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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not your average footballing history...,
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!
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,
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. `In Ancient Times' deals with the historical baggage of English football. `The Phantom Limb' extends this on to thinking about the English attitude to their place in the world since the break-up of the Empire (which sounds a bit dull but isn't). `It's Cold and We're Rubbish' deals with the strong masochistic streak in the character of many football fans - reading it reminded me of the bit in "Father Ted" when the housekeeper, Mrs Doyle, is offered a new tea-maker `to take the misery out of tea-making'. She replies, "Maybe I LIKE the misery!" That's certainly my attitude (I speak as a forest fan ..) The next chapter `Cooling the Blood' is about the influence of English pitches on the way that the game has been played in this country.
I could go on but you're probably getting the picture. Ignore the strange title (it's from the hymn "Jerusalem" in case you're wondering) and the subtitle. Ignore the first two chapters. Open this book at page 74 and enjoy the remaining 200 pages, which are worth the price on their own. This is one of the most thoughtful, original and provocative pieces I have read on English football and (to an extent) what it is to be English
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Grobbelaar-esque approach to English football culture,
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. I loved the historical detail and it is fascinating to compare the world of Dixie Dean or even the more "modern" Stanely Matthews with today's players like Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott to illustrate just how much football has moved on. I would safely say that this book will have many fans nodding their head in recognition of some of Winner's observations as well as raising the odd eyebrow to some of the more obscurantist facts he finds.
In summary, others may have covered this topic in a more earnest style but Winner manages to find new material to enliven the story and often takes the less well-worn route. The first few chapters serve to introduce the origins of the game against as background of Victorian moral reform (although the promotion of the game to curb mastubation amongst the game's young practionisers is probably a bit over-stated even if current rivals of Manchester City will obviously find something to snigger about when they have finished this chapter! )and the book is really up and running when the topic of "boy's own literature is discussed. For me, I reached the end wanting more as I rattled this book off really quickly within a few nights. Can't help thinking that this topic would make a good TV series. In conclusion, an end to end thriller that could do with some Extra Time!
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't mention the war,
David Winner places football in some rather peculiar contexts and as a result identifies the English football psyche as something rather brutal as well as honourable. But can he have it both ways?
He is particularly good at comparing English football to Italian football, making interesting points along the way. However, he has little to say about the personalities of the modern game and concentrates on those of past eras (while also bemoaning the backward-looking English football fan who dreams of a `golden age'!), such as Nat Lofthouse, Stanley Matthews and Dixie Dean. What about David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand et al, or even the only minimally historical Gary Linekar, Tony Adams, Paul Gascoigne etc? Winner falls prey to the nostalgia he excoriates in the average football fan. And it is, on the whole, a negative vision of English football that he propounds. A vision of teams that again and again reach the semi- or quarter-finals of competition, but never win. To be fair, he does point out that the English record in reaching finals is better than those of many other European teams.
I might as well come clean and reveal that my main puzzlement about this book concerns the complete absence of the national rivalry that has dominated the English football scene throughout its modern history - that between English and German fans. Nor does he mention the strange English/Scottish rivalries which came to the fore during the last World Cup when a car bearing an English flag was wrecked by Scottish hooligans. It is surely more than interesting that many Scottish fans would rather any team in competition against England beat them. Winner seems to prefer to concentrate on peripheral sub-cultural connections, such as that between football and the film The Italian Job.
Of course, there isn't room for everything in one book, but a history of English football that does not so much as mention Germany leaves a huge gap at the centre of the story. Is this a Don't mention the War element? And what is the subtitle of this book all about?
Nevertheless, this is a mostly entertaining read, albeit one without much sensuality. It displays one fan's particular football preoccupations, but there is much more to be said.
5.0 out of 5 stars The soul of football,
Not so much a blow-by-blow history of english football, as a story of english footballs soul. Brilliantly captures what made english football what it is, and what has been lost in the Premier League era.
A must-read for anyone serious about knowning the roots and history of modern football. It's also very well-written and quite funny in its own way.
4.0 out of 5 stars informative,
This review is from: Those Feet: A Sensual History of English Football (Hardcover)
See reviews from 4 4 2 for balanced view.
Slow going but very informative,stick with it.
Not destined to be a classic as per his first book (Orange).
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Those Feet: A Sensual History of English Football by David Winner (Hardcover - 21 Mar 2005)
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