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  • imp
    replied
    Finally delivering on my promise to paste in my review of JohnnieLowery's book:

    Match Fit: An Exploration of Mental Health in FootballBy Johnnie Lowery (Pitch)

    * * * * * * * * * *

    Author Johnnie Lowery admits that when he was struggling with his own mental health as a teenager, he would never have thought about reading a book on the subject. “When you don’t understand a problem, you don’t really want to acknowledge it,” he concedes in the introduction to this well-written, commendably researched and extremely helpful and enlightening book about soccer’s depressive demons, and the many positive ways that those who suffer can now seek help.

    The book covers coaches, referees and fans, but also analyses of the multiple ways that players’ mental health can be affected, such as through injury, loss of form, social media attacks, addiction or retirement. Any soccer player, anywhere in the world, who is struggling within the game (and that has to be a figure in the thousands) should grab this book as a guide. It will not only help you understand that you’re not alone, but that there is no shame in admitting to mental health problems, and that there are no end to the solutions for helping you get back on track.

    An early chapter deals with the obvious but prevalent problem of admitting to the need for support. Lowery and some of the players he talks to recall a past age when hard-line coaches would ostracize players who were out injured, or deemed ‘weak’ because they had apparent psychological issues. Former youth prospect Vincent Pericard — who made his Champions League debut for Juventus at age 19, but ended his career a decade later with Havant & Waterlooville in England’s sixth tier — admits that, “I had low value … low energy, not having any motivation.” The player would “put on a brave face for training for two to three hours, then go home and remove it.”

    Soccer “is meant to be a team sport but really it is very individualistic,” Pericard says. “My teammates had their own challenges to go through. They didn’t have the space, the capacity, the skill or knowledge to sympathize and have compassion for what I was going through and to help.” He compares being a player to being a singer “applauded by 60,000 people — as soon as the show is finished, they go back to their hotel room and feel very, very lonely, because there’s no intimate relationship with any one.”



    This sense of isolation recurs time and again with those suffering from mental health issues, especially in a competitive sporting environment where judgment can be much more forthcoming than warmth, advice and therapy, and where former Bolton Wanderers player Marvin Sordell (photo above) found that having hobbies outside of soccer — he played piano and enjoyed cooking — were actively discouraged. His mother received a call from the club chairman saying he needed to drop such activities and focus on his game. “My whole identity,” says Sordell, “was wrapped up in a game and performance which at times you don’t even get to participate in” if you’ve been dropped or are out injured.

    A few months after the chairman’s call, following a move to Charlton Athletic the player didn’t want, Sordell attempted suicide. The actual suicide of Wales coach Gary Speed in 2011 jolted the UK game into the realization that its house was out of order, and the following year the Professional Footballers’ Association set up a Wellbeing Department. Its head, Dr. Michael Bennett, says, “I don’t deal with footballers, I deal with a person that plays football.” Persons who may also like to play the piano or cook.

    Much-traveled striker Marcus Bent talks with great insight about the pitfalls of retirement and his descent into cocaine addiction to fill the gap. A young Scottish player, Angus Beith, who was forced to retire through injury at the age of 23, describes how enrolling with the Open University (studying from home) helped him “creep out of that football identity that I’d had since I was younger.” Betting, drug and alcohol addictions also enforce the impression of the sport as a stranglehold on the lives of confused and helpless young players stuck in an illness they can barely start to comprehend, let alone seek help for.

    Yet in every chapter of this book there is hope, with multiple support bodies both within and outside of the game having been founded in response to cases that have garnered publicity and raised questions that seem obvious with hindsight. “Why did we not see this coming? Why are there no networks in place to help suicidal or addicted or injured soccer players?” Increasing numbers of people in soccer are realizing that not only is suppressing problems unhealthy, it is no longer necessary. If your club’s not sympathetic to your plight, you now have the chance to find one that is. Although many clubs are still very much in the learning phase, too.



    And soccer still has some major problem areas, such as gambling and the numerous betting firms that make a huge profit out of misery and addiction. Lowery points out that “the gambling industry in Great Britain makes around £14 billion ($17 billion) in gross profit each year, but contributes less than £20 million ($24 million) to pay for research, education and treatment on gambling addiction. By contrast, the industry spends roughly £1.5 billion ($1.8 billion) a year on advertising — around 75 times the research, education and treatment amount.”

