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The Ultimate Guide To the Best Soccer Books


In conjunction with Amazon, World Soccer Talk brings you a comprehensive list of the top 18 football books on the beautiful game. If you’re looking for something to read, pick from any of the following recommended books.

At the foot of each book entry is a link to purchase the book from Amazon, as well as a a link for you to participate in a book discussion group. I encourage each of you who have read any of the books listed below, or who are currently reading them, to post questions, observations and book reviews so that the entire World Soccer Talk reader community can participate. Just one note: Please don’t post any spoilers for those who are currently reading the books.

Plus, you can listen to interviews with some of the authors below as they discuss their book and other intelligent football topics.

Here are the top 20 recommended football books:

damned-utd1. The Damned Utd by David Peace. Overachieving and eccentric football manager Brian Clough was on his way to take over at the country’s most successful, and most reviled, football club: Leeds United, home to a generation of fiercely competitive but aging players. The battle he’d face there would make or break the club – or him. David Peace’s extraordinarily inventive novel tells the story of a world characterized by fear of failure and hunger for success set in the bleak heart of the 1970s.

2. Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants by Søren Frank. Standing on the Shoulders of Giants looks back across the entire history of Manchester United, from its very beginnings as Newton Heath LYR FC in 1878 through to the Red Devils of the 2012/13 season. It will be how the team adapts to the challenges it now faces that will decide more than Cup wins or Championships could. Will it reconnect to the past and the continuity of ideals that have supported the team throughout the years, the Manchester United ‘brand’, or run to the future in a different direction?

bloody-confused3. Bloody Confused by Chuck Culpepper. In the throes of becoming jaded and cynical about the American sportswriting scene, Culpepper, a London-based Los Angeles Times journalist covering European sporting events, writes about the internationally known Premiership soccer league and its overzealous fans. The rough-and tumble British soccer sport quickly captivates Culpepper, who wrote on American sports for 15 years, as he learns the rivalries between the fans and teams such as Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Portsmouth.

the-fix4. The Fix by Declan Hill. The Fix is the most explosive story of sports corruption in a generation. Intriguing, riveting, and compelling, it tells the story of an investigative journalist who sets out to examine the world of match-fixing in professional soccer.


inverting-the-pyramid5. Inverting The Pyramid by Jonathan Wilson. Soccer fans love to argue about the tactics a manager puts into play, and this fascinating study traces the world history of tactics, from modern pioneers right back to the beginning, where chaos reigned. Along the way, author Jonathan Wilson, an erudite and detailed writer who never loses a sense of the grand narrative sweep, takes a look at the lives of the great players and thinkers who shaped the game, and discovers why the English in particular have proved themselves so “unwilling to grapple with the abstract.” This is a modern classic of soccer writing that followers of the game will dip into again and again.

miracle-of-castel-di-sangro6. The Miracle Of Castel di Sangro
by Joe McGinniss. With the growing popularity of soccer in North America, McGinniss has written the rags-to-riches story of how an Italian soccer team, Castel di Sangro from the Abruzzi region, rose through the ranks from the very bottom (Terza Categoria) to the Serie BAa remarkable feat. There are eight steps to reach the world’s best league, the Serie A. The Italian press was motivated by the achievement of Castel di Sangro, referring to the club as the “Lilliputi.” More than a mere history of the team’s improbable season, this book provides the reader with insights into the passionate world of Italian soccer. The journey documents the trials and tribulations surrounding a professional sports team.

how-soccer-explains-the-world7. How Soccer Explains The World
by Franklin Foer. The global power of soccer might be a little hard for Americans, living in a country that views the game with the same skepticism used for the metric system and the threat of killer bees, to grasp fully. But in Europe, South America, and elsewhere, soccer is not merely a pastime but often an expression of the social, economic, political, and racial composition of the communities that host both the teams and their throngs of enthusiastic fans.

New Republic editor Franklin Foer, a lifelong devotee of soccer dating from his own inept youth playing days to an adulthood of obsessive fandom, examines soccer’s role in various cultures as a means of examining the reach of globalization. Foer’s approach is long on soccer reportage, providing extensive history and fascinating interviews on the Rangers-Celtic rivalry and the inner workings of AC Milan, and light on direct discussion of issues like world trade and the exportation of Western culture.

fever-pitch8. Fever Pitch
by Nick Hornby. Fever Pitch is not a typical memoir–there are no chapters, just a series of match reports falling into three time frames (childhood, young adulthood, manhood). While watching the May 2, 1972, Reading v. Arsenal match, it became embarrassingly obvious to the then 15-year-old that his white, suburban, middle-class roots made him a wimp with no sense of identity: “Yorkshire men, Lancastrians, Scots, the Irish, blacks, the rich, the poor, even Americans and Australians have something they can sit in pubs and bars and weep about.” But a boy from Maidenhead could only dream of coming from a place with “its own tube station and West Indian community and terrible, insoluble social problems.”

the-ball-is-round9. The Ball Is Round: A Global History Of Soccer by David Goldblatt. There may be no cultural practice more global than soccer. Rites of birth and marriage are infinitely diverse, but the rules of soccer are universal. No world religion can match its geographical scope. The single greatest simultaneous human collective experience is the World Cup final. In this extraordinary tour de force, David Goldblatt tells the full story of soccer’s rise from chaotic folk ritual to the world’s most popular sport-now poised to fully establish itself in the USA. Already celebrated internationally, The Ball Is Round illuminates soccer’s role in the political and social histories of modern societies, but never loses sight of the beauty, joy, and excitement of the game itself.

brilliant-orange10. Brilliant Orange
by David Winner. Soccer fans will not want to miss this chronicle of the rise of Total Football (soccer, of course, is known as football everywhere but in North America). What is Total Football? Here you have to get a little philosophical; you have to learn to handle phrases like “a new theory of flexible space” to wrap your mind around the idea that a football pitch isn’t merely a big rectangle. The Dutch, who invented Total Football about three decades ago, are, according to Winner, a nation of special neurotics.

