13 Best Football Books Every Fan Must Read (2019)

The beautiful game of football (or soccer) has a way of instilling a sense of belonging, attachment and countless other fierce emotions in us humans who have developed a deep love for the game.  Football books are an excellent way to evoke and relive these emotions.

Aside from all the passion, the game has also made us aware of the perseverance, skill, and dedication needed for some of the greatest players of the beloved game to make it to the top in this highly competitive environment.  

But it’s not just the players themselves who make the football story. Apart from these stories of determination and sacrifice the game is also plagued by inappropriate fan behaviour, gambling, controversies, match-fixing, underworld involvement and a whole world of other passion-inducing stores, both good and bad.

This has inevitably created quite a few interesting stories, some happy, some of the courage and some others not so much, but which makes us aware of the shady side of the game.

Best Football Books

If you’re a lover of the game and want to get away from the TV and wrap yourself around a good book about footie this winter, or on your next holiday, here are our suggestions for some the best football books out there..

1. The Damned UTD, David Peace

The Damned UTD

This highly acclaimed and tremendously entertaining novel by David Peace is set right in the less glorious soccer days of the seventies.  

In 1974 the prolific goal scorer Brian Clough, whose playing career fell short due to an injury, arguably made his most bizarre decision of his career yet.

Clough took over the role of Leeds United manager from his harsh adversary Don Revie. The challenge he faced there was insurmountable for the overachieving and highly competitive Clough, who took over the most successful and most criticized team of his generation.  

His manager career was to last just 44 days after he was sacked in this riveting story so aptly told by Peace. Characterized by the hunger for success and fear of failure Peace takes us deep into the mind of Clough himself who is widely regarded as one of the most outspoken and successful managers in British football.

Goodreads Rating: 4.12

Where to Buy: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0571224334

2. Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby

Fever Pitch - Nick Hornby

Part autobiography part comedy, Fever Pitch is Nick Hornby’s tribute to his lifelong passion, football.  

By far one of the best football books out there, Hornby’s is a tribute to fandom.

Football matters, it’s part of our culture and this book attests to that, even though it was first published in 1993 when the game was maybe not as present in our lives as it is today.  This was a time when small local businesses were still able to afford to advertise at top local games and football wasn’t attached to any great marketing campaigns as it is today.

Hornby’s book is all about how his obsessional relationship with Arsenal started and how it also became an outlet for him to be able to cope with his parent’s divorce whilst also being the common ground he finds with his father.  

His account is a personal insight into how he fell in love with the game and got obsessed over his team without thinking of how it would eventually dictate the ups and downs of the rest of his life. Way back in 1992 Fever pitch was named the ‘William Hill’ Sports Book of the Year whilst also making it into the Penguin Modern Classic series 2012.

Amazon Rating: 4/5

Where to buy: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fever-Pitch-Penguin-Modern-Classics/dp/0141391812/

3. Between the Lines, Michael Carrick

Michael Carrick, Between the lines

Is football biographies something that you’re into? Then Michael Carrick’s autobiography is sure to keep you entertained.  

Manchester United’s star player for more than a decade tells us what it’s really like to win win win under the legendary manager Alex Ferguson.

Rubbing shoulders with some of the best in the game and also some of the best his team has ever seen, Scholes, Rooney, Giggs and the rest Carrick’s is a deeply personal account of all the training strategies and also all that goes on behind the scenes in the dressing rooms.  

Michael comes clean about his mental health struggles and also the difficulties he encountered whilst playing for the national team. Carrick’s biography reveals him to be a man of integrity, honesty, intelligent and thoughtful. As a matter of fact, all the proceeds from his book go to his foundation, which provides financial support to community services that help disadvantaged children living in the North and North East better opportunities.

Where to buy: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Michael-Carrick-Between-Lines-Autobiography/dp/178870049X/

Goodreads Rating: 4.20

4. The Mixer, Michael Cox

The Mixer - Michael Cox

Back in 1992, British football was stuck in the middle ages, emerging from a 5 year-long ban from all European competitions.

Hard to fathom now right?

