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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive guide to penalties
I got this ahead of World Cup and have not been able to put it down. The author has done amazing research into the art and skill behind the penalty kick and shoot-outs as well as interviewing many famous players and goalkeepers involved in key matches. The stats are really interesting - who knew that English players are the best at taking penalties in Europe, better than...
Published 12 months ago by Mark

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Cure to the English Disease?
What to English football affascionados is deemed embarrassing, humiliating and declared a "disease", is the national team's inability to defeat opponents in shoot-outs and progress or win international tournaments, though they do not present inabilities in scoring goals, even penalties during the normal 90, or the remaining 30 minutes of extra time. This hang up has been...
Published 11 months ago by mangilli-climpson m


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive guide to penalties, 26 May 2014
This review is from: Twelve Yards (Hardcover)
I got this ahead of World Cup and have not been able to put it down. The author has done amazing research into the art and skill behind the penalty kick and shoot-outs as well as interviewing many famous players and goalkeepers involved in key matches. The stats are really interesting - who knew that English players are the best at taking penalties in Europe, better than Germans, except when it comes to playing for the national side?! In addition, the book offers clear guidance for how to improve your chances in a shoot-out - surely a must read for any professional player, manager or the FA. It is even interesting for non football-mad people as it gives a bit of history, a bit of psychology and a rare glimpse into the minds of professional sportsmen. It really is the definitive guide to penalties and is set to become a classic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yards is a great feat, 5 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: Twelve Yards (Hardcover)
IT wouldn’t do Roy Hodgson any harm to make sure he lends a couple of dozen copies of this book for his team of overpaid, tattooed primadonnas to read. Thick they may be, but even the dimmest England footballer will understand the significance of a book about taking penalties.

It says on the tin ‘The Art and Psychology of the Perfect Penalty’, and it delivers precisely that inside, plus an onionbagfull of even more interesting stats and anecdotal stuff. This includes the sort of detailed info you’d expect, like the best angle for your run-up, what your odds are of scoring, how to celebrate putting one past the keeper to increase the success of your mates and how to put the other guys off their shot.

And there’s lesser-known stuff, like the fact that Chris Waddle’s semi-final effort in 1990 put a fan in the stadium’s Row Z in hospital for a week after it hit him full in the face at 120mph. Actually, that’s not in there, but anyone who remembers it wouldn’t be surprised.

Throughout Twelve Yards are nuggets of joy and woe and insight from past masters and failures of what the author defines as ‘football in its purest form’. For the England team, of course, this is all so much more important. As any fan will know, in the past 24 years they’ve gone out on penalties in three World Cups and three European Championships, which is nothing to ‘doo-da’ about.

So, stick a picture of a sneering German on your mantelpiece, settle down in your favourite footie armchair and devour Ben Lyttleton’s timely, fascinating and gently understated classic of a book. Then pray the do the same
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant in-depth look at penalties and a very English malaise, 9 Jun. 2014
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This review is from: Twelve Yards (Hardcover)
A wonderful and detailed look at penalties, England's routine failure from 12 yards and the many aspects of a seemingly easy task. Bringing together the opinions of an array of football A-listers and other high-profile names, the views of Ricardo (England's nemisis in 2004 and 2006), Rickie Lambert, Sir Clive Woodward, Antonin Panenka (of Panenka fame...) and the penalty-taking Chilavert were notable highlights among many others. Jam-packed with stats and figures - most of which paint a pretty miserable picture for England supporters - the book manages to combine the factual and anecdotal in a most enjoyable and easy manner. A joy to read and an absolute must for any Englishman/football fan seeking to understand this perennial weakness. It would be worth the players having a look too...
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Cure to the English Disease?, 16 Jun. 2014
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This review is from: Twelve Yards (Hardcover)
What to English football affascionados is deemed embarrassing, humiliating and declared a "disease", is the national team's inability to defeat opponents in shoot-outs and progress or win international tournaments, though they do not present inabilities in scoring goals, even penalties during the normal 90, or the remaining 30 minutes of extra time. This hang up has been growing since the first defeat against West Germany, in Turin, at the World Cup, in 1990, and it is not the first book that explores this issue Soccernomics: Why England Loses, Why Spain, Germany, and Brazil Win, and Why the U.S., Japan, Australia--And Even Iraq--Are Destined, though Ben Lyttleton, director of the consultancy Soccernomics, is the first to focus exclusively on the problem of taking and saving penalties.

For too long the mantra has been to repeat past excuses, put one's head in the sand or put plasters over the cracks: "Nobody could beat us in open play" (Bobby Robson, 1990), "You can never recreate on the training ground the circumstances of the shoot-out" (Glen Hoddle, 1998), "The penalty is a unique skill outside of football" (Johan Cruyff), so the task can't be prepared, and, in conclusion, "it's a lottery" (Gary Neville, 2004). In the light of subsequent damaged careers, there is always the recrimination by players (Waddle, 1990, Southgate, 1996, Batty, 1998) for having missed, and asking why the coach had selected them if they were not normally penalty takers.

Though England, with 6 defeats out of 7, is not the only problem nation - the Netherlands has a slightly better percentage (4 defeats in 5), until recently the handicap was also faced by Italy, and until 2007 even World champions Spain, but no one can surpass the continued robot-like brilliance of Germany, 5 wins out of 6, a scoring rate of 93% against England's paltry 14%. The psychologist, Dr Geir Jordet, believes England's problems originate from their facing higher expectations, the severe anxiety and fear of past defeats, their belonging to one of the most individualist countries, and being more prone to strong media criticism looking to scapegoats, each of their opponents in turn benefit at their expense, and the longer England fails to win, the more difficult it will become for future English players to beat the "mental problem", or for a word used by the more superstitious players, the "curse".

