A novel or a film about football can't match the genuine sense of jeopardy or drama of sport. It can exaggerate it, or even explain it. But it only ever seeks to use sport as a backdrop or as a very dominant proxy character. I say all of this after spending a very engaging 90 minutes discussing two books at an event at the Manchester Literature Festival with their authors. The writers in question are David Conn (Richer Than God) and Rodge Glass (Bring Me the Head of Ryan Giggs), both were funny and gave great anecdotes about their books and their personal relationship with football.
I would recommend both books.
David Conn writes expansively and draws on a depth of research and social analysis that marks him out in a world of football writers that rather hang off the coat tails of the machine. He's rather earned the freedom to do that and in so doing imparts some uncomfortable truths. Though football is the starting point, he makes incisive observations on flows of international capital, how Manchester's poor haven't gained from the riches of football and leveraged buyouts. But I found myself disagreeing with some of his economic conclusions, and rather looking forward to a more searing attack on Abu Dhabi's riches and the politics of oil, which never came. That said, there are none better. I also sensed a deeper story on his personal journey, but that's his choice.
Rodge Glass similarly researches hard. There is little to fault the detail of the story of Mikey Wilson, an authentic Manchester tale of disappointment. Some have said he resembles Zadie Smith and Hanif Kureshi, but I liked his monologue on the reality of sport which was resonant of John Niven's dissection of the music business in Kill Your Friends. There's also something of David Peace's reality fiction.
But have a peek at these reviews of the event.