Newest Sport Reviews

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The Beautiful Game by Alan Gibbons

4star.jpg Dyslexia Friendly

Football is all about its colours. And even if I write in the season when one team in blue knocks another team in blue from the throne of English football, it's common knowledge that red is the more successful colour to wear. But is that flame red? Blood red? The red of the Sun cover banner when it falsely declared 96 Liverpool FC fans were fatally caught up in a tragedy – and that it had been one of their own making? And while we're on about colour, where were the people of colour in football in the olden days? There are so many darker sides to football's history it's enough to make a young lad question the whole game… Full review...

Today We Die a Little: Emil Zatopek, Olympic Legend to Cold War Hero by Richard Askwith

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As a runner myself, I often look for sources of inspiration. Training is rewarding, but every so often a day comes along when I question whether it is all worth it or not. Zatopek proves that is, indeed, all worth it. He put copious amounts of effort into his training, and the number of races he won over his career as a professional athlete clearly shows the results of it. Full review...

This Mum Runs by Jo Pavey

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I am something of a self-confessed running addict: I think nothing of hitting the roads for 50 miles a week, and spend much of my time searching for races to run all over the country. That is, until I wound up with a persistent sports injury, hung up my running shoes for nearly a year, and switched the road to the pool. At the time I thought nothing could alleviate the misery of not being able to run; but now I wish I had had Jo Pavey's autobiography, This Mum Runs, to keep me company because the elite athlete’s account of the Olympics, injury, family, and life in general falls nothing short of inspirational. Full review...

Lean Gains by Jonathan S Lee

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I don't often begin a book by telling you what it isn't but in this case I think it's important. If you're a fairly sedentary person or a casual sportsman or woman looking to shed a few pounds then you won't get the best out of this book. You'll find some good advice about diet, but I'm afraid that much of it is going to go over your head. Of course you could always take up a sport seriously... On the other hand, if you are a serious sportsman then you could find that the advice in Lean Gains could lift you up to the next level of performance. Full review...

The Mock Olympian by Michael Long

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It started with an idle conversation just before the 2012 London Olympics: Michael Long's friend Sarah gave him a book as part of his birthday present. It was Time Out's guide to the history of the Olympics and it covered each of the summer Olympics in chronological order from the inaugural games in Athens in 1896. Sarah's boyfriend James commented that with all the running Michael did, he'd probably have run in most of the Olympic cities. Although Long had done a goodly number of runs, bike rides and triathlons he'd only competed in two of the twenty three cities - London and Athens. Now most of us would have left it at that, but that's not the Michael Long you're going to come to know and love. He saw it as a challenge and what's more he blogged about it and then wrote this book. Full review...

Home and Away by Dave Roberts

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For most football fans, non-league clubs (that is, teams who play outside the top four divisions of English football) are like a distant relative fallen on hard times; you're vaguely aware of their existence but have no particular wish to visit them. Apart from a few weeks in early January, when the odd non-league club reaches the third round of the FA cup and embarks on a spot of giant killing, the lower leagues receive almost no attention outside their small groups of devoted supporters. So what's it like to support a non-league team? Enter Dave Roberts, a fan of Bromley FC who are currently plying their trade in the Vanarama National League – the fifth tier of English football. In Home and Away, Dave documents the highs and lows of travelling the country watching Bromley during the 2015/2016 season. Full review...

Mr Darley's Arabian: High Life, Low Life, Sporting Life: A History of Racing in 25 Horses by Christopher McGrath

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All thoroughbred racehorses are descended from one of just three stallions which came to England about three hundred years ago; The Byerley Turk, The Darley Arabian and The Godolphin Arabian. The last century or so has seen a decline in the lines from the first and last of these stallions, to the extent that some 95% of all thoroughbreds worldwide - not just in England - are descended from The Darley Arabian, which was originally bought in Aleppo from Bedouin tribesmen and shipped to Yorkshire in 1704, by Thomas Darley, who died, in difficult financial circumstances before he could follow his horse home. Full review...

