Updated: Dec 30, 2022
As 2022 wraps up, we have taken a look at some of the best soccer books from the year and picked out five of our best. Although some of these books are not ‘coaching books’ per say, they do provide perspectives and insights from different cultures and times that can benefit coaches working at every level of the game. We recommend that you check out the books below and we also appreciate all the support to Modern Soccer Coach throughout the year.
The Immortals - The Season My Milan Team Re-Invented Football
Although I was a massive fan of Arrigo Sacchi’s AC Milan team growing up, and his 4-4-2 Coaching DVD when I was learning to be a coach, I didn’t know much of the story behind Sacchi himself. I really enjoyed learning about the background of the great Italian coach, particularly how his father’s shoe selling business helped shape his coaching philosophy around “hard work and quality”. Those two words: quality and hard work were highlighted on road trips with his father, selling shoes in different countries. There is so much talk about philosophies in coaching today, but Sacchi was clear and consistent with his from the very start. “I believe that, to reach important goals, the necessary ingredients are dreams, a little bit of madness and above all lots and lots of hard work” Sacchi said in the early chapters with an emphasis of thinking outside the box and working extremely hard, evident throughout his coaching career. This book also has interesting perspectives about the resistance to Sacchi’s ideas from some of the AC Milan players, most notably from Marco Van Basten, and how Sacchi dealt with that side of management. Tactically there’s also quite a bit to unpack in the book as well with insights around individual game plans in European competition, showing that his levels of scouting and attention to detail were always there. There’s also a great line about how Maradona once said to Sacchi, “Even Ancelotti is fast with you,” before the legendary manager responded, “He’s not fast, he gets there first.” Sacchi also addresses the element of stress in the world of coaching, acknowledging that it helped him grow and develop, but also eventually removing the joy in the game. An enjoyable read and what makes Sacchi so special in this book, in my opinion, is that it could be written about a modern day manager. Psychology, science, tactical analysis, and a clear vision and identity: Arrigo Sacchi was so far ahead of his time. Click here to order your copy.
Pat Nevin - The Accidental Footballer
When I was growing up watching the game, Pat Nevin was one of the top wingers in the old English First Division for Everton and I always remember how much I enjoyed watching him play, even when he played against the team I supported. Today, I’ve also become a big fan of his writing so was keen to read this book and get his take on his journey and experiences in the game. Pat Nevin’s story is such a different one. Despite his talent and skill, he was considered somewhat of an outsider in the 1980s professional football world, largely because of his love of music and the arts. But when his journey develops, you begin to understand that it’s perhaps his personality that set him apart to be different, and that he was also ahead of his time with his thinking and behavior. In a society that was far from flexible, Nevin was more than open to people who were different. He was compassionate and supportive of players who were socially not accepted and stood up for black players who were abused by his own fans. As the book develops, you find yourself continuing to warm to Nevin as a person, but at the same time, you cannot imagine him embracing today’s world of branding and marketing machines. As his career continues to grow, he becomes even more confident in his views and critical of the traditional environments in which footballers were operating in. This book is a refreshing take on how a love of the game and a passion for people can still be the main thing in a professional career. Click here to order your copy.
Peter Crouch - How to Be an Ex-Footballer
Normally the title of this book wouldn’t quite draw me in, but it got really good reviews and I am a big fan of Peter Crouch’s podcast, so I decided to give it a go and was really glad that I did. It was the first chapter that really got me hooked and one that I would recommend to every single coach. The book is based upon different avenues that Premier League players can venture into once they finish playing, but the first chapter named ‘Managers’ is an insight into how players view the profession of coaching and the education around it. The first sentence: “Are footballers pleasant people? In the main, yes. But there is one thing you need to understand about each and every one: in a footballing environment, we will be ruthless.” Crouch always comes across so well in his interviews, but he admits to being difficult to managers at times and, more impressively, is refreshingly honest in how he struggled doing his coaching badges. Crouch’s perspective on how an experienced changing room deals with new ideas and different methods gives you an appreciation of just how difficult it is for a Premier League manager to impact change in these highly pressurized environments. In addition to the coaching perspective, Crouch shares different pathways that ex-players have taken and again provides fascinating insights around the personalities of teammates that he has worked with at the highest levels and their impact on team dynamics. Click here to order your copy.
