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Let's Talk Soccer: Using Game-Calls to Develop Communication and Decision-Making in Football
Let's Talk Soccer: Using Game-Calls to Develop Communication and Decision-Making in Football
by Gérard Jones
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars the focus is on one very specific aspect of football play and how best to coach it: communication, 16 Jun. 2015
This book is a little different from the standard football coaching manuals. The focus isn’t on technique drills or defensive formations and how best to coach them. Instead, the focus is on one very specific aspect of football play and how best to coach it: communication. It is a straightforward concept, but an important one. A coach who is an effective communicator stands a far greater chance of success than one who struggles to convey his ideas. In fact it is essential.

And more than merely looking at communication on the football field, this book is focused principally on the game-calls – the foundation blocks of in-game communication – developed by the author, Gerard Jones, a football coach and entrepreneur. Jones argues that “the most successful sporting teams in the world are the ones that communicate with each other the most” and has developed his game-calls (a frequently used and specific word or phrase to describe a particular moment in the game or an instruction to a player on what to do) from his own coaching. The book is set up as a “practical resource” for other coaches to take his ideas and fit them to their own situations and teams.

With that in mind, it isn’t written as a “this is how you must do it” approach, but is very much aimed at providing the ideas for other coaches to develop to suit their own teams and coaching sessions, something Jones refers to frequently throughout. As noted by Jones in a Q&A on this very website ( “Let’s Talk Soccer is all about offering a framework from which coaches and players can create their own coaching vocabulary to suit the identity of their football club.

Jones challenges the coaches reading his book to develop their own coaching vocabulary, while providing several examples of how he has developed his own and implemented game-calls into his coaching sessions.

He argues that “the most successful sporting teams in the world are the ones that communicate with each other the most”. As the methodology progresses we see more specific examples developing, with specific game-calls for defensive or offensive situations and how these can be used to build a focused training session to deliver the message to the players. There are examples aplenty and the overall tone is an informative and clear one, as the author’s message is delivered in a structured and helpful way.

It is an interesting concept, not in and of itself – communication on the sporting field is as old as the sports themselves of course – but as a football coaching book dealing very specifically with this very important aspect of the game. It makes a refreshing change and provides a good deal of food for thought for the aspiring football coach.

Hoop Crazy: College Basketball in the 1950s
Hoop Crazy: College Basketball in the 1950s
Price: £3.83

4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully detailed look at college basketball’s past, 10 Feb. 2015
This wonderfully detailed look at college basketball’s past opens with a delightfully nostalgic look back at the world in the 1950s and just how different it was, before highlighting the differences between basketball then and now. In a time of communist crises and nuclear tests, the basketball players were shorter and less inclined to showboating, but had to overcome various issues with match fixing; a subject covered in the open chapters.

Lester draws parallels between the history of college basketball in that period with that of America in that period and attempts to look at what ‘the evolution of the game said about America’s social and cultural history during that era.’ This crossover into America’s social and political past gives this book a true sense of time and place throughout. Part historical text, part sporting heritage and nostalgia, Lester paints a delightfully vivid picture in the reader’s mind.

The book is split into three main sections to set apart the early, mid and late 1950s, but rather than being merely chronologically distinction he sets themes around these. The early years being ‘the age of fun and fear’, with point shaving scandals, and then innovations in playing technique. The mid 1950s is ‘the age of consensus’ and the later 1950s ‘the age of reassessment’ where the rise of African-American payers takes a central role, as does the increase in media coverage in its various forms.

As well as these various “issues” the sport itself evolved in that era too, and Lester goes into detail of the advances in playing style, one handed shots, then one handed jump shots and the resultant rapid rise in scoring, as the game began to evolve into something that would be a bit more recognisable today.

The sections dealing with the points shaving scandals are quite illuminating and would plenty of fuel to any sporting cynic’s fire with the tales of the likes of Sherman White, Nat Holman, Alex Groza and Ralph Beard whose reputations would ‘forever be tarnished by the point shaving scandal of 1951.’