Because space is always at a premium in their small country, they’ve learned to use it in wildly innovative ways. This is seen in their architecture, their art, their society–and their soccer. While other teams were playing the traditional every-player-in-his-position style of game, the plucky Dutch team called Ajax began playing a whole new game based on position-switching: defenders would suddenly become attackers and vice versa, thus substantially reducing the amount of repetitive back-and-forth running. This technique was revolutionary for its time (the 1960s), and it propelled Holland to the top of the soccer world. This extremely well written and exciting book, like Nick Hornby’s immensely enjoyable Fever Pitch (1993), catches us up in its enthusiasm and puts us right there in the grandstands cheering for the Dutch coaches and players who changed the game of soccer forever.

seeing-red11. Seeing Red
by Graham Poll. A Premier League and international referee with 26 years of combined experience, Graham Poll handled some of the toughest games in soccer history—in total more than 1,500 matches—before his retirement in 2007. In this brilliant, no-holds-barred autobiography, Poll reveals what really goes on between the players in the tunnel before a match and in the dressing room after, and unveils the true nature behind the nicest and the nastiest figures in the game.

Poll also shares private conversations with the likes of Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, Sepp Blatter, and Steve McClaren, and the inside story behind controversial incidents involving Roy Keane, David Beckham, Patrick Vieira, and current England captain John Terry, among others. The infamous 2006 World Cup match—during which he failed to send off a Croatian player after he earned three yellow cards—that brought Poll home early in disgrace and nearly ruined his career is covered as well. Honest and eye-opening, this is a gripping behind the scenes look from one of the beautiful game’s most noted figures.

football-against-the-enemy12. Football Against The Enemy
by Simon Kuper. Throughout the world, football is a potent force in the lives of billions of people. Focusing national, political and cultural identities, football is the medium through which the world’s hopes and fears, passions and hatreds are expressed. Simon Kuper travelled to 22 countries from South Africa to Italy, from Russia to the USA, to examine the way football has shaped them. At the same time he tried to find out what lies behind each nation’s distinctive style of play, from the carefree self-expression of the Brazilians to the anxious calculation of the Italians. During his journeys he met an extraordinary range of players, politicians and – of course – the fans themselves, all of whom revealed in their different ways the unique place football has in the life of the planet.

the-italian-job13. The Italian Job
by Gianluca Vialli and Gabriele Marcotti. Soccer lies at the heart of popular culture around the world. It is played, watched, written about, and talked to death by millions virtually every day of the year. But how do the characteristics of England and Italy—two of the most passionate soccer playing countries—affect the game in these two nations? Do the national stereotypes of Italians as fervent, stylish lotharios and the English as cold-hearted eccentrics still hold true when they kick a ball around?

For the first time, a player of the first rank—Gianluca Vialli—in conjunction with sportswriter and broadcaster Gabriele Marcotti, tackles this debate head on, and they have invited some of the biggest names to join them. Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger, Sven Goran Eriksson, Fabio Capello, and Marcello Lippi, among others, add their not inconsiderable weight to the highest-profile symposium on soccer ever convened. Every aspect of the game is explored, be it tactical and technical or cultural and sociological. Stuffed full of controversial opinions and gripping revelations, this study on the sport takes you on a journey to the very heart of two of the world’s great soccer cultures.

among-the-thugs14. Among The Thugs
by Bill Buford. The American-born editor of the British literary magazine Granta presents a horrifying, searing account of the young British men who turn soccer matches at home and abroad into battlegrounds and slaughterhouses. Buford, resident in England for the last 15 years, set out to get acquainted with these football supporters–as their fellow Britons call them in more measured moments–to learn what motivates their behavior.

He discovered a group of violent, furiously nationalistic, xenophobic and racist young men, many employed in high-paying blue-collar jobs, who actively enjoy destroying property and hurting people, finding “absolute completeness” in the havoc they wreak. He also discerned strong elements of latent homosexuality in this destructive male bonding. Following his subjects from local matches to contests in Italy, Germany and Sardinia, Buford shows that they are the same wherever they go: pillaging soldiers fighting a self-created war.

morbo15. Morbo
by Phil Ball. English writer Phil Ball has put the history of Spanish football into the context of the epomymous Morbo. Hard to pin down in translation (though the author manfully spends a chapter trying to explain the term in its fullest sense), “morbo” encapsulates the fierce rivalry across a club scene fragmented by history, language and politics. The bitter feeling between Barcelona and Real Madrid has, of course, been well-documented elsewhere. Here that famous rivalry is only one component of a landscape of antagonism. In particular, the Basque country in the north-west and Seville in the south both provide breeding grounds for a healthy portion of “morbo”, and receive Ball’s attention accordingly.

The narrative captures the essence of that feeling perfectly, without failing to inform on a historical basis. A splendid chapter traces the ancestry of football in Spain back to the labourers in the English-owned copper mines in Huelva, Andalucia. While Spanish club football has always had its stars, from Di Stefano to Cruyff and Butragueno through to Raul and Luis Figo today, Ball shows that there is a greater force running in its lifeblood. Yet still there remains a paradox; he analyses the historical under-achievement of the Spanish national side in major international tournaments.

season-with-verona16. A Season With Verona
by Tim Parks. The book sets a daunting task of analyzing the life and mindset of a soccer fan in the wake of Nick Hornby’s runaway hit, Fever Pitch, which is to many one of the finer books on soccer. He takes the reader on a tour of Italy, supporting his adopted home team of Hellas Verona through a season in Serie A. Parks in part sets out to examine the Italian national consciousness through the lens of Verona supporters. “The north-east of Italy, Verona in particular, is stigmatized as irretrievably racist.