Pepijn Lijnders: Intensity
From a personal point of view, I love what this book stands for just as much as what’s in it. When a coach who is working at the cutting edge is willing to share ideas and the processes around those daily decisions, it not only inspires thought but also teaches about sending the elevator back down for the next generation of coaches. Jurgen Klopp amplifies that sentiment in the Foreword of the book. “I’ve no idea if there is anything such as football socialism, but if there is then Pep is at the forefront of that ideology. He believes that by sharing ideas and experiences with each other, we enrich the game we love and make the experience of watching and supporting even more fulfilling.” Even his coaching role models are fascinating. In Sacchi, Cruyff, Coerver and Wooden, he covers structure, freedon, individual skill development and servant leadership. Both Klopp and Lijnders maintain that there are no secrets in how they work at Liverpool, but as the book unfolds, the passion and willingness to develop and evolve quickly stand out as the competitive advantage that they have tried to build. "Training is the transfer to the game" is the Liverpool mantra that jumps out immediately and the attention to detail within the environment is a fantastic takeaway throughout. This book is an outstanding insight into one of the most impressive environments in recent years. Click here to order your copy.
Martin O’Neill: On Days Like These
This is certainly a biased viewpoint given his background from Northern Ireland and the fact that I had the recent privilege of interviewing O’Neill during the lockdown. In both the interview and in this book, O’Neill continues to prove people wrong in how the modern game perceives his type of management. He is often portrayed as old-school in terms of tactics and approach to science, but when you read about his approach to people and towards the psychology side of the game, he was arguably light years ahead of his time. In the early chapters, O’Neill’s relationship with Brian Clough continues to fascinate many people, including myself, with the story about how he left Forest for Norwich City, capturing the reader's attention in this book. In standing up to Clough, O’Neill accelerated his departure from the European champions, but definitely earned the respect of his manager, gaining him a future coaching recommendation and a pipeline into players. Managing upwards is another fascinating aspect of this book with O'Neill's relationships with the leadership at Leicester City, Sunderland, and Aston Villa, all described with a great deal of honesty, humility, and wit, throughout. Similar to Peter Crouch and Arrigo Sacchi's book, this is another inside into how tough management is and how a little bit of luck or timing in your favor can change people's lives and careers. You can order your copy here.
NEW MODERN SOCCER COACH BOOKS IN 2022!!!
If you are still on the lookout for coaching books, below are the new releases from Modern Soccer Coach in the past twelve months.
MSC: Detail offers a unique insight into the many levels of depth and perspective that currently exist for coaches of the beautiful game. With almost 2 million listens to the Modern Soccer Coach Podcast, Gary has spent four years talking to some of the biggest and brightest names in the sport. At the same time, he's been working at the professional level and pursuing his own coaching journey. This book takes the life of a coach and goes deeper to question certain facets and separate theory from practice. From development to results and family to career advice, this book has everything for a coach who wants to explore coaching much deeper than sessions and games. In a tough profession, Gary delivers coaches with perspective that can help them navigate through the tough times and enjoy the good times. Click here to get your copy.
The MSC 20 Attacking Training Sessions ebook is designed to help coaches connect the dots between philosophy, tactical flexibility and session design. The book contains twenty full session plans that are broken down into three phases: build-up, midfield progression, and goal-scoring. Each session will contain three exercises so there are 60 exercises overall! These sessions are designed to help bring out intensity, tactical understanding and game-like situations, that are enjoyable for both players and staff. Click here to get your copy.
MSC 20 Scanning Exercises: Are you looking to help improve your players' vision and awareness on the pitch? With more research and information surrounding the game than ever before, there is no doubt that the connection between scanning ability and elite performance has become a strong one in the modern game. This eBook provides ideas and inspiration for coaches that can challenge and help players of all abilities in this specific area of the game. The twenty exercises include a variety of warm-up exercises, rondo drills, and small-sided games that put decision making and awareness at the forefront. In addition to the eBook, coaches will also be provided with 20 short video animations that break down each exercise in terms of organization and structure. Click here to order your copy.