‘Our old values seemed to be ending. To many observers at the time, the basketball point shaving scandals of 1951 appeared to be part of an overall sense of betrayal.’ Lester draws a parallel between the players who sold their integrity for a few bucks with the much feared ‘commie spies’ of the era. ‘They were both betraying American integrity.’ That feels like some statement to my 21st century eyes, but the erosion of core values represented by the college basketball scandals was very real, and is well portrayed here.

In addition, the final section, which actually covers quite a few chapters of great depth, which looks at the acceptance of African-American athletes to both college and professional sports were particularly interesting. The parallels drawn to society as a whole, and the civil rights history in the US, and the most stark, and reaffirm the theme of linking the history of the college game to that of the country in general.

Given the great depth and clear level of extensive research that must have been involved in producing this book, it was little surprise on reading the notes about the author at the end of the book to discover that Lester holds a PhD in history and has written extensively on American and local history. He has also taught courses on American culture and sports history. The book has the depth and detail of an academic text, without the convoluted style and language, which makes it a thoroughly educational and fascinating read.

This review is from my website

Up Pohnpei: Leading the ultimate football underdogs to glory
Up Pohnpei: Leading the ultimate football underdogs to glory
by Paul Watson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars There is something about the underdog spirit that grips you, 10 Feb. 2015
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“They’re so bad that even I could play for them”, is an all too frequent whine from armchair footballers when seeing the likes of Andorra or San Marino take on one of the powers of the European game; or even England. But is that actually true? Paul Watson and his friend Matt Conrad felt that way and wanted to find out if they really could.

But a bit of initial research led them to the conclusion that even the likes of Andorra were far too good for them; capable as they were of holding the might of Russia to a 1-0 score line. And even nations from the depths of the FIFA rankings like Montserrat had players from a far higher level than they could even have attained. But there were other “nations” beyond FIFA’s reach that were even worse in theory.

More googling brought Watson and Conrad to the island of Yap, one of the Federated States of Micronesia, who had lost heavily, 15-0, to Guam. But there was a team even worse than Yap. They had won one match in their history, against another Micronesian state, Pohnpei. This was the team for them.

Initial contact and a viewing of the Micronesian laws around citizenship meant that playing for a Pohnpei national team was quickly ruled out, but the prospect of coaching them became a real possibility. It soon became a passion and so a lot of planning, four flights and twenty five hours later, the intrepid duo arrived in Pohnpei. ‘Though neither of us would admit it, our current state of disillusionment with the scale, pomp and privilege of modern European football added an element of idealism to excitement. We were going to make a difference.’

Pohnpei may be a scenic island of waterfalls and lush greenery, but it was hot, humid and it rained. A lot. ‘How anyone could possibly train a football team in this climate, where a sunny day can and will turn to a tropical storm with ten minutes’ notice.’ But there is something about the underdog spirit that grips you and once you learn the stories of those involved it can make you yearn for their success, and this book delivers that in spades.

It tells the fascinating story of how Watson primarily, and at times with Conrad’s assistance developed a bunch of rag tag misfits into a football team. There are many tales of dealing with the cultural differences and political inertia that came with life on a remote Pacific island with barely any football heritage. Funding was non-existent for a sport that was low down the list of priorities, and a steady stream of difficulties faced the wannabe coaches, all of which make the story being told all the more intriguing.

Efforts to set up a league and to gain sponsorship for a tour to near neighbours Guam are a recurring theme, but it is the personal stories which make this such a vivid and heart warming story. Some of the players are difficult characters, some are very keen and talented players, some have fascinating back stories, but all are depicted in such a way that I was genuinely willing them on throughout. They all responded to their new coaches in different ways, but one particular team bonding trip brought about the desires effect: ‘I had spent weeks trying to win the players’ respect with my professionalism and made slow progress, but after one day of binge drinking I had won them over.’

I was craving one or two photos to add a bit of recognition to the players who had become so familiar in my mind’s eye, but there are none in the book though I have found a few online to add a bit of context. It’s a genuinely uplifting read, and reaffirms the feeling that sport and football can bring people together and be a force for good.

