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on 13 August 2009
I've read a few of Mr Joyce's books so I sort of knew what to expect even though this is his first (as far as I know) foray into biography.

It's funny, laugh out loud at times.
It's interesting...

and like all Joyce books it's a page turner. An overused phrase, especially by amateur critics like myself, but still true. I wanted to read more, there was more to read so I turned the page and read more.

Great fun and the fact that he is still playing international football for the England Writers' Team at what must be at least the veteran stage of his career gives us all hope that we can achieve our dreams. Like a well placed penalty: It hits the spot.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 25 September 2009
There is, I was surprised to learn, an England Writers football team. I was even more surprised to learn that they have even completed in a World Cup, playing teams of writers from various countries. Whilst it would have been nice if playing in this England team were Owen (Wilfred) in attack, Gascoigne (Bamber) in midfield, Terry (Pratchett) in defence and Banks (Iain) in goal, sadly this isn't the case; in fact the goalkeeper, Graham Joyce is the author of this excellent little book.

Although Joyce is a very successful writer it is clear from this book that, given the chance, he would rather have been a goalkeeper. He's an expert on the craft of goalkeeping - narrowing the angles, saving penalties, organising the defence, dealing with crosses etc - unfortunately he wasn't quite so good putting this into action. In truth he was a hopeless goalie, so it was to be a writer's life for him instead.

A few years after putting away his gloves when given the chance came to play for the England Writers team he couldn't say no, even though he had turned fifty and his body had long since seen better days.

In this book he writes very amusingly about his new career as England goalie and the team's matches in the Writers World Cup, a competition in which England were severely at a disadvantage; partly because in the line-ups of the other teams were proper footballers, but mostly because the English team was just plain awful.

What impressed me more though, was his writing about the art of goalkeeping. Whilst he is only an enthusiastic amateur he still knows his stuff, and I learned more about goalkeeping from this book than I have from any book written by a `proper' goalkeeper.

Well worth seeking out and reading.
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on 28 October 2014
At 52, respected genre novelist Graham Joyce is called up to the England Writers XI football team, to play in a tournament in Florence. Long since retired from kicking a ball, he decides to embrace the offer and goes into goal. This is the story of what happened, tied in with a history of the beautiful game and shot through with Graham’s humanity.
I read this is memory of Graham, who I’d been hoping to see at FantasyCon 2014 but he couldn’t attend and passed away two days later and I don’t think I could have made a better choice - earthy, funny, full of life and spirit, it’s a terrific read and you can almost hear him narrating it. Alternating chapters between the England Writers XI (first in Florence, later in Malmo) and a history - of the game, of goalkeeping, of his experiences of football and goalkeeping from childhood through to adulthood - this is thoroughly captivating and the humour is often laugh-out-loud funny. For example, he’s considering if, at age 52, he’s in shape - “I discuss it with my wife, Suzanne, who, of course, still thinks of me as a lithe Adonis, a shot-stopping lycra-clad superhero capable of near-magical feats of agility.”
“You bloody idiot!” she replies.
Along the way, he describes his team-mates (including horror writers Conrad Williams and Nick Royle) and his thoughts on literary writers (it isn’t pretty) and also deals with issues closer to home, of parenthood and fear of loss. At the time of writing, his dad was fighting recently diagnosed bladder cancer and Graham deals with it very movingly, quoting Mark Twain of how children see their fathers at different stages - how he’s strong and wise when you’re a kid, a peasant when you’re a teen, then strong and wise again. This extends to his being a strong advocate of kids playing outside, especially of kids and their dads playing together (as he and his son Joe did). As straightforward with them as his adult team-mates, he admits that he often tells them to “walk it off” if they get injured, rather than coddling them and the humour spikes again when he takes a ball direct to his “wedding equipment” and as he drops to his knees, groaning, he’s “surrounded by half a dozen gleeful little orcs singing “Walk it off! Walk it off!”, right in my face”.
Not a fan of how times have changed - he mentions teachers running football teams in their own time, playing outside and getting coated in mud and frozen by winter weather and details how Mr Ship, the PE teacher, would bundle kids into the back of his van to take them to football matches (“wouldn’t be allowed now, health and safety regulations”). A highlight for me was a wonderful section where he recalls playing for the team at the holiday camp he worked at over two summers - The Derbyshire Miners’ Holiday Camp, near Skegness (which is still there, we ate at the restaurant below it a couple of years ago). This is the key location for his fantastic and beautiful novel “The Year Of The Ladybird” and reading how he describes the camp and the people, it’s as if he’s sketching out plans for a novel he wouldn’t write for a few years.
It perhaps helps if you enjoy football, however fleetingly, but this is a wonderful book and the cover blurb has it right, it is indeed a “riotous memoir”, featuring a man who clearly loved life and enjoyed being in the thick of it. Moving and melancholic it might be at times but this is mostly upbeat, superbly well written and very funny and I would highly recommend it.
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VINE VOICEon 19 April 2010
Graham Joyce writes excellent edgy horror-ish novels. That qualified him, at the age of 52 and with dodgy knees, to play in goal for the England Writers XI football squad (that, and the fact that they couldn't find another goalie). This book is a memoir of his international experiences with the team, on and off the pitch.

However, that's only the core material. Joyce uses any excuse to dive off into personal anecdote, rants about footballing authorities and meditations on the craft of goal-keeping. All of which is thoroughly entertaining, surprisingly informative and damned funny. It's a short book with a laugh on every page, and I defy anyone to not enjoy it.
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on 4 August 2010
If you are remotely interested in football or mad about the game or have a personal experience of goalkeeping like myself it is a very compelling book full of humour antedotes and very entertaining.Forget the biographies of the overpaid superstars of today, read this book about a real footballer and his team mates at the Writers World Cup, maybe they are better than the current England team in South Africa?
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on 18 June 2011
Really enjoyed this book. Echo the comments of the other reviewers.

It is currently doing the rounds of my football team.
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on 14 January 2012
This book was given as a present for my grandson and greatly enjoyed, I chose it because of the reviews given.
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on 8 March 2015
Funny, informative and well written. I have no real interest in football but was caught up in this book
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on 15 April 2015
I don;t normally like sports books, but this is great - funny, insiteful and interesting
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on 29 March 2015
Very funny and full of interesting trivia about the history of goalkeeping.
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