But truth be told, the game was brutal, aggressive and not tactical at all. We’re talking about the days when 4-4-2 was the order of the day.

Michael Cox writes about the drastic changes that seemed to happen overnight.  The Mixer is about how the premier league developed in the last 25 years and its interesting tactical story. From Keegan’s unrelenting team to Mourinho’s crafty ways, all the way to Ranieri’s counter-attacking champions, The Mixer is one of the most entertaining, knowledgeable must-read for every modern footie fan, manager or coach.

Goodreads Rating: 4.45

Where to buy: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mixer-Story-Premier-League-Tactics-ebook/dp/B01N2QBCOJ/

5. Provided You Don’t Kiss Me: 20 Years with Brian Clough, Duncan Hamilton

Provided you don't kiss me - 20 years with Brian Clough

Duncan Hamilton pretty much shared his life with one of the most colorful characters of British Football, Brian Clough.  

This book is an endearing account of all the fallouts, the failures, the trouble with drink and of course the successes of Nottingham Forest’s manager.  

From his initial stammering encounter with Clough to his abrupt parting of ways, this book is a first-person personal account of a genuine relationship between two highly contradicting characters, filled with anecdotes and great quotes from both Hamilton and Clough himself.   

The book is written in an aftermath kind of fashion and if you haven’t read it yet then what are you waiting for? There will surely never be another one like it and it’s safe to say that it’s also one of our favourites here at footballfairground.

Goodreads Rating: 4.24

Where to buy: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Provided-You-Dont-Kiss-Me-ebook/dp/B002RI9QYY1

6. Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics, Jonathan Wilson

Inverting the pyramid is another book about football tactics that we feel needs to be on our list.  

Jonathan Wilson takes on the role of the detective here and gives us a great insight into the history of the tactical evolution of the game.  We learn how the South Americans ignore the British colonial way to add their own tact to the game and also how the Europeans studied individual technique and dominated by way of turning it into their advantage and building it into a team structure they could use.

Did you know that football once featured five forwards up front? Well neither did we but rest assured that you can find it all in this book.

Goodreads Rating: 4.15

Where to buy: https://www.amazon.com/Inverting-Pyramid-History-Soccer-Tactics/dp/1568587384

7. The Boy on the Shed, Paul Ferris

Shortlisted for the Wiliam Hill book of the year and highly lauded by every reputable critic out there The boy on the Shed is Newcastle’s youngest ever first teamer Brian Ferris.  

In this story of love and fate, Ferris writes about how he re-invented himself from very humble beginnings in Catholic Belfast. Carefree and talented on the pitch but shy and anxious in real life, Ferris recounts his story with it’s initial failures at Newcastle and later on his experience as a physio therapist as well as a barrister.  

His love for the game though drew him back to St. James’ Park with unbecoming consequences. The Boy on the Shed is a great read from a man who was hailed as ‘the New George Best’ early on in his career.

Where to Buy: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Boy-Shed-remarkable-sporting-Shortlisted/dp/1473666740/

Good Reads Rating: 4.47

8. Football Against the Enemy, Simon Kuper

Football and Politics is not the first combination of things that come to mind when you think of the game but think again.  

In this genre-defying text Simon Kuper, when only a young journalist of only 22 years old, decides to take the gargantuan undertaking of investigating the way that politics impacts football around the world.

Born in Africa and sent to Europe to live with the ‘cultured Europeans’  Kuper starts exploring this phenomenon in Europe years after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and USSR amidst political turmoil in central Europe, conscious of the fact that such a book had not yet been written.

Soon and within a 9-month stint, he would be flying from Argentina back to his apartment in London, wash his clothes and get straight on a plane to Cameroon only to do it over again.

Another William Hill’s Book of the Year Award winner, you should definitely grab yourself a copy of this one.

Where to Buy: https://www.amazon.com/Football-Against-Enemy-Simon-Kuper/dp/0752848771

Good Reads Rating: 3.97

9.  How to Be a footballer, Peter Crouch

Peter Crouch’s account is probably also the funniest and one of the best football books of 2018.  