This book is a wonderful read about an epic story that hooked me to the extent that I read the final chapters in a hurry to discover the outcome of Pohnpei’s tour matches in Guam. I wanted them to win, I wanted them to taste victory, but regardless of the results, their story had gripped me. This book is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in football beyond the regular, high profile and in your face humdrum of the modern game.

This review is from my website

Baseball Explained
Baseball Explained
by Phillip Mahony
Edition: Paperback
Price: £23.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Explains the sometimes almost unexplainable, 3 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Baseball Explained (Paperback)
America’s favourite past time can be a bit of a mystery to the outsider. Baseball may initially appear fairly simple – rounders with bigger bats – can suddenly seem exceedingly complex when listening to the commentator’s endless stream of jargon. Similarly, any conversation with a baseball nut can leave the uninitiated confused in the extreme.

Talk of RBI singles and slugging percentages isn’t even the kind of jargon that you can understand merely by watching a bit of baseball. Someone will need to explain it to you. And that is where Phillip Mahony’s book Baseball Explained can step into the breach, which the author decided to write after various attempts at explaining the intricacies of the game to overseas relatives had proved far more complex than expected. Similarly, other than the complicated and at times obscure rules of the game, no books were aimed at those without a detailed knowledge having been brought up with the game.

Baseball may not exactly be a big deal in Europe, but there is enough of an audience worldwide to keep the interest levels burgeoning, and new viewers or converts or those wishing to visit the US and take in a game could do a lot worse than reading this book. Likewise, if you’ve watched baseball and enjoyed it to some extent but were left befuddled by its terminology and traditions then Baseball Explained does a handy job of, well, explaining it.

Much is described in an easy to read and light hearted tone, with a nice balance between technical detail of the rules and strategies of the game, historical and cultural anecdotes, and humour. The dips into baseball’s rich history were the most pleasing to me, diverting the reader as they did from the slightly more onerous task of explaining the rules or the various strategies employed by the teams, and bringing to life some of the game’s most colourful and significant characters.

As far as the technical explanations go, they can get complex at times, such is the nature of these things. It’s hard to avoid getting into a muddle when getting in depth with an explanation when a huge number of possibilities could occur, and that happens here occasionally but never to such an extent that the reader becomes too lost. A good array of examples and a few sporadic quiz questions for the reader keep things going along nicely and keep the reader’s attention nicely focused.

On occasion, connections are made to the world of football to help the understanding of those who have been brought up on that game, which is a pleasing touch for the likes of me. Not that everything can be explained however. Even the hardened baseball enthusiast occasionally has to shrug their shoulders and “embrace the madness” as Mahony puts it.

But if you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between striking out looking and striking out swinging, or can’t tell your change up from your slider, or are baffled by mentions of fly outs, foul tips and sacrifice bunts, then this book may well be your saviour.

This review is taken from my website

The Fighter's Way: Muay Thai Handbook: Volume 1
The Fighter's Way: Muay Thai Handbook: Volume 1
by Mr Nick Gorman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.16

4.0 out of 5 stars This is a short look at the various techniques and values of the sometimes graceful sometimes brutal, martial art of Muay Thai, 3 Feb. 2015
Described on the cover as a “Muay Thai Handbook”, this is a short look at the various techniques and values of the sometimes graceful sometimes brutal, Thai martial art of Muay Thai, “an ancient art form that benefits your body and your mind.” Nick Gorman has represented his country, South Africa, at Muay Thai and has fought, with a degree of success, in international amateur tournaments. He now passes his accumulated knowledge along in training new students, the basics of which he covers in this handbook.

Gorman tells his own story of training and competing, before looking at the various aspects of Muay Thai in general and how they are applied both inside and outside the ring. This begins with a brief outline of the values of Muay Thai: discipline, commitment, belief and respect. These are short descriptions but get the main points across without dragging it out. Gorman’s own discipline and commitment are ably demonstrated by the tale he tells of his parents asking him if he wanted a big party for this impending 21st birthday. He replied that he’d far rather go to Thailand to learn the art of Muay Thai; something he then did for 3 months.

