At IBWM, we love football. We also love reading about football, so when an interesting new book about the game we love comes along, we get pretty excited.
The European Game: The Secrets of European Football Success does just that. It explores success across Europe, with author Dan Fieldsend spending 3 months travelling around some of Europe's most interesting clubs to get an insight into how they operate.
IBWM Editor-in-Chief Scott Salter caught up with Dan to learn a bit more about his new release.
IBWM: Hi Dan, thanks for speaking to IBWM. For those who don't know you, tell us a bit about yourself.
Dan Fieldsend: Well since leaving university in 2013 I've balanced writing about football with coaching. I started a website and wrote for several platforms, just to fill a hole that my degree left, and I came to coach eventually at Liverpool's academy internationally, later gaining my UEFA badge, so I was able to build up contacts in both areas. Which ties in with your second question about how the book came about.
IBWM: Yes, how did you get to write this book? What inspired you to do so?
DF: I began speaking with staff at various clubs abroad and I asked them whether it would be possible for me to visit. It's often a rite of passage for coaches to travel the continent and gain insights, similar to what I had planned, but I was in a fortunate position that I was also a writer. I was able to draw up manuscripts of my findings which subsequently led to me getting the book deal with Arena Sports, who have been fantastic.
IBWM: Tell us a bit about the book. It certainly looks as though it covers a vast amount of footballing history & culture across Europe.
DF: The book is about many things and appears overly ambitious but it I think it reads well. It's about travel, about everyday European life and the aspects that make each city unique. It's about society and how football clubs operate in relation to their society. It comprises relevant parts of local history and identity, but it also tells a football story. About what staff do day-to-day and what makes the institutions they work for so successful. Take Budapest Honved for example and how the fall of communism left Hungarian football without an identity, so they've looked to Holland and Italy to recreate theirs (which has been a struggle), then compare it to the following chapter at Bayern Munich and how they perfectly tailor the progression of youngsters from the academy up to the first team in a typically German way, overseen all the while by the DFB.
IBWM: You travelled around the continent for three months visiting various clubs, what was that like?
DF: It was at times difficult, as travel often is, but only in the sense that I had organised the trip so finely that were I to miss an appointment at one club I would not have been able to rearrange, as it would set off a domino effect on my appointments to come. For example, one day while I was in Milan my bank account was hacked and I lost all my money. I had to go to the British Embassy (which is fortunately in Milan) but it meant I missed my appointment in Basel the following day. But life happens. Of course being away from loved ones is also difficult,
but on the days I visited the clubs I'd long admired, the likes of Juventus and Ajax, it made it all worthwhile. There were times I had to pinch myself, standing with the ultras in the San Siro and getting selfies with Xabi Alonso, so when I look back on it all now in retrospect it feels like the greatest trip of my life.
IBWM: Which was your favourite to visit and why?
DF: I wouldn't like to say I had a favourite club to visit as it wouldn't be fair to the others who welcomed me so kindly. But there are a few that stand out for different reasons. Benfica have the best of everything: a glistening waterfront location, state of the art departments, a retirement home for older players - they even allowed me to play inside their 360 room (if you've seen one of those?). Whereas Feyenoord stand out because they don't. Their facilities are like a collection of Sunday league pitches, but it is humble and has a real gritty feel which is as equally as inspiring as Benfica.
IBWM: What will football fans get from reading your book?
DF: Readers will learn about the methods used at clubs: by doctors, scouts, managers, directors and so forth. And they will also learn about society and culture. I like to think there is something in there for all, and that everybody will at one point read something and say 'ahh, I didn't know that'. Whether that be regarding the future of science in football or even the motivation beind ultras.
IBWM: Finally, when is The European Game available and how can readers get a copy?
The book is out now on Amazon and is available in Waterstones (though you may have to ask them to order it in!).
Many thanks to Dan Fieldsend for taking the time to talk to IBWM. The European Game, out now, looks to be one of the reads of the year for fans of the beautiful game. Few fans get the insight into the off-the-field workings of successful clubs, but Dan's book gives us just that. How the club doctor influences the first team may not be of interest to everyone, but it is a fascinating insight into how the game has developed and we at IBWM, for one, cannot wait to read it.
The European Game is available now at Amazon and Waterstones.
In Bed With Maradona Editor-in-Chief