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Unusually, the rumbling, often predictable, energy-infused, over-hyped juggernaut that is England’s Premier League takes a back seat this weekend, overshadowed by the Euro 2008 qualifiers and the start of rugby’s World Cup.
While the latter will hold the sport fan’s attention for the next month, or at least until the home nations are eliminated as the All Blacks surely power to a second Webb Ellis trophy, the former is likely to be of interest only until proper football returns next weekend. Harsh? Probably not - was anyone really surprised to discover that, according to a recent survey, football fans care more about their own club rather than the national side’s often incoherent, directionless performances?
For England at least, both Steve McLaren and Sven Goran Eriksson (surely the luckiest man to walk the earth since Ringo Starr) have destroyed the national team’s credibility by playing a brand of football alien to those who attend matches. Fans continue to wonder why players such as Rio Ferdinand are selected for England ahead of the now understandably cheesed-off Jamie Carragher and why Emile Heskey is recalled to the England fray after a mammoth five goal haul in 43 international appearances.
Some clues may be gleaned by comparing the latest issue of the Sky Sports Football Yearbook, formerly known to statistical aficionados as ‘Rothmans’, edited by Jack Rollin and his daughter Glenda, with earlier editions of the same book.
There have been several yearbook impostors since Rollin’s first volume appeared in 1971, but the Sky Sports version remains the genuine article.
Jack Rollin, the yearbook’s sole editor for decades, drafted his daughter Glenda in several years ago and the duo have once more produced the definitive guide to everything that has happened on or off the football pitch during the past twelve months. Not one of the 1000+ pages is wasted, with every conceivable piece of statistical information, from the Champions League to details of the Eagle Bitter United Counties Division One included in a clear, readable format.
Readers wanting to examine whether Sir Trevor Brooking’s recent comments regarding the steady influx of foreign players to our professional leagues were accurate need only buy the current edition and borrow a handful of earlier copies from the library. UEFA was supposed to be imposing limits on the number of foreign nationals playing in leagues across Europe, but that particular ‘initiative’, like so many before it, has quietly disappeared.
As ever, its breadth of Rollin’s coverage is unmatched. Little wonder it remains the biggest selling football yearbook, but over nearly four decades, the tome has also dutifully plotted English football’s modern history, registering changes in a statistical format that have impacted upon our own version of ‘the beautiful game’. If you haven’t yet started a collection of these wonderful books, do so now.
It may take some time before Rothmans’ association with this footballing encyclopaedia disappears, but while the Rollins continue to serve up their annual factfest, Sky will eventually get the credit it deserves for sponsoring this book.
Meanwhile, as readers flick back through earlier editions and compare content with Jack Rollin’s latest offering, they should note the changes to our national game – and probably weep.