This book then moves on to the fundamentals of Muay Thai by taking a look at the basic techniques involved and the various types of attack and defence, taking the reader through the various styles and positioning required for the variety of kicks, punches, elbows and knees involved. Then there is grappling and blocking and a glance at the importance of training and team work and the important recurring theme that it should always be fun.

I say a glance, because this short guide is just that; short. That’s not a criticism as such, as there is some merit to a short guide book to serve as an introduction or an inspiration to those new to Muay Thai or those contemplating taking it up, which is, I believe, Gorman’s intention here. This book would certainly be worth a look for anyone in that position before moving on to more in depth books in the inspiration took hold, although a little more depth into what is undoubtedly a deep and rich subject might not have been a bad thing.

But it does serve its purpose, which is giving a brief overview of what is involved and a hope to have inspired other to take up this martial art. As Gorman describes, “Fighting and training in Muay Thai is all about breaking the limitations that you have put on yourself. You’ll find that you can push harder and go further than you imagined.”

This review is taken from my wesbite

The Umpire Has No Clothes
The Umpire Has No Clothes
Price: £2.38

3.0 out of 5 stars Walter Witty has something he wants to get off his chest. And boy does he do that, 3 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Walter Witty, the alter ego of the author Jonathan Lowe, has something he wants to get off his chest. And boy does he do that in what amounts to a sustained rant of epic proportions on the obsessions of the sports enthusiast, or sports fanatic, and the sheer ridiculousness of the near religion of sports at times. As the book’s blurb accurately states, “sure to enrage or delight”, and “humor to some, horror to others”, which is pretty much on the money.

Walter clearly wasn’t the “sports jock” at school, and has something of a score to settle it seems. He came to see sport and its occasionally slavish followers in a rather negative light and is on a mission to open the eyes of the “sports addict”, and help them to achieve some resolution, perspective or equilibrium, or merely to highlight their addiction.

Sport is of course often taken far too seriously, and can indeed lead to a whole raft of issues; aggression, violence, lack of morals etc. As one of Witty’s frequent diary entries notes, George Orwell once said that “Sport is war without the shooting”, and in some cases it isn’t all that far removed. Walter Witty clearly has little regard for those who slavishly sit on their sofas watching match after match, night after night, and vents his spleen in an at times entertaining, and at times baffling array of adjective-laden diatribe that echoed an enthusiastic atheist criticising those with deeply held religious beliefs.

This is a sort of life story of Walter Witty, who may or may not share many traits with Lowe, interspersed with some funny diary entries and a list of alternative sporting definitions, or a “Lossary of Terms” as Witty describes it. “Boredom – this is the condition of any sports addict when for a few fleeting moments, there is no game on the 100 cable channels they follow like moths around a flame.” That struck as rather accurate I must admit. I found these definitions to be the funniest aspect of the book personally, with some of the other chapters leaving me slightly confused at times.

Sport is frequently taken far too seriously, but on the other hand I personally feel sorry for those for whom life chugs along as normal, either deliberately or ignoring or blissfully unaware of an ongoing World Cup, Olympic Games, Superbowl or whatever sporting occasion you care to insert. Yes sports can be ridiculous, but they are entertainment that can inspire and delight so long as a little perspective is maintained.

And even if Walter Witty is at the complete opposite extreme from a sports obsessive, being a fervent anti-sports obsessive, there are some valid points, notably about some sportsmen in the news recently who seem to think themselves above the law. Though perhaps that is more reflective of society and the fad of celebrity than of sport itself I would say.

It’s rather different from most of the sports books I’m asked to review, that much is certain. And while Witty would no doubt consider me as being far beyond saving in my zealous sports obsession, there is a valid point to be made about maintaining a level of perspective hidden somewhere in amongst it all.