    The author also examines the huge number of players left behind by soccer’s academy system, and what that does to the vast majority of teenagers whose dreams of wealth and glory are suddenly extinguished when they don’t make the cut. Former Leicester City youth player Ellis Myles tells the story of how he ended up in jail for a year for drug possession after being rejected, and how he used that year to rebuild his identity and his life. A body called PlayersNet now fills the gap left by clubs who dump players from their ‘elite’ programs, although — lamentably — it’s not supported by the clubs themselves.

    Lowery also looks at schemes run by fans of Newcastle United, Bournemouth and Motherwell FC in Scotland that help steer fans away from suicide. Again, an individual’s identity is inter-linked with depression. Although such support groups are not a panacea, they give depressive supporters a more accessible channel compared with established medical outlets. Ashley Lowe of Newcastle United Foundation says that soccer has “such a huge voice, but the sport itself can reach millions upon millions of people”. (If only the owners of her club were not exploiting this realization in a counterproductive way.)

    There is a core message running through this valuable and necessary book: there’s no need to wear a mask any longer, and you and your mental health are more important than the game and the sometimes superficial sense of identity it can give you. But the game is waking up, and help is there if you need to reach out. Keep talking, try to keep pushing back against ignorance and prejudice, and the waning macho culture of ‘shape up or get out’ can be banished for good.

    Leave a comment:


  • Nocturnal Submission
    replied
    Originally posted by super furry dice View Post
    Congratulatons JohnnieLowery.

    And Nocturnal Submission, I can certainly arrange that :-) It will be properly released on either 5 or 12 July but I should have some copies before then and i should be able to keep one back from the launch if the birthday is imminent.

    Ah, that's very kind of you, mate. Birthday is before then but don't worry, a couple of weeks late isn't an issue.

    If you've got a pre-publication link to the book on the publisher's website I'll just forward it to whichever family member is looking for gift ideas for me, (which will be all of them).

    Leave a comment:


  • super furry dice
    replied
    Congratulatons JohnnieLowery.

    And Nocturnal Submission, I can certainly arrange that :-) It will be properly released on either 5 or 12 July but I should have some copies before then and i should be able to keep one back from the launch if the birthday is imminent.

    Leave a comment:


  • Nocturnal Submission
    replied
    Those photos look absolutely amazing, super furry dice and I'll be asking for a copy of the book as a birthday gift* if it's out in time.

    * From a family member - not you!

    And congratulations to JohnnieLowery

    Leave a comment:


  • JohnnieLowery
    replied
    Originally posted by JohnnieLowery View Post
    Apologies for the shameless plug, but my next book, Match Fit: An Exploration of Mental Health in Football, is now available for pre-order:

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/...t_bibl_vppi_i1

    It examines 13 distinct topics, from the challenges facing injured and former footballers to how ordinary members of the public have been able to use football for the benefit of their mental health. The aim of the book is to normalise conversation around mental health, using football as a vehicle to drive that. The idea for the book came from my own struggles as a teenager, when I was depressed a lot of the time but simply didn’t know what mental health was, and therefore thought what I was going through was normal.

    The book is in partnership with mental health & suicide prevention charity Beder. You can find out more about them here: https://beder.org.uk/
    Very excited to say that Match Fit has been shortlisted for the football category at The Charles Tyrwhitt Sports Book Awards!

    https://sportsbookawards.com/nominee/match-fit/

    Leave a comment:


  • super furry dice
    replied
    Thanks danielmak, I will post again when its out proper (which is likely to be a couple of weeks after the launch next weekend) and I can certainly arrange shipping to outside of the UK if the retailers cannot, no problem on tnat.

    Leave a comment:


  • danielmak
    replied
    super furry dice If I was in England, I would attend for sure. Please make sure to post again when the book is out and share about purchasing options (including for those of us outside the UK). I'll purchase for sure. The photos on the website look very interesting.

    Leave a comment:


  • super furry dice
    replied
    Shameless self-promotion. My book 'Football Landscapes of Europe - Images of an alternative journey across the UEFA 55' has its launch "event" at Clevedon Literature Festival on 8 June.

    Unsurprisingly its free entry and though I don't expect many attendees and that there really is no need to book a ticket, if any of you do want to attend you can reserve a spot at the link at the bottom of this post (its not my pic on the link though it is a ground that makes my book (200 images of 200 grounds with each of the UEFA 55 nations featured, its supported by 32 pages of text though much of that is listing the grounds featured as I didn't want any text on the pics themselves)).

