Football book that is literally quite remarkable

Book review by Anton Rippon
It is the title of the autobiography that Frank McGhee never wrote.

For years, the Daily Mirror’s Voice of Sport promised that when his life story was published, it would be called Forgive Us Our Press Passes. Alas, McGhee died in 2000, his book still unwritten. But if he is now looking down from that press room in the sky, he might be pleased to know that a book of that title has been published, and for a very worthy cause, too.

Edited by former Telegraph football man Christopher Davies, who published his own story, Behind The Back Page: The Adventures Of A Sports Writer, earlier this year, Forgive Us Our Press Passes is a collection of original articles contributed by around 70 leading members of the Football Writers’ Association. Proceeds are going to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, and three cheers for that.

Contributors, several of them SJA members of long-standing, include (in no particular order as they say on Strictly Come Dancing) Patrick Barclay, Brian Woolnough, David Lacey, Oliver Holt and Martin Lipton, Henry Winter, Paul Hayward, Matt Lawton and Jeff Powell, Ian Ridley, Patrick Collins, Joe Lovejoy, John Brodkin, Andy Dunn, Shaun Custis and Neil Custis, Steve Bates and Neil Silver, Martin Samuel and Matt Dickinson, Sam Wallace, Peter Drury, Mick Dennis and Malcolm Brodie, as well as local journalists from as far afield as Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle, Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff.

Some of the subjects are contemporary, some historical. They range from the joys of watching Barnet on a freezing winter’s evening to why England can’t take penalties.

I enjoyed them all, particularly Barclay’s essay summing up why football has outgrown its fans, Collins on the ordinary people who love Charlton Athletic, and Lacey on the changing face of the game. He paints one particularly wonderful picture of a character at Millwall’s old Den, 50 years ago: “A small, wizened man, wearing an old army greatcoat and clutching a battered toy lion, used to sit within earshot of Millwall’s directors’ box and hurl abuse at its occupants until, inevitably, he was thrown out. But he was always there next time.”

Forgive Us Our Press Passes is a seam full of rich nuggets, from the achievements of Sir Alex Ferguson to those of Hartlepool United. They’ve even got Gary Lineker to pick his best-ever team from the recipients of the FWA’s Footballer of the Year Trophy (no room for Matthews or Finney, by the way).

As Davies says in his introduction, there has literally never been a book like it.

Forgive Us Our Press Passes by the Football Writers’ Association (Know The Score Books, £19.99, proceeds to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children).

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