, given the cast of characters around him. “Mr Bennet said it to Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice about loving to study the unusual characters: they’re the ones worth looking at,” he reflects. “There’s a strange dichotomy in my book where I’m such an outsider but I constantly think I’m the normal one.” To him, two Chelsea footballers fighting over a bath was certainly different. “I was looking at this and thinking, ‘I’ve left a perfectly normal life as a student doing a degree for this madness.’”

That Nevin, now 57 and a successful broadcaster, has published a memoir will surprise few people familiar with his career. At the time he won the first of his two Chelsea Player of the Year prizes – in the club’s 1983/84 promotion season – he was sharing a one-bedroom flat with Adrian Thrills, a journalist from NME, the music magazine for which he wrote record reviews. “I have written for so many newspapers and magazines; I’ve always written for fun. This is pure fun,” he says. And his is almost certainly the first football memoir to have drawn on PG Wodehouse, his favourite author these days. “It’s like bands: you have favourite bands at different times,” he explains. “Very early on I was heavily into serious stuff – the French philosophers, the German philosophers and the heavy Russian reading – but then as the years go by you find other things and I just kept on coming back to Wodehouse.”

"It was Nevin’s editor who told him, “‘You’re good at dialogue, do more of the discussions like that – take them out of description and put them in dialogue, it reads better.’ So I went back and looked at dialogue I love: Jane Austen, Wodehouse. Both of them are quite humorous in a subtle way. I’ve always loved the nuance of language."
"I have sympathy for the modern players because the majority of them are so cossetted that it's a skewed view of life"

He admires Wodehouse for “his use of words – the perfect word every single time. Many people look down on comic writing but it’s the hardest thing to do, to make people laugh.” There are two features that set The Accidental Footballer apart from most football books. First, the long footnotes; it’s a technique he borrowed from Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor, in order to allow him “a load of freedom to go in different directions”. Second, the use of dialogue. It was Nevin’s editor who told him, “‘You’re good at dialogue, do more of the discussions like that – take them out of description and put them in dialogue, it reads better.’ So I went back and looked at dialogue I love: Jane Austen, Wodehouse. Both of them are quite humorous in a subtle way. I’ve always loved the nuance of language. That’s why the dialogue is fun because you can then sit in their position and try to remember how they used language – don’t put a word in their mouth that they’d never use.” When it came to John Peel, the former BBC DJ on whose show he would make regular appearances, he actually listened back to an old tape to ensure “I was able to use Peely’s actual words”.

For the audio version of the book, he even does the accents. “When I was doing the reading, the guy I was reading it to, the proof guy, laughed a couple of times and that’s what I wanted.” In this case, it was laughter prompted by his account of an evening at Morrissey’s house, sipping raspberry tea and playing football in the back garden. It is easy to imagine younger readers, in particular, struck by his sketches of the very different world that footballers inhabited in his era. Not least at Chelsea, the club he left for Everton after the former’s relegation in 1988.

“One of the people I thank in my book is Theresa,” says Nevin. “She basically ran the club back then and she’s still at Chelsea today. Five or six are still there, and a lot of the fans who were youngsters then – and a football club is the fans. The other side of it is the quality of play, the standard of players, the money, three-quarters of the stadium … and how it’s seen in the world is just unrecognisable. It’s kind of not the same club but how many are, really? I’d say Everton are almost the same club – I go there and I feel as if I am walking into the same club.

“But as a gigantic worldwide club, as Chelsea is, it bears little resemblance on the outside. It’s facing outwards and that changes what the club is. It’s now looking out to Europe, Asia, America, the world. People might have a dig at that, but that wouldn’t make sense. I write for the website and I’m happy for the club to grow because in this business you can’t stand still. It still actually feels like my team, oddly enough.”

In Nevin’s day, the closest Chelsea got to looking to Asia was an exhibition match in Iraq at which the guest of honour was Saddam Hussein – a trip, he recounts, that nearly sparked a players’ revolt over their £6-per-day spending money from then chairman Ken Bates. Nevin’s light tone does not diminish some of the weightier topics. He describes a fight between Canoville and an unnamed team-mate over the latter’s “inappropriate slurs” and his own public support of the winger after some Chelsea supporters racially abused Canoville during a Second Division match against Crystal Palace in 1984.

“The interesting thing about that story was the effect it had on Paul Canoville, and it led to something that has been a massive passion in my life: the anti-racism campaign,” explains Nevin who, in the mid-90s, became chairman of the English Professional Footballers’ Association. “I’ve heard people tell stories about nobody saying anything in the 80s and I’m thinking, ‘Steady on, mate – some of us were.’”

Nevin once sat down with two Chelsea-supporting National Front members in a west London café to discuss the problem. “I try to understand every other person. You hear me in the book trying to understand racists. I’ll listen, I’ll watch and then I’ll give – hopefully – a balanced view at the end of it, and the balanced view is there’s good and bad in everybody. The world gets into a lot of trouble when people don’t try to understand each other.” This leads to a reflection on today’s cancel culture, which is anathema to Nevin. “Considering the people who are doing the no-platforming are supposed to be the people at the front of our society who are the leaders in ideas, you think, ‘Where are we going now that we will not listen to people?’”

It is a question befitting a man who never hid away. In another tale in the book, he recounts an encounter with a knife-carrying Tottenham Hotspur fan on the Tube, after he had played there with Chelsea. “I thumped him with a right hook, and gave him an over the top, definite red card, straight-leg, bone-crunching ‘tackle’ to his knee,” he writes. It draws a fresh thought now. “I wanted to be in the real world so now and again that sort of thing happened to me, and it kept happening. I have a bit of sympathy for the modern players because the vast majority of them are so cossetted, are so bubbled, that it’s a very skewed view of life. Lives are now lived in a bubble of social media.

“But there are players out there, like Juan Mata, normal guys out there who see it and go, ‘This is a very mad and gilded world I’m in here, I’m going to take part in the real world as well.’ I felt like that when I played. People say it’s harder now but you can still do it, you absolutely can. It’d be a bit harder for Marcus Rashford to jump on the Tube without being mobbed but, to be fair, you can.”

Insight
Pat Nevin’s favourite football books

“I’ve had the misfortune to read a lot of terrible football books. Sometimes I had to review them or other times I had to interview the player himself. I’ve not enjoyed a lot – after all, I’ve been there, I’ve seen it, I’ve been inside it and somebody talking about something you already know isn’t madly interesting. The few I’ve read and really loved have an angle I wouldn’t have seen – for example, the book on Robert Enke, the German goalkeeper who committed suicide, is a beautiful piece of work. I love goalkeepers’ books because they’re not like us, absolutely nothing like us. The first football book I read was The Beautiful Game by Pelé and I learned a few things from it – this concept about the domain of the ball. Wherever the ball comes, you have to be able to trap it and get it under control with one touch, no matter where it is. Over your head, behind you, you must be able to do that. I must have been in my early teens when I read that and I remember thinking, ‘Oh really?’”

- A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke by Ronald Reng
- Black and Blue
by Paul Canoville
- Brilliant Orange
by David Winner
- Football Against the Enemy
by Simon Kuper
- The Beautiful Game
by Pelé

“At the end of these hard training runs on sand dunes, there were baths for the first eight that got back,” says Nevin. “You could run a bath, lie in it and recover; everyone else had these dribbling showers. So there was always a race to get back. One day Paul Canoville gets back among the first eight and so starts to run the bath, then goes back to his room to get all his oils and unctions. He comes back and there’s Kerry Dixon standing in his bath.

“I’ve just joined this club as a student – and hopefully a semi-intelligent person – and there’s a 6ft 2in white guy and a 6ft 1in black guy stark naked, standing in a little bath punching the living daylights out of each other. We had another player called Micky Droy who was much taller than them at 6ft 4in and built like a monster; he went over and just grabbed them both like two kittens and said, ‘Away.’”