This review is taken from my website

Price: £3.99

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars O’Donnell lets his characters give their thoughts on several topical issues, 27 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Scotball (Kindle Edition)
In similar style to his previous book Paradise Road, Stephen O’Donnell is back with another instalment of his Glaswegian football affairs, focusing this time on Peter Fitzpatrick, a character introduced late on in Paradise Road, making the reverse journey from the Czech Republic to Scotland. In contrast to Paradise Road however, this book is focused more on Scottish football and it issues in general rather than the more Celtic-centric predecessor.

In this case our narrator is seeking to avoid the mundane existence of his previous finance career and break in to the media with an idea for a TV football discussion show called “The Scottish Football Debate” which comes to pass one way or another and is aimed at bringing a more intelligent level of discussion to football viewers than many of the “lowest common denominator” levels of punditry that we’re often spoon fed.<!--more-->

Using the format of the TV show, O’Donnell lets his characters give their thoughts on several topical issues, but the one burning at the core is the financial demise of Fitzpatrick’s unloved rivals Rangers, and the potential consequences and turmoil brought about by that demise. While the author’s Celtic allegiances are as clear as those of his main character, the TV show debates in the narrative, written in script style, see him towing a slightly less partial line, as is required of Fitzpatrick to some extent when hosting the show.

As the discussions about Rangers financial misdemeanours intensify, there is plenty of scope for Rangers bashing but as commented on by the main protagonist Fitzpatrick at one point: “I’m aware that it’s all too easy for someone in ma position to fall into the trap of the lazy-minded, who’s thinking on any relevant subject amounts to little more than Celtic good, Rangers bad.” O’Donnell manages on the whole to avoid this trap, and voices many valid arguments through his main character.

But just as the debate is heating up, it is quickly ended after various issues with the television production company and we miss out on seeing the discussion through. The main character laments this turn of events, but as I reader I lamented it too given this was the main driving force of the book.

Other areas were covered, notably the lack of emerging talent in Scotland of anywhere near the levels of years past, but none with the same level of discussion as the Rangers issue. This is probably for the best since too many varied subjects would have left the narrative meandering a bit, but that meant the Rangers story was our focus and denouement and it kind of trailed off just as it was getting most interesting towards the end.

That said, this was a decent read with sufficient material to keep the reader amused and entertained and plenty that will ring true with many a Scottish football fan, or British fan for that matter. But speaking from the point of view of a sports book enthusiast rather than a Glaswegian social commentary one, it was just a shame that the depth craved by the main character from television discussion shows was only hinted at in the debates rather than delved into more fully.

This review is from my website The Sports Book Review .com

The Arms Park: Heart of a Rugby Nation
The Arms Park: Heart of a Rugby Nation
by Bill O'Keefe
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Will take many a proud Welshman on a nostalgic trip down memory lane., 12 Dec. 2014
This nicely presented history of “the most renowned piece of real estate in Wales” is a short but fascinating look at Cardiff’s iconic stadium, or more accurately at the site that has been home to various incarnations of Wales’ national stadium. From soggy quagmire through to the Millennium Stadium, the patch of grass in Cardiff’s city centre alongside the River Taff has welcomed many a generation of hopeful sports fans to watch some terrific sport over the years.

This book gives us a brief social and economic look at Cardiff’s and Wales’ past too, particularly when delving deepest into the past and identifying just how and why that particular site began its sporting tradition, and how this developed into the mega stadium there today. Full of historical insight and sporting recollections, the author O’Keefe, a vastly experienced tour guide, has packed in a fair amount of detail in amongst the liberal helping of archive photographs and memorabilia which decorate the pages and bring the past more readily to mind.

We learn about the Marquess of Bute who originally gave over the “swampy meadow” land for the exclusive development of recreation for the people of Cardiff at the start of the nineteenth century. This became even more waterlogged once Isambard Kingdom Brunel had got his hands on the River Taff and diverted it to its present course to link up with the coal delivering canals. In doing so the Arms Park site, named for a nearby hotel, switched from the south of the river to the north. It also resulted in the Arms Park doubling in size; something that certainly helped in future decades when stadium stands arose around it.

