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The Worst of Friends: Malcolm Allison, Joe Mercer and Manchester City [Hardcover]

Colin Shindler
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 Mar 2009

Before the Thai millions and Abu Dhabi billions, Manchester City was always a club that attracted fierce controversy.

July 1965: Manchester City are on the scrapheap, managerless and languishing in Second Division mediocrity. Desperate to reverse the club's fortunes, the board turns to Joe Mercer, a respected football veteran hungry for a final chance to achieve management glory. Yet age and ill health are against Joe: he needs an assistant, and volatile, ambitious coaching genius Malcolm Allison is his man. Recently sacked from managing Plymouth for sleeping with a director's wife, Malcolm is out to prove that his innovative tactics can breathe new life into the staid English game. City is the perfect opportunity to show off his talents - especially since Joe promises him the manager's job in two years' time . . .

July 1970: City rule supreme, having just won their fifth trophy in as many seasons. The Mercer-Allison partnership is the most successful management team in the club's history. But, unwilling to let go of his success, Joe breaks his word and refuses to step aside. In order to fulfil his self-proclaimed destiny as the greatest manager in English football, an embittered Malcolm engineers a boardroom takeover that risks everything he and Joe have worked for.

Based on real events and set against a British society changing rapidly in the '60s, Colin Shindler's novel explores the clash of personalities that led to the spectacular rise and fall of Manchester City's 'Golden Age'. Malcolm and Joe's story is a cautionary tale of how ambition and betrayal brought down two men who had the world at their feet but let greatness slip through their fingers - of how two of the greatest management partners in British football history became the worst of friends.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Mainstream Publishing; First Edition edition (5 Mar 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845964349
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845964344
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 203,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Shindler is an ardent City fan, and his inside knowledge of the club gives the words he puts into his characters' mouths a ring of truth" (Book of the Week Independent on Sunday)

"A damned good read . . . compelling stuff" (Daily Telegraph)

"Highly readable and passionately told . . .Shindler constructs a diligently composed collage [and] knows his subject inside out" (The Observer)

Book Description

The eventful story of Malcolm Allison and Joe Mercer's brief-but-glorious partnership

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointing, and been done better elsewhere 30 April 2009
I purchased this book after reading extracts in The Times. The extracts looked promising but somehow the book just doesn't live up to them.

Mr Shindler is clearly trying to emulate David Peace's "faction" style, and he could hardly have chosen a better story to tell, especially for Manchester City supporters (like me) of a similar vintage to the author. For Cloughie's 44 days at Leeds read Mercer and Allison's seven years at City. Unfortunately, Mr Shindler's writing style does not seem suited to this type of book. So many of the supposed conversations just don't ring true, especially when the author feels the need to include profanities to make the dialogue more "realistic". Much of this seems forced and contrived, and some of the supposed conversations border on the cringeworthy. You just could never imagine them taking place. It's as if the author is trying to simulate how working class people speak, without ever having experienced it himself.

Also, he feels the need to include minute and irrelevant details into the text and this, together with an over-wordy writing style, really slows the pace of the book down and at times, sacrilege for a story about two such great characters, the book actually becomes a bit boring.

I wouldn't call it a bad book, but its merits lie solely in the fact that the basic story of Joe and Malcolm is such a great one, rather than the way in which the author has related the tale. Mr Shindler is certainly no David Peace. Indeed, Steve Mingle's excellent Allison Wonderland, which tells the story of the same era but mainly from Malcolm Allison's perspective, is far more entertaining and believable than this rather disappointing effort.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "...the tragedy of success" 7 April 2009
The best football book I've read for some time; much more moving than
David Peace's Cloughie book. It's written in the narrative style of a novel and yet, knowing the Mercer-Allison story as all 60's/70's football fans do, it never once strikes a false note. It reads as a kind of football tragedy with both main characters able to touch upon genius while possessing flaws that always threaten the very qualities that, as a team, made them great. In this sense the limited Mercer is the genial uncle figure; Allison desperately needs to reign in an ego that, otherwise, would spiral out of control. Allison of course being the forward-thinkning tactical genius English football should have embraced at a time when clogging was seen as the norm. The story itself has been documented many times but never with as much feeling of tragedy and loss as Shindler does here. Towards the end the third person narrator merges with what clearly is his own voice of despair and resignation: a climax with some feeling!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Clunky dialogue, poorly written. 16 July 2009
By Cloudy
Is Schindler sponsored by Finglands Coaches? If not, why does he insist on using "the City team boarded the Finglands Coach" for every single away game he recounts? Also, what is a silent murmer as in "There was a silent murmur of assent, and the board meeting broke up shortly afterwards"?
This was City's most exciting period in it's history and yet there's no sense at all of what this meant to the fans. A strange omission considering the author made his name with Manchester United Ruined My Life a book entirely about being a City fan. Whilst well researched he also insists on using the results of his research regardless of whether it adds anything to the book or not. Do we really need to know that Stan Cullis, who appears only once, was the only manager at the time who didn't swear?
Other than for City completists it's best avoided.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Already been done, and done better 13 April 2011
A rip-off the superior Clough/Taylor story, The Damned United. I agree that it is clunky and badly written.
At least he didn't use the name of Manchester United to sell this one though....
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