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Those Feet: A Sensual History of English Football [Paperback]

David Winner
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Mar 2006
In this playful, witty and highly original look at English football, David Winner, author of the acclaimed "Brilliant Orange", journeys to the heart of Englishness and sheds new light on the true nature of a rapidly changing game that was never really meant to be beautiful. He shows how Victorian sexual anxiety underlies England's many World Cup failures. He reveals the connection between Roy Keane and a soldier who died in the Charge of the Light Brigade. And, he demonstrates how thick mud and wet leather shaped the contours of the English soul.

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Those Feet: A Sensual History of English Football + Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; New edition edition (6 Mar 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747579148
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747579144
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 274,621 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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‘An enchanting love letter to English football’ -- Daily Telegraph

‘Thank God for Winner … a marvellous book’re unlikely to come across anything better for some considerable time’ -- Duncan White, FourFourTwo

‘Winner has made as good a stab at psychoanalysing England’s national sport as I have read’ -- Daily Telegraph

From the Publisher

A funny and intriguing history of English football by the author of the hugely acclaimed Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not your average footballing history... 17 Mar 2006
First things first, if you want a book that tells you the story of English football in terms of who won what and when, then do not buy this book. It's not for you, it aint that sort of book. Instead it offers a more thoughtfull analysis of why the English play the game in the manner in which they do - why the archetpal English player - Pearce, Butcher, even Rooney - is seen as a solider rather than an artisan.
Winner is very good at highlighting why the English game put such an emphasis on passion, strength, courage and so on. He also traces the history of the xenophobia that still runs through the football world today - the idea that 'the continentals' are divers, cheats, who may be skilled but can't win when football becomes a battle, a war. He gives a convincing argument of why successive English managers have prefered 'physical' players over more skilled flair players such aS Osgood, Greaves, Hoddle, Le Tissier and so on.
Where this book really excels though is the way in which it exposes the English national mindset and the way in which England's post-war history, along with the loss of Empire and suppossed economic decline, has attached itself to the way in which we view football. He critiques (rightly in my view) the nostalgia that dominates football and English life, the idea that football and the nation has gone to the dogs, that we are far away from the 'Glory Days'.
The book is not perfect - a few times Winner leaves you unconvinced, especially in the chapter about Roy Keane, and some of the people he quotes seem to come from the very margains of academia, such as Cameron Kippen, "historian of footwear and eroticism and lecturer at Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia". That said, Those Feet should be required reading for all football fans prior to the Word Cup!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book - don't let the title put you off 31 Mar 2007
A book called "Those Feet" and subtitle "An intimate history of English football" - what the heck is that about??? I'd certainly glanced at the cover on the shelves of football books and not even bothered to open it - how many of you have done the same, I wonder? So I got it as a Christmas present (thank you, Corinne) and what a revelation: it wasn't a book about sporting foot fetishism or the design of football boots. Instead, it is a character study of the spirit of English football and (to some extent) the English psyche as it goes into the 21st Century, laden with the baggage of the 19th and 20th Centuries ("Two World Wars and One World Cup, doo-dah, doo-dah").

The author gives the clearest explanation of the book in the Introduction: "I'm working on a sort of sequel to `Brilliant Orange'. That was about why the Dutch play beautiful football and lose all the time. But the English have a completely different problem: we play ugly football and lose all the time." I am writing this just after Steve McLaren's England have drawn with Israel and struggled to beat Andorra so it sounds pretty damn relevant to me.

The book's ten chapters are ten loosely linked but fairly freestanding essays on different aspects of the game. If, like me, you start reading at page one you might struggle a bit as the first two chapters (`Sexy Football' which is about the Victorian view that football was a healthy alternative to masturbation - and isn't half as interesting as it sounds - and `Roys, Keens and Rovers' about footballing heroes) are two of the weakest of the whole bunch so if you find yourself struggling don't worry about skipping ahead - you won't miss anything.

The middle sections of the book are superb.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Whilst I think the book is not really authorative on the history of football in England, I found this hugely readable and very difficult to put down. Winner takes an unusual look at what makes the English attitude to football unique and offers some intriguing persepctives as to how the game fits into English culture considering in it's wake a slew of wide and varied references from Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm through to Viz comic as well as the more familiar path of Stanely Matthews and Nat Lofthouse. There is even room to discuss the Micahel Caine film "The Italian Job" in connection qith a thought-provoking chapter that compares football in England and Italy. The whole narrative is crammed with nuggets of information and bizarre accounts that only serves to demonstrate the role of this sport in our national identity. Humour also plays a large part in this book.

If it has a weakness, I think that Winner has stumbled upon a topic that really can't be given proper justice in in the 260-odd pages and this warrants the deduction of one star. In some instances the author chooses some well-worn or even cliched references and you can sense just how much has changed since this book was written in 2005 with the observation that the import of foreign players has started to dilute the uniqueness of the way football in played in England although not necessarily for the worse. Despite covering some stock-in-trade topics, Winner has researched his subject thoroughly enough to make this a very interesting read and throws up some colourful characters like 1920's footballer Frank Barson who was probably the dirtiest English player ever and had close links with gangsters from Sheffield.
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