It is a tale typical of The Accidental Footballer, Nevin’s enlightening and entertaining memoir about his life playing the game in the 1980s and 90s – first as a part-timer at Clyde in his native Scotland, combining football with his studies, and then down in England with Chelsea, Everton and Tranmere Rovers. A beret-wearing lover of indie music, the jinking little winger with the elfin looks was viewed as being different; he saw it otherwise, given the cast of characters around him. “Mr Bennet said it to Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice about loving to study the unusual characters: they’re the ones worth looking at,” he reflects. “There’s a strange dichotomy in my book where I’m such an outsider but I constantly think I’m the normal one.” To him, two Chelsea footballers fighting over a bath was certainly different. “I was looking at this and thinking, ‘I’ve left a perfectly normal life as a student doing a degree for this madness.’”

That Nevin, now 57 and a successful broadcaster, has published a memoir will surprise few people familiar with his career. At the time he won the first of his two Chelsea Player of the Year prizes – in the club’s 1983/84 promotion season – he was sharing a one-bedroom flat with Adrian Thrills, a journalist from NME, the music magazine for which he wrote record reviews. “I have written for so many newspapers and magazines; I’ve always written for fun. This is pure fun,” he says. And his is almost certainly the first football memoir to have drawn on PG Wodehouse, his favourite author these days. “It’s like bands: you have favourite bands at different times,” he explains. “Very early on I was heavily into serious stuff – the French philosophers, the German philosophers and the heavy Russian reading – but then as the years go by you find other things and I just kept on coming back to Wodehouse.”

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"It was Nevin’s editor who told him, “‘You’re good at dialogue, do more of the discussions like that – take them out of description and put them in dialogue, it reads better.’ So I went back and looked at dialogue I love: Jane Austen, Wodehouse. Both of them are quite humorous in a subtle way. I’ve always loved the nuance of language."
"I have sympathy for the modern players because the majority of them are so cossetted that it's a skewed view of life"

He admires Wodehouse for “his use of words – the perfect word every single time. Many people look down on comic writing but it’s the hardest thing to do, to make people laugh.” There are two features that set The Accidental Footballer apart from most football books. First, the long footnotes; it’s a technique he borrowed from Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor, in order to allow him “a load of freedom to go in different directions”. Second, the use of dialogue. It was Nevin’s editor who told him, “‘You’re good at dialogue, do more of the discussions like that – take them out of description and put them in dialogue, it reads better.’ So I went back and looked at dialogue I love: Jane Austen, Wodehouse. Both of them are quite humorous in a subtle way. I’ve always loved the nuance of language. That’s why the dialogue is fun because you can then sit in their position and try to remember how they used language – don’t put a word in their mouth that they’d never use.” When it came to John Peel, the former BBC DJ on whose show he would make regular appearances, he actually listened back to an old tape to ensure “I was able to use Peely’s actual words”.

For the audio version of the book, he even does the accents. “When I was doing the reading, the guy I was reading it to, the proof guy, laughed a couple of times and that’s what I wanted.” In this case, it was laughter prompted by his account of an evening at Morrissey’s house, sipping raspberry tea and playing football in the back garden. It is easy to imagine younger readers, in particular, struck by his sketches of the very different world that footballers inhabited in his era. Not least at Chelsea, the club he left for Everton after the former’s relegation in 1988.

“One of the people I thank in my book is Theresa,” says Nevin. “She basically ran the club back then and she’s still at Chelsea today. Five or six are still there, and a lot of the fans who were youngsters then – and a football club is the fans. The other side of it is the quality of play, the standard of players, the money, three-quarters of the stadium … and how it’s seen in the world is just unrecognisable. It’s kind of not the same club but how many are, really? I’d say Everton are almost the same club – I go there and I feel as if I am walking into the same club.

“But as a gigantic worldwide club, as Chelsea is, it bears little resemblance on the outside. It’s facing outwards and that changes what the club is. It’s now looking out to Europe, Asia, America, the world. People might have a dig at that, but that wouldn’t make sense. I write for the website and I’m happy for the club to grow because in this business you can’t stand still. It still actually feels like my team, oddly enough.”

