Sunday, 23 October 2011

Whose Side - the media blitz

After appearing on Radio 4's Today programme on Friday morning I thought it might be worth bringing all the links to the coverage of Whose Side Are You On? together in one place. So here are all the links I can find.


You can listen to the Radio 4 Today package here:
(you can here me some 10 minutes before the end).

There's a much longer interview (one hour plus) at Bruce Berglund's excellent podcast New Books in Sport. Great for hearing all my umms and aahs:

And for those who prefer to read a former colleague Kirsty Paterson interviewed me for my local paper, the Falkirk Herald which appears online under the headline Ready Teddy Go (ouch):

You can still read an extract/introduction to the book that appeared in Glasgow's The Herald Magazine:
(nb - if you haven't been on the website before you will have to register, but they only want your email address)

Not many it has to be said. Two in fact. A four-star review in Metro - This book positively sparkles with intelligence, humanity and, most importantly, real hope for the future.' - from Paul Connolly. And John Preston's review in the Daily Mail which is slightly less positive (John is not so keen on my writing style), but does recognise the importance of the subject:

Hopefully reading/listening to these will encourage you to buy the book (if you haven't already done so). Alternatively you could always talk to my mum and she'll tell you all of the mistakes I've made (quite how I mixed up Greenisland with Coalisland in one throwaway line I can't begin to tell you. Stupidity, I guess).

Monday, 17 October 2011

Whose Side Are You On? - The Interview

At the end of last month Bruce Berglund, historian, little league coach and podcaster, interviewed me down the line from Michegan for his excellent audio blog New Books in Sport. The result - an hour plus conversation about sport and Northern Ireland and the Troubles - has now been posted here:
For anyone who wants to get a flavour of Whose Side Are You On? it's a perfect starting place. It touches on my reasons for writing the book, growing up in Northern Ireland, questions of national identity, Wayne McCullough, Shergar, and George Best.
A word of warning though, Bruce's site is seriously distracting. You may find yourself spending hour upon hour listening to Bruce's interviews with academics and writers about all kinds of sports, from American football to cricket and from baseball to rugby union.
It's a genuinely vibrant and intelligent project and I'm proud to have been asked to get involved.

Surplus to requirements - free books for Man Utd fans

While researching Whose Side Are You On? I picked up a few books that proved in the end marginal to my requirements, but may be of interest to others - mostly Man United fans as it happens.
I've got three books on my shelves that United fans might like. And I'm happy to give them away.

Iain McCartney's Irish Reds was picked up in a bookshop sale. It's a 2002 publication and covers all Manchester United players who crossed the Irish Sea to Old Trafford, starting with John Peden (from Linfield Athletic in 1887) and ending with Roy Carroll (from Enniskillen).
Flicking through it again it reminded me just how deep and tenacious has been the link between the club and the country. From a Northern Irish perspective you have the likes of Harry Gregg, Sammy McIlroy, Norman Whiteside (all three of whom I interviewed for Whose Side?), and George Best of course. It continues to the present day with Jonny Evans
Compare that to Liverpool FC. The Anfield side, while having some very successful players from Ireland in their ranks - Ronnie Whelan, Steve Staunton and Steve Heighway, always seemed much more geared towards Scottish players than Irish players.
Not that United has not looked north for players. One of the best - the best, according to Sir Alex - was Denis Law and I have a surplus copy of his very recent book My Life in Football (though United fans should note, it's the one with Denis playing for Scotland on the cover.

And finally I've got a copy of Bobby Charlton's autobiography My England Years (Headline, 2008), which clearly concentrates on his international career.

So, as I said, I'm keen to pass all three on to deserving homes. All you have to do is send me an email to express your interest. It's first come, first served.
Send me an email at if you are interested.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

In stock

Spotted in Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London, Friday, 12.35pm.

Would love to see any pictures of Whose Side Are You On? in bookshops, on coffee tables, on bookshelves. Send to

Monday, 10 October 2011

We've stopped making plans with Nigel

On the back page of the Guardian's sports section today there was a picture of Gerry Armstrong scoring his most famous goal - the one against Spain in the 1982 World Cup. It appeared under the headline "What We Miss About Football ..." followed by the strapline " Northern Ireland being good. Ouch.
That it was printed on the same day as the much anticipated (by Northern Ireland fans at any rate) news that Nigel Worthington was to leave his post as the international manager after the latest failure - a 2-1 home defeat at the feet of Estonia - doesn't seem particularly prescient in the circumstances. There has been an end-of-era feel around the international side of late, most notably with the retirement of Aaron Hughes - fast-forwarded by injury. The game against Italy tomorrow night - Worthington's last game - will just cement that mood.
Before we start getting wrapped up with who should take over (though I have one Herald colleague who's touting for Jim Magilton to get the job), it's worth maybe making a quick assessment of  the Worthington era.  How quick? Two wins in the last 23 games. Enough said perhaps. Certainly he had lost the support of the fans some time ago. Not even the odd Paddy McCourt wonder goal (albeit against the Faroes) is compensation for that.
In his defence you could talk about the paucity of his resources (or "squeezing blood from a stone" as Worthington had it) and point to the fact that in the current European campaign and in the World Cup qualifiers for 2010 Northern Ireland were at least in with a chance (however slim) until the peneultimate games in the groups.
And of course there are players born in the north who have chosen to pursue (or at least try to pursue) an international career with the Republic of Ireland side - most notably  Manchester United's Darron Gibson, Stoke's Marc Wilson and Preston North End's Daniel Devine.
In a Radio Ulster documentary on Sunday 
Gerry Armstrong even claimed there is a measure of "tapping up" involved - though I'd imagine that such choices are mostly down to politics and/or the fact that the Republic are more likely to qualify for the Euros or a World Cup than Northern Ireland any time soon.
The realist in me knows all this. Knows, too, that even when George Best played for Northern Ireland we got humped more than a few times. But the fan in me remembers that the 1982 and 86 squads had few players from the big English clubs of the time. There were talented players there - Jennings, Whiteside, O'Neill most obviously - but the success came because Billy Bingham organised them well as a team.
When I was interviewed by both Radio Ulster and Radio Foyle about Whose Side Are You On? both interviews were preceded by John Motson's commentary of Armstong's goal against Spain. I never get tired of hearing it, but it would be nice to hear something newer. Over to you  Jim Magilton ... or Iain Dowie ...or whoever gets the job. Isn't Martin O'Neill at a loose end at at the moment?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Just so you know ...

In a mad burst of promotion I will be appearing on both Radio Ulster and Radio Foyle tomorrow morning (between 8.30am and 9am if you're really desperate to hear me) talking about Northern Irish sport and my new book Whose Side Are You On?
 But if you can't wait until then you could always visit my former colleague Gordon Darroch's fine blog Gordon Darroch's Unreal Domain: where I can be found talking about George Best, the Old Firm, Irish rugby and Stirling Albion.

Monday, 3 October 2011

In another place ...

Not strictly relevant to most of what goes on here but I thought I'd let you know I did an interview with Man United and Scotland football legend Denis Law which appears in today's Herald. If you can't get hold of a copy of the paper you can also find it online at  Herald Scotland (although you'll have to register to see it - they just want an email address though - it won't cost you anything). Check it out here (you'll never look at Maltesers in quite the same way again) ...

And while you're over at Herald Scotland you could also read the extract/intro from Whose Side Are You On? as seen in last week's Herald Magazine. You can find it here ...