Read all about it: Football books of the year

Curses, cups, Albert Kidd, Joey Barton, Johan Cruyff, Real Madrid and a revolution at Ibrox feature in Alan Pattullo's picks of 2016

Right riveting reads: The books of the year
Right riveting reads: The books of the year

Persevered – How Hibernian Smashed The Biggest Curse In Football

From here – or 1902 – to eternity, the Hibs quest to win the Scottish Cup again threatened to go on for ever. Even Aidan Smith, a 50-something Hibee to his green and white bootlaces and nurtured on near misses as well as humiliating Hampden humpings, had all but given up. He now has a son, Archie, who the author feared was doomed to inherit the deep, intense longing all older Hibees must recognise.

But young Archie, to whom this exceptional book is dedicated, must wonder what all the fuss was about, because Hibs have only gone and won the Scottish Cup, ending 114 years of hurt and torpedoing “the biggest curse in football”, as the front cover describes it, in the process.

And this is the story – taking in the full gory details of the century-and more-long tread of failure that led, finally, to a glorious, smoke the turf, kiss the sky, making-everything-alright type of sunrise experienced on 21 May, 2016. It all fell into place against Rangers and with such dramatic perfection.

“This will be no obituary,” writes Smith early on, in the joyous knowledge that he’s giving birth to a book where the happy ending is guaranteed. Their last Scottish Cup triumph had come in the year the brassiere was invented: “Two cups?” Smith posits. “Hibs just wanted one”.

by Aidan Smith (Arena Sport)

Saturday, 3pm

Think you’re through with football and its modern, wearying fads? Then let Edinburgh-based Daniel Gray take you by the hand. This is not necessarily a trip down memory lane because, mercifully, many of the lyrical sweet nothings he whispers in your ear, reminders why we love the game, still survive, like sitting down with a Sunday newspaper and devouring the results pages and absorbing details such as the attendance figure at Stranraer versus Brechin City: “I don’t know why I need to know, but I do.”

It might be small enough in size to slip into a stocking but there’s nothing lightweight or disposable about a book that wears such a large heart on its sleeve(s).

by Daniel Gray (Bloomsbury)

The History Of The Scottish Cup – The Story Of Every Season 1873-2016

Now Hibs have finally won it again, what better time to publish the story of the Scottish Cup in season-by-season form? It is the world’s oldest sporting trophy in continued existence and the competition deserves such a thorough re-tread, from the first final, played between Queen’s Park and Clydesdale in front of 2,500, to May’s dramatic injury- time victory for Hibs over Rangers in front of more than 50,000, some of whom even resisted running on to the pitch at the end.

A Did You Know? section towards the end offers up some intriguing titbits such as the record number of postponements for a Scottish Cup tie: 33, for Airdrieonians v Stranraer in the harsh winter of 1963.

by David Potter and Phil H Jones

(Pitch Publishing)

AK-86 – Two Shots In The Heart Of Scottish Football

The greatest Scottish football story ever told? Not as far as Hearts fans are concerned, of course. But this is a well-written re-assessment from a distance of 30 years of a season when the game in Scotland seemed to be experiencing seismic change.

With Graeme Souness newly installed at Rangers, Celtic needing a multi-goal victory at St Mirren to have any hope of finishing top, Hearts only needed to wrestle a point from a trip to play Dundee on the last day of the season to win their first Scottish championship since 1960 and were seven minutes away from doing so. Enter a little, previously out-of-favour striker with a bubble perm and moustache to score twice in the final seven minutes to nix Hearts’ dream and secure a player of the year award – from Hibs fans. No one was ever going to forget Albert Kidd’s name again.

by Grant Hill (Wholepoint)

Hoops, Stars & Stripes – The Andy Lynch Story

This could be called Hearts, Hoops, Stars & Stripes, since Lynch began his career at Tynecastle. But it’s at Celtic where he really made his name, switching from outside left to left back and scoring a winning penalty against Rangers to win the Scottish Cup in 1977, the last trophy of Jock Stein’s reign.

He also played on the memorable night Celtic’s ten men won the league by defeating Rangers 4-2 at Celtic Park in 1979.

But this goes beyond the usual confines of a football autobiography, taking in Lynch’s subsequent move to the flamboyant world of the North American Soccer League – hence the Stars & Stripes reference in the book’s title – and the unlikely more recent occasion he hit the headlines, as head of an Arabian consortium’s multi-million pound bid to buy Liverpool FC six years ago.

Andy Lynch with Paul John Dykes

(Celtic Quick News)

Five League Titles And A Packet
Of Crisps

The Liverpool play-anywhere guy and junk-food aficionado – a son of Ayrshire, don’t forget – spills the beans on being the unsung Scot behind the holy tartan trinity of Souness, Dalglish and Hansen, reflecting on Hillsborough, Heysel, the death of Jock Stein and that miss against Uruguay at the 1986 World Cup.