In Nevin’s day, the closest Chelsea got to looking to Asia was an exhibition match in Iraq at which the guest of honour was Saddam Hussein – a trip, he recounts, that nearly sparked a players’ revolt over their £6-per-day spending money from then chairman Ken Bates. Nevin’s light tone does not diminish some of the weightier topics. He describes a fight between Canoville and an unnamed team-mate over the latter’s “inappropriate slurs” and his own public support of the winger after some Chelsea supporters racially abused Canoville during a Second Division match against Crystal Palace in 1984.

“The interesting thing about that story was the effect it had on Paul Canoville, and it led to something that has been a massive passion in my life: the anti-racism campaign,” explains Nevin who, in the mid-90s, became chairman of the English Professional Footballers’ Association. “I’ve heard people tell stories about nobody saying anything in the 80s and I’m thinking, ‘Steady on, mate – some of us were.’”

Nevin once sat down with two Chelsea-supporting National Front members in a west London café to discuss the problem. “I try to understand every other person. You hear me in the book trying to understand racists. I’ll listen, I’ll watch and then I’ll give – hopefully – a balanced view at the end of it, and the balanced view is there’s good and bad in everybody. The world gets into a lot of trouble when people don’t try to understand each other.” This leads to a reflection on today’s cancel culture, which is anathema to Nevin. “Considering the people who are doing the no-platforming are supposed to be the people at the front of our society who are the leaders in ideas, you think, ‘Where are we going now that we will not listen to people?’”

It is a question befitting a man who never hid away. In another tale in the book, he recounts an encounter with a knife-carrying Tottenham Hotspur fan on the Tube, after he had played there with Chelsea. “I thumped him with a right hook, and gave him an over the top, definite red card, straight-leg, bone-crunching ‘tackle’ to his knee,” he writes. It draws a fresh thought now. “I wanted to be in the real world so now and again that sort of thing happened to me, and it kept happening. I have a bit of sympathy for the modern players because the vast majority of them are so cossetted, are so bubbled, that it’s a very skewed view of life. Lives are now lived in a bubble of social media.

“But there are players out there, like Juan Mata, normal guys out there who see it and go, ‘This is a very mad and gilded world I’m in here, I’m going to take part in the real world as well.’ I felt like that when I played. People say it’s harder now but you can still do it, you absolutely can. It’d be a bit harder for Marcus Rashford to jump on the Tube without being mobbed but, to be fair, you can.”

Insight
Pat Nevin’s favourite football books

“I’ve had the misfortune to read a lot of terrible football books. Sometimes I had to review them or other times I had to interview the player himself. I’ve not enjoyed a lot – after all, I’ve been there, I’ve seen it, I’ve been inside it and somebody talking about something you already know isn’t madly interesting. The few I’ve read and really loved have an angle I wouldn’t have seen – for example, the book on Robert Enke, the German goalkeeper who committed suicide, is a beautiful piece of work. I love goalkeepers’ books because they’re not like us, absolutely nothing like us. The first football book I read was The Beautiful Game by Pelé and I learned a few things from it – this concept about the domain of the ball. Wherever the ball comes, you have to be able to trap it and get it under control with one touch, no matter where it is. Over your head, behind you, you must be able to do that. I must have been in my early teens when I read that and I remember thinking, ‘Oh really?’”

- A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke by Ronald Reng
- Black and Blue
by Paul Canoville
- Brilliant Orange
by David Winner
- Football Against the Enemy
by Simon Kuper
- The Beautiful Game
by Pelé

“At the end of these hard training runs on sand dunes, there were baths for the first eight that got back,” says Nevin. “You could run a bath, lie in it and recover; everyone else had these dribbling showers. So there was always a race to get back. One day Paul Canoville gets back among the first eight and so starts to run the bath, then goes back to his room to get all his oils and unctions. He comes back and there’s Kerry Dixon standing in his bath.

