The Outsider: A history of the goalkeeper, By Jonathan Wilson
Sportsbookofthemonth.com price: £12.80, saving 36% on rrp
Many readers will recall from their schooldays that when it came to picking the football teams to contest frenetic lunchtime matches, unless someone volunteered to go in goal, it was invariably the remaining two boys who went in first.
On reflection, this seems a little odd, given that successful professional goalkeepers are often referred to as ‘eccentric’ or ‘idiosyncratic’ when at school most of their classmates considered them to be the worst footballers.
They’ve certainly always needed to be thick-skinned, for as Jonathan Wilson points out in this superbly-researched, thought-provoking book, goalies can often find themselves the scapegoat when their teams lose, even though they may have played a blinder.
Wilson, who enjoyed enormous success with Inverting The Pyramid, a history of football tactics, has come up with something equally engrossing.
In addition to including several incisive interviews and memories of goalkeeping greats such as Lev Yashin and Dino Zoff, the author considers how the goalkeeper’s role has evolved over the past century. Given how pivotal the position is, it’s a wonder that no-one has written so authoritatively and decisively about it before.
Thankfully, Wilson is quite content to go off at compelling tangents, for example when he considers the political support enjoyed by two men vying for the goalkeeping position in the Cameroon national side. Such diversions make travelling with a fine writer a hugely enjoyable journey. Moreover, his references to literary greats such as Albert Camus (himself, famously, a goalkeeper) and Vladimir Nabokov and their writing about this solitary position, serve to garnish Wilson’s excellent dish.
Like great goalscorers, most of us can recall outstanding saves, moments upon which matches, league titles, even World Cups have hinged. While there’s been a whole library of books written about strikers, the game’s literary annals are strangely short of goalkeeping-related titles. No matter how many come along from now on, few will be better than this.
We’ve teamed up with Sports Book of the Month & have two copies of The Outsider to give away.
To win this week’s sports book, go to their website (www.sportsbookofthemonth.com) and answer the following question:
Who is the most capped goalkeeper in the history of international football?
Book cover & link: