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on 9 August 2016
Really enjoyable read with very little to criticise. Davies has excellent access to many of the England players and management that give a unique insight into the tournament. If there was one point to pick on, it would probably be the obsession with tactics. No doubt, the sweeper v 4-4-2 debate was a key discussion at the time but it really is done to death here.
Overall though, well worth buying, although I couldn't help smiling to myself reading the passages towards the end where the author looked forward to England's Euro 92 and World Cup 94 campaigns with such optimism.....hindsight is a wonderful thing!
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on 20 June 2016
Having lost my paper copy of this classic, I purchased for Kindle so I could make my customary reread as England travel to a major tournament. I happened to be reading the longer passages about hooligans as the trouble was kicking off in Marseille.

This is a modern classic in it's genre. I read a lot of books about football: this is one of the best. Davies states in the book that he couldn't write a match report in the sportswriter style; instead his rather chaotic take on the action captures the game well as it is played. In addition, the closeness he gets to the players and coaches adds this book to a select group of books that make you feel that you understand the world within the game(others I would state to read in this vein are The Glory Game and Family).

I was 9 during Italia 90 and it was the tournament that ignited my passion for the game, so I'm probably biased, but this is one of the top three books about the game ever written for me. Highly recommended.
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on 6 December 2012
I was 12 years old during Italia 90 and this book brought the memories flooding back, the Cameroon penalties, Gazza, Platts goal and Bobby Robson in his prime. But more than that this book offers an insight behind the scenes and into what life away was like for the players and staff. Really enjoyable read if not a little sad. The good old days.
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on 14 September 2013
A truly good read. Which brought back. My finest memory's England's fortunes. In the 1990 World Cup.
But their there some sad tales of how are government at the time. Treat our England's loyal support. At the times.
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on 7 November 2015
A decent book for the football fan, with some insight into what goes on inside the World Cup camps, and also what the fans, both good and bad, get up to.
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on 11 June 2013
Too flowery to be a good can't put it down read, but OK factually. A very in depth account of an old story.
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on 16 June 2015
This is without doubt the best football book ever written and about a great world cup for England.
He captures it all, I went to some games and it was, as described, a great atmosphere with great music as well/
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on 11 February 2014
The World Cup can always be relied upon to provide tales of sporting heroism and drama; joy and pain; smiles and tears in equal measure. Many nations’ sporting histories are inextricably linked to their successes and failures in the World Cup. Eras are defined by it. For England, in amongst the many disappointments, there are two lofty peaks. 1966 is the loftiest of all of course, but 1990 came within a whisker of matching it.

Against a backdrop of European isolation thanks to the post-Heysel ban on English teams; a well deserved reputation at the time for fan hooliganism; a team seemingly bereft of ideas and inspiration coming off the back of a terrible Euro ’88; a set of players schooled in kick and rush, 4-4-2, and the art of the headless chicken. At the helm was Bobby Robson, clinging on despite an intolerable level of vitriol and ridicule. It’s easy to look back with 20-20 hindsight and imagine that Robson was held in the same great esteem then as he was in his latter years, but that simply wasn’t true. It was also while football in England was yet to become “cool” again, with the advent of the Premier League still two years away. Attendances were low and fans were tolerated rather than desired. It was another time altogether.

Amid all this, Pete Davies followed the England team through the final few qualifiers in Sweden and Poland and on to the tournament in Italy. He enjoyed an unparalleled level of access, not just to the team and staff, but also to the press corps who followed them. This would be the cause of great angst from the men of the press when the book was published, with many feeling their confidences had been betrayed; something that would prevent such access for a book being given to quite the same extent again. What Davies produced is quite simply the best behind the scenes football book I’ve ever read. The access Davies enjoyed allowed him to bring such depth to this book that not only takes us through the World Cup adventure but makes the reader feel they were travelling along with the team too.

There are discussions with several players about the manager’s inflexible belief in 4-4-2 and its rigidity. An enlightening exchange given what happened in the second match of the tournament when England suddenly abandoned all they’d previously held dear, allegedly at he behest of the key players, and cut loose in a 5-3-2 system that allowed the more creative players to express themselves. Another fine chapter is devoted to the enigma that was John Barnes, stifled as he was by the rigid restrictions of the formation.

There are revealing insights into the players thoughts, such as the obvious pain in Steve McMahon talking about a costly error in the group match with Ireland, or with the players broken relationship with the press, or Paul Gascoigne’s ongoing antics. My favourite anecdote sees a handful of the players wandering down to a beach near Naples on the day before the quarter final with Cameroon. They signed autographs, chatted with the locals and kicked a ball about with them, making everyone’s day.

Davies also travelled extensively in Italy before and during the tournament; he visits England’s island outpost in Cagliari several times and navigates the minefield of accreditation bureaucracy on several occasions, and also witnessed other key moments in the tournament bookended by Argentina and Diego Maradona. Beginning with his declaration of “defending Argentina in the World Cup” as opposed to defending the World Cup for Argentina, before delighting billions worldwide by promptly losing the opening match to Cameroon, he then sees a moment of magic in Argentina’s second round defeat of Brazil. It culminated in tears for Diego come final day of course, but in a tournament lacking in real quality there was more than enough of a dramatic narrative to make this an epic read.

But the main theme is of course England. Davies tells a tale of a broken national game that is All Played Out, which rose in unlikely circumstances to come within a kick of the final itself. It is no understatement to say that without this success, and the new found popularity that came with it, English football may not have become so cool and made the stratospheric leap into the Premier League era and all its riches quite as quickly as it did. As the book blurb says: “Gazza cried, and football changed forever.” For those of us for whom this tournament was a seminal moment in our youth it is glorious and yet sorrowful reading. England came so close, but this book goes all the way and is quite simply magnificent.
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VINE VOICEon 22 December 2010
This is a superb behind-the-scenes account of England's final preparations and progress through the Italia '90 world cup. Davies had first-hand access to the England squad and staff and gains some interesting perspectives on footballing life from them. He clearly built up a relationship with Terry Butcher, whose voice is heard frequently. However, it's much more than an inside report on the squad; Davies recounts the experiences of the fans, and how the Italian police dealt with them, often in a very hard way, which, he argues, probably caused more trouble than it removed. His vivid accounts of England's initially faltering progress, the endless debates over the players and formation, through to their heartbreaking defeat in the semi final make gripping reading; he understands his football, and is able to portray things from both the squad's perspective and that of his fellow writers. There are also sharp analyses of other teams and matches, notably Argentina and Cameroon, who elicited such different responses from the crowds. A great bit of football nostalgia, but one that deals with important issues such as the attitudes of FIFA, the FA and other influential voices in football. Highly recommended.
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on 8 May 2010
A gripping book which is more than a match by match recap of England's progress in the 1990 world cup finals.
Journalist/ fan Pete Davies had access to the England manager and team players so we gain an insight into their personalities and behaviour as the tournament unfolds. There are revealing passages about the experience of English fans whilst in Italy, the difficulties of organising such a big tournament and opinions about the FA hierarchy. Bear in mind that this is a straight reprint of the 1990 original with no added content e.g. the end looks forward to USA 94. I would have liked a postscript, new intro or some comments with the benefit of hindsight but its still excellent.Davies faithfully captures the agony and ecstasy of this event that really did grip the nation.
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