“I’ve just joined this club as a student – and hopefully a semi-intelligent person – and there’s a 6ft 2in white guy and a 6ft 1in black guy stark naked, standing in a little bath punching the living daylights out of each other. We had another player called Micky Droy who was much taller than them at 6ft 4in and built like a monster; he went over and just grabbed them both like two kittens and said, ‘Away.’”

It is a tale typical of The Accidental Footballer, Nevin’s enlightening and entertaining memoir about his life playing the game in the 1980s and 90s – first as a part-timer at Clyde in his native Scotland, combining football with his studies, and then down in England with Chelsea, Everton and Tranmere Rovers. A beret-wearing lover of indie music, the jinking little winger with the elfin looks was viewed as being different; he saw it otherwise, given the cast of characters around him. “Mr Bennet said it to Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice about loving to study the unusual characters: they’re the ones worth looking at,” he reflects. “There’s a strange dichotomy in my book where I’m such an outsider but I constantly think I’m the normal one.” To him, two Chelsea footballers fighting over a bath was certainly different. “I was looking at this and thinking, ‘I’ve left a perfectly normal life as a student doing a degree for this madness.’”

That Nevin, now 57 and a successful broadcaster, has published a memoir will surprise few people familiar with his career. At the time he won the first of his two Chelsea Player of the Year prizes – in the club’s 1983/84 promotion season – he was sharing a one-bedroom flat with Adrian Thrills, a journalist from NME, the music magazine for which he wrote record reviews. “I have written for so many newspapers and magazines; I’ve always written for fun. This is pure fun,” he says. And his is almost certainly the first football memoir to have drawn on PG Wodehouse, his favourite author these days. “It’s like bands: you have favourite bands at different times,” he explains. “Very early on I was heavily into serious stuff – the French philosophers, the German philosophers and the heavy Russian reading – but then as the years go by you find other things and I just kept on coming back to Wodehouse.”

"It was Nevin’s editor who told him, “‘You’re good at dialogue, do more of the discussions like that – take them out of description and put them in dialogue, it reads better.’ So I went back and looked at dialogue I love: Jane Austen, Wodehouse. Both of them are quite humorous in a subtle way. I’ve always loved the nuance of language."
"I have sympathy for the modern players because the majority of them are so cossetted that it's a skewed view of life"

He admires Wodehouse for “his use of words – the perfect word every single time. Many people look down on comic writing but it’s the hardest thing to do, to make people laugh.” There are two features that set The Accidental Footballer apart from most football books. First, the long footnotes; it’s a technique he borrowed from Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor, in order to allow him “a load of freedom to go in different directions”. Second, the use of dialogue. It was Nevin’s editor who told him, “‘You’re good at dialogue, do more of the discussions like that – take them out of description and put them in dialogue, it reads better.’ So I went back and looked at dialogue I love: Jane Austen, Wodehouse. Both of them are quite humorous in a subtle way. I’ve always loved the nuance of language. That’s why the dialogue is fun because you can then sit in their position and try to remember how they used language – don’t put a word in their mouth that they’d never use.” When it came to John Peel, the former BBC DJ on whose show he would make regular appearances, he actually listened back to an old tape to ensure “I was able to use Peely’s actual words”.

For the audio version of the book, he even does the accents. “When I was doing the reading, the guy I was reading it to, the proof guy, laughed a couple of times and that’s what I wanted.” In this case, it was laughter prompted by his account of an evening at Morrissey’s house, sipping raspberry tea and playing football in the back garden. It is easy to imagine younger readers, in particular, struck by his sketches of the very different world that footballers inhabited in his era. Not least at Chelsea, the club he left for Everton after the former’s relegation in 1988.

“One of the people I thank in my book is Theresa,” says Nevin. “She basically ran the club back then and she’s still at Chelsea today. Five or six are still there, and a lot of the fans who were youngsters then – and a football club is the fans. The other side of it is the quality of play, the standard of players, the money, three-quarters of the stadium … and how it’s seen in the world is just unrecognisable. It’s kind of not the same club but how many are, really? I’d say Everton are almost the same club – I go there and I feel as if I am walking into the same club.

