Sporting Book Reviews: No.1

October 18, 2019

The first of a series of (short!) reviews of sporting-fiction; today we look at the third of the Flashman Papers – and the cricketing-based genius of “Flashman’s Lady”!

Theoretically, this is typical “Flashy Fare”, with our (anti?) hero fighting his way past Borneo pirates, and eventually escaping the clutches of the evil Malagasy Queen Ranavalona – though Mrs Flashman does get to play more than her usual bit-part. However, the story is started by Flashman’s devilish fast-bowling, whilst representing a team skippered by Tom Brown, and taking the world’s earliest recorded hat-trick (and dismissing three of English cricket’s finest); this leads to a potential betting scandal on the back of a two-wicket one-a-side match played in the garden of a country house (surely Sky Sports Cricket channel could do something with that format? Or the ECB could use it as the pre-cursor to some 100 ball matches next year) – fictional cricket at its’ finest!

For this, and more cricketing fiction (and a raft of other cricket titles) head over to Cricket Books  – it makes ideal holiday reading!


Sporting Predictions for 2019

January 9, 2019

At this time of the year, there are many folk offering thoughts as to what will happen in the coming twelve months. And, with 2019 being packed full of sporting excitement, The Racketeer thought it only sensible to add his predictions into the mix; but avoiding politics, business and the like – and focusing on sport (which is surely more important than anything else. So, here goes, with some selections across a range of sports:

Athletics: an easy one to start with, and a host of Ethiopians and Kenyans to win middle / long-distance golds at the World Championships (surely not!), with Dina Asher-Smith surprising a few people outside the UK to win gold at the 100m

Cricket: England to win the Ashes against an Australian side containing a couple of controversial picks; but not to win the World Cup, despite their ranking …… and India to pip them in the final

Cycling: Chris Froome to make it 5 Tour de France titles, while his SKY team-mate Geraint Thomas makes it onto the podium in Paris (and wins another Grand Tour title elsewhere); on the track Laura Kenny to be streets ahead of her rivals, in a multitude of events

Football: Liverpool to finally end their barren streak and win the Premier League; Rangers to break the Celtic stranglehold in Scotland; no-one to care about the Nation’s Cup – unless England win it; and the French ladies to follow in the footsteps of their male counterparts and win the World Cup

Golf: Tiger Woods to not win a major for another year; Tommy Fleetwood to outshine the other half of the “Moliwood” partnership, and win a major; and a Solheim Cup victory for Europe

Tennis: Serena Williams to get a Nobel Peace Prize nomination (just checking to see how many people have read this far down ……); Rafa Nadal to be unbeatable on clay, and not be fit enough to play on any other surface; and Andy Murray to