This list features books that I feel everyone with more than a passing interest in football (let alone coaching) should be reading.
I appreciate that this is not an exhaustive list - indeed the aim is to eventually keep building on it via a permanent feature on the main site - but it is as good a starting point as any. It will also be updated on a regular basis.
I won’t attempt to fool anyone into thinking that they’re at the same level as the other books on this list but I do think that Blueprint According to Volume 1 and Volume 2 (US readers can go here and here) – two e-books produced by Blueprint for Football and which contain a total of thirteen interviews where football coaches talk about their ideas – can provide a whole host of new ideas to anyone who reads them.
And if you want something different, might I suggest Il Re Calcio, my book with ten stories from Italian football including that of Emiliano Mondonico, how he led Torino to a UEFA Cup final and how their historical bad luck thwarted them.
Developing an Elite Coaching Philosophy in Possession by Tim Lees
Whilst philosophy has become something of a ‘buzzword’ there is very little out there that concretely tells prospective coaches how to go about setting up their own philosophy. This relative lack is what makes Tim Lees’ “Elite Coaching Philosophy in Possession” such a welcome book as it provides not only the ideas behind a footballing philosophy based on dominating possession of the ball but also the coaching drills that can be adopted to help instill this philosophy into the team being coached. A full review of this book can be found here.
On the face of it, this is a coaching book. Yet it is much more than that. True, there are coaching sessions listed throughout it but it should not discourage those who are not into coaching because what Jed Davies has done is try to explain a style of playing – Tiki Taka – by going into the development of the style and how that philosophy is then drilled into the team.
Legacy by James Kerr
There are few sporting entities as universally associated with excellence with the All Blacks. Of course, having a whole nation as focused on rugby as New Zealand is will inevitably result in the development of exceptional talent in the sport. Their success however, transcends this and is the result of a whole culture that constantly works on improving. It is this culture that Kerr has analysed in detail, identifying the salient points and then dissecting them in order to provide an explanation of why such behaviour has this sort of impact. And, for anyone worried that this might be a book about rugby, don’t: this book is aimed at corporate managers so it can be easily applied and adopted by people working in football.
Inverting the Pyramid by Jonathan Wilson
I am a big believer that if you truly want to understand a subject you have to know its history; to get a feel of what happened in the past that led to the current situation. Obviously this applies to football as much as anything else and there is no better book to assist you in doing so than Jonathan Wilson's Inverting the Pyramid. This is exhaustively research and, more than that, insightfully threaded together by Wilson who expertly guides the reader into understanding the impact of each innovation and how this was modified later on.
Making the Ball Roll by Ray Power
“Philosophy has become a bit of a buzzword in coaching, and is sometimes either very generic or very unclear.” That is what Ray Power[https://twitter.com/power_ray], this book’s author, told me when I interviewed him last year and that is also the feeling that I often get. People talk a lot about having a philosophy without truly understanding what it means. Indeed, for many it simply extends to a belief that ‘their’ teams should be passing the ball rather than hoofing it. In reality, that isn’t a philosophy but rather an idea of how your team should play.
Power is someone who has gone about building his own philosophy in the right way; a youth coach who has devoted time to look at what is meant by a philosophy and how one – anyone, irrespective of level they’re coaching – can develop a philosophy. That process and his thoughts are contained in this book and will prove invaluable to anyone looking to go through the same process.
Moneyball by Michael Lewis
First of all, a confession. Two actually. The first is that Michael Lewis is one of my favourite authors and I will anything by him (indeed, his book on parenthood is great as are those on finance). Few people have his ability to investigate a story, get to its roots and then present in a way that enables the reader to understand the whole process. The second confession (ironically) is that I didn’t understand even a quarter of the baseball jargon he talks about in this book.
It doesn’t matter because for me this is more than anything a guide on thinking in a different way; of not simply doing things because that is how they were always done. Sadly this book has become largely associated with the use of statistics in sport but, in truth, the real lesson at the core is that of trying to look at areas that the traditional approach has neglected and try to use them to your advantage.