Lords Cricket Ground, one of Great Britain’s most iconic sporting venues, hosted the inaugural London Sports Writing Festival this weekend. The event saw some of the most talented sports writers around combine with a host of Britain’s most popular sporting figures to deliver a fascinating insight into topical and age-old sporting discussions.
I had the pleasure of attending the event on behalf of World Soccer Talk and it truly was a privilege to be in the company of some of my sporting and literary inspirations.
The Friday was bursting with a host of football-related chatter. It began with Mark Halsey discussing his controversial new book Added Time along with co-writer Ian Ridley and award-winning author of The Nowhere Men, Michael Calvin. The former referee spoke of his personal relationships with Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson – something which he feels he shouldn’t be criticized for – as well as offering a damning opinion of the manner in which young referees are managed in the modern game.
The next discussion saw three of England’s most prominent football figures discuss careers that have been hampered by fitness woes. Kelly Smith, record goalscorer for both England and Arsenal, Clark Carlisle, Chairman of the PFA and former England and Tottenham defender Ledley King took to the stage to discuss the highs and the lows being a footballer can bring. The former two in particular spoke of their battles with drink, depression and how they managed to fight back from it.
There was barely time to draw breath before four other great writers took to the stage. In a real treat for Arsenal fans, Patrick Barclay, Philippe Auclair, Jon Spurling and Tom Watt spent sixty minutes discussing ‘The Men Who Made Arsenal’. All of the writers have penned books on the history of the great London club, and they chewed the fat on legendary Gunners figures like Herbert Chapman and Arsene Wenger, as well as the understated influence of the much maligned George Graham.
That discussion preceded what was the highlight of the evening as Spanish football experts Sid Lowe, author of the excellent new book Fear and Loathing In La Liga, and Graham Hunter, author of Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team In The World served up an hour of enthralling, impassioned discussion about La Liga, Barcelona, Real Madrid, and the hugely contrasting but comparatively trophy-laden history of each club. The conversation oscillated wonderfully between the two, with Matt Dickinson of the The Times offering a marvellous foil for an engaging full-on debate on the Spanish game.