We review the top stocking fillers for Christmas, with our list of the top 20 sports books from this year
1) My Autobiography: Alex Ferguson
Hodder & Stoughton, £25
You may well be familiar with the highlights from this one, as it was serialised in minute chunks on Twitter the day it was published. But it is worth a more considered read, all the same, as the former Manchester United and Aberdeen manager looks back on his unparalleled success. There is no major bean-spilling when it comes to the Glazers and how they have run the club since their takeover, but it’s still a highly entertaining and informative read.
2) Seventy–seven: My Road To Wimbledon Glory: Andy Murray, Headline, £20
The title refers to the number of years that had elapsed since a British man had won Wimbledon before Murray’s triumph, yet only hints at the weight of pressure he had to endure on the way. The hopes of the home crowd had been thwarted year after year, but Murray’s loss in the 2012 final was followed by Olympic victory on the same court four weeks later, and that began an upward path which culminated in Murray’s unforgettable win over Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon itself. The tale is a familiar one by now, but there is no-one better to tell it than the man who delivered.
3) Dreams Do Come True: Katherine Grainger, Andre Deutsch, £20
Many people would give up after one failed attempt to win the Olympics, even if they did have the consolation of a silver medal. Most would call it a day after two. Three silver medals, and almost everyone would get the message.
Grainger was different. After three second places, in Sydney, Athens and Beijing, the rower stuck it out and was rewarded at last when she and Anna Watkins struck gold in London last year. The inspiring story is told with engaging wit and a forensic intelligence.
4) Jewel In The Glen: Gleneagles, Golf and the Ryder Cup, Ed Hodge, Birlinn, £25
Hailed as his book of the year by Alex Salmond, this volume will acquire a growing audience as the 2014 Ryder Cup nears. Through a series of interviews with former Ryder Cup competitors and other sporting celebrities, Hodge entertainingly recounts the history of the cup from its origins in the Great Britain v United States match back in 1927 to its most recent incarnation.
5) Tommo: Too Busy To Die: Derek Thompson, Racing Post, £20
The autobiography by the former Channel 4 racing pundit is at its most moving when Thompson discusses his late second wife Janie, the daughter of Bill McLaren. Unflinching in his self-criticism where appropriate, Tommo also has an amusing line in black humour detailing his own fight against cancer. A highly engaging book.
6) Sean Fallon: Celtic’s Iron Man: Stephen Sullivan; BackPage Press, £19.99
AN affectionate yet also well-balanced biography of a man who was an integral element of Jock Stein’s success as Celtic manager. A predecessor of Stein’s as club captain at Parkhead, Fallon, who died in January, was only signed by Celtic after knocking six years off his real age. It was a pretence he kept up for decades, but that white lie apart, he was known as one of the most scrupulously honest players in the game.
7) Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head: Ian Redford, Black & White, £15.99
THIS autobiography by the ex-Dundee, Dundee United and Rangers midfielder is unusual in that it truly is an autobiography by a sportsman. Redford has chosen not to employ a ghostwriter and has risen to the challenge – just as he did when setting out on a career that saw him grace a European final. Redford overcame the disadvantage of a hearing defect as well as the death of his brother Douglas from leukaemia. Born into farming stock, Redford was always seen as a bit different. Later he mixed comfortably with Europe’s aristocrats.
8) The United Trinity: The Remarkable Story of Law, Best and Charlton: David Meek; Simon & Schuster, £20
Each member of the trilogy has had several books written about him already, but Meek is probably the first to have assessed them together, as a collective footballing talent. They were not exactly a holy trinity – there were times when the hedonistic Best could hardly tolerate Charlton’s mournful pieties – but together they amounted to far more than the sum of their parts.
9) Shades: The Short Life and Tragic Death of Erich Schaedler: Colin Leslie; Black & White, £17.99
THE left back was an integral member of Eddie Turnbull’s great Hibs side of the Seventies. What Schaedler lacked in finesse he more than made up with passion and will to win. However, it was during Christmas 1985 when the tragedy mentioned in the title of this diligently researched and well-written book occurred. The 36-year-old’s body was found in his car in a forest near Peebles. There was a single gun-shot wound in his head. Schaedler’s death was recorded as suicide but, as Leslie discovers, mystery continues to surround a short but notable life.
