From the Jaws of Victory - Contributors, Part 2

We're beyond excited to announce the launch of 'From the Jaws of Victory', our new book about football's glorious nearly men.

You'll be able to get it on pre-order from this site from 2 November, at a pinch of a price (£8.99), with the full beans launch in a couple of weeks.

This book wouldn't be what it is without the phenomenal team of writers that have contributed to it - and before our pre-order period we'll be listing them here so you can get a taste of what's on offer. Here's Part 2!


Stuart Fuller - West Ham United (1985-86)

"West Ham manager John Lyall had been in charge for nearly a decade and his zenith had been and gone. After the FA Cup win against Arsenal in 1980 and then building on that team to waltz through the 1980-81 Second Division, taking Liverpool to a replay in the League Cup final and reaching the quarter-finals of the European Cup-Winners Cup, the club hadn’t invested in the squad and the good times had departed E13. Even the mild-mannered Trevor Brooking had had enough by the end of 1983-84 season and retired. It wasn’t the hope that killed me, it was the crushing reality that I’d seen West Ham’s golden period before I reached puberty. 

"But then came the summer of 1985, when I fell in love with a blonde and a brunette, and never felt as happy in my life."

Daniel Storey - Nottingham Forest (1990-91)

"The FA Cup was the one domestic trophy that Clough never lifted and so desperately wanted to win. Until 1988, he had never even reached the semi-finals, an odd flaw on his CV given the prodigious cup record in his first half-decade at the City Ground. For six straight seasons from 1981, Forest never progressed beyond the fifth round of either domestic cup competition. 

"But in 1988, Forest began to re-emerge as a cup team. They won consecutive League Cups in 1989 and 1990 and the Full Members’ Cup too. They reached the FA Cup semi-finals in 1988 and 1989, losing to old rivals Liverpool both times, the second an incredibly emotional affair at Old Trafford three weeks after the Hillsborough disaster. Finishing third in the First Division in both seasons, Clough had somehow manufactured a second era of Nottingham Forest wonder after several years of comparative mid-table mediocrity. The final dream came into focus: prepare to chalk off that last remaining domestic honour at Wembley."

Richard Hall - Yugoslavia (1992-94)

"But events outwith their control were overtaking Osim’s men. In June 1991, Slovenia and Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia. As a consequence, the team completed qualification without Slovenian Katanec, and Croats Prosinečki, Boban, Jarni and Šuker. They would never play for Yugoslavia again. 

"Three clean sheets and 11 goals in their last three matches saw Osim’s depleted team top the group, with Darko Pančev outscoring the rest of Europe with ten goals in qualification and the Danes booking their summer holiday on the beach. Or so they thought."

John Brewin - Manchester United (1993-98)

"At a time when European football was, as Ian Rush once had it, “like a foreign country”, with only Channel 4’s Serie A coverage and issues of World Soccer providing much of a window to anyone who did not have a satellite dish, the newly-forged Champions League was saturated with glamour and difficulty. Attending European nights at Old Trafford, where the crowd stood all the way through matches — very much against the advice of Trafford Borough Council — and watching players like Romario, Zinedine Zidane and Alessandro Del Piero skate across the turf remained exotic and other-worldly."

Emanuel Roșu - Romania (1994)

"Historically, Romanians had been waiting for the USA to help set the country free ever since the communists came to power after World War II. There was the hope of freedom every time a ‘suspicious’ plane was seen flying over the cities of Romania. Every army plane could have been an American one, part of an armed operation to take the communists out. The Americans were eagerly awaited in Romania for 45 years, but they never came. Instead, a bloody revolution that officially cut short the lives of 1,104 people was what changed history. But although America never came to the rescue, Romania didn’t stop dreaming about it."

Daniel Gray - Newcastle United (1995-96)

"In one of those combinations that could only happen during the Premier League’s mid-1990s sweet spot of homespun heart and continental innovation, Paul Wilkinson, Nick Barmby and Juninho had Newcastle pinned back. Then Tino rose from the dugout and sauntered up and down the touchline a few times, in a bench coat the size of a factory chimney. The black and white thousands in the away end roared once as he ran, and again when Keegan invited him to remove his abundant jacket.

"In the 67th minute, Asprilla made the sign of the cross with a gloved hand and entered the bitter fray. Geordies hollered their delight. Teessiders jeered nervously and sang for Juninho. It was an unlikely setting for such Latin American rivalry."

Michael Gibbons - England (1996)

"It was a long old haul. With no qualifiers to contest, England ploughed through over two years of friendlies, mostly at a deserted Wembley Stadium against opposition with little more ambition than expending as little energy as possible to secure a stalemate. Venables workshopped a variety of formations and trawled the Premier League for players to suit what he needed. Forty-seven players were used in 18 internationals, 27 of them debutants. Results were in binary combinations, and one of the rare forays away from Wembley was a disaster; England’s match with the Republic of Ireland in February 1995 was abandoned after 27 minutes when the neo-Nazi group, Combat 18, rioted, ripping up parts of the Lansdowne Road stadium and using them as projectiles aimed at the Irish fans. It was a stomach-churning sight. Had it not happened so close to Euro ‘96, it may have seen the tournament taken off England."

Giancarlo Rinaldi - Fiorentina (1998-99)

"I think I bought a book that year as well, a history of the club, written by a local priest. Its title really should have warned me to pick another team but I was in too deep by then. It dubbed Fiorentina the ‘joy and despair’ of its followers — there was a lot more of the latter than the former in its pages, though.

It would be the 1998-99 season that would really deliver both of those in spades. A bittersweet cavalcade of emotions that, to this day, still makes me both smile and almost weep in nostalgic reminiscence. There was something so special within touching distance, that you could almost feel the significance grow with every passing week. Even the most cynical tifoso began to believe that the lengthy wait for the Scudetto — as the Serie A crown is known — might be ending.

You can check out more of our brilliant contributors (and us) in Part 1. Part 3 is coming soon.

In the meantime, if you want to know any more, drop us a tweet @magicspongers (long story). We'd love to hear from you.

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