It is also considered bigoted, workaholic, uncultured, crude and gross.” Hellas Verona have prided themselves on never having a black player on the pitch (until recently). Their fans shout monkey chants whenever an opposing black player touches the ball. It’s a disgraceful part of soccer behavior that is well worth exploring, and this is when Parks is at his best. “I suggest… that the frequent talk about `defeating’ racism on the terraces is a mistake.

soccer-in-a-football-world17. Soccer In A Football World
by David Wangerin. In 1987, sick of defending an “un-American” activity, soccer-mad Wisconsinite Wangerin immigrated to England. After many years of thinking that the U.S. “did not deserve” the game, his mixed feelings led him to research the States’ surprising history with the sport, which has often included plenty of drama if not always plenty of fans. In thorough fashion, Wangerin moves from past to present, covering our unique terminology (why do we call it soccer when the world calls it football?); peculiar rules (we have often played it our own way); governing bodies and leagues (there have been many); World Cup triumphs and missteps (many more of the latter); the ongoing fortunes of Major League Soccer; and, above all, the culture surrounding the game.

my-favourite-year18. My Favourite Year
edited by Nick Hornby. Roddy Doyle’s account of the Republic of Ireland’s triumphant journey through Italia ’90 is just one of the many first-class pieces in this anthology of original football writing. Contributors include: Roddy Doyle, Harry Pearson, Harry Ritchie, Ed Horton, Olly Wicken, D.J. Taylor, Huw Richards, Nick Hornby, Chris Pierson, Matt Nation, Graham Brack, Don Watson and Giles Smith. ‘A new kind of football writing developed – passionate, disrespectful, self-mocking, yet steeped in personal bias. In book form, young writers such as Nick Hornby and Pete Davies became to the New Football Writing what Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson had been to the New Journalism’

the-beckham-experiment19. The Beckham Experiment by Grant Wahl. With unprecedented access to the Galaxy and one-on-one interviews with Beckham, veteran Sports Illustrated writer Grant Wahl focuses on the inner circle of the experiment: Beckham, Galaxy leading scorer Landon Donovan, Simon Fuller, controversial former coach Ruud Gullit, outspoken former Galaxy president Alexi Lalas, and Mrs. Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham.

Wahl takes readers behind the scenes, on the road with the team and inside the locker room, to reveal just what happened on and off the field when the most renowned player in the world left the glamour of European soccer to play in a country that has yet to fully embrace the sport. We find out what his teammates really think of their superstar captain, who was calling the shots behind the scenes, how Beckham’s management conducted a shadow takeover of the Galaxy organization, and if the team plans to embrace him–or not–when he returns from AC Milan for the 2009 season.

the-beckham-experiment20. The World is a Ball: The Joy, Madness, and the Meaning of Soccer by John Doyle. John Doyle’s book The World is a Ball: The Joy, Madness, and the Meaning of Soccer is an account of one man’s travels around the world following the beautiful game of soccer. The journey begins in 2002 and takes readers through European qualifying and World Cup matches. Doyle not only gives a recap of the contests, but he also puts the reader in the stadium to experience the emotion and pageantry that goes along with international soccer. Through his travels and encounters, the Canadian author tries to come to some understanding why the game of football is such a passion around the globe.

Are there any books that aren’t listed above that you feel should be added to the list? Click the comments link below and share your opinion.

PS — If you’re the owner of an Amazon Kindle, the e-reader, be sure to subscribe to World Soccer Talk on the Kindle so you can read every new post.

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    December 12, 2020 at 10:17 pm

    Thanks! I have started to read this book on kindle, and find it very interesting. Especially how the Scots developed the short passing game and exported it to South America where they added their own flair. If you have additional recommendations of books in this vein, please let me know.
    Again, Thanks!


    December 12, 2020 at 11:40 am

    Which three books would you highly rate as a gift for a bright young college level soccer head coach that feature soccer history, philosophy of strategy, innovative strategy, etc. ?

    • Christopher Harris

      December 12, 2020 at 11:50 am

      Inverting The Pyramid by Jonathan Wilson is a must-have.

  3. Kevon Brown

    August 29, 2019 at 8:40 am

    Great! All the suggested book are amazing. Thanks for sharing such type of great content.

  4. Charlie

    January 23, 2019 at 11:28 am

    For those who may think soccer doesn’t make for good fiction, check out Red Card. Gripping read about an American phenom recruited to play at the academy level in England. Found it on Amazon.

  5. Paul

    August 8, 2017 at 10:22 am

    The Dammed United is a worth watching on video.

  6. Paul Carroll

    August 8, 2017 at 4:00 am

    Bert Trautmanns biography and Tony Cascarino’s autobiography are two of my favourites

  7. TJBrown

    May 29, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    Love the list. Inverting the Pyramid and Soccernomics are very good reads. I’ve just ordered Brilliant Orange. Two I did not see mentioned here that I found both enjoyable and useful are Soccer for Thinkers by Malcolm Allison and Coaching Soccer by Bert van lingen. Has anyone read SOCCER by Arpad Csanadi ?

  8. Brian M

    May 13, 2017 at 10:26 am

    I loved ‘Stillness & Speed’ by Dennis Bergkamp – great insight into a different kind of football mindset. Ibrahimovic’s autobiography is a very enjoyable read too. For younger readers (or kids at heart) would highly recommend The Mighty Dynamo – funny and great on the joy of football – or any of the great Mal Peet’s books.

  9. Lincoln Hirschi

    November 23, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    Ok one that should definitely be on any fan’s radar is Tor! The Story of German Football by Uli-Hesse Lichtenberger ( now goes by Uli Hesse)

  10. Lincoln Hirschi

    November 16, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    Is there a book about Mexican footie culture and history? Because we need one.

