Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Sporting Biographies

In general I prefer fiction to non fiction but recently I was given a pile of biographies which I have been going through.

Shane Warne – Portrait of a flawed genius. By Simon Wilde

This book is summed up quite nicely by the title, very apt.

Obviously being a biography the book charts Warne's early life and his rise to cricketing stardom but the authors own slant focuses on his many controversial moments both on and off the field. Of these some could be put down to the ignorance/arrogance of youth, other misdemeanours understandable for a young man with the world at his feet. Some of Warne's indiscretions are not excusable however. Of most interest to me is the cricket itself, in particular the Ashes clashes and the classic 2005 series most of all. This is without doubt the greatest series I have lived through, England won it despite Warne's brilliance. One thing the book doesn't mention is beating that Australian team allowed us, the English cricket fan to really appreciate Warne, McGrath, Langer (NB. but not Ponting) and all those truly great players, despite all the pain they'd caused us over the years. The 2006 series also features large but we don't enjoy that so much!

Decent read but not sure the author really understands the man he is writing about as well as he would have the reader believe.

Farewell but not Goodbye – My Autobiography by Sir Bobby Robson

By the end of his career Bobby Robson was one of the best loved characters in British football, so much so that it's hard to remember the vilification he received throughout the late eighties when manager of England.

It may be a surprise to some that Robson was a world class footballer himself who represented England many times. The parts that interested me most were when Sir Bobby managed my own local team Ipswich Town, I stood on the terraces through much of the 'Robson era', happy memories. Next job was with England where he rose above the press orchestrated hate campaigns to guide our national team to within one goal of a world cup final. From that day on we all loved him. His career went on and on from there and he enjoyed success everywhere including Newcastle where the owners eventually treated him appallingly. Sir Bobby's story is told in his own words, in his own affable style and he barely has a bad word to say about anybody.

Back in the late seventies football was a world away from the multi million pound industry it has become today. My Dad would take my sister and I to watch the Town train and afterwards we'd hang around and get the players autographs. We met Sir bobby many times and he always had time for a chat. A lovely man.

Really enjoyed this book, thumbs up.

Winning isn't everything – A biography of Sir Alf Ramsey by Dave Bowler

Just about everyone in the British Isles will know Sir Alf was England's World cup winning manager in 1966. However, not many people outside East Anglia will know he was also Ipswich town's manager and guided a humble provincial club to become champions of England. An amazing achievement even in 1962. Sir Alf laid the foundations which Sir Bobby built upon a decade later.

I loved reading about my team's rise to success but most interesting was Ramsey's spell as England manager. What I liked most about this book was it taught me about football in a bygone age. Many of Sir Alf's values should and would be relevant in the game today, had it not been spoiled by the money men. It is abundantly clear that not only was Alf a world class player in his day and a brilliant tactician and manager. It's sad that in this day and age Ramsey would not have been given enough time in the job to work his magic. Sir Alf had the bottle to leave out the “star players” and pick a team that could play together, for example Jimmy Greaves' omission in the later stages of the '66 World cup. Would any recent England manager have had the bottle to leave out Gerrard or Rooney, even with thuggish behaviour off the pitch giving them the ideal excuse? Never!

After the glory years came the fall from grace and shabby treatment from the FA. English footballing arrogance was demonstrated by the way the only English manager to win the world cup was treated.

I can't help thinking that there is much to learn for the modern footballer/manager in this book. So many principles endorsed by Sir Alf should be adhered to in the game today but sadly they're not. Football would be a much better game if they were.

Excellent Read!

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