Great books on sport

Are you well-read in sports books? A bit of a New Year dust-up (cleaning, not fighting) allowed me to take a closer look at the many books on sport I’ve stacked up.

The bookcase is something which you want people to see and think: “He’s a learned chap, man of the world etc etc.” But mine probably says: “He reads nothing but books on sport!” This is pretty much correct.

I’ve collected books on sport throughout my career and have also received many as presents. Strictly autobiographies though – I’m no fan of a biography. They have to be from the horse’s mouth as it were.

After looking over the books, some not touched for a few years, I wanted to share those I found most insightful and enjoyable. It’s a subjective list but these are a few favourites.

Coming Back to Me – Marcus Trescothick

It was a major story when Trescothick, a former England cricketer, revealed his battle with anxiety and depression in 2006. This book was released three years later and is extremely candid, providing a compelling insight into those personal problems. A true reminder that whatever fame and talent comes your way, people are still just people.

Twin Ambitions – Mo Farah

Back in the days when we didn’t have to call him Sir Mo, Britain’s greatest ever runner released Twin Ambitions.

Mo Farah

Photo credit: vanboosh Mo Farah via photopin (license)

One highlight is the remarkable partnership between Farah and his school PE teacher Alan Watkinson. This was a friendship so enduring that Watkinson was to become Farah’s best man at his wedding. Since its release in 2013, Farah completed the ‘double-double’ at the Rio Olympics in 2016 so expect an updated version when he calls time on his career.

Open – Andre Agassi

Agassi comes across as a complex character. He won eight Grand Slam singles titles, including Wimbledon in 1992. But his career also saw a severe plummet down the rankings and he suffered bouts of depression. To quote from the book, Agassi’s tennis and life was “balanced precariously between self-destruction and perfectionism”.

And Still Ricky Villa – My Autobiography

Footballer Ricky Villa became a legend after signing for Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 1978. His arrival in London with fellow Argentinian Ossie Ardiles was an early taste of foreign players with flair coming to UK shores. The title of his book was derived from famous John Motson commentary of Villa’s goal in the 1981 FA Cup final win against Manchester City. A clip of the moment can be seen here on the BBC. It’s a great tale about making the transition from riding to school on horseback in Argentina to becoming a fans’ favourite at Spurs.

Running My Life – Seb Coe

Lord Coe was all over the year 2012 when this book was released. They could’ve renamed the year “Two-thousand and Coe”. Not content with winning Olympic gold at 1500m in 1980 and 1984, Coe was the driving force behind the successful London 2012 Games. I recall getting immersed in his life story while crammed onto yet another commuter train service.

No Ordinary Joe – Joe Calzaghe

Boxing is seen as a sport full of hubris and showmanship. But what surprised me most about this read was just how shy a person Calzaghe was. To my mind, it seemed a strange move when he later appeared on TV show Strictly Come Dancing when he was a character who seemed desperate to avoid the limelight.

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