  11. Ankit

    July 4, 2016 at 3:15 am

    Hi friends i haven’t read any of listed books however i found this link while searching for soccer analytics in google. Out of curiosity just wanted to know if these books are good for soccer analytics or any specific book in the list . please suggest.


  12. Matt Penrose

    February 8, 2016 at 9:46 am

    If you are looking for a relatively independent book on football (soccer), then look no further than Build a Bonfire: How Football Fans United to Save Brighton and Hove Albion. It’s a brilliant book that not many people (other than Brighton and Hove Albion fans, like myself) have read.

  13. Matt

    April 28, 2011 at 6:14 am

    This is a great list, I own about half the books on it already… but how about some recommendations on documentaries?

  14. Marc hibberd

    April 22, 2011 at 3:56 am

    What if? By r m skillen. A great look at how fickle the sport can be

  15. Pallavi Baruah

    April 12, 2011 at 2:52 am

    Any good books on Blackburn Rovers Football Club?

  16. Meghna Baruah

    February 12, 2011 at 1:49 am

    Thanks Paul.
    These books are not easily found in all the book stores but i will try my best and look for them.
    Cheers! 🙂

  17. Meghna Baruah

    February 12, 2011 at 1:31 am

    I have ordered Seeing Red by Graham Poll. Is it an excellent book?

  18. Paul

    February 11, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    I can’t believe “Soccernomics” isn’t on this list. It’s a brilliant analysis of the modern game and a great read.

    • The Gaffer

      February 11, 2011 at 7:36 pm

      Paul, I love Soccernomics. It’s one of my favorite soccer books but it was published after this list was created. The next time I update the list, I’ll be sure to update it with Soccernomics.

      The Gaffer

  19. Paul Dickson`

    February 6, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    I’d love to recoomend a few books – Meghna – a couple on my beloved Arsenal – a gentleman called Jon Spurling has written a few “alternative” histories – one called Rebels for the Cause – a history focussed on rebel players over the years – and Highbury the story of Arsenal in N5 – that looks at some of the historic dodgy events on moving to and establishing themselves in Highbury. Would also recommend My Father and other working class heros by Gary Imlach – a kind of bio of his father who was a Scottish Internaitonal, played in the 50s and 60’s and tells of the life of a working class footballer in the age of the maximum wage.. and a better book on Brian Clough – called “Provided you don’t kiss me” by Duncan Hamilton – a local journbalist who dealt with Clough every day for 20 odd years… funny, sad and insightful

  20. Meghna Baruah

    January 30, 2011 at 8:50 am

    Thanks Gaffer 🙂 Cheers!

  21. Meghna Baruah

    January 30, 2011 at 3:27 am

    I read How Soccer Explains The World which was an excellent read and watched The Damned United which was awesome. Are there any books on Arsenal FC.?

    • The Gaffer

      January 30, 2011 at 7:44 am

      Fever Pitch would be the first one that jumps to mind. A classic.

      The Gaffer

    • Maverick

      March 26, 2017 at 9:09 pm

      Fever Pitch of course but somewhere I saw that recently someone wrote either a bio of arsene wenger or arsenal. Ck out books on

  22. Don

    January 19, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    “Soccer in sun and shadow” by Eduardo Galeano is brillant, and shows that soccer is, indeed, a microcosum of life.

  23. Sideways_Steve

    January 5, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    This list is outstanding. I love a good read and especially concerning sport. I have read How Soccer Explains the World, Fever Pitch, and Soccernomics.

    Kind of wondering why you didn’t list it Gaffer? Not a fan?

    I am also a baseball fan and its connections to Moneyball made it a must read. Since I enjoy the economics of sport – Playbooks and Checkbooks is at the top of my list.

    • The Gaffer

      January 6, 2011 at 11:43 am

      Sideways_Steve, I LOVED Soccernomics, but the book came out after the list was first published. At some point in the future, I’ll update it with recommendations regarding several of the other books recently released.

      The Gaffer

  24. Chas

    December 24, 2010 at 8:54 am

    Two soccer books I enjoyed, which helped me understand the passion that soccer engenders: The Glory Game by Hunter Davies and The Game of their Lives by Geoffrey Douglass. These are old-timers, well-written and insightful.

  25. Bo Grøn

    December 20, 2010 at 1:33 am

    Hi Gaffer, the original list is from June 2009. Is there some new books that you would add if you were to write the list today?

    Maybe I could find a Christmas wish at the last minute …

  26. nyack

    December 15, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    soccernomics is a notable mention……

  27. Mahlon Christensen

    November 13, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Thanks Gaffer, appreciate all your help 🙂


  28. Mahlon Christensen

    November 12, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    Many thanks for this list! I was pleased to find that I’d already bought most of the books on here (although I have yet to read most of them) I became an Arsenal fan in 2005 after reading Fever Pitch, but it wasn’t until this season that I decided to make a conscious effort to follow the EPL as closely as is possible here in the states. I’m one of those people who has to immerse themselves deeply in the history of the subjects they are passionate about. To that end, I’d like to get some recommendations on three different types of books I’ve been unable to find so far:

    1. A general history of the English game or Football League, preferably from it’s founding until now(probably an impossible order)

    2. Some sort of record and fact book similar to what the NFl publishes every year.

    3. What is the best book on Arsenal besides Fever Pitch? The only one I’ve managed to find so far is the one by Kevin Witcher about Wegner, but I didn’t want to buy it without getting a recommendation.

    Any help will be greatly appreciated 🙂

    Mahlon Christensen
    Monterey, CA.

