Author: Robert Hay

Review of ‘The Quiet Fan,’ Ian Plenderleith’s latest book

When we think of great books about soccer fans, we think of the fanatics. Fever Pitch – which spawned a soccer AND baseball movie – tells the story of a fan so passionate about Arsenal it almost ends his romantic relationship. A Season with Verona is about an American writer following his adopted Italian team around Italy. The greatest books about soccer fans are about those who live the Shankly quote about soccer being much more than life or death. Ian Plenderleith takes a different and honest approach in his newest book. The Quiet Fan does tell the story of ... Read more

Jonathan Wilson tackles how Hungarian soccer shaped the modern game

When reading about the global history of soccer, inevitably the Hungarian national teams of the 1950s comes up. One of the greatest soccer teams ever, the post-WWII Hungarians humbled the English and taught the world a new way to play soccer. Yet so little is known about how the Hungarians became so good at soccer besides the generally incorrect assumption that the English and Scots taught them the game. The truth is more complicated and deep, and acclaimed journalist Jonathan Wilson reveals why in-depth studies of the Hungarian soccer revolution are not common. The Names Heard Long Ago: How the ... Read more

Review of book ‘Zonal Marking: From Ajax to Zidane, the Making of Modern Soccer’

In life, it takes time to create successful ideas and concepts. Scientists and researchers spend years, even decades, analyzing and studying data to create trials or a study before publishing the results to the world. Making bold claims like a certain food additive can cause cancer or the trickle of water in the Arctic is a precursor to global warming is not something that can be thought, tested, and announced definitively in a matter of months. Soccer managers, however, cannot rely on thorough trial and error to change. With an average tenure of about one year, depending on the league, ... Read more

Book review: ‘The National Team: The Inside Story of the Women Who Changed Soccer’

The 2015 World Cup validated the idea that the Women’s World Cup was a must-see event in the United States. The U.S. team became stars, TV ratings were through the roof, and not since 1999 had women’s soccer been a cultural phenomenon. Since then, women’s soccer has maintained a presence if at times uneven, and the popularity of girl’s soccer rises. But like 1999, 2015 did not happen in a vacuum. We know how the women’s team did in the Olympics and World Cup, yet the behind-the-scenes machinations were just as important to the long-term success of this team as ... Read more

Stanley Matthews documentary chronicles one of greatest soccer players of all time

Stanley Matthews is a legend of the game of soccer. That is not up for debate. However, there is a debate as to whether his greatest impact on the game is on the pitch or off. Most people know him for wearing the England shirt or his FA Cup medal or winning the first Ballon d’Or. Yet his history of teaching the game, even today, presents a legacy that alone would place him among the greats. Veteran Hollywood producer Ryan Scott Warren cuts no corners in putting together the documentary Matthews: The Original No. 7 for Amazon and DVD. The ... Read more

Review of ‘SoccerWomen’ book: A chance to remind yourself of women soccer history

In the U.S. soccer world, the women’s game has more success than the men’s game, but rarely does it receive more attention than the men’s. This month and the months to come may change that. As the men’s team transitions to another coach and generation of players, the women’s team prepares for what may its most challenging World Cup ever. This month is also Women’s History Month and the month the USWNT players decided to file suit against their own federation for pay discrimination. All of that is to say now is a great time to relearn how far women’s ... Read more

Review of Jonathan Wilson’s new book, ‘The Barcelona Inheritance’

Jonathan Wilson has established himself as one of soccer journalism’s most knowledgeable tacticians. Inverting the Pyramid made his already sterling reputation as a tactical analyst firm, and even if there are other writers whose knowledge of modern soccer tactics is better, Wilson writes in a way that is relatable and marketable. His new book is The Barcelona Inheritance: The Evolution of Winning Soccer Tactics from Cruyff to Guardiola. Wilson takes his tactical knowledge and applies it to a specific coaching tree, albeit one that is quite famous. Johan Cruyff has traditionally been attributed with creating the modern Barcelona style of ... Read more

Book Review: Men in Blazers present Encyclopedia Blazertannica

Maybe the only thing that drives more debate in the soccer world than the dreaded “p/r” words is Men in Blazers. Roger Bennett and Michael Davies have a passionate fanbase that has followed them through multiple networks and iterations. They also have a number of detractors who view their schtick as tired analysis and infantile. As one of the few people squarely in the middle of the debate, I had the opportunity to review their new book, Men in Blazers Present Encyclopedia Blaazertannica: A Suboptimal Guide to Soccer, America’s ‘Sport of the Future’ Since 1972. Not surprisingly, like any good ... Read more