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Football Manager Stole My Life - LIVE!

We're involved in two events at the upcoming Manchester Football Writing Festival. On Wednesday, September 10, Graham Hunter and Sid Lowe will be talking about Spanish football and you can get tickets for that here.

Before that, we've got the first ever live event for FOOTBALL MANAGER STOLE MY LIFE, on Saturday, September 6.

If you liked the book, or just love the game, you don't want to miss our expert panel:

Miles is the big brain behind Sports Interactive, the producers of first Championship Manager and then Football Manager. Miles will give us the insider stories from 20 years of FM.

Iain is The King of Twitter and will look back on his adventures in producing FM STOLE MY LIFE. The trip to the psychiatrist, the Champ Man 01/02 save and the disastrous managerial spell with Hoffenheim.

Kenny tracked down the legends of the game, and developed a frightening man crush on Tonton Zola Moukoko. He'll tell you where Andri Sigporsson is now, and why he will never forgive Maxim Tsigalko.

We'd love to see you at Waterstones Deansgate, Manchester, for this unique event, and please let the FM addicts in your life know about this and the other great events at the Manchester Football Writing Festival.

Tickets here.

Pirlo on Balotelli

As Mario Balotelli heads for Liverpool and a return to the Premier League, here is what Andrea Pirlo had to say about his Italy team-mate in his autobiography, I Think Therefore I Play - his fight against racism, his reaction to in-game provocations and how, according to Pirlo, he could play for any club he chooses.

Balotelli will link up with Glen Johnson at Liverpool

We need Mario Balotelli. I’m not sure he really appreciates it yet, but he’s a special kind of medicine, an antidote to the potentially lethal poison of the racists you find in Italian grounds.

They’re a truly horrendous bunch, a herd of frustrated individuals who’ve taken the worst of history and made it their own. And they’re more than just a minority, despite what certain mealy-mouthed spin doctors would have you believe. Those guys would use a fire extinguisher to put out a match.

Whenever I see Mario at an Italy training camp, I’ll give him a big smile. It’s my way of letting him know that I’m right behind him and that he mustn’t give up. A gesture that means ‘thank you’.

He’s often targeted and insulted by opposition fans. Let’s say that the way he goes about his business perhaps doesn’t help him get much love, but I’m still convinced that if he was white, people would leave him in peace.

‘Jump up high so Balotelli dies’ is an unspeakable chant that, sadly, I’ve heard at the Juventus Stadium amongst other places. Even worse are the monkey noises that I’ve listened to pretty much everywhere.

But instead of depressing Mario, moronic behaviour of that kind actually seems to fire him up. He won’t let this human trash get their way, and it’s the most intelligent response because if you listen to what a stupid person says, you elevate them to the position of interlocutor. If you simply ignore them (still acknowledging that, unfortunately, they exist) you’re leaving them to stew in their own polluted sea: one where there are no friends and no shore. The good news is that even sharks can die of loneliness after a while.

Cesare Prandelli gave us national team players some firm direction on the matter. “If you hear people in the stands disrespecting Mario, run over to him and hug him.” In that way, hate can be cancelled out by an equivalent dose of love.

Not a fashionable choice, but a pretty forceful idea.

I’m happy that Mario is the way he is. He’ll react (wrongly) to provocation on the pitch, but doesn’t let what’s going on in the crowd affect him. If he scores, he might put his finger to his lips to mock the opposition fans, something that really infuriates them, but if they tell him he’s got the wrong colour of skin he’ll simply laugh in their faces. He makes complete fools of them and emerges a convincing winner. The way I see it, he’s capable of becoming a symbol of the fight against racism, both in Italy and throughout the world.

In terms of footballing ability, Mario’s class is unquestionable. I’d have happily seen him end up in a Juventus shirt. Top players are in a position of real strength, in that they can basically pick their club.

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Football's greats remember Fallon

Today would have been the 92nd birthday of Sean Fallon, the Celtic legend who passed away last January.

In the year before he died, Jock Stein's former assistant - one of the finest talent-spotters in the history of the game - finally committed to paper the story of his incredible life and career.

And besides the Iron Man's memories, his authorised biography also included insights from many of the men he influenced, including some of the biggest names in British football.