    • The Gaffer

      November 13, 2010 at 8:42 am

      Mahlon, I’m not familiar with the record and fact book that the NFL publishes every year, but the book of record in the UK is the Sky Sports Football Yearbook at

      Perhaps one or more of the readers can answer your other excellent questions.

      The Gaffer

      • Mahlon Christensen

        November 13, 2010 at 10:45 am

        Thanks Gaffer that looks like exactly what I need. I apologize for asking my next question in this thread as it’s unrelated to books, but being new I was unsure where to post it.

        Does anyone know of any U.S. based websites that sell championship and or League One Merchandise? specifically looking for Nottingham Forest and Huddersfield Town. I realize I could just go to the team websites, I just wanted to be sure that there were no other alternatives before I paid overseas shipping.


        • The Gaffer

          November 13, 2010 at 12:01 pm

          Your best bet for a Forest shirt is through As for Huddersfield, you’ll need to get that from the official club website.

          The Gaffer

  29. Spiegel83

    September 22, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Hey, I just am starting to follow the EPL and I picked up Among the Thigs to get to know the darkside of English Football. Its really good so far. Are there any good books written about Newcastle?

    • Kyle

      September 22, 2010 at 5:09 pm

      Newcastle United: Fifty Years of Hurt by Ged Clarke

  30. the new guy

    September 9, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Any other books besides Inverting the Pyramid that will help an American like me understand the sport better?

    • The Gaffer

      September 9, 2010 at 3:51 pm

      Fever Pitch is highly recommended if you haven’t had a chance to read it. Perhaps some of the other visitors to this site can suggest others…?

      The Gaffer

  31. backup text messagelo

    August 10, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    Green and Gold, I agree. That book is one of my favorites. Simon Inglis is a genius!

  32. Matt Hoffman

    July 21, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Thanks for the titles! I picked up a number and hope to chime in periodically.

    The Damned United is at once swift reading but also makes for a tough read. Permit me to explain: I sat down and was instantly immersed. Yet as I read on I could really the almost hopeless situations Cloughie (Brian Clough) found himself in.

    I will always remember football (err American football) Bill Parcell’s lament “If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.” Much of that frustration was evident in Cloughie’s issues with boards of directors.

    Still that’s not all–I really got the feeling of the tension being the love-of-the-game (Clough) versus the business/power/establishment.

    It’s a great book; I ordered it through a book seller in Britain through Amazon. It took only 10 days to arrive–about three weeks earlier than Amazon projected.

  33. Kyle

    July 13, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Three books I would highly recommend are All Played Out by Pete Davies, it was re released under the title One Night in Turin to coincide with the release of the film by the same name which I also recommend. It is the story of the 1990 World Cup highly concentrated around England. It is a great book and gives you a look at the start of the current football era. Also by the same author is Twenty Two Foreigners in Funny Shorts. It was written as a guide to football and the 1994 World Cup for Americans who were unfamiliar with football. Its funny and it gave me a real understanding about football. Finally the book Back Home by Jeff Dawson is a great book about the 1970 World Cup and England’s quest to retain it. It was the first truly modern World Cup shown live and in colour.

  34. Jacob

    June 22, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    Big fan of Among the Thugs and of Bloody Confused. I think just reading about Americans who document how their eyes have been opened up to this amazing sport is a big draw for me. Hence

  35. FIFA

    May 29, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    In regards to your question “What book would you recommend to read about football rules and strategy (for a beginner-fan)”, I would recommend you read the Handbook found here :
    you show find it very informative and educational.

  36. Jak

    May 26, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    What book would you recommend to read about football rules and strategy (for a beginner-fan); I’d like to read Inverting the pyramid and Brilliant Orange eventually, but is there something more basic yet comprehensive.


  37. Green and Gold

    May 25, 2010 at 12:26 am

    If you’re a fan of English football and can get ahold of a copy, I’d highly recommend Football Grounds of Britain by Simon Inglis. There are in-depth articles of the various English stadiums as well as some terrific photography. The most recent version came out in the mid 90s and is out of print now. But stadiums weren’t anything of the cookie-cutter variety – and you’ll learn about the lore of each of the stadiums. My favorite story was the one of the Goodison screen, where they had to build a screen to stop people from climbing the roof of a nearby church (which was sharply angled) to watch games.

    • The Gaffer

      May 25, 2010 at 12:36 am

      Green and Gold, I agree. That book is one of my favorites. Simon Inglis is a genius!

      The Gaffer

    • King Eric

      February 2, 2011 at 1:43 pm

      great book and one of my favorites! i have about half the books on thist list and would definitely add soccernomics to it. gaffer, have you considered making a list/section for soccer related films as well? cheers!

      • The Gaffer

        February 2, 2011 at 1:54 pm

        I’ve definitely considered it, King Eric. Just need to find the time one day to bang it out! It’s on my to-do list.

        The Gaffer

        • King Eric

          February 3, 2011 at 12:13 am

          fantastic. if it were me i’d probably go:

          1. victory/escape to victory
          2. looking for eric (bias)
          3. fever pitch
          4. zidane: a 21st century portrait
          5. the firm (original)
          6. mean machine
          7. goal
          8. football factory
          9. green street hooligans
          10. pelada
          11. bend it like beckham (consolation to keira knightley)
          12. ladybugs (just because of dangerfield humor, although the sport is absurdly portrayed).


  38. Eric Altshule

    May 17, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    I would also put How Soccer Explains the World on the list. Frank Foer, the editor of The New Republic, used soccer as a tool to analyze the way globalization has changed the world. The economics are interesting, but the way he travelled the world and saw soccer in so many different countries is really fascinating. His last chapter is about how glonalization has completely changed the way soccer is seen in the US, and it is really enlightening.