    The back cover take on the book is:

    A decade ago, Dave Harry set out to watch games in each of the 55 nations that make up UEFA but not in a conventional way. He made his journey less about visiting stadiums and more about visiting landscapes - spots where there was something unique as a backdrop or on occasion in the foreground, to the pitch (e.g. a UNESCO backdrop), a beautiful sight (a mountain or coastline), quirky (transport related!), historical landmarks (e.g. memorials to wars, religious buildings), unusual grandstands (an architectural style unique to the region), urban or suburban (tower blocks or housing), in enclaves, semi-enclaves and exclaves, on each of the four continents that host league games within the UEFA pyramid and occasionally, watch a match at a well known stadium when it added to the story (e.g. the Marakana).

    In ‘Football Landscapes of Europe’ Dave has produced a collection of images that when taken as a whole, represent the geography and the history of the UEFA continent, as well as the football landscape of the game as it is played across the 55 nations.

    Here's a link to my website which will get a proper update this summer but it has a slideshow featuring some of the grounds that make the book: https://floe.pro/

    Link to the launch event: .https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/whats...DETTdrdhhyMOiZ OtTY_aem_AYv8ppYzz0GXQrGPnrIav9tmR0ILVXJFxOHqCPIkb DkkdkdecC9gOvz5_x6yfyhvPmNfLHfV2jGQ94djcYwYIfLu

    Leave a comment:


  • Tony C
    replied
    Originally posted by imp View Post
    tee rex Nice idea. If it's been done, it's probably been done badly by Pitch.
    Pitch published the ex Man City chairman David Bernstein’s book ‘We Were Really There’ that I reviewed in the current WSC. The cover price was £25 which I thought was a hell of a lot, and even City fans will be put off by that price. Maybe I’ve just lost track of these things (I dedicated a new year resolution to buying only charity shop books a couple of years ago and stuck
    to it) but if asked to guess I’d have gone for maybe £18 max.

    Leave a comment:


  • Jef Costello
    replied
    This looks like it could be up OTFs street. Or is there a football fiction thread?

    https://twitter.com/booksellercrow/status/1794796555540824552?t=CdSkX-29n-zsxBUvfoxfZw&s=19

    Leave a comment:


  • RobW
    replied
    Finished Christopher James Evans' Los Leones: The Unique Story of Athletic Bilbao today. Published just weeks before they won the Copa del Rey, it's a great history covering all manners of topics, including the foundation, the Civil War, the 'Basque only' policy etc. It is a linear history with some chapters devoted to particular individuals such as Picichi, Telmo Zarra, José Ángel Iribar, Javier Clemente, Howard Kendall etc. A lot of contributions from journalists, former players and managers and clearly Evans has done a lot of research. It's a comprehensive, largely well written work. I enjoyed Phil Ball's occasional withering contributions, especially about 'la cantera' and wish he would write a similar history of Real Sociedad.

    Leave a comment:


  • danielmak
    replied
    Originally posted by danielmak View Post
    Five+ years ago I picked up all of Tony Incenzo's ...to Wembley "personal reviews" of the FA Vase competition. It looks like he put out six of these. I finished the first one that covers 1982-1983. Comparing this zine (he uses the phrase "booklet") to some of the books that ground hope, I think this was more enjoyable. The length works well, the writing is more journalistic and tighter, and he does a good job putting the reader in the scene with quotes from fans, players, and club officials. Again, a bit more journalistic than literary. The one funny (odd?) move is there is a bit of big-shotting that happens with some name dropping (e.g., mentioning that he was interviewed by the BBC, talking about meeting up with club secretaries, viewing the final from the press box). But these moves don't take away from the overall quality. And on the plus-side he is able to get access to some interviews that have not often featured in some of the books I have read recently.

    There are a number of these on ebay that don't sell for much if anyone is looking to take a trip down memory lane or if you're like me, and simply curious about unofficial accounts of cup competitions/looking to read some old zines. I'll probably jump into the issue for the next season and then get caught up on some other zines before coming back to the others in this series.
    I just finished the 1983/84 FA Trophy zine. He uses the same general style for this one. These are enjoyable reads. I have to add a little qualifier about my comment above about some name-dropping. I thought Incenzo was a little older by the time he published these zines but in this one he writes about taking a break from studying at university to attend some of these trophy matches. From that standpoint, I'm impressed that he was able to coordinate to get quotes from so many different people.

