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The Bowler's Holding, the Batsman's Willey by Geoff Tibballs

Release date: 07th June, 2007
Publisher: Ebury Press

List Price: £7.99
Our Price: £6.39
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The Bowler's Holding, the Batsman's Willey
By Geoff Tibballs
Ebury Press price: £6.39, saving 20% on rrp

Discerning literary types may wonder whether there is any point to wading through a book of sporting quotations. Truth is, no-one ever reads such compilations cover-to-cover, although they're fantastic objects upon which toilet rolls can sit, thus enhancing any trip to the lavatory.

They also make great presents, ostensibly because everyone enjoys being amused and most sports fans appreciate the opportunity to re-read, or absorb for the first time, gems such as those uttered by one of the world's foremost sports enthusiasts, Homer Simpson: "Son, when you participate in sporting events, it's not whether you win or lose. It's how drunk you get."

The daddy of the sports quote compilation genre is Frank Keating's Caught by Keating, published in 1979 and still the best by some distance. You have to be of a certain age to recall Bill Grundy, interviewing the world's greatest footballer: "It says here, Mr Pele, that you have shaken hands with the Pope. I take it you're referring to Mr George Pope, the balding former Derbyshire right-hand bowler."

Nonetheless, Geoff Tibballs has gone to great lengths (400+ pages) to emulate Keating and to provide readers with a tome into which they can dip whenever amusement is called for.

Intentionally or otherwise, Tibballs frequently manages to present opposing views of the same sport. In his angling section, therefore, he can post Koos Brandt's "My biggest worry is that my wife [when I'm dead] will sell my fishing gear for what I said I paid for it" and contrast it with John Steinbeck's acid comment on angling: "It has always been my private conviction that any man who pits his intelligence against a fish and loses has it coming."

Thankfully, he also shows that sportsmen other than footballers can be outrageously dim.

Reporter to baseball legend Yogi Berra: "Has first baseman Don Mattingly exceeded expectations?"
Berra: "I'd say he's done more than that."

Many others are equally funny. When a whiff of scandal surrounded Mike Gatting on an England cricket tour, Ian Botham pleaded his friend's innocence: "It couldn't have been Gatt," said Beefy, "anything he takes up to his room after nine o'clock, he eats."

Not surprisingly, given its myriad number of commentators and experts, football provides the bulk of Tibballs' collection. Some of the best are when the words don't quite come out right, such as the radio reporter who screamed, "What a goal! One for the Puritans." Alternatively, there's a post-match Mick McCarthy, "I was feeling as sick as the proverbial donkey" or Glenn Hoddle, who has said many strange things, several of which are reproduced here, but has anyone noticed how mathematically challenged he is? "It's 60-40 against him being fit, but he's got half a chance."

Most of the old favourites are here, including Shankly, Docherty and Clough, while Ian Holloway makes a welcome appearance: "If that wasn't a penalty, then what was? My wife saw that and she's down in St Albans listening to the radio!" There's even poetry from Sir Alex Ferguson describing Ryan Giggs as a "cocker spaniel chasing a piece of silver paper."
Don't believe that all the best ones are football-related, though. Near the end is a classic from rugby league commentator Roy French who, when observing a player having difficulty getting to his feet after a particularly low blow, says, "And he's got the icepack on his groin there. So possibly not the old shoulder injury." Marvellous.

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