November 5, 2014, Posted by Tom in Books, Books, Culture, Football, Sport

CROSSING THE LINE by Luis Suarez – an exclusive extract

Luis Suarez’s autobiography, Crossing the Line: My Story, is out now, and with Barcelona in the same Champions League group as Ajax, we thought it was the perfect time to share this extract from Luis as he discusses his time with the Dutch club…

Through everything that happened in my three-and-a-half years at the club the fans at Ajax never turned their back on me. As captain, the standard-bearer of the club, I had let them down with the biting incident. Yet, they had also seen that I played to win to the extent that I felt this tremendous responsibility to transmit that desire to win to the rest of my team-mates. There was no excuse for what I had done, but they appreciated that I always gave everything and many felt that I had instilled that winning mentality into the team. They liked me precisely because I was not what they were used to. I had supporters writing to me to congratulate me on how I had played as their captain and I will always carry that in my heart. They sang my name from my first game, and they even sang it after I had left the club. When Ajax were drawn to play Manchester United in a Europa League game in February 2012, I had just come back from my eight-game ban at Liverpool. Around 4,000 Ajax supporters sang ‘There’s only one Luis Suárez’ throughout the game at Old Trafford. When people told me about it I was overwhelmed; it’s something I will never forget.

Another reason why the club will always be special to me is because of the way they treated my family. We loved living in Amsterdam. It was a big change from Groningen; it is a much more international city, and one that had a lot of tourists and much more going on. The club advised us that we should be careful when we were out and about – the sort of warning locals might give any young wide-eyed tourists in a big city – but we had a wonderful time. Sofi and I picked out a loft apartment in a converted warehouse on Amsterdam’s IJ lake waterfront and, as busy capital cities go, it was a relaxing place to live. Above all, that was because of the attitude of the people. For a player it’s perfect because you are at a top European club but away from the pitch there is maximum respect for your personal space. No one bothers you for pictures or autographs if they see that you’re with your family. It couldn’t have been better.

The Amsterdam Arena is probably the best stadium I have played in. It has all the benefits of a modern stadium, but because of the supporters you can feel the history of the club when you play there. It makes me very proud to think that if those supporters were asked today about the top players that have played for the club they would include my name. In fact, just having been part of Dutch football is incredibly special to me. If my Uruguayan roots taught me to never stop fighting on the pitch, then my Dutch education taught me to never stop thinking.

Crossing the Line is out now in hardback and ebook. Get your copy here.

And you can read more from Luis about his time at Liverpool in this Guardian extract.

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October 20, 2014, Posted by Tom in Books, Culture, Sport

5 of the best books about running

Get your trainers on, tape up your nipples and run down to your local bookshop: here’s our pick of five of the best books about running.

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Our pick of some of the best books about running…

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami (published by Vintage): Think Murakami is a legendary writer? You’re correct, he is. But did you know he’s also a bit of hero when it comes to running as well? This is his story of running over twenty-five marathons AND an ultramarathon, detailing the physical and mental torment involved in taking on the 62-mile course. Even if you’ve actually got no interest at all in running, this is compelling stuff.

Born to Run by Christoper McDougall (published by Profile Books): Or, to give it its full, catchy title: Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. Here, the author is trying to find members of the reclusive Tarahmara tribe in Mexico, famous for their ability to run up to 200 miles at a time. Whilst barefoot. Often after getting absolutely leathered the night before. One of the main things that McDougall discovers is the potential power and sense of freedom that can come with ditching your running shoes and going barefoot. Read this and you might just want to do the same (unless you live somewhere like Hackney).

Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley (published by Windmill Books): NOT just one for girls, this is a book that proves that anyone can run if they put their mind to it. Charting the author’s journey from a disastrous first ever run through to running five marathons, this is honest, funny and inspirational stuff.

The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb (published by Willow): The true story of three men in the 1950s as they tried to achieve the ‘Holy Grail’ of running: the four-minute mile. Eventually it was good old Roger Bannister who cracked it and wrote his name into the history books forever, and Bascomb details both how he did it, and how his achievement changed the running landscape forever.

Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes (published by Tarcher): Although this isn’t a perfect book, and Karnazes can sometimes come across as a bit arrogant, it’s definitely entertaining, and offers some real insight into the ultramarathon experience. If nothing else, you might enjoy the description of a man eating an entire pizza whilst running, which is quite impressive when you think about it.