After much tested anecdotal evidence, the author is exceptionally critical of club and the national coaches, as well as the establishment's failure to self-criticise, much less to turn a new leaf and develop radical changes. Worse, for him, few club coaches are aware, or know how to coach penalty taking. No player, in his opinion, can be described as having a "character" for penalties, nor is he physically or mentally incapable of scoring a penalty (Butt, Germany; Ceni, Brazil; and Ricardo, Portugal were all penalty taking goal keepers). So the complete drama of penalty-taking at shoot-outs: from the time out, the walk to the spot, the penalty kick, and the walk back to the centre circle, should be properly analysed in detail; or more precisely in the words of Sky Team chief and director of British cycling Sir Dave Brailsford: "analyse the demands of the event".

The kick must be instructed, regularly practised, monitored, and then modified or personalised in all club training to become a routine. Brailsford states coaches should plan players to hit their shots to an imaginary target, as Johnny Wilkinson used to in rugby for Newcastle, and for Toulon, either to the left, the right, or using the ploy first devised by the Czech striker Antonin Panenka.

Just as goal keepers have specialist coaches, there should also exist specialists for the penalty kick, working close to the keeper, as they can spot the kickers' body language, and help them to control their fears.

To provide a purpose and experience to this important need, such shoot-outs could be actually performed and televised at the end of normal club games - an exhibition which could develop into a competition itself: good to the players, the clubs, and a bonus to the TV broadcasters.

Practical and successful ideas from other sports might be adopted to improve techniques in play, and reduce stress. The German squad under Löw, for instance, already uses archery, rugby union, and watch-making. Lyttleton illustrates many tried initiatives by the disabled Doug Blevins (American football), Sir Dave Brailsford, and Sir Clive Woodward, that have been satisfactorily applied in soccer.

England must change their habits to start winning, and stop losing the curse, otherwise as Germany is willing to make constant improvements, as Australia's cricket also did for many years in the 1990s, any success by England will still only consolidate their threatened position. But with regular change, out players will experience less anxiety of the event; by blocking out the noise of the crowd, they can concentrate solely on their task, and hit the target.

Once the shoot-out occurs national coaches will have less difficulty in selecting and prescribing an order of known penalty takers, and the players themselves will have less fear of volunteering, and taking their time in order to score (rather than hurrying to get the job over with, by firing wide, or up in the stands, as Jamie Carragher and Steve Gerrard admitted doing in Gelsenkirchen in 2006 against Portugal). The coach, instead, will be required to plan for the unexpected, and with a little luck, he will, then, suffer fewer disappointments, and experience more smiles with his team; the players themselves will be able to build on their successes positively for the future - so there will be no further tragedies, as experienced to poor Agostino di Bartolomei of AS Roma, who shot himself, on the tenth anniversary of Roma's defeat to Liverpool in 1984, in the final of the European Cup.

There are three features, however, that have irritated the reviewer. The book focuses on men's soccer, and yet out of the blue five pages were inserted on Brandi Chastain goal for the US against China at the World Cup final, in Pasadena, in 1999, to represent the women's game. Was it a symbolic, politically correct walk-on? Essentially such an example was necessary to make the discussion both sound, more rounded and of value to all; however, its significance in the entire debate appeared puny and lame, as an after thought, giving the impression that for Lyttleton the women's game today is still very secondary, and despite its popularity and progress at the London Olympics with team GB under Hope Powell it did not merit much discussion. Shame!

The author, furthermore, uses the absurd liberal-left comments of a professor of semiotics, Dr Alex Gordon, to remind readers to associate the failings in football with the loss of empire and the loss of global status. What proportion of football fans in a multicultural society either remember or, indeed, think about the Empire, when some of the more fanatical members of the ethnic minorities question their British / English national identity, any Western norms, and who rather prefer to propagate their distinct religious community and separate themselves from the rest?

The last on "cheating" by referees: including allowing the "Hand of God" goal to Argentina in 1986, and the infamous South Korea v Italy match in 2002 (no wish to go back to 1973 to the European Cup semi-final tie between Juventus v Derby County), might be vital if it were connected to the English disease, which sadly it is not, and here the author is wilfully padding for the sake of space.

This book is aimed for the general reader, so it should interest sports' journalists or TV presenters wishing to lynch future bad boys failing; for couch managers dreaming of replacing current national coaches: Del Bosque (Spain), Hodgson (England), or Van Gaal (Netherlands), or for any soccer fan eager about the latest plan. Most of all, it is for England club managers and team coaches who together should cooperate for the success of the national team. Though some chapters are a little long, Ben Lyttleton has succeeded in promoting his assets and the work of his firm. The question is will the England FA now put on its specs and take note to the relevant sections?
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but not quite what I expected., 26 Aug. 2014
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E. A. Parr (Kent, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Twelve Yards (Hardcover)
Interesting but not quite what I expected. It's a bit more of a summary of famous penalties than a study of penalty tactics
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Good blokes Birthday present, 2 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: Twelve Yards (Hardcover)
Birthday present for a football fan, they said they were fascinated and an unusual subject well covered
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 5 Oct. 2014
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D. Macpherson "The Mindbender" (Bath, UK.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Twelve Yards (Hardcover)
Excellent servicpcey
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Twelve Yards
Twelve Yards by Ben Lyttleton (Hardcover - 22 May 2014)
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