10) Coop: The Life of Davie Cooper: Neil Drysdale; Black & White, £9.99
The subtitle of this work is “Scottish football hero”, and the calibre of those who pay tribute to Cooper within its pages is testament to the high regard in which he was held. Drysdale does not gloss over the more stubborn, moody side of Cooper’s character, but above all his is an affectionate portrait of a great player who died before the age of 40.
11) Celtic: Pride and Passion: Jim Craig and Pat Woods; Mainstream, £14.99
Being well versed in the history of the club, Craig and Woods explore some of the neglected and more quirky chapters. Beginning in 1892 with a visit to Glasgow of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, the book goes all the way up to the present-day team.
12) The Fabulous Baker Boys: Tom Maxwell; Birlinn, £14.99
As the subtitle says, Gerry and Joe Baker were “the greatest strikers Scotland never had”. Born into a Scottish family, they were forced by the stricter eligibility rules of the time to represent the United States and England respectively. Maxwell produced this biography in close collaboration with Gerry, who died shortly before it was published. It is a happy, good-humoured remembrance.
13) Mr Struth - The Boss: David Mason and Ian Stewart, Headline, £20
BILL Struth found fame at Ibrox, ruling over Rangers with self-denying dedication for nearly three and a half decades. Besides assessing and celebrating Struth’s achievements on the field of play, Mason and Stewart also do an excellent job in positioning the man within the society of the time.
14) The Quality Street Gang: Paul John Dykes; Celtic FC Ltd, £19.99
At the same time as he was assembling the team who would find fame as the Lisbon Lions, Jock Stein was nurturing another, younger side. With such talented players as Kenny Dalglish, Danny McGrain and George Connelly, they promised for a time to match the achievements of their elders. Circumstances denied them that status, but the legend of their promise is undimmed. Dykes retells that legend with affection.
15) Now And Then, This And That: Logie Bruce–Lockhart; Larks Press, £14
Scotland’s oldest-surviving rugby international, Bruce-Lockhart recently celebrated his 92nd birthday, and in this rhapsodic autobiography he looks back at many of his long life’s most fascinating chapters. It would be misleading to classify the book as predominantly about rugby – his story is an engaging mix of humour and humanity.
16) How Football Saved My Life: Alan Stubbs; Simon & Schuster, £18.99
FOOTBALL did indeed save the centre-half’s life when he was selected to take a random drugs test after the 1999 Scottish Cup final. He failed because of a particular high level of a hormone usually only found in pregnant women – and men with testicular cancer. This book charts his comeback from serious illness and his move from Celtic to Everton. A moving story of one of football’s most inspiring characters.
17) Life Cycle: A Bike Ride Round Scotland And Back To Childhood: Gary Sutherland; Birlinn, £9.99
A humorous and entertaining book which amounts to a portrait of present-day Scotland as seen from the back of a bicycle. After reminiscing about their Morayshire childhood, Sutherland and his brother Stewart get back on their bikes and set off on a 1,000-mile trip.
18) The Drew Busby Story: Andrew Hoggan, £9.99
An enjoyably nostalgic romp through the career of a Hearts cult hero. Busby was a Tynecastle icon in the 1970s when – rather like today – Hearts were struggling both financially and on the park. Ghostwriter Hoggan strikes a nice balance, allowing Busby to reminisce on career highlights without masking the difficult times. Short and sweet, it’s a real treat.
19) Forgotten Star: Alex O’Henley; Islands Book Trust, £25
This bilingual publication – turn the book over and you have the same story in Gaelic under the title Rionnag Chaillte – is about former Celtic player Malcolm MacDonald. Known as Malky to fans, but Calum to many of his friends and team-mates, MacDonald was revered in his 1930s heyday.
20) Football In The Blood: Tommy McLean; Black & White, £17.99
THE youngest of the three McLean brothers, Tommy was perhaps the most gifted player of the trio made up by Jim and Willie. A Rangers legend as part of the 1972 European Cup Winners’ Cup-winning team he also distinguished himself in management, winning the Scottish Cup at Motherwell.