    • Scott Alexander

      May 26, 2010 at 1:19 pm

      Foer’s book is mostly a wonderfully written joy to read if you haven’t yet read Soccer Against the Enemy. Once you do, you’ll feel that maybe Foer could have been more gushing in the gratitude that he owes Kuper for which stories he decided to explore again. Other than the fact that it feels an awful lot like a book written 10 years earlier, I’d say the book’s main weakness is Foer’s sycophantic myopia for Barcelona and a related ability to abhor anything obstructive to the message of the Catalan club (particularly concerning his enthusiasm for denigrating some clubs for their anti-Semitic supporter history while ignoring the Cules’ own conduct). That all said, How Soccer Explains the World is extremely well written and he does add some new perspectives.

  39. Scott Alexander

    May 17, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    I’d add

    Ajax, The Dutch, The War: Football in Europe During the Second World War by Simon Kuper

    Forza Italia: The Fall and Rise of Italian Football by Paddy Agnew

    Winning at All Costs: A Scandalous History of Italian Soccer by John Foot

    Football and Fascism: The National Game Under Mussolini by Simon Martin

    German Football edited by Alan Tomlinson & Christopher Young

    The latter two are more scholarly works and a bit denser reads but all are good. We can look forward to Jonathan Wilson’s new book this week as well.

    • Brian

      January 5, 2011 at 10:00 am

      Thanks for the recommendations! I got Winning at All Costs for Christmas and am thoroughly enjoying it

  40. Lolly Leaf

    May 8, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    Passport to Football by Stuart Fuller – great read

  41. Matthew Devereux

    May 6, 2010 at 6:45 am

    This is a lovely resource, thank you. I have added a link to it at the Recommended Reading section of my World Cup novella “The Gambler”:

    I am available for interview and would be delighted to have a chat.

  42. Kojo Baffoe

    April 30, 2010 at 3:43 am

    I just started reading Feet of the Chameleon which is the story of African football. While, by no means, exhaustive, it at least starts to tell another part of the football story.

    I’m also reading Soccernomics and am enjoying the insights. A different take on the game, in comparison to many of the others.

    Thank you for the list, as well as suggestions in the comments, going to be systematically going through the ones I don’t have or haven’t read.

    • Scott Alexander

      July 9, 2010 at 1:18 pm

      I’m reading Africa United by Steve Bloomfield right now. Wonderful read that hits upon some unlikely (at least for a western reader) paths like football in Mogadishu. Hawkey’s Feet of the Chameleon and Peter Alegi’s Soccerscapes are next on my list. Chuck Korr’s More Than Just a Game: Soccer vs. Apartheid needs to be there as well. Any other good suggestions for African football?

  43. Mission Man

    April 11, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    I just finished reading “The Ball is Round.” Great book, especially for someone like me who’s only been a fan for three or four years. Anytime I get into something new I like to immerse myself in the history, and this one gave me everything I could ever want to know about the history of the beautiful game.

  44. Mission Man

    April 6, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    I’m another one who loved Soccernomics, it definitely gave me some new insights into the game and how the economics of the game work. Of course, I was also a big fan of Michael Lewis’s “Moneyball” which took a similar look at baseball.

    Another book which I really enjoyed that wasn’t mentioned here was by the inimitable Andres Cantor — “GOOOAL!”, a history of the World Cup. I’m afraid that it might be out of print, but I know that you can still get used copies at least through Amazon. The only thing bad thing is that it was published in 1996 so the ’98, ’02 and ’06 Cups are sadly missing. I for one would have loved to hear Cantor’s take on the Zidane-Mattarazzi headbutt, as well as Rooney’s stomp on Carvalho and the U.S. teams ignominious performance.

  45. bradjmoore48

    April 6, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    Gaffer and all,

    May be a stupid question, but is Brian Glanville’s paperback “Story of the World Cup” (which just came out with a new 2010 edition) the same as his audio CD “History of the World Cup”?

    Also, for other recommended books, I was shocked no one had mentioned Soccernomics/Why England Lose by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymenski, the book that actually got me into the Beautiful Game. Somehow miraculously, a book involving soccer, a sport that I never cared about (except World Cups, and even then, passively), and economics, a subject that I found to be a bore in college, became absolutely fascinating to me.

    • The Gaffer

      April 6, 2010 at 10:38 pm

      Brad, not a stupid question at all. The books are different. The audiobook version of “History Of The World Cup” was published in 2005, so it won’t have the 2006 or 2010 World Cup on there.

      I love Soccernomics, but the Ultimate Football Book guide I wrote above was written before Soccernomics was published. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to go through the EPL Talk Podcast on iTunes and listen to the interviews with Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski. We have 2-3 interviews in total and it’s definitely great listening.

      The Gaffer

      • Michael Yates

        September 28, 2010 at 12:09 pm

        I agree – I love Soccernomics. Fantastic book. Reads quickly and is easily accessible and digestible : )

  46. Keith Salmon

    March 30, 2010 at 3:19 am

    Maybe a little self indulgent but my book ‘We had dreams and songs to sing’ deserves a wider football audience. It deserves to be number 19 on the ultimate guide.

    The book is my life story, that of a working class boy and his passion for my football team, Liverpool FC. An engaging story that takes in the glory of a wonderful night in Istanbul, after an epic trek, and the highlights of Liverpool’s recent European adventures. The story also deals with the disasters at Heysel and Hillsborough through my own eyes. It may be a journey that is a little uncomfortable but it will show a fans eye few of the disasters that will educate and inform. What makes this book different is a step into the world of a professional football club, the fan moves into a dream world but the dream turns sour and a love of football takes a hit.

    Critically acclaimed by professionals and fans alike with Billy Butler of Radio Merseyside saying “A football book as it should be, devotion with humour” and Tony Evans of The Times saying ” Rarely has a book shown how interwoven football is into the fabric of everyday life. A superb illustration of why the game matters”.

