70th book, the long-time football journalist and author
brings us this very
readable history of football from the English perspective.
The story is told in surprisingly full and fascinating
detail without any boring bits—the longish segments in most football histories
that you know deep down you should read if you really want to understand the
game’s background but which you end up skipping anyway simply because you
can’t avoid dozing off while trying to plough through them. It’s not that Giller skips anything, though; it’s that he
has the knack of making readable even the bits that are deadly dull when told by
writers of lesser skill and knowledge.
Despite the gratifying rise in fan interest in
the game’s past, the very word history is enough to turn away a large
part of the public, They know all about those boring bits from experience.
But they can rest assured this is a book that moves along at a rapid clip
with nary a snooze-inducing moment. Much
of it will leave you laughing or at least amused.
Nonetheless this book is a history, and a surprisingly
complete one given its length, 286 pages plus appendices.
It is all here—from the scoreless draw against Scotland in the first
international of 1872 to Sven-Göran
Eriksson’s side at Euro 2004, from the amateur Corinthians and professional
Preston North End invincibles of the 1880s to Arsenè Wenger’s unbeaten Arsenal
of 2003-04. Although the book
inevitably concentrates on English football, there are excursions throughout
into major events in Scottish and world football, including a brief chapter on
the modern game's antecedents on other continents.
The book is the most accomplished popular history of
English football we have seen because it is both breezy in style and thorough.
for his story-telling abilities, and he has somehow
managed to describe the major events, developments and influences in the game in
a consistently and thoroughly entertaining fashion.
At the same time, he brings to his writing an unparalleled depth and
breadth of experience in covering the game—a lifetime’s accumulated
knowledge—so that even those with a more scholarly bent will find much here
they did not know before. Many of
the stories he recounts along the way are priceless.
The book is a must-read for any fan not already thoroughly familiar with
the game’s history—and an interesting read even for those who are.
While it is a popular history, Giller does not
sugar-coat the story. He brings to
it a definite point of view and does not shy away from blunt words for those who
have run the modern game over its 140-odd years.
You will learn, for example, what he thinks about the
Football Association that broke with FIFA—in a dispute over small compensatory
payments to amateur players, of all things—that kept England out of the first
three World Cups and that plunged English football into 20 years of self-imposed
isolation and insularity from which it is only now fully recovering.
You will be left with no doubt as to what he feels about the way the F.A.
and the clubs treated footballers until relatively recently.
You will also find what he thinks of the F.A.’s efforts to suppress the
women’s game in its infancy, and—time’s passage and changed circumstances
having removed the need for outrage—you will no doubt laugh, along with him
and us, at the ludicrous and even vicious lengths to which it went in that
Although the arrogance, pomposity, ignorance,
stubbornness and downright foolishness of the Football Association are
inevitably a continuing theme throughout the book, there is much else that
amuses and bemuses, too. For many
years a leading football journalist with The Daily Express, Giller was on
close terms with most of the post-war figures he writes about, and we doubt
anyone has a richer collection of stories from which to draw.
The irrepressible Giller was the only journalist to gain access to the England
dressing room immediately after the World Cup final victory over West Germany in
1966 and later sought to atone for his breach of the rules by way of a note of
apology to manager Alf Ramsey. When the greatest of England's managers was
unceremoniously sacked some eight years later, it was
Giller to whom he granted an exclusive interview in his home.
A generous contributor to this
website’s efforts to bring the England story to all who have access to a computer, Giller sent us an e-mail message describing the major conclusions he drew from his work
on the book:
1) That for all the money being thrown at it, football
is not as exciting and as gripping to watch as in the days when it was a game
of physical contact. It has been sanitised beyond sanity.
2) That the English FA should be had up for treason
for the way they virtually gave away our birthright as the founders of the
modern game (and they continue to be caught with their trousers down today).
3) That too much power has been given to the great God
of television. The tail is wagging the dog.
4) That for all the warts, it remains the Beautiful
Game (but we are fast running out of people who can play it beautifully in
England and Scotland where it has almost reached the point where you need a
foreign accent before you are considered for the major teams).
The book’s eight appendices are of scholarly interest.
They are a series of historical papers documenting the development of the
game through the first rules of the Football Association.
Giller’s old pal Jimmy Greaves, with whom he has
authored several books, writes the foreword for this one. The book is dedicated to the memory of another of his old
Football And All That is the third in a series
from publishers Hodder and Stoughton, following Cricket And All That
by top authority Henry Blofeld and Rugby And All That by former
England captain Martin Johnson.
Norman Giller, Football And All That: An Irreverent
History is available through most U.K. and Internet booksellers from 22 November 2004.