Top Of The League by Andrea Mills

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Football is known as the beautiful game and when I was younger I kind of believed this. I would spend my free time playing Heads and Volleys with my mates and then go home to try and complete my Panini sticker album. There was even the halcyon days when Blackburn Rovers won the title. As I have grown older, my cynicism has grown too. Leicester may be champions, but the day I feel that a group of multimillionaires beating a group of slightly richer multimillionaires is a win for the everyman, will be a sad one. Perhaps the love of football still burns bright in the youth of today? Top Of the League certainly hopes so as it is full of facts and figures all about the ball they call foot. Full review...

Unforgettable Walks by Julia Bradbury

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I've long been a fan of Julia Bradbury's walking programmes on television - I credit her with sparking my own interest in walking - so the news that there would shortly be another series of programmes and a book to accompany the series was music to my ears. This time she's looking at Britain's best walks with a view and she roams through Dorset, the Cotswolds, Anglesey, the Yorkshire Dales, the Lakes, Cumbria, the South Downs and the Peak District. Unless you're in Scotland there's something reasonably close to just about everyone, with a good spread around all points of the compass. Full review...

When You Dead, You Dead by Guy Martin

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It's a little depressing when a 34 year old is publishing his second autobiography, but that's what this book is, and Martin proves he's certainly not short on material. The author, for those of you who don't know, is a mechanic who dabbles in TV presenting and motorcycle racing, though it's the latter for which we he will be most well-known. Full review...

Winner: My Racing Life by A P McCoy

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In any walk of life there are people who are universally known by their first names alone. In flat racing, everyone knows who 'Frankie' is and in National Hunt you need say no more than 'A.P.' Legend is an over-used word but not when it comes to the achievements of Tony 'A.P.' McCoy. He's been champion jockey an unprecedented twenty times and his career record of 4,348 wins may never be beaten. In fact, it's tempting to say that it will never be beaten. He's won the Grand National, the Irish Grand National, two Cheltenham Gold Cups and won the Champion Hurdle three times. Unusually for a jockey he's also been BBC Sports Personality of the Year. He achieved all this by the age of forty one when he retired from racing. Full review...

Night Games: A Journey to the Dark Side of Sport by Anna Krien

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Mere mortals relax by having a game of footy of a weekend and a couple of drinks, but what does a professional sportsman do to cut loose? What do they do when they go out en masse? Investigative journalist Anna Krien looks at a rape trial of an Australian Rules footballer, just into his twenties and follows the case as it goes to court, interviewing some of those directly or indirectly involved and digressing into related areas. In deference to the fact that the woman had automatic anonymity she's chosen to give the man who was charged the name of 'Justin' in an attempt to level the playing field, so to speak. You could Google the facts and come up with the correct name, but this isn't a book of gossip about particular people. It's an investigation of a culture which has increasingly treated women as sexual commodities. Full review...

Born to Rumble by Jeff Scott

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Rumble. It's an odd word, isn't it, with that sense of a noise like thunder (or even of a motorcycle engine) and of a street fight between rival gangs. Author Jeff Scott has picked the perfect title for his journey around various speedway venues looking at those occasions when the combination of brakeless bikes, adrenalin, ridiculous speeds and not a lot of space explode into confrontation on or off the track. It's hardly surprising that it happens - in fact it's surprising that it doesn't happen more often given the competitive nature of the sport and the diva-like qualities of some of the top riders. Full review...

The Blind Man of Hoy: A True Story by Red Szell

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Redmond Széll was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) at age 19. It's now 26 years since he got the life-changing news. Although not completely sightless – he sees shadows and shapes – he is registered blind and walks with the stereotypical white stick. This hasn't stopped him from pursuing his hobby of rock-climbing, though, both indoors on climbing walls and on Britain's cliffs. The culmination of his climbing obsession came in 2013, when he became the first blind person to climb the Old Man of Hoy, the 449-foot cliff off the Orkney Islands of Scotland. Full review...