 All images © the respective publishers

October 7, 2014, Posted by Tom in Books, Books, Football, Sport

The genius of Football Cliches

If you follow us on Twitter (curse you if you don’t, fools), you’ll have noticed that quite often on a Saturday afternoon we can be found retweeting @FootballCliches, Adam Hurrey’s glorious analysis of the often absurd language, mannerisms, opinions and iconography that define the beautiful game. Crackers such as these…


Well, this 24 karat Twitter gold has now been made into an equally superb book, the perfectly titled Football Cliches. Deconstructing the ridiculous things that pundits, players, managers and fans say, it’s an absolutely screamer. We loved it so much that we placed it right in the top corner of our rundown of the best sport books of 2014. Here are a few little snippets from this shiny, yellowy, beautiful beast…

The Dictionary

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The Disciplinary Tightrope

Footballers’ perpetual sense of injustice means that almost any type of foul is subject to appeal. Here are just a few:

The cynical foul: Cynical is used by co-commentators to describe any foul that looks even slightly deliberate. For the perpetrator, there is a hands-up acceptance of his fate, like entering a guilty plea in court. Despite claiming the mitigation of it being his first foul in the match (there’s that forefinger again), a yellow card is likely to be forthcoming. If it halts a promising opposition counterattack, the co-commentator will use his playing experience to confirm that the booked player will quite happily take that.

Welcome to the Premier League: The standard English top-flight welcome pack for new foreign signings consists of three items: a pair of oversized headphones, a designer washbag and an agricultural challenge from an old-fashioned centre-half.

Six of one, half a dozen of the other: A coming-together or wrestling match that lacks a clear instigator may be referred to as six of one (this particular cliché is established enough to be left incomplete) or, if the co-commentator is sufficiently leftfield, six and two threes. Further TV replays will confirm that the two players were, indeed, both at it.

5 of the 101 Ways to Score a Goal’

  • 4. Thundered: Suitable for describing shots travelling above the ground, which either go in or strike against the woodwork.
  • 14. Thumped: If a thumping takes place from close-range and/or thanks to a goalkeeping howler, it may well be gleefully undertaken. As with a hammering, this act of blunt trauma can also be applied to an entire scoreline, should the margin of victory be sufficiently comprehensive.
  • 42. Stroked: Like passing it in, this requires the sort of composure traditionally found on the Continent. Stroking the ball home is also an option from the penalty spot.
  • 66. Trickled: That heartbreaking way that a ball crosses the line after a defensive mix-up between a hapless goalkeeper and one of his Keystone Cops defenders.
  • 97. Went for power over placement: Related to, if anything, hitting the ball almost too well. Opting for power over placement often results in merely stinging the palms of the goalkeeper.

The Alan Hansen Defending Continuum

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That’s just a brief look at some of the ruddy great stuff packed into Football Cliches by Adam Hurrey, published Thursday 9th October. Order your own copy here. You won’t regret it (unless you’re Andy Townsend, in which case you might feel a little… disheartened).

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September 19, 2014, Posted by Tom in Books, Books, Sport

The 8 coolest sport books of 2014

2014 has been a ruddy good year for sport books. Here, in no particular order, are eight of the best that we’ve already read, or that we’re looking forward to reading once they hit book shops in the coming weeks…

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The list of 2014’s coolest sport books in full:

1. KP: The Autobiography by Kevin Pietersen, published 9th October by Little, Brown – The sometimes controversial England cricketing legend spills the beans on his incredible career

2. Football Clichés by Adam Hurrey, published 9th October by Headline – Student of the game Adam Hurrey translates the ridiculous language of the world of football (with real aplomb)

3. Guy Martin: My Autobiography by (you guessed it) Guy Martin, out now from Virgin Books – Put this man on a motorbike and amazing things happen, and we don’t just mean he’s good at wheelies. Here’s the story behind his success

4. I Think Therefore I Play by Andrea Pirlo (with ), out now from BackPage Press – The bearded Italian footballing icon discusses his career in a way that is arrogant, insightful and hilarious

5. My Story: Crossing the Line by Luis Suarez, published 23rd October by Headline – The ex-Liverpool man’s autobiography covers bites, bans and bloody good goals with surprising depth and real honesty

6. Swim, Bike, Run: Our Triathlon Story by Alastair and Jonathan Brownlee, out now from Penguin – Want to swim, cycle and run for an extended period of time? Get some inspiration from the Olympic heroes

7. Bobby Moore: The Man in Full by Matt Dickinson, out now from Yellow Jersey – A comprehensive biography of England’s most successful football skipper from the well-respected sports correspondent for The Times

8. Bend it Like Bullard by Jimmy Bullard, out now from Headline – The cult hero tells hilarious stories from his career. Not your standard football autobiography, and all the better for it

 All images © the respective publishers

September 8, 2014, Posted by Beau Merchant in Film & TV, Reviews, Sport

Next Goal Wins review: What the beautiful game’s about

With the game of football gradually becoming more about the money, the diving and the prima donna attitudes of the star players, it’s sometimes hard to remember why it was ever called ‘the beautiful game’. Next Goal Wins goes a long way to reminding you.