(by Stevie Nicol, Trinity Mirror

Sports Media)

Angels With Dirty Faces –The Footballing History Of Argentina

A long time in the writing, this is all you need to know about the beautiful, brutal, bonkers football of Messi, Maradona, Rattin and the rest. If we can be parochial, it’s especially fascinating on the Scot, Alexander Watson Hutton, who sailed to Buenos Aires in 1884 and, with a sack of deflated leather footballs which customs officials mistook for wine-skins, taught the country the game.

There’s also tremendous detail on the maddest, baddest match to ever feature a Scottish team – 1967’s Intercontinental Cup which had Celtic players pleading with Jock Stein as Racing Club fans rocked their bus: “Boss, for God’s sake, give them the trophy!”

(by Jonathan Wilson, Orion)

The Real Madrid Way

Over a two-year period from the summer of 2014, Columbia Business School professor Steven Mandis was given an unprecedented level of access to the inner workings of Real Madrid.

The result is an in-depth analysis of what he describes as the “values which created the most successful sports team on the planet”. With the book written from a United States perspective, it partly seeks to discover how Real Madrid outstrip even American football’s Dallas Cowboys, baseball’s New York Yankees and basketball’s Los Angeles Lakers to earn the status of the world’s richest team.

From the fabled night at Hampden Park in 1960 during the run of early European Cup triumphs which began to spread Real’s reputation across the globe, through the Galacticos era which followed the lurch into near-bankruptcy at the end of the 20th century, to the current pomp of the side inspired by Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, this is an outstandingly researched account of the biggest football club of them all.

(by Steven G.Mandis, BenBella


Joey Barton – No Nonsense, The Autobiography

For all his flaws (and there are many) Joey Barton has delivered a corker of a book. Shrewdly, he’s brought on board the excellent Michael Calvin as ghostwriter. Calvin’s previous works, particularly The Nowhere Men, his book about the unsung football scouts who traipse around muddy fields searching for gems, are written with compassion and a superb eye for detail.

These qualities are brought to bear in Barton’s book, which is unflinching. The midfielder’s tough upbringing is presented in unvarnished style. Raised on a council estate, his parents split up when he was young, and Barton acknowledges it was football that saved him from a life of crime.

“All my mates were bevvying, birding or drugging,” he writes. “Many were completing their apprenticeship in criminality. If I had been weaker, mentally, I would have been lost.”

Mental strength is a key theme. Barton reckons it’s essential to make it at the top level in football, and it allowed him to overcome his physical shortcomings.

In the manner of Roy Keane’s autobiographies, there is a sense of score-settling at play here, but that simply adds to the enjoyment.

(by Joey Barton, with Michael

Calvin, Simon & Schuster)

Johan Cruyff –My Turn, The Autobiography

Johan Cruyff’s death in March this year provoked an outpouring of grief and also caused us to re-examine his profound influence on the sport.

The nicely titled My Turn, written as he was dying of lung cancer, is a sometimes fascinating insight into a true football visionary.

Cruyff is perhaps not as frank and forthright as you would hope but there are some well-aimed barbs, particularly at club directors at his beloved Ajax. The role of the famous Amsterdam club in his life cannot be overstated. After the death of his father when he was just 12, Ajax, in his own words, became “his second father”.

A tactical prodigy, he was advising coaching guru Rinus Michels at the age of 18 and would go on to inspire the brilliant Ajax to four European Cup finals, winning three of them, before leaving for Barcelona.

(by Johan Cruyff, with Jaap de

Groot, Macmillan)

Hearts – On This Day

An enjoyable trawl through Hearts’ history in a quirky day-by-day format, this is a nice mix of facts and curios.

From humble origins in Edinburgh’s Old Town to the players who made the ultimate sacrifice in the Great War, and on to the more recent travails under Vladimir Romanov’s near ruinous reign, there is plenty of material to work with.

Best of all are the little gems such as the day Tommy Murray sat on the ball at Ibrox during the build-up to Donald Ford’s last-gasp winner against Rangers.

(by Steve Weddell, Pitch)

1986 – The Rangers Revolution

Graeme Souness ripped through Scottish football like a tornado, reviving a moribund Rangers with a spending policy which blasted away their rivals.

The 30th anniversary of the Souness revolution is the hook for long-time Rangers chronicler Jeff Holmes’ latest offering which includes interviews with key players such as Chris Woods, Derek Ferguson and Terry Butcher.

It was a remarkable year, one which saw Rangers go from mid-table fodder to a club able to lure north the captain of England.

(by Jeff Holmes, Pitch)