Strictly Shale: Circling British Speedway by Jeff Scott and Rachael Adams

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When I was young I remember Speedway being a regular item on Saturday sport programmes on television. My father was an aficionado and loved the noise, the risk and the sheer energy of the sport - my mother less so and she quoted the noise and the strong possibility of there being 'a nasty accident' when the riders slid their motorcycles sideways. It is still on television but I'll confess to not having watched for many years and it was for this reason that Jeff Scott's Strictly Shale achieved the unusual feat of both being an eye opener and bringing back long-forgotten memories. Full review...

Over The Line by Tom Palmer

5star.jpg Dyslexia Friendly

Jack Cock made his debut as a professional footballer for Huddersfield Town and that fragile dream of playing for his country came just a little bit closer, but this was just before the beginning of the First World War, when there was immense pressure on young men to do the honourable thing and join the war to fight in France. Over the Line is the story of Jack's war, of joining the Footballers' Battalion, playing in the Flanders Cup, fighting in the trenches and not just surviving but being decorated for bravery. After the war he scored England's first international goal and was one of the first of the modern generation of 'professional footballers'. Full review...

Slow Getting Up by Nate Jackson

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Sporting autobiographies are often written by those sports men and women who made it to the very pinnacle of their profession. Their stories surround past glories and how they lifted themselves up above the great to become the very best. However, for every superstar footballer or tennis player, there needs to be a lot more average Joes and Joettes for them to shine against. And who is to say that being an average player in a professional league is not an achievement in itself? Nate Jackson was one such ‘average’ player in the NFL – but would you call him that to his face? Full review...

The Bluffer's Guide to Golf (Bluffer's Guides) by Adam Ruck

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The fly leaf suggests that this Bluffer's Guide is the way to instantly acquire all the knowledge which you need to pass as an expert in the arcane and labyrinthine world of golf. There's quite a bit there that I'd agree on - the rules (and to an unfortunate extent the attitudes) are arcane and they seem to take a lifetime to master, but there's a surprising amount of information tucked away inside this little book. What I might quibble with is whether or not you would pass as an expert (which suggests that you're something of a con man): there's enough detail here to give you a solid grounding without needing to bluff. Full review...

The Boys In The Boat: An Epic Journey to the Heart of Hitler's Berlin by Daniel James Brown

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You see, Jesse Owens had it easy – all he had to do was run fast. Alright, he did have to face unknown hardship, heinous prejudice at home and abroad, and make sure he was fast enough to outdo the rest of his compatriots then the world's best to win gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, but others who wished to do the same had to do more. People such as those rowers in the coxed eights squad – people such as young Joe Rantz. He certainly had to face hardship, the prejudice borne by those in the moneyed east coast yacht clubs against an upstart from the NW USA, and when he got to compete he had to use so many more muscles, and operate at varying tempi, with the temperament of the weather and water against him, all in perfect synchronicity with seven other beefcakes. Despite rowing being the second greatest ticket at those Games, Joe's story is a lot less well known, and probably a lot more entertaining. Full review...

Running Like A Girl by Alexandra Heminsley

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Running is awful. So starts Heminsley's book about running.

And she's not wrong. Full review...

Who Invented The Stepover? (And Other Crucial Football Conundrums) by Paul Simpson and Uli Hesse

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In 1982, second division Charlton Athletic staged an unlikely transfer coup by signing former European Footballer of the Year Allan Simonsen. If the thought of the Danish superstar forsaking the glamour of Barcelona for south east London seemed unlikely then consider that Simonsen had previously faked his own death during a World Cup qualifier. Full review...

Harry: My Autobiography by Harry Redknapp

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Everybody with an interest in football knows who Harry is. The cover of his book won't tell you who he is, but if you're not in the know it's Harry Redknapp - football manager and for many of us, something of a national treasure. He's the manager who's seen it all, having started at rock bottom - a 70s Portakabin at Oxford City - and risen to the heights of managing Tottenham Hotspur in the Premiership. At the same time he was the popular choice for the England Manager's job when Capello threw in the towel. It's fair to say that Harry has lived his football life to the full and anyone buying this book will get their money's worth. Full review...