    This book is being read to the enjoyment of football fans all over the country of numerous clubs and all around the World by Liverpool fans. It is about passion and belief and how we love “our” game.

    ‘We had dreams and songs to sing’ is also available on the kindle.

    many thanks


  47. DundasFC

    March 10, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    I was over in Scotland in September and my dad bought me Hunter Davies’ “The Glory Game” (1972)
    Up until that book I would have agreed with Ciar about “Only A Game” being the best book I’ve read, but I would have to say Davies’ book is now my favourite. Such great reportage as he follows Tottenham Hot Spurs during the 1971 season.
    Highly recommend it.

  48. Mickey

    March 6, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    “Stamping Grounds: Liechtenstein’s World Cup Odyssey” by Charlie Connelly.

    Absolute football classic…

  49. NJ

    February 23, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    2 other books that are feel good stories about Americana and in one immigrant kids, and the other immigrants at a high school in North Carolina. The first Outcasts United, is about a woman creating a club team at first through her local YMCA then through her own will in many respects in a suburb of Atlanta for refugee immigrants to the US. Its a good story giving you a picture of how soccer can help bring a community of many different people that in their own land would try and kill one another together. The second A Home on the Field By Paul Cuadros, is a great feel good story about the author going to rural North Carolina and coaching a team of immigrants mostly from Mexico and using soccer to drive, motivate, and help the kids assimilate into the South. Its another great feel good soccer story and very well written. A must read.


  50. The Gaffer

    September 22, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    I just got a Kindle for my birthday. Does anyone have any recommendations of football books to read on a Kindle (that are available in the Kindle Store on Amazon)?

    The Gaffer

  51. Ciar

    September 17, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    Eamon Dunphy’s “Only a Game” is probably the greatest football book ever written. Dunphy writes a diary of a season playing for Millwall in the 1970’s. Brilliant read.

  52. BA

    August 28, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    Finn McCool’s Football Club: The Birth, Death and Resurrection of a Pub Soccer Team in the City of the Dead

  53. LucyTrio

    August 24, 2009 at 10:30 am

    I thoroughly enjoyed “Football Mad! A Modern Satire of a Very Old Sport”
    ISBN 978-1-4389-1845-7

  54. Ira

    August 7, 2009 at 10:20 am

    Can anyone recommend the best of the number of EPL annuals? I’m looking for something similar to the U.S. preseason magazines on various sports, not one with all kinds of stats, which are overblown in footie anyway. Thanks!

  55. Mike

    July 26, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    I’m looking for a book with EPL player seasonal/career stats like the type provided by Opta. Any recommendations?

  56. Kautzie

    July 21, 2009 at 12:37 am

    What I don’t get is you have all these great books but you put the two books they pimped out on WSD in the top 3, why does everybody feel the need to kiss that wanker Steven Cohen’s ass? Bloody Confused is not a great book and Declan Hill did the same expose that’s been done a thousand times and to put those books ahead of Fever Pitch, The Ball is Round, Brilliant Orange and all the others is insane.

    • The Gaffer

      July 21, 2009 at 6:34 am

      Everything is subjective in life. I thoroughly enjoyed Bloody Confused, and I know plenty of people who enjoyed reading The Fix. The other books you mentioned are great ones, too, but the above list has nothing to do with a football radio show.

      The Gaffer

    • Matilda

      September 5, 2009 at 4:32 pm

      I really like Bloody Confused

  57. Fake Sigi

    July 14, 2009 at 6:17 am

    This is a great list – thanks for putting it together. I’m especially interested in Inverting the Pyramid.

    For those that are interested, I’ve started my book review series. I lead off with Love & Blood” and Bloody Confused. I should hit most of these before I’m done.

    • The Gaffer

      July 14, 2009 at 7:17 pm

      Love and Blood is another classic football book, this time by Jamie Trecker and highly recommended. Good choice.

      The Gaffer

  58. Matilda

    July 12, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    I’m glad to see A Season With Verona on the list, I absolutely loved that book (if you enjoy his writing he’s also written an interesting fiction book called Europa, it is however not at all football-related). A really great book not up there is The Far Corner by Harry Pearson. Basically one man tries to see as much North East (England) football as he can in one season. He does a little match report on each game, interspersed with history and that classic British self-deprecating humor. The most interesting part is when he (presumably unknowingly) expresses the bias and bitterness the North East holds against the rest of the country.

    • The Gaffer

      July 12, 2009 at 1:40 pm

      Harry Pearson is a genius and a comedian. I interviewed him a couple of years ago for the EPL Talk Podcast in a very enjoyable episode. Check it out at

      The Gaffer

      • Matilda

        July 13, 2009 at 6:42 pm

        Thanks Gaffer, I’ll be sure to check that out, I subscribe to the podcast now

        • The Gaffer

          July 14, 2009 at 7:16 pm

          Thanks Matilda. Be sure to go through the archives of the EPL Talk Podcast on iTunes, too, for more great interviews.

          The Gaffer

    • Lincoln Hirschi

      November 16, 2016 at 5:11 pm

      A Season with Verona is just about the best soccer/football book I’ve read, better even than Fever Pitch, which of course is about my beloved Arsenal. Now if someone could write a definitive book on Mexican soccer culture..

  59. Pumas Fan

    July 5, 2009 at 12:24 am

    I thoroughly enjoyed “Behind the Curtain: Travels in Eastern European Football” and highly recommend it.

    • Lincoln Hirschi

      November 16, 2016 at 5:24 pm

      Pumas fan! Is their a book about Mexican football history and culture? If not then we need one.

  60. Sean

    July 4, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    Among the Thugs was the inspiration behind our blog that chronicles our passion for a sport that our country somewhat ignores. Thanks to this work we have created a site to attempt to share with others what football has done for us, or maybe to us, from a state-side point of view.