Did you leave ever leave your Porsche at the train station even though it has your name written on the number plate, or did you ever pay $250 for a haircut?  

Well, some of these footballers have done and that’s not the craziest thing of them all either.

Do you want to know who doesn’t want to touch a football before a game or what Cristiano Ronaldo tells himself in the mirror before every game?

Then go get this book.

Where to Buy: https://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Be-Footballer-Peter-Crouch/dp/1785039768

Good Reads Rating: 4.28

10.   Why Are We Always On Last? Paul Armstrong

There are those who play the game, then there are those who watch it from afar and comment about it, but without them, the whole experience would not be the same.  

Paul Armstrong’s self-loathing style is unwittingly entertaining and captivating at the same time. He writes from a fanboy’s perspective who’s career has taken him all the way up to have the responsibility of a Public Broadcaster.

Armstrong’s first ever book is filled with hilarious stories and great anecdotes aptly told from a man behind the scenes. Whether you’re interested in the game or not this is definitely a must-read for anyone.

Where to buy: https://www.amazon.com/Why-Are-We-Always-Last/dp/1785314386/

Good Reads Rating: 4.50

11. The Greatest Comeback: From Genocide To Football Glory

The Greatest Comeback: From Genocide to Football Glory, David Bolchover

The Greatest comeback may not be the best written book about the game out there and it is neither the best written, but it’s such a great story that we thought we’d include it in this list anyways.  

Before Mourinho, Guardiola and Zidane there was Béla Guttmann, an unsung hero and probably the first ever celebrity football coach there ever was.

The man paved the way for the coaches of our age and does he get any credit for it?

Not really.

David Bolchover chronicles the most extroardinary tale of survival and triumph of a Holocaust Survivor, whose family perished at the hands of the Nazis.

Thousands of fellow Jews in Guttman’s neighbourhood were dragged off to be murdered whilst he hid in an attic, later he also escaped a slave labour Camp.  By 1961 though, Guttman, then a force to be reckoned with, had snatched the European Cup, surely one of football’s great prizes, a feat he repeated the year after as the coach of Benfica.

If you want to get some proof that football triumphs over evil then this book will probably have all your answers.

Where to Buy: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Greatest-Comeback-Genocide-Football-Glory/dp/1785903713/

GoodReads Rating: 3.94

12. The Barcelona Legacy, Jonathan Wilson

One of Amazon’s top sellers in the football section, the Barcelona legacy is the story of a friendship turned rivalry that takes us back 25 years in the late nineties.  

Cruyff’s club captain Pep Guardiola and a young translator, José Mourinho take over as the legendary Coach’s dream team disintegrates and paves the way for a new generation of thinkers and tacticians who will go on to make the game of football what we know it to be today.  

It culminates in 2018 when Guardiola and Mourinho head their teams which are first and second in the premier league in the 175th Manchester Derby.

The Barcelona Legacy is a book about tactics and how Cruyff shaped the game and what was to be whilst also a narrative about friendships and in this case, a mega falling out that continues to shape the game that we know and love today.  

You can get the paperback of this one and the Kindle version at Amazon.

Where to buy: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Barcelona-Legacy-Guardiola-Mourinho-Footballs/dp/1911600702/

GoodReads Rating: 4.15

13. Tor! The Story of German Football, Uli Hesse

Tor! meaning goal in German is the story of German Football and how some of the most unlikely characters made it to centre stage in the game.

Germany did not have a professional team until the 1960’s, in fact the game was considered a dangerous foreign pastime during the horror years of the Nazis.  

Tor! traces the story of the German Club and how it’s national team with modern misfits like Lothar Mathaus and the deceived trailblazer Walther Bensemann made it to become one of the most successful outfits in the history of football.  

A must read and definitely one of the best football history books there are Tor! gets into the nitty gritty of the way the game has shaped the way the nation rebuilt itself after the war up until the 2013 Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

Where to buy: https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/cka/Tor-Story-German-Football-Uli/0956101135/

Goodreads Rating: 4.22

Wrapping Up

These are some of the best football books you can read. But of course, we’d love to hear from you so we can keep adding to this list of good reads!

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