In 2001, following a record 31-0 defeat to Australia and being ranked bottom in the FIFA world rankings, the minnows of American Samoa are the laughing-stock of international football. A decade later they are still rooted to the bottom, not winning a single match and scoring twice in seventeen games. Things are not looking good.

With qualification for the 2014 World Cup looming, they place an ad for a new coach to improve their chances. They have one application. Enter Dutch madman Thomas Rongen.

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What follows is one of the most surprisingly touching and moving documentaries you’ll see this year. As the rag-tag bunch (including the game’s only transgender player, and Nicky Salapu – the goalkeeper who let in the 31 goals) go through the rigorous and frantic sessions under Rongen, we see the group gradually grow in confidence and ability. There are some truly wonderful and heartbreaking moments and Rongen’s personal story will especially pull the heart strings.

Everyone should watch this film, whether fan, non-fan, player or coach. This is what the beautiful game’s about.

Next Goal Wins is out on DVD now. Find out more here and on Twitter: @NGW_Movie

August 8, 2014, Posted by Tom in Books, Football, Sport

Bend It Like Bullard: Read with Jimmy

With his ruddy hilarious book Bend It Like Bullard out now, former Wigan/Hull City/Fulham hero Jimmy Bullard reads a few tales and tells us the stories behind them. Oh, and scroll all the way down for his outtakes video. You don’t want to miss it…

Read with Jimmy part 1: ‘The power cut

Read with Jimmy part 2: ‘The Extinguisher

And Jimmy is a true pro. As these outtakes show…

Bend It Like Bullard by the one and only Jimmy Bullard is out now. Order your copy HERE

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5 new Premier League stars we can’t wait to watch in 2014-15

August 5, 2014, Posted by Tom in Football, Sport

5 new Premier League stars we can’t wait to watch in 2014-15

With the new Premier League season rapidly approaching, we pick 5 of the best new imports we can’t wait to see take to the pitch in 2014-15…

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We’ve missed a fair few big names there (Ospina, Markovic, Cabella etc) but we wanted to be quite selective. So chances are you disagree with us. So go on then, who are YOU looking forward to seeing? Let us know on Twitter: @StareAtBooks

July 24, 2014, Posted by Tom in Football, Sport

Join the 2014/15 Men Who Stare At Books Fantasy Football League

Wenger is past it, van Gaal doesn’t know the English game and Rodgers blew it last year. Oh, and Pelligrini has disappeared into his own hoodie like a little feathered turtle. A new championship-winning manager is needed.

So once again we want to put your football knowledge to the test by offering you the chance to manage in the toughest league in the world. Nope, not the Bundesliga, but the world-famous and snappily-titled Men Who Stare At Books Fantasy Football League.

We’ve set up our own league on the official Barclays Premier League Fantasy Football Game and would love as many authors, bloggers, reviewers, readers and general football fans to join. Last year it was one of our own (ahem, me) who won the league by just 4 points. Can you go one better this year and steal my imaginary crown?

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All you need to do is head HERE to create your team, and use this PIN number to join our league: 365937-96843 

It’s free to play, all scoring is handled by the Premier League, and you get £100 million to play with (not in real money, clearly). At the end of the season, the player who comes out on top will win nothing. It’s about the honour, not the rewards.

The season kicks off on the 15th August so get your squad together now!

Full terms and conditions of the game, as set out by the Barclays Premier League, can be seen HERE.

And a few little Ts &Cs of our own, please read carefully:

  1. The winner of our league will be the player with the most points at the end of the Premier League season, based on the official Fantasy Football rules and scoring system. Men Who Stare At Books have no control over who wins the league.
  2. Men Who Stare At Books reserves the right cancel our league without notice.
  3. There is no purchase necessary to enter.
  4. Men Who Stare at Books and our league are in no way endorsed by or associated with the Barclays Premier League.
  5. Participants may see their name and team names posted on the Men Who Stare At Books website, Facebook and Twitter accounts.
  6. Only one entry per person please.
  7. Full game rules and scoring system can be seen by visiting: http://fantasy.premierleague.com/rules/
  8. The game is open to all ages, however if you are under 18 please see rules 35-40 in the official games rules: http://fantasy.premierleague.com/rules/
  9. It is free to create a fantasy football team, and it is free to join our league.
  10. Only players who have joined our league using our PIN (365937-96843) will be entered in to our league.
  11. No rude or offensive team names please. You’ll be blocked and disqualified by the Premier League.
  12. By entering the private our league, each entrant agrees to be bound by these terms and conditions, and by the terms and conditions set out by the Premier League: http://fantasy.premierleague.com/rules/
  13. These terms and conditions and any disputes or claims (including non-contractual disputes or claims) arising out of these terms and Conditions shall be governed and construed in accordance with the laws of England, whose courts shall have exclusive jurisdiction.
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