“But as a gigantic worldwide club, as Chelsea is, it bears little resemblance on the outside. It’s facing outwards and that changes what the club is. It’s now looking out to Europe, Asia, America, the world. People might have a dig at that, but that wouldn’t make sense. I write for the website and I’m happy for the club to grow because in this business you can’t stand still. It still actually feels like my team, oddly enough.”

In Nevin’s day, the closest Chelsea got to looking to Asia was an exhibition match in Iraq at which the guest of honour was Saddam Hussein – a trip, he recounts, that nearly sparked a players’ revolt over their £6-per-day spending money from then chairman Ken Bates. Nevin’s light tone does not diminish some of the weightier topics. He describes a fight between Canoville and an unnamed team-mate over the latter’s “inappropriate slurs” and his own public support of the winger after some Chelsea supporters racially abused Canoville during a Second Division match against Crystal Palace in 1984.

“The interesting thing about that story was the effect it had on Paul Canoville, and it led to something that has been a massive passion in my life: the anti-racism campaign,” explains Nevin who, in the mid-90s, became chairman of the English Professional Footballers’ Association. “I’ve heard people tell stories about nobody saying anything in the 80s and I’m thinking, ‘Steady on, mate – some of us were.’”

Nevin once sat down with two Chelsea-supporting National Front members in a west London café to discuss the problem. “I try to understand every other person. You hear me in the book trying to understand racists. I’ll listen, I’ll watch and then I’ll give – hopefully – a balanced view at the end of it, and the balanced view is there’s good and bad in everybody. The world gets into a lot of trouble when people don’t try to understand each other.” This leads to a reflection on today’s cancel culture, which is anathema to Nevin. “Considering the people who are doing the no-platforming are supposed to be the people at the front of our society who are the leaders in ideas, you think, ‘Where are we going now that we will not listen to people?’”

It is a question befitting a man who never hid away. In another tale in the book, he recounts an encounter with a knife-carrying Tottenham Hotspur fan on the Tube, after he had played there with Chelsea. “I thumped him with a right hook, and gave him an over the top, definite red card, straight-leg, bone-crunching ‘tackle’ to his knee,” he writes. It draws a fresh thought now. “I wanted to be in the real world so now and again that sort of thing happened to me, and it kept happening. I have a bit of sympathy for the modern players because the vast majority of them are so cossetted, are so bubbled, that it’s a very skewed view of life. Lives are now lived in a bubble of social media.

“But there are players out there, like Juan Mata, normal guys out there who see it and go, ‘This is a very mad and gilded world I’m in here, I’m going to take part in the real world as well.’ I felt like that when I played. People say it’s harder now but you can still do it, you absolutely can. It’d be a bit harder for Marcus Rashford to jump on the Tube without being mobbed but, to be fair, you can.”

Insight
Pat Nevin’s favourite football books

“I’ve had the misfortune to read a lot of terrible football books. Sometimes I had to review them or other times I had to interview the player himself. I’ve not enjoyed a lot – after all, I’ve been there, I’ve seen it, I’ve been inside it and somebody talking about something you already know isn’t madly interesting. The few I’ve read and really loved have an angle I wouldn’t have seen – for example, the book on Robert Enke, the German goalkeeper who committed suicide, is a beautiful piece of work. I love goalkeepers’ books because they’re not like us, absolutely nothing like us. The first football book I read was The Beautiful Game by Pelé and I learned a few things from it – this concept about the domain of the ball. Wherever the ball comes, you have to be able to trap it and get it under control with one touch, no matter where it is. Over your head, behind you, you must be able to do that. I must have been in my early teens when I read that and I remember thinking, ‘Oh really?’”

- A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke by Ronald Reng
- Black and Blue
by Paul Canoville
- Brilliant Orange
by David Winner
- Football Against the Enemy
by Simon Kuper
- The Beautiful Game
by Pelé

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