    I am also a huge fan of How Soccer Explains the World.

    Good job boys, fantastic list.

  61. Rory

    July 3, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    A Brilliant Orange by David WInner is an absolute dinger of a book, read it a number of years ago and was blown away. Covers every possible angle of Dutch football, great read.
    The Italian Job is also a good book but some of the parallels the pair draw seem a little bit dated at this point. Thought provoking nonetheless.

  62. Matt in MA

    July 2, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    I’m about 70 pages through Inverting The Pyramid and I’m extremely impressed. It might best sports book I’ve ever read. I’m amazed at how effortlessly Wilson blends different concepts and people and countries. The narrative is perfectly woven (so far, at least).

    The most interesting part for me so far is the dichotomy between playing the game beautifully and playing it to win that was inherent in the early days of soccer/football (and still is, I believe). As an American, it’s a completely foreign concept (no pun intended). Our professional sports are never played for beauty; they’re only played to win. Could you imagine if an American football coach or a basketball coach was complaining about the ugliest of an opponent’s style of play? He’d be crucified in the press and vilified by the team’s fans. In American sports nothing matters except a ‘W.’

    Also, I can’t believe that in mid-to-late 19th century England, superiority in sport was supposed to be effortless!

    • The Gaffer

      July 3, 2009 at 12:16 pm

      Matt, I found the same thing too when reading the book. Football has changed considerably, especially in formations, but there’s still the massive debate between winning and playing beautiful football. Quite an eyeopening book indeed.

      The Gaffer

  63. LI Matt

    June 30, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Let’s see, I’ve read … nine of them.

    Inverting the Pyramid, the geekiest one, was my favorite (naturally 😉 ).

    My recommendation for an addition to the list: Futebol: Soccer The Brazilian Way by Alex Bellos.

    • The Gaffer

      June 30, 2009 at 4:48 pm

      I’m in the middle of reading Inverting The Pyramid right now and am thoroughly enjoying it. Next on my reading list, sitting next to my bed, is The Ball Is Round.

      The Futebol book sounds quite interesting. I’ll have to check that out.

      The Gaffer

  64. KCJ

    June 30, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    When Saturday Comes–the book, is a very enjoyable read(I’ve only read the pages for view on Amazon, but going by content so far and the eponymous website , it promises much).

    The Ball Is Round and WSC are two books I am looking to finish this summer.Thanks for the list, Gaffer.

    • The Gaffer

      July 3, 2009 at 12:15 pm

      Speaking of When Saturday Comes, the book, I quite enjoyed “My Favourite Year” which is listed in the top 18 above. Reason being is that it was my first introduction to many football writers — wonderful scribes such as Harry Pearson and Roddy Doyle (who went on to write the fantastic book, The Commitments, that was made into a movie).

      The Gaffer

  65. Joao

    June 30, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Culpepper’s book was neither insightful or funny. Just a terrible book. Foer’s book was nice, particularly its global-ness. It was interesting to read a little about teams in various countries, such as ed Star Belgrade and Vasco, teams which are not normally the subjects of Enlgish-language books. Next up for me is Goldblatt’s book.

  66. edgar

    June 30, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Are you serious? I bought bloody confused for all the promoting it was given here in the states, and couldn’t wait to read it. When i started reading, i realized that this moron, couldn’t stay away from comparisions about some american football game, baseball game, basketball game, or ncaa tourney game that he had experinced. As i loyal english premiership follower, i don’t want to read about some american game. I want premiership! I’ll never buy a book by chuck culpepper again. I did read fever pitch, how soccer explains the world, and beckham: both feet on the ground and love them!

    • The Gaffer

      June 30, 2009 at 4:46 pm

      I enjoyed the book and thought it was quite funny, in a Bill Bryson way.

      It’s definitely more for the soccer fans who are new to the Premier League. But still, some of his observations about English supporters were classic and spot on — especially the stories about the fans he sat next to who would ignore him, while complete strangers would give him high-fives and hugs in America (or at least carry on a conversation with him).

      The Gaffer

    • Mike Fahey

      March 27, 2011 at 11:44 pm

      Gotta agree with Edgar regarding “Boody Confused,” and I am an American of a certain age, (i.e., an old timer) who is new to soccer.

  67. Juan-John

    June 30, 2009 at 2:36 pm

  68. BD

    June 30, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Among the Thugs is quite engrossing. If there is a future reprint of the book, Buford should add a foreword as to where some of the supporters are now…

    • The Gaffer

      June 30, 2009 at 4:42 pm

      I agree. I remember reading Among The Thugs and not being able to put it down. The world of soccer hooliganism has changed considerably since that time, but that’s definitely a book I wouldn’t mind reading again.

      The Gaffer

      • Maury loscher

        November 28, 2010 at 9:10 am

        I have read many books on football and Amongst the Thugs is one of the best. Bill Buford really got inside the thug mentality of football and he is a brave man for doing it. I have read many others like ‘Hoolifan” that are written by thugs or ex thugs. They always think what they did had some honor whilst forgetting the damage and mayhem they caused. They always go on about now being friends with the thug who they had a fight with 20 years ago. They were sad then and they are sad now….and FAT.

  69. Juan-John

    June 30, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Soccerhead: An Accidental Journey into the Heart of the American Game
    by Jim Haner

    • ZZreeds

      May 29, 2010 at 6:43 pm

      I’ve read almost all of the books on the list, but what is missing are those written by former pros.
      Only a Game? by Eamonn Dunphy, who now carves out a living as an entertaining pundit on Irish TV is absolutely fantastic. Its his diary from a season in the second division with Millwall but is the best insight into the mind and life of a pro i’ve ever read.
      The Micky Quinn autobiography is comedy gold, and Tony Cascarino’s is very good too.

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