Buy The Ugly Game book

Buy your copy of ‘The Ugly Game: How Football Lost its Magic and What it Could Learn from the NFL‘ now.


The book started out here in 2013 as a series of essays that used the NFL as a way of illuminating the moral, practical and financial failings of football. Substantially expanded, updated and revised, it was published in early 2015 through Pitch Publishing, home among others to writers like David Tossell (NFL Europe’s director of public affairs and author of Grovel, the highly acclaimed story of the ’76 England-Windies test series).

If you have enjoyed any of the writing on this site – or know anyone interested either in football or the NFL – please spread the word. You can also read the introduction and first chapter of the book here.

Book cover

The book’s contents are as follows:

1. “I only expect one of you to come out of this room alive…”
Because a salary cap means you can’t buy the title.
Sports cars, title odds, financial fair play, salary caps and agent negotiations.


2. “If that’s not legal, I don’t know what is…”
Because you can still tackle. Really hard.
Unnecessary roughness, goalkeepers, Andrew Luck and physical courage.


3. “Average footballer, excellent plumber…”
Because ex-players have to earn the right to manage.
Sun Tzu, England 1990, former players and coaching experience.


4. “In goes Massing and, oh, he won’t get past that challenge…”
Because there’s no cups or internationals.
Mexico ’86, FA Cup 3rd round day and meaningless fixtures.


5. “John Williams, a former postman from Swansea…”
Because you can prove you’re right.
Big data, football conversation, certainty, statistics and informed debate.


6. “Who are they?” “Exactly…”
Because one good season won’t set you up for life.
Weekly wages, rookie contracts, Francis Jeffers and the luckiest man in the world.


7. “It just gets everybody to slow down… open their mind.”
Because they don’t pretend racism is someone else’s problem.
The House of Lords, defeatism, better managerial appointments and the Rooney Rule.


8. “I made a mistake. I accept full responsibility.”
Because they don’t sack managers midway through the season.
Lifts, chairmen, causation, job tenure and a managerial window.


9. “I make my own decisions and I can hope for better.”
Because there are no feeder clubs.
EPPP, youth academies, B teams, dignity and the family Scudamore.


10. “I can see the pub from here!”
Because you can drink during the game.
Beer, food, violence, tailgating and the game day experience.


11. “I didn’t want to be in a league where I can’t compete on management.”
Because they have the draft.
Glenn Hoddle, footballing drafts, the transfer market and the American Alex Ferguson.


12. “This guy’s got a rocket-booster strapped to his back!”
Because there’s room for the fat guys.
Crafty schemers, tubby string pullers, Matthew Le Tissier, basketball and blandness.


13. “He would have to be on the programme to tell me exactly what he was thinking there.”
Because their analysts tell you things you didn’t already know.
Sturgeon’s Revelation, Gary Neville, Match of the Day and terrible punditry.


14. “Won’t you pour me one more of that sinful Old Janx Spirit.”
Because they share the TV money equally.
Sporting achievements, prize money, telepsychic power and TV money.


15. “I’m going to crush you on here because I’m tired of hearing about it.”
Because the truth isn’t off-limits.
George Orwell, sporting administrators, Gordon Taylor and bullshit.


16. “I just gave it a try and it went out in a special way.”
Because the big game never gets spoiled by negativity.
Worm death, the Super Bowl, roster size and bad World Cup finals


17. “I’m going all in with Andy Impey.”
Because there’s stability of ownership.
Nostalgia, fit and proper chairmen, custodianship and Ian Culverhouse.


18. “I feel numb. Too much is not enough.”
Because everyday isn’t game day.
Fixture overload, half-lives, Jossy’s Giants and Arsene Wenger the bomb-sniffing bee.


19. “When I was green in judgment: cold in blood…”
On leaving your club – a last word on football.
Memories, billionaires, grass and falling out of love.


20. “It was meant in a Frankie Howerd style way.”
End of season review. And goodbye.
Mistakes, clarifications, corrections and certainties.


One final note on the contents of this site: while the book is being finalised and permissions sought for quotes and images (some of which I used initially under a non-commercial licence before the possibility of publication occurred), I’m taking down all of the previously posted essays. All that is except the one on the Ian Culverhouse game, which seems to attract considerable traffic and features only images cleared for use. You can find it here:

Once the usage rights situation becomes clearer, I hope to republish the essays on the site. In the meantime, I’ll be writing, here and elsewhere, a number of pieces designed to explain and promote the book. You’ll find links to them, as well as developmental pieces for my next book, in the Intermittent blog pieces section.


Buy your copy of The Ugly Game now.


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