“Sean was a bit more forthcoming with me than Jock Stein in the early days. Jock’s personality meant he was a bit more secretive and sort of kept you down there a little bit, even as a young man. Sean was a brilliant help to me as an aspiring manager, and we were close ever since.”
Sir Alex Ferguson

“I think every footballer looks back on people who were important to their development, and Sean was certainly very important to me. Really, he was the man who started it all off for me.”
Kenny Dalglish

“Big Jock needed Sean. The truth was that he supplied everything the big man wasn’t particularly good at. He was the best assistant manager we could have wished for.”
Billy McNeill

“What Sean and Jock Stein did was take good players and turn them into great players. And more than that, they set the standards, the values, for the entire club.”
David Moyes

“I loved Sean Fallon. In fact, I didn't understand how anyone couldn’t love the guy. He was just a great man.”
Danny McGrain

“Sean Fallon embodied all that is good about Celtic: its values, its roots in Ireland, in Sligo, its pride in Scotland, its competitiveness, its sense of fair play, its decency, its leadership... you could go on and on.”
Peter Lawwell

“He ... seems to slip under the radar at times when you talk about Celtic’s history, and that shouldn’t be the case at all. There are a lot of people who owe him a great debt of gratitude for giving them their start in the game, and Celtic owe him even more.”
Neil Lennon

“If you asked me to name Celtic’s best-ever assistant, it would be Sean Fallon. I've never came across anyone who played the role better.”
Davie Hay

“People remember Sean as this devoted, wholehearted Celtic, but he was an awful lot more than that. His ability spot players, and his abilities of perception and analysis, weren’t picked up and appreciated the way they should have been."
Brian Quinn

*'Sean Fallon: Celtic's Iron Man' is available on Amazon and all high street stores; it is also available as an ebook in all formats

Pep Confidential: Inside Guardiola's first season at Bayern Munich

IN October 2014, we will co-publish with Arena Sport Pep Confidential: Inside Guardiola's first season at Bayern Munich, by Spanish journalist Martí Perarnau.

You might have read 'insider accounts' before. But not like this. This is unlimited access to one of the biggest clubs in the world, granted by one of the best coaches in the world.

In an exclusive extract from the book, Perarnau explains it in his own words.

The next major surprise is that Pep has decided to grant me a first-hand, in-depth insight into the team’s work. I had hoped that a controlled level of access, the odd cup of coffee with him, and limited attendance at training sessions would give me enough material for the book. But Guardiola’s unexpected offer changes all my plans.

Free access means that I will be privy to everything that goes on. I’ll be able to observe his coaching methods up close and witness the decision making and planning process as it happens.

Essentially I will be spending months at the heart of this elite team with complete access to an enormous amount of internal information. Not even in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that the champions of Europe and the most successful coach of the decade would grant me such a privilege. Pep only asks for one thing in return: my total discretion during the season.

"You can write about everything you see and be as critical as you like in the book, but during the season please don’t talk to the outside world about what you witness inside."

I am enormously grateful despite the fact that my journalistic skills will have to be put on hold for a while. For one year I will live through all of the team’s vicissitudes. The highs and lows, the injuries, the tactics, the line-ups, the periods of sickness, the good behaviour and bad, the jokes, the praise, the worries, the transfer plans … I will know it all, yet the journalist in me will have no voice until the day I pour everything I have learned into this book.

The day Celtic tried to sign Di Stefano

IN 1964, and completely out of the blue, Celtic attempted to sign a 36-year-old. He also happened to be the greatest player of his generation.

The approach for Alfredo di Stefano came four years after he had wowed Hampden with a hat-trick in Real Madrid’s legendary 7-3 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in 1960.

That remarkable match, which Fallon had watched alongside Stein, was the fifth successive European Cup final in which the Argentine had played, scored and emerged victorious.

Reserve centre-half John Cushley, who spoke Spanish, had been dispatched with Jimmy McGrory to Madrid, supposedly with the aim of bringing home a legend. But it was a plan with a significant flaw.

“Di Stefano had already gone to his holiday home in the north of Spain,” said Cushley. “In the end, we had to track him down on the phone. Mr McGrory was telling me ‘Offer him this’.

"I couldn’t believe the figures – it was more than the rest of us put together were getting. But in any case, Di Stefano said that he had already agreed a deal with Espanyol, so it was a bit of a wasted trip.”

Normally thrifty to the point of notoriety, Celtic had promised the Argentinian £200-per-game, twice what the highest-paid player in Britain at the time, Johnny Haynes, was earning.

Yet the fact they had arranged for three journalists to accompany McGrory and Cushley convinced Fallon that it was a trip geared more towards obtaining headlines than acquiring a star player.

"I always thought the Di Stefano thing was a publicity stunt. I would have loved nothing more if he’d said yes because it would have been tremendous to have someone like that at Celtic. But the board knew there was no chance. If he had accepted their offer, they would have had a heart attack.

There just wasn’t money for a player like that floating around at the time. It was a story that got the fans excited but that wasn’t a good time for the club and I felt it was put out there to relieve a bit of pressure."

*'Sean Fallon: Celtic's Iron Man' is available on Amazon and all high street stores; it is also available as an ebook in all formats

Like this? Read these!

The day Cruyff almost signed for Dumbarton

Sean, Jock and lost afternoons in Ferrari's

How Stein almost sold Jinky




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