Premier League: A History in 10 Matches by Jim White

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I go back to the days when the pinnacle of footballing achievement was to be in Division 1, but the stadia and the stands were downmarket. Standing - pushing, shoving and fighting - was the norm and it wasn't the place for a family outing. You could get into a match for less than a fiver and top footballers earned less than four times the average wage. All that changed in 1993 with the birth of the Premier League. This was the brainchild of - amongst others - Greg Dyke who saw the potential for turning football at the highest level into a business. Twenty one years on the top footballers earn more than thirty five times the average wage. Full review...

Twirlymen: The Unlikley History of Cricket's Greatest Spin Bowlers by Amol Rajan

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Although they may lack the bang and bluster of the fast bowlers, the three leading wicket takers of all time in Test cricket are all spinners. They may look calmer in their run ups and action, but the effect they put on the ball can be incredible. Rather than blasting a batsman out, they bamboozle them. That's why Amol Rajan thinks them deserving of a book all of their own, and Twirlymen is the result of that belief. Full review...

Mathletics by John D Barrow

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As a sports fan and a maths teacher, I was thrilled to get the chance to read a book which claims to give us 'surprising and enlightening insights into the world of sports'. This is rather a frustrating read because it seems to have got the balance wrong in many cases. There are some chapters which are so short as to be barely worth reading – one merely points out that while humans can’t run as fast as cheetahs or perform gymnastics as amazing as that of a monkey, we’re better all-rounders than any other animal. This is true, but hardly seems worth wasting a page on, it’s so obvious. Then there are other chapters, like the interesting one detailing the points scoring system in the decathlon, which are good but could have been much better given more space. The decathlon one is a prime example of this – it’s five pages, so one of the book’s longer sections, but could surely have been excellent if it had gone into more detail. I can’t help thinking that dropping half of the sections and doubling the other half in length might have been the way to go here. Full review...

A History of Cricket in 100 Objects by Gavin Mortimer

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A History of Football in 100 Objects was a brave attempt, but was slightly let down by being a little too clinical. Being a game imbued with passion, the book lacked this which took some of the edge off it. Cricket, whilst inspiring passion amongst devotees, has a slightly more laid back following; one that may work better in this format. That said, being a game that has been played for five centuries, narrowing it down to just 100 objects is no less an undertaking than for football. Full review...

Born to Ride: The Autobiography of Stephen Roche by Stephen Roche

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With all the revelations about the systemised doping culture surrounding Lance Armstrong's team in the 1990s, it was interesting to read a story of a time before cycling was embroiled in one drugs scandal after another. Although perhaps not as memorable as Armstrong's career, Stephen Roche's will hold a place in cycling history for 1987, when he became only the second man to win the Tour de France, the Giro D'Italia and the World Championships in the same season. A quarter of a century after that remarkable feat, Roche has produced his autobiography, Born to Ride. Full review...

A History of Football in 100 Objects by Gavin Mortimer

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Given how long it's been played and how many books have been written about it, any new history of football needs to have some kind of hook to make it stand out. Gavin Mortimer may have found that, by presenting his history as A History of Football in 100 Objects. This prompts the question as to whether the whole of football could be reduced down to a mere century of objects. But then, if From 0 to Infinity in 26 Centuries by Chris Waring can make a history of maths worth reading, I guess anything is possible. Full review...

Sit Down and Cheer: A History of Sport on TV by Martin Kelner

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Like many English sports fans, the majority of the calories I burn are used up by shouting at the TV and occasionally going to the shops for more beer and crisps. Sports books tend to be about the sport itself or biographies of those who expended great effort to reach the top of their chosen sport. But in Martin Kelner's 'Sit Down and Cheer: A History of Sport on TV', there is finally a book for the less energetic among us. Full review...

My Animals and Other Family by Clare Balding

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Clare Balding was born into a racing family - her father, Ian, was the trainer of Mill Reef who won the Derby in 1971, the same year that Clare was born. Whilst her father would never forget the year that his horse won the Derby he would usually fail to remember that it was also the year of his daughter's birth. Horses came first and they were the priority in Ian Balding's life: the family had to adjust accordingly. He was a gifted and successful trainer who understood the animals in his care and his record, including Mill Reef's Derby success speaks for itself. Clare's childhood was separate from the life of the racing stable but she inherited her family's love of animals. Full review...