The first Sportspages bookshop opened in London on 6th September 1985. At 3.20 that day, the first book was sold. It was about yoga. Two more books were sold that day, the total take coming to just under £20.00. Ten years on Sportspages is a thriving business, a second branch having opened in
Manchester during 1992. Andy Lyons cornered the SZrtspk3- shop’s founder, John Caustad, in a storeroom packed to the brim with copies of just about gpORT
every sports book currently in print and persuaded him to discuss how football literature has changed in the past decade.
John Gaustad: In 1985, as we know,you had to be an idiot to want to go to football matches. The fanzine explosion helped to change that perception, but another s ignificant th ing also happened the year we launched. A company called Breedon Books published a history o f Derby County. They picked Derby simply because they supported them and had done other local history books. It sold to people who weren’t Derby fans, so they did two or three more in 1986 and by 1987-88, they were producing twelve new ones every season.
Played Out, which almost always gets forgotten but was really important because it directly spoke to fans. Journalists hated it and used to say things like ‘There he was, in this brilliant position with access to all the players and he didn’t know what the right questions w ere’. And I used to wonder i f they’d read the same
“Over the last ten years we’ve been trying to say that you don’t have to book. Fever Pitch, too, was important, not only for its im pact on football fans but because it quickly became a really serious seller in general book trade terms. Suddenly football books were right up there with hot novels.
Other publishers started copying them . I said on TV that we were reaching a point where there was a history o f just about every club in the League, which wasn’t quite true, and the shop was inundated with phone calls the next day.
be stupid to follow sport.”
WSC: Fever P itch ’s success triggered off a raging debate about authenticity: can you be a real fan if you’re not working class; does being a football fan automatically make you a ‘lad’ and
I saw this as football rediscovering its history, partly because the present was so depressing. There had been a long period before that when hardly anything worthwhile had appeared. Journalists like Geoffey Green and John Moynihan had produced good books and Hunter Davies wrote The Glory Game about Spurs in the early 1970s, but until the mid1980s the general consensus was that only Rothmans and a few th ings for kids would ever sell. A fter Breedon’s success, individuals realized they could do it them selves. The hardcore readership exists. You don’t need a big profit margin or a head office.
The next s ignificant step was Pete Davies’ All therefore incapable of having opinions about literature or art or films. These sort of arguments are never brought up in connection with other sports, and it appears to be a peculiarly British problem. Americans, for example, seem to take popular culture more seriously, and sport particularly is not seen as ephemeral or somehow tacky, the way it often is here. JG: Over the last ten years w e ’ve been trying to say that you don’t have to be stupid to follow sport. The books that really showed me that were mainly American. We ran a series o f reprints o f classic sports books a few years ago and nearly all o f them were about baseball or go lf or boxing in the US. When I go to bookfairs in America, I am always rem inded o fth e
Sportspages Football Bestsellers 1985-95
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AMONGTHETHUGS WHOSE GAME IS ft ANYWAY'7
1. FeverPitch Nick Hornby (Gollancz 1992) 2. Steaming InColin Ward (Sportspages/Simon 8c Schuster 1989) 3. BookableOffence WhenSaturdayComes (Queen Anne Press 1990) 4. BloodyCasuals- Diaryof aFootball HooliganJayAllan (Famedram1989) 5.OffsideWhenSaturdayComes (WhenSaturdayComes 1989) 6. All PlayedOut Pete Davies (Heinemann Kingswood/Mandarin 1990) 7. ElTelWasASpace Alien Martin Lacey (Editor) (Juma 1989) 8. FootballGrounds ofGreat Britain Simon Inglis (Collins Willow 1987) 9. Among TheThugs Bill Buford (Secker&Warburg/Mandarin 1991) 10. Whose Game Is itAnyway?Phil Shaw (Editor) (Argus 1989)
Note: Reference books have not been considered for inclusion in the above list