Fifty Years of Hurt: The Story of England Football and Why We Never Stop Believing Paperback – 1 Jun 2017
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"Powerful... Winter feels the pain as acutely as any ordinary fan. He also has a mischievous turn of phrase. The quips, however, don't dilute the serious issues he raises. It's a horribly sobering, as well as a revealing and entertaining read." (The Times)
"A wholly original work on arguably the biggest topic in football. Winter has a wonderful turn of phrase and his skilful hand is necessary because the subject matter is so well known. The recontextualisation of the past as a means to understand the present is this book’s gift. Winter is justifiably proud of his attendance at every England match since 1993, and his asides, observations and anecdotes are what elevate this above other accounts of the Three Lions. History suggests that Winter's tale is likely to remain relevant for years to come." (Independent)
"Deeply felt, highly readable and enjoyable." (When Saturday Comes)
"Elegaic... Winter's excellent contacts have brought him interviews with key players." (Economist)
"This is an utterly fascinating, moving and very dramatic book. Great footballing heroes past and present leap from the pages. Never has the beautiful game been more beautifully written about." (Jilly Cooper)
About the Author
Henry Winter is the Chief Football Writer of The Times and a five-time winner at the Sports Journalists' Association awards.
He loves the England national team with a passion that borders on masoschism and has covered every one of their games from Wembley to Beijing, Chicago to Rio over the past twenty-two years, as well as seven World Cups. Along with Wayne Rooney and Roy Hodgson, he also has the third English vote for the Ballon d'Or award for the world's best player.
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Too much of the book is made up of overlong interviews with ex-players. Various defects and remedies are brought-up by Winter and these individuals in the text, eg the shortcomings of the academies, the FA, and English coaching; the lack of a winter break; the large numbers of foreigners in the Premier League; and the desirability of appointing some of these ex-players to positions within the FA. Yet there is little or no in-depth analysis or debate of these issues, rather most are just restated in a short concluding chapter.
Some, like the desirability of a winter break, seem common sense, but others deserve more scrutiny and challenge. For example, how great an inspiration and impact would be the presence of some of these figures in the FA who are themselves symbols of England’s underachievement?
For Winter and many of the ex-players, reforms and changes of personnel within the FA are seen as paths to salvation. Obviously we should seek a national association structured and run in the best way possible. Yet frequently corrupt and dysfunctional national associations in Argentina and Brazil do not block the emergence of talented players and the winning of World Cups.
The proliferation of foreigners in the Premier League as a factor behind England’s failures seems to have become an unchallenged Gospel truth: yet England failed to quality for the 1994 World Cup when there were very few foreigners in the PL, and failed to qualify for the 1974 and 1978 World Cups when there were virtually no foreigners at all in the old First Division.
I would like to have seen detailed material on countries which are obviously doing things right, such as Germany and Spain (and Holland too despite the recent travails of its national team), and a comparative analysis of those countries’ set-ups alongside that of the English.
The book earns 3 stars from me as it’s well written and is a pleasant read, but it represents an opportunity missed.