The authors don’t go into so much depth as to turn a light and educational read into something weightier and duller, which keeps things at a nice level as we progress through Wales’ coal mining booms and busts, World Wars, and other social changes and the effects on Cardiff, Welsh sport and the stadium.

Cricket was the first sport played on the site but Rugby soon followed and it was the oval ball game which has of course become synonymous with the Arms Park and Millennium Stadium. Many of the most famous events are covered here such as the defeat of the New Zealand All Blacks in 1905 when the now familiar Welsh anthem Land of my Fathers, or Hen Wlad fy Nhadau, was sung for the first time by the players and fans in response to the haka.

This book is well researched, well written and nicely informative without being overbearing on the history front. But for all the history of the city, its coal related rise and decline, of the swampy land that became an iconic stadium and the tales of administrators and official making their decisions, the real history came on the field and in the stands. A stadium doesn’t become iconic without that and the authors highlight the key events over the years that will take many a proud Welshman on a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

This review is from my website

Garmin Forerunner 610 GPS Running Watch with Heart Rate Monitor
Garmin Forerunner 610 GPS Running Watch with Heart Rate Monitor
Price: £149.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 22 Oct. 2014
Just superb, So many settings which are a little much at first but mean that you can set it up just the way you like it. Very pleased.

Soccer Brain: The 4C Coaching Model for Developing World Class Player Mindsets and a Winning Football Team
Soccer Brain: The 4C Coaching Model for Developing World Class Player Mindsets and a Winning Football Team
by Dan Abrahams
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A coaching model that will develop the right mindsets and team dynamics to help performance on the pitch, 22 Oct. 2014
Following on from Soccer Tough, Sports Psychologist Dan Abrahams turns his focus away from the players and on to the coach in his next book, Soccer Brain. As with his previous work, my review of which can be found here, Abrahams aims to bring the often complex world of sports psychology to a wider audience by explaining some of his key methods and strategies in an easily digestible and ideally usable format.

As opposed to the vast majority of football coaching manuals, focusing as they do on training drills, skills and techniques, tactics and formations and so on, Abrahams proposes a coaching model that will develop the right mindsets and team dynamics to help performance on the pitch. It aims to “teach coaches to train players to compete with confidence, commitment, intelligence and as part of a team,” as well as developing the mental skills to allow players to perform their skills under pressure, when it is needed the most. By creating the right environment to allow players to play with confidence and freedom and without fear Abrahams argues that players’, and the team’s, performance can be enhanced significantly more than by skills and tactical training alone.

This shouldn’t be taken as meaning that the book is only focused on elite or higher levels of competition. Many of the ideas could just as easily be applied to coaches at a lower or a youth level; anywhere that the coach themselves is seeking to get the best from themselves and their players.

By focusing on the assistance psychology can give in developing football coaching methods, Abrahams has kept his brief narrow enough so as to allow a degree of footballing specificity to his points. A sports psychology book could easily get itself lost in amongst the complexities of the mind and the perceived need to explain such intricacies to the reader in full depth, but that isn’t necessary to make such a book effective.

The book is split into four main sections, each looking to develop a different aspect of coaching and mindset culture within the team; a culture of creativity, of confidence, of commitment, and of cohesion – the 4C coaching model as mentioned in the book’s title. The ideas are presented in terms of football, but much could of course be applied elsewhere in the sporting sphere too.

As with Abrahams other football psychology book, Soccer Tough, he uses numerous real life examples from the sport to illustrate his points. It’s not a complicated idea, but it’s one that makes the reader experience all the better and makes it infinitely easier for the uninitiated to understand the points being made. It’s not dumbed down, far from it, but it is explained in a straightforward and easy to follow way. Klopp and Mourinho get a mention, as do various players and coaches from further down the pyramid, but all of the examples are useful and purposeful.

Some will want to take more from this book than others, but sports coaches, and of course football coaches in particular, would surely find enough ideas to develop and adopt to make this a more than worthwhile read.

This review is from my website

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