My new book, What You Think You Know About Football is Wrong: The Global Game’s Greatest Myths and Untruths, is out now! How did it come about? When I was Director of the National Football Museum for England in in Manchester, Matt Lowing, Commissioning Editor at Bloomsbury Publishing, approached me about the possibility of a book about football’s history, drawing on the research which lies behind the award-winning National Football Museum, which attracts 500,000 visitors each year.
I mentioned to Matt that there was no reason for any debate about whether the ball had crossed the line in the World Cup Final in 1966 as there was film footage that proved it had – in 1966 – shown in cinemas at the time! Matt then came up with the idea of a book debunking the greatest myths of football’s history! So much that we all believe about football’s history turns out simply not to be true!
Due to other commitments the book took about two years to develop and write. But in some ways it took 20 years! It draws upon much that I learned about football history through being the Founding Director of the National Football Museum from 1997 to 2017. I have met almost all the leading people in world football, and heard so many great stories on the game, many of which are in the book. I have dedicated over 20 years of my working life to football’s history – and this book is the culmination!
I was delighted when ‘Motty’, John Motson OBE, the ‘voice of football’, and Guy Mowbray of the BBC – the ‘new voice of football’! – , agreed to write Forewords for the book. As Motty says, my book ‘Takes a wrecking ball to many of the myths and assumptions about football that usually pass unchallenged’. But I didn’t set out to challenge our assumptions but to get beneath them and find out the truth – warts and all.
Association football is only just over 150 years old, but because many of us are so passionate about it, stories, myths and legends abound, even about quite recent incidents in the game. My book debunks many of these myths. Through meticulous research, it peels back the fiction to get as close as we can to the truth. Of course, it is still my interpretation, but I have set out to be as objective as I can. I believed many of these myths, so it has pained me at times to find out that they are not true!
I hope that you are intrigued and surprised at what I have found. You may at times even get a little annoyed as I debunk one of your favourite football stories or beliefs. But given our passion for the game, sometimes we have to set this aside, to understand the game as it really is.