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Comrade Jim: The Spy Who Played for Spartak Hardcover – 5 May 2008


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; First Edition edition (5 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007251149
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007251148
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.2 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,156,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James Riordan grew up during the war in his chimney-sweep grandfather's house in Portsmouth. After school he was a barman, waiter, railway clerk, commercial salesman, and dance band musician. During his National Service in the RAF he learned Russian and went on to become Professor of Russian Studies at Surrey University. Besides novels, he has written folk-tale collections, picture books and over 20 academic publications. His first novel for children, Sweet Clarinet, was shortlisted for the Whitbread Children's Book Award and, like his other novels The Prisoner and When the Guns Fall Silent, is based partly on his own wartime experiences.


Product Description

Review

'What is most riveting about this very honest book is that his story is so little known and that he has been able to live his life totally on his own terms, whether under Brezhnev or under Blair.’ The Resident

From the Back Cover

Like many working class children growing up in the war, Jim Riordan would dream of FA Cup glory for his local team, Portsmouth FC. Spartak Moscow, the team he would end up playing for, wasn't even on his radar.

Taught Russian and trained as a spy alongside Alan Bennett and Dennis Potter, he was posted to Berlin on National Service to listen in on the Soviets. Secretly mixing with Russian servicemen through informal kick-abouts – the passion of these idealistic young men would cultivate his interest in communism and Russian culture, which blossomed into a fully grown love affair.

From Cold War Moscow at its coldest, through to his footballing debut in front of 50,000 people, ‘Comrade Jim’ tells the humourous and remarkable true story of the only Englishman to have played – and survived – Russian league football.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Av Goryunov on 29 Aug. 2008
Format: Hardcover
Well, what can I say? I first came across his story in a "Guardian" article a couple of years ago. In that version, he played successive matches against Pakhtakor (2-2) and Kairat (1-1) in Moscow. He mentioned that he had to look up the Pakhtakor result as his memory was somewhat hazy. Spartak did indeed play Pakhtakor and Kairat in successive games (2-2 and 1-0) in April 1963; however, these games did not take place in Moscow but in Tashkent and Almaty. The Moscow matches against these sides took place in November (2-0 against Kairat, 4-4 against Pakhtakor (the last game of the season, played in front of just 3 thousand fans)).

Fast-forward 2 years, Riordan's book comes out and... his memory seems to come back! He goes into great detail describing the Pakhtakor match. June 1963. 2-0 down, Reingold scores twice (one a penalty) and the game finishes 2-2. Riordan tells us what goes through his mind during the match. A few weeks later he turns out against Kairat (1-0). He even comes across a brochure a few years ago that lists the line-up as 3-2-5 (let's let it pass as a pictorial representation of W-M) with Eordanov at centre-back. But all this is totally at odds with the events of the 1963 season (or any other season, for that matter)! Even the formation does not stand up to scrutiny as Spartak abandoned W-M during the 1962 season and were mostly using 4-2-4 by 1963 before a poor run of results at the start of that season caused them to revert to W-M for the match against Lokomotiv in June 1963 (with disastrous consequences!) After that Spartak switched to 4-3-3, which again contradicts Riordan's claims.

Finally, he claimes to have replace a "Valery Volkov" in the Spartak side (who was drunk). Who is this player?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Newton on 20 Mar. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author was my Tutor at the University of Bradford, in the Seventies. He was a warm front in a chilly atmosphere. I think it is very mean of all those who disbelieve him to write that he did not play for Moscow Spartak. Are they able to prove otherwise? Anyone who admires Alf Tupper, Tough of the Track, in the comic Victor, is good enough for me. His working-class credentials are impeccable. Besides, the book is not just about football. It provides a real insight into Soviet Society, and life in Moscow in the Sixties. He shares his experiences of Communism, offering the reader glimpses of what it was like in Russia. I have fond memories of Jim: A Comrade who taught us the Russian for Happy New Year, but not for Merry Christmas.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Av Goryunov on 1 Feb. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Why were they taken down? Was this done before or after I wrote to the publisher in early December? I will post my original comment once again (sent to the publisher, receiving no response):

"Well, what can I say? I first came across his story in a "Guardian"
article a couple of years ago. In that version, he played successive
matches against Pakhtakor (2-2) and Kairat (1-1) in Moscow. He mentioned
that he had to look up the Pakhtakor result as his memory was somewhat
hazy. Spartak did indeed play Pakhtakor and Kairat in successive games
(2-2 and 1-0) in April 1963; however, these games did not take place in
Moscow but in Tashkent and Almaty. The Moscow matches against these
sides took place in November (2-0 against Kairat, 4-4 against Pakhtakor
(the last game of the season, played in front of just 3 thousand fans)).

Fast-forward 2 years, Riordan's book comes out and... his memory seems
to come back! He goes into great detail describing the Pakhtakor match.
June 1963. 2-0 down, Reingold scores twice (one a penalty) and the game
finishes 2-2. Riordan tells us what goes through his mind during the
match. A few weeks later he turns out against Kairat (1-0). He even
comes across a brochure a few years ago that lists the line-up as 3-2-5
(let's let it pass as a pictorial representation of W-M) with Eordanov
at centre-back. But all this is totally at odds with the events of the
1963 season (or any other season, for that matter)!
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Denis Peskov on 26 Feb. 2009
Format: Hardcover
I was electrified when i just noticed this book and immediately scooped it.
The story seemed so interesting that I couldn't sit still until i passed the book to my English teacher, who was in football business those days (never a pro himself but was through youth squads of 50-s/60-s and therefore retained many connections with the guys who actually made it into the first teams of Moscow based Soviet Premiership clubs). Of course he was an avid football fan and a staunch supporter of preciesely Spartak Moscow.
His immediate reaction after reading this opus was bewilderment. He never encountered any Riordan or Jordanov playing in starting XI or coming in as sub. Moreover factual errors were of extraordinary brazen character. Like pointed out in another review the man confused the venue at which the game took place: Tashkent (now in Uzbekistan) for Moscow which are 1 700 miles apart (according to Google Earth), let alone climatic and geographical differences which are still evident even to a blindman.
This and other glaring inconsistencies forced him to give a call to pro players, then active, and ask for clarification. No one could remember such player. And to conceal such a player would be harder than hide the proverbial needle in a haystack. Just so you know: there were few players of foreign origin (f.e. Spaniards - kids of Spanish Reds - evacuated in the wake of the Spanish Civil War to USSR) in Soviet Championship those years. And everyone remembers their presence nowadays albeit not always their names.
And no one even remebers a Briton, if you don't trust official statistics. Sorry. Nothing personal. But please don't sell a fiction for a real story.
If he was a real player it would be trumpeted all over as triumph of Communist sport's attractiveness over "sweat-extracting" professional sport of "rotting West".
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