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Sky Sports Football Yearbook & Soccer at War 1938-45 both by Jack Rollin

Release date: 01st August, 2005
Publisher: Headline Publishing

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Sky Sports Football Yearbook 2005/06
Edited by Glenda Rollin & Jack Rollin price: £12.00
(Saving £8.00 on published price)

Soccer at War 1938-45
By Jack Rollin price: £16.25
(Saving £8.75 on published price)

Test cricket may be currently dominating the headlines, but the surest sign that a new football season is about to move into top gear is the appearance of the latest Rollin-family edited football yearbook. For years referred to simply as 'Rothmans', the 2005/06 edition is sponsored, appropriately enough, by Sky Sports for the second year, the book's thirty-sixth.

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 1056 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.

There have been several yearbook impostors since Rollin's first volume appeared in 1971, but the Sky Sports version remains the genuine article.

Earlier this summer, Jack Rollin's Soccer at War, which first appeared in 1985, was re-published in hardback by Headline. It differs from the yearbook, being part social history-part statistical record of football during the Second World War. Once again, however, the depth of Rollin's research is nothing short of staggering. As one might expect, details of players, teams, leagues and wartime Cup results are included, but the book is enhanced by Rollin's tales of wartime soccer, which account for the book's opening half.

While present-day fans may believe that the game's financial shenanigans are a modern phenomenon, Rollin shows they're most definitely not. There were numerous football club directors banned for making irregular payments to players, while the inexorable power of market forces were also having an impact; as the author points out, "there were hints that some clubs were paying players more than £3 per game." Astonishing!

Money was also a problem for some clubs, including Bristol Rovers, where the chairman, against the wishes of his board, decided to settle a pre-war debt of £16,000 by selling the club's Eastville ground (now a Tesco superstore) for £12,000, causing Rovers to move in with rivals City for a brief period.

Some clubs shared for much longer, including Arsenal, who played at Tottenham's White Hart Lane throughout the war and during the transitional season which followed. Other clubs had no say in where they played. Blackpool, for example, had their Bloomfield Road ground commandeered by the RAF in April 1944 who used it as a training centre.

Aside from the hardship brought about by the enemy and rationing, the weather played a major part in making life difficult. Rollin points out that the winter of 1939/40 was the coldest since 1894, causing the football authorities to seek permission to extend the season and to pay win bonuses of £1 to players in the War Cup. Permission was granted within three days.

Rightly, tales of gallantry and honour are a poignant thread running through this wonderful book: from Flying Officer Sydney Pugh, who made his Arsenal debut in 1939 and was killed in action in 1944, to Bill Dean, a goalkeeper whose life was taken in 1942.

Rollin ends the book with a Roll of Honour - players who represented clubs during the war years but who never had the chance to play after it ended. They made the ultimate sacrifice, something which the players listed in the 2005/06 yearbook would do well to remember the next time they're demanding £100,000 a week to play football.

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