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It was like welcoming back an old friend this week to receive in the post a copy of the football classic, The Soccer Syndrome. First published in 1966, it is being relaunched coming up to its 50th anniversary.

The book was sent to me by Leo Moynihan, journalist son of its author John Moynihan, who died following a car accident in 2012 aged 79.

I urge today’s younger generation of sportswriters to catch up with the book to experience a master of our sports writing profession at work and play.

On revisiting it, I discovered the magic of John’s descriptive artistry is not diminished by the passing half century. The son of Bohemian-inspired artists, John painted the book with a broad brush, and it reminds those of us of a certain age why we fell in love with the Beautiful Game in the immediate post-war years.

He decorated the sports pages of the Sunday Telegraph for 12 years after working at the Evening Standard as a gossip writer, andhe had Chelsea blue blood that never thinned despite suffering through their music hall joke days.

The book is about much more than the Chelsea rollercoaster seasons. John writes about the colorful characters who used to populate football before it became sanitized, and captures an era that was a mixture of eccentricity and innocence.

There is a memorable description of how a girlfriend was breaking up with him in a café in Paris while he was trying to catch glimpses on a flickering black and white TV screen of a 17-year-old Pelé making his World Cup debut against Wales in Sweden.

That was when you could sit calmly in a Paris restaurant without fear of being shot.

There was only one John Moynihan. I strongly recommend you get to know him in his masterpiece The Soccer Syndrome, published in a £9.99 paperback by Floodlit Dreams (

And then you can cross to my website ( and buy my 100th book, Headlines Deadlines All My Life, but – hands up – ­ it’s not in the class of the Moynihan book.

Syndrome jacket


As La Marseillaise – swollen with English voices – rang around Wembley on Tuesday evening I wanted to reach out and hug every one of the 71,000+ spectators, players, journalists and broadcasters who kept the show on the road, while the easiest thing would have been to call the whole thing off.

When the sickening reports were flooding in of the atrocities in Paris I wanted to throw in the towel, and I argued that the international against France should be cancelled and the drawbridge pulled up.

This gutless old git was wrong, and all those who defiantly went to Wembley were the big winners of the night. France understandably played with their minds still paralysed by the appalling events in their capital, but by going through with the fixture they had the greatest victory of their lives.

You could warm your hands on the emotion emanating from the spectators, who had to show character and courage to attend the match in what was a climate of fear. Who knows where the next bombs will go off and bullets fired in what is escalating towards all-out war, so the trip to Wembley was a challenge that I would happily have avoided.

What happened on the pitch was nowhere near as important as the fact that they managed to get the game played, but I will admit to jumping out of my seat when Delle Alli scored with his thunderbolt shot.

You just might know that I have Tottenham leanings, and am aware that Alli is the real deal – along with Harry Kane and Eric Dier, the grandson of the late Football Association powerhouse Ted Croker and a midfield anchorman of thoroughbred quality.

At White Hart Lane we are having bets as to how long it will be before Real Madrid come calling for Alli, Kane and/or Dier. They have recently persuaded Gareth Bale and Luka Modric to join them with offers too good to refuse.

But bright manager Mauricio Pochettino will not want his young squad broken up as Spurs prepare to build a new tomorrow’s world £450m stadium, with a revolving pitch that will allow for an NFL franchise.

Take it from me, Pochettino’s Pups are a couple of seasons off becoming a dominating force in the Premier League.

Unless, of course, the Real Madrid target becomes head honcho Pochettino himself.

Watch this space.