During the recent Christmas holiday break and an overseas holiday to Thailand, I managed to catch up on some great reading, sometimes finding it difficult to put the books down as I was so engrossed in them. The one non- football book I did read was Phil Collins autobiography which I also can highly recommend but will not feature here!!!!

The football books I did read AND can highly recommend are the following

SUAREZ-2016 updated by Luca Caioli

I have admired the player for many years but maybe not been too thrilled with the character of the individual and some of his antics. There is no doubt he is one of the great goalscorers of the modern game and his contribution to the goals tally for every team he has played for  has been very special. However, I wanted to know more about the person, where he came from, how his character was formed and maybe find some reasoning behind his actions in recent years with his transgressions. This book did provide me with some answers.

Luis Suarez is one of the most brilliant and controversial players in world football- FACT. Signed by Barcelona in 2014 despite a lengthy ban for biting an opponent- not an isolated incident, with the book finding more of this behaviour in his past than we knew- he quickly became a central figure in their sensational treble winning campaign, setting the seal on it with the decisive goal in the Champions League Final.

This updated biography, featuring exclusive interviews with those who have known and worked with him going back to his youth and beyond, offers a unique behind the scenes look at the life and career of this modern day football superstar. The facts I learned about his upbringing and the challenges he needed to overcome ,certainly does not excuse him from his bad behaviour and poor discipline record BUT I now understand him better and possibly why he is the way he is. This was a great read . It must have been- I finished it in three days!!! It was so absorbing I just could not put it down. It also made me appreciate more the wonderful record Uruguay have in world football with their achievements based on their population- there are almost double the numbers of people just in Melbourne than in the whole of the country of Uruguay and yet they have produced so many fine players and successful teams. Surely we can learn something from their structure too!

JOHAN CRUYFF- MY TURN- Autobiography.

Cruyff was one of the greatest players in football history who pursued the dream of Total Football from player to coach to manager to mentor through his philosophy of how the game should be played. The book tells the story of his life from street football in Amsterdam to signing for Ajax aged 10, winning three European Cups as a player before moving onto Barcelona in 1973 for a then world record fee. There he won La Liga in his first year and was named European Footballer of the Year. He also won 3 Ballon d'Or and lead Holland to the 1974 World Cup Final before losing to West Germany. The book follows him in his management of Ajax and then back to Barcelona. I have always known of his football exploits but this book goes into great detail to allow you to get to know the character and personality of this great player; the frustrations and battles he had to fight along the way against administration and the powers to be who sometimes thought he was getting 'too powerful'. While in the dugout and on the field he always appeared to be so much in control, yet away from the game his life was more turbulent- can anyone remember the kidnapping attempt???- I must admit I had forgotten that part!!! He suffered bankruptcy and other challenges. Although the book looks into his private life it still focuses on the football tactics, philosophy etc which all coaches will find fascinating.

His death in March 2016 was a sad time for football. Johan Cruyff was a brilliant teacher and an outspoken analyst of the game he loved and changed forever. MY TURN is the full story of his incredible legacy. Brilliant.

 

PIRLO- I THINK THEREFORE I PLAY. An autobiography written with Alessandro Alciato, translated from the Italian by Mark Palmer.

Andrea Pirlo is a player I have admired for many years. Watching him in Serie A, Champions League, Euros or the World Cup has been an absolute pleasure. Similar to my thinking re Suarez, here is a player I have watched and admired over the years but I do not know much about him. The book changed that. What a great read and what I really liked about this book and his style of writing, was the fact he covered off on so many topics and gave us his opinions through short chapters concentrating on particular topics. I would highly recommend this to readers who may sometimes have a short attention span and do not want to have to read for ages to get to the next chapter. This way you can actually pick it up every now and then and read a couple of chapters and easily come back to it the next day. The chapter on Conte- Chelsea coach- was fascinating and a great insight from a player looking at his coach and offering his honesty. By the way, he holds Conte in the highest esteem and raves about his skills not only as a technical coach but as a manager of men. Brilliant.

The one message that comes out very clear in the book is the trend for his coaches and fellow players to continue to call him the "Silent Leader". As coaches, we are always looking to develop leadership skills with our players. Some coaches even put together leadership groups which I have always believed comes from our AFL neighbours. There are many forms of leadership but as we know, sometimes, the best way to lead is by example- by doing not saying.That sums up Pirlo. He was never that vocal on the field of play but chose to do his talking with his feet and brain. A brilliant player I now know so much more about and admire even more.

 

MATHEW LE TISSIER- TAKING le TISS- Autobiography

If you want a good laugh read this book. If you want to know more about a brilliant player who NEVER played the amount of games he should have for his country, read this book. If you want to know how one player can do so much for one club and save it so many times from relegation then read this book.

The player can be summed up by one of the many comments by Southampton supporters spread throughout the book. This comes from Mike Betts from Aldershot..

" They say that one man does not make a team but at times Matt did- the times he got Saints out of trouble were many... and his loyalty was something you certainly do not see in today's game. Why he never played more games for England I will never know.Also how many players could make a whole DVD of their own career goals? Not many.

And this from Terry and Jane Smart from Hyde...

" We feel very lucky and privileged to see Matt play. It was worth the admission cost just to see his skills as a footballer, and his goals were always spectacular. His talent and goals kept us in the top division season after season. He was first rate both on and off the field".

He has some wonderful stories to tell of the players he played with and against in his era and he has some forthright views on the England managers that did not pick him for reasons ranging from 'does not work hard enough" to ' cannot be trusted".

To stay at Southampton for his entire career, when often he could have moved to more ' prestigious' clubs seeking money and fame and trophies is easily explained by the Southampton legend through his humour and heartfelt love of the club- something in today's climate of players chasing the dollars, that we just do not see anymore. He loved the club and gave his all for them week in week out, often in a relegation battle.

My memory of Le Tessier in the 80s and 90s was seeing him often winning the Match of the Day Goal of the Month or Goal of the Season but always against Newcastle!!! He scored some absolute crackers and always against the Mags!!!

This is another great read and full of stories that will have you laughing as much as admiring his style of play he could turn on.

 

The last book I am in the process of reading, or should I say completing is the most frustrating book I have ever read...

THE NUMBERS GAME- WHY EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT FOOTBALL IS WRONG by Chris Anderson and David Sally.

This is a book I should have completed weeks ago and moved on but...I cannot. It is very much like "two steps forward and three steps back!!!".

The TIMES were quoted as saying " The book that could change football for ever".

This book contains some incredible FACTS and TRUTHS on football from  research and studies done on the game since records of association football began across leagues in all parts of the world. In some cases, tens of thousands of games were studied. You will hear about Wing Commander Charles Reep's work and findings he undertook in 1933 and whose theories and opinions have had a part to play in today's modern game. Some of the findings and statistics these guys have come up with, backed with evidence, is mind blowing. Some chapters were so compelling, I had to go back and read them again- hence the two steps forward and three steps back.

This is definately a book ALL coaches need to read...then read again because you will not believe the findings!! The writers have tapped into all the modern research institutions involved in today's modern game including Opta Sports, Sky Sports, Prozone ,Amisco etc along with Charles Reep and his pencil and pad he used back in the 1930s and have dissected almost every event that happens in a game to produce theories, philosophies, but more importantly, facts on what is actually happening and what has happened in the game of football.

I am now into my second circuit of the book so this is not my final assessment of the book but rather a message to coaches who read this blog.."Get a copy of this book now and read it. It will definately challenge you to reconsider some of your beliefs about football as you know it. However, be warned, this book will drive you crazy!!!!!