    Leave a comment:


  • danielmak
    replied
    I also wonder if some of this has been done in shorter form in the WSC book The Half Decent Football Book. It's more of an encyclopedia and I've only read into the letter "A" so I don't know how much they've dealt with fixture pile-up, multiple replays, and your other topics.

    I also have Harry Pearson's Encyclopedia on the shelf but haven't cracked that one. I'd assume he might deal with some quirkier features of the FA Cup.

    Leave a comment:


  • imp
    replied
    tee rex Nice idea. If it's been done, it's probably been done badly by Pitch. The key to making it work well would be to find new angles and conduct interviews with people involved, presuming they're still alive. The downside would be finding a publisher willing to finance a decent author's research and travel budget. First you'd have to convince them enough people were going to buy it to make it worth their while.

    Leave a comment:


  • tee rex
    replied
    After today's FA Cup news, there's a book I'd love to read ... but I don't know if it exists. If not, one of OTF's budding writers should claim it: one advance sale here, guaranteed.

    The Replay ... "the definitive history of a great football tradition". Author: you. (Winner of William Hill Sports Book of the Year).

    The FA Cup alone would provide a hundred stories, but you could add countless other competitions, domestic and international, with all kinds of chapters on topics like neutral grounds, multiple replays and fixture pile-ups, financial lifelines (sliding doors moments), and so on.

    Just write it all down soonest, because it won't be long before the word "replay" will only be in history books.

    Leave a comment:


  • danielmak
    replied
    Two months later and I finally finished Chaplin's book that I mentioned a couple posts back. It was an enjoyable read. The book will certainly be of most interest to Newcastle United fans, but the writing is very good. Anyone who enjoys memoir blended with football stories should dig this. In short, the book is in the same orbit as Fever Pitch, Adrian Childs' book about West Brom, etc. Perhaps one difference is that Chaplin interviews various ex-Newcastle players, folks affiliated with the club, and people involved with youth football in the area. It's a good book. I'm on to a surfing book next that is about a variety of bohemians who end up in Indonesia but then will be back to another football book.

    EDIT: I forgot to note that the version of the book I purchased includes an additional chapter to reflect on the new ownership. The new chapter reads like an add-on (a bit more match report and less memoir) but the chapter is worthwhile to see how he felt about being done with Ashley's ownership.
    Last edited by danielmak; 13-04-2024, 03:12.

    Leave a comment:


  • Jobi1
    replied
    Oh yeah, I think I actually said "wtf!?" out loud at that bit. It definitely does stray perilously close to "some of my best friends are [minority]" territory in places. And some big Jeff Winter "the Kop gave me a standing ovation" energy.

    Leave a comment:


  • Foot of Astaire's
    replied
    Agree with so much of that review Jobi1 it's almost Partridge esque at times. I'm sure he's an honest chap but the bit about random black people, tapping their heart and mouthing "respect" at him because of his admirable stance over the the overt racism of the day, seemed at best, heavily exaggerated.

    Leave a comment:


  • Jobi1
    replied
    Finally read Pat Nevin's The Accidental Footballer, which I'd been looking forward to getting onto for ages as I've always liked him as a pundit (and as a player, from the little bits I caught towards the end of his career). It's an interesting tale, being as he quite unusual in his approach to pursuing a professional career (in that he more or less didn't pursue at all, hence the book title). He is quite self-deprecating at times in terms of acknowledging how annoying he probably was to some people, but I have to be honest I found the constant reassertion of how he was never bothered about having a professional career began to get a bit wearing. And the way he goes to such great pains to stress how lucky or 'no big deal' some of the great things he did were, unfortunately do make it come across as humble bragging in places. I suppose we have to just read it at face value and assume he genuinely did feel that lucky/not bothered, but you can't help but feel that's not what's going on.

    Also, while I hate to denigrate the work of fellow editorial professionals, I think this could have done with a far more robust editing process. I can't remember the last time I read a book where I was so constantly thinking about the lines I would have cut, or moved, or at least flagged as annoying repetition, to the point I began to find it a bit off-putting. (Am I now humble bragging?! Oops!) It's a good story and he genuinely is an interesting character, but as a book I felt it could have been an awful lot better. He's now got a follow-up covering the latter part of his playing career and unusual foray into executive management. Do I want to read it? Possibly, but I might not necessarily pursue it too vigorously.

