Not being the greatest athlete in the history of the world, I always enjoyed reading books about the World Cup since I was a kid.
I still have my copy of Armada Book of the 1974 World Cup, which – in my humble opinion – is the gold standard of this type of book. Without spoiling the rest of the review, both Lloyd Pettiford’s most recent book and his collaboration with Ronan Fitzsimmons for ‘World Cup 2018: The Ultimate Guide For Armchair Fans’ reminded me immediately – and happily – of Gordon Jeffery’s tome from over 40 years ago.
Of course, between 1974 and today football writing has changed considerably and Pettiford and Fitzsimmons have reflected this with an effective blend of analysis and sarcasm with added scoops of humour that also remind me a lot of ‘When Saturday Comes’. It’s concise, entertaining and contains more insight than some of the books currently available. For example, in one of the early sections – ‘The History of the World Cup’ – the authors introduce us to one of their pet peeves almost immediately and when you’ve read it, it should become one of yours too. I’m not going to tell you what it is, but I’d be really surprised if Mark Lawrenson doesn’t if/when he gets a bit bored on commentary duty. This section also shows that eight decades of football history can be effectively condensed into 26 pages rather than several hundred in some of the more worthy but less entertaining volumes out there (I’m looking at you, Brian Glanville)
You’d expect a book about the World Cup to contain analysis of each country and on the whole ‘World Cup 2018′ does a good job. It’s not the authors’ fault that the tournament has ballooned over the last couple of decades but having to come up with information for 32 different countries is a daunting prospect for anyone and it’s to Fitzsimmons and Pettiford’s credit that they’ve taken a very different approach to the subject.
Their analysis of each nation is half serious and half silly (in some cases very silly) and it’s fair to say that most of the puns in the ‘Songs To Sing In The Fan Zone’ for each participant are simultaneously absolutely terrible and laugh out loud funny and should provide you with something to do during next Thursday’s less than exciting looking opening game as well as any of the ridiculously one sided games that are bound to happen.
A nice touch is trying to solicit comments from the fans from the countries that didn’t qualify – the recent friendly between the Netherlands and Italy earlier this week was probably the most pointless friendly ever as well as a reminder for both teams what they’re missing this summer – and a well written and very sensible piece about the next tournament, which might divide opinions.
You can probably imagine my delight when I reached the last section of the book, where you can fill in the results and goalscorers! That’s really important for a sad git like me: I hate half completed wall charts even though I’ve been guilty of that myself because I don’t like writing standing up at a funny angle. I much prefer the layout for recording the results in this book, which in many ways is oddly nostalgic for those of us who grew up knowing that the World Cup would be the only chance you might get to see some of the players you’d read about in Shoot!
Summing up, ‘World Cup 2018: The Ultimate Guide For Armchair Fans’ is a valuable addition to your World Cup library both for this tournament and those to come. It’s not going to give you instant information about the players on the Serbian subs bench, but it will explain precisely why that’s the case and is definitely worth having around for dipping in to over the next month or so. The official press release is below – although I did have to delete a spoiler for the pet peeve I mentioned earlier:
WORLD CUP 2018
The Ultimate Guide for Armchair Fans
Paperback Original | May 2018 | £12.99 | Urbane Publications
From the football fanatic authors who brought you The Premier League: 25 Years and Euro 2016, comes a comprehensive fan’s guide to the ultimate tournament of the beautiful game, providing all the information you need to enjoy the highs and lows of every game and every team in the 2018 World Cup.
World Cup 2018 dissects the qualifying campaign and groups, and also has a history of the World Cup with some surprising facts. Then there’s a complete list of fixtures which has already printed England in the final to save readers a bit of time. It even looks forward to Qatar 2022 and suggests it might not be so bad after all. It has enough facts to inform, enough laughs to impress even the most discerning of football fan, and the solutions to many questions, some of which you may even want to know the answers to, including:
- Is Eduard Streltsov the best footballer you’ve never heard of?
- What naughty thing will Suarez do this time?
- Which team has the best kit?
Which team went out at the last 16 stage of the last 5 consecutive World Cups?
So settle back and enjoy the ultimate guide to the World Cop 2018 – perfect for every football fan!
About the authors
Lloyd Pettiford – born in Manchester in the year England last won the World Cup, this is the 26th book Lloyd has written and the 7th on football. Ronan Fitzsimons is the author of four books, a lecturer in languages at Nottingham Trent University and a Newcastle fan.