Reviewed - Pay As You Play

With December looming, an array of reading matter will be flooding the shelves of your local bookshop. But what to pick? We had hoped to attract Richard & Judy to IBWM but they didn't answer the phone. Iain Macintosh did though, so we gave him a book. Look what happened.

If, like a party-goer, a book can be judged by its entrance, then ’Pay As You Play’ is a bit of a corker. I wasn’t the only journalist on Twitter to report a loud thump as this magnificent opus crashed through my letterbox recently. It may look like a standard sized paperback, but like a typeset Tardis, there’s a lot more in there than you’d think.

Paul Tomkins, Graeme Riley and Gary Fulcher have created a statistical monster and, in doing so, might have put an end to the question of relative transfer values over the years. Using calculations so complicated they gave me a nosebleed, they’ve developed a system for grading yesterday’s deals by today’s prices. For example, Phil Babb may ‘only’ have set Liverpool back £3.6m in 1994, but by today’s standards that’s £13.6m. Alan Shearer’s £15m move from Blackburn to Newcastle in 1996 was, by this rationale, actually a £40m swoop. And they’ve done this with every single transfer in the history of the Premier League.

Tomkins, Riley and Fulcher are essentially the ‘Three Amigos’ with pocket calculators. Wherever there are numbers, you will find them. Wherever there are statistics, they’ll be there. Wherever comprehension is threatened, they’ll make a nice graph about it. Some pages, like the table that shows relative values of squads in their final league positions, are genuinely stunning. Sometimes the book wades into stickier waters, bogging itself down in numbers. Tomkins though, like an amiable University lecturer, works tirelessly to keep the prose flowing, which is mercy indeed to a mouth-breather like myself who would rather scale a mountain in flip-flops than ever re-sit his Maths GCSE. It’s a challenge to present enormous amounts of information in terms that the layman can understand, but he just about pulls it off.

The club-by-club and season-by-season sections are the strongest areas and actually make for a very readable standalone review of Premier League history. The use of a pantheon of journalists and bloggers to provide comment is an inspired move and gives the book and its premise the authority and objectivity it deserves. With so many graphs and tables, ‘Pay As You Play’ is not the kind of read that you’ll settle into on a hungover Sunday afternoon, but it’s certainly a book that the enthusiast, professional and amateur, should be pulling off the shelf repeatedly over the coming months.

IN A NUTSHELL - Unlike Jermain Defoe, ‘Pay As You Play’ is both big and clever.

‘Pay As You Play’ is available Here

Iain Macintosh is the UK Correspondent for The New Paper in Singapore and will happily review anything football-related for IBWM. You’ll find him on Twitter (@iainmacintosh)