    Leave a comment:


  • danielmak
    replied
    I'm only 50 pages into Michael Chaplin's book Newcastle United Stole My Heart, but so far it is a very enjoyable read. He's a good writer. I'm not a Newcastle fan but Chaplin's memoir is football focused in a way that anyone who doesn't hate Newcastle will find interesting. Again, mostly personal narrative but he also weaves some interviews with ex-footballers, family members of ex-footballers, and some guys involved with management and weaves these parts in a literary way. It's a 350+ page book so I haven't made a dent and it could get take a nosedive as he gets older, but so far so good. I think I heard the book referenced by Harry Pearson on the WSC podcast a year or so back and glad I kept it on my radar.

    Leave a comment:


  • danielmak
    replied
    Continuing with my reviews of books published a long time ago: I finished Charlie Connelly's London Fields. The subtitle (A Journey Though Football's Metroland) helps a bit, but only a bit. Basically, he sets out to study football in London. He notes in the intro that there isn't a central thesis; the book is more of a snapshot of the 1998-1999 season.

    He is a good writer, each chapter is interesting on its own, but the book doesn't really make any sense as a book. The chapters are organized following each round of the FA Cup (mostly seeing games live in London but later watching in pubs or going to White Hart Lane to watch on a big screen when Spurs were away). In between these chapters, he interviews different people affiliated with the game (London FA, David Elleray about refereeing, the full time staff member for Arsenal's women's team). Then he ends with a criticism of Sky and football becoming televised spectacle even though he chose in the last few chapters to watch on TV instead of going to the games.

    To fit the book into present times, it feels like it would be broken up: blog with FA Cup match reports, the narrative chapters that grow from the interviews would fit in the Blizzard, critique of TV in WSC. As a book, as I wrote above, it doesn't really hang together. But I'm glad I read it.

    Leave a comment:


  • Anton Gramscescu
    replied
    Just read "The World's Biggest Cash Machine" by Chris Blackhurst. It's about the business end of Manchester United, from about the time it was listed on the stock exchange until today (lthough inconveniently it ends right in the middle of the Ratcliffe/Qatar stuff). It's not really a football book, tbh. I learned some stuff about the Rock of Gibraltar story that I didn't know before. And I came away thikning the Glazers might actually be financial geniuses (it takes skill to keep that many plates spinning for that long), which was not the author's intent. But flipping through the notes at the back, I suspect a lot of this has been covered before in books I haven't read, like Mihir Bose's Manchester Disunited. So, probably, give it a miss.

    Leave a comment:


  • Jobi1
    replied
    While acknowledging that France were brilliant, his main takeaway from that game seems to be that if his goal had not been unfairly ruled out for offside, the North would have won. The other amusing revelation (for me personally) that I forgot to mention was that it turns out he was a school contemporary of my dad - Dad would have been in his final year there when young O'Neill was in his first.

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  • Satchmo Distel
    replied
    How does he rate the 1982 French side he played against? Does he have a "best team I saw"?

    Leave a comment:


  • Jobi1
    replied
    Just finished Martin O'Neill's autobiography On Days Like These. It's quite engaging, with a few interesting peeks behind the curtain, including the absolutely extraordinary behaviour of Brian Clough during one particular (ultimately failed) transfer negotiation. There are a few bits and pieces from his career that seem really significant but that he just casually mentions with a single sentence, including a court case or two and the fact he was approached about the England manager's job, which you'd really like to hear more about. I would also have liked to have read a little more about how he prepared for his career in management, but that is just portrayed as someone offering a job and him taking it while he was in non-football employment after ending his playing career, with a brief mention of having done a three-week coaching course. Perhaps that's how it did actually work out in those days and there's not a lot more to it.

    His character is rather revealed, perhaps to no great surprise, with most anecdotes and descriptions of other people ending up with a falling out of some description, although to be fair a lot of the potentially broken relationships do seem to be fixed at later meetings. That said, it is interesting to see who does (and more pertinently doesn't) get a mention in the acknowledgements at the end of the book. The final chapter, dedicated to his time as Ireland manager, does have a hint of Father Ted's Golden Cleric acceptance speech, as a fair chunk of it is griping about the Irish media. Anyway, it's nice to hear some of the stories from his perspective, and to get a sense of the pride and passion he has in his work. Not sure I'd say my opinion of him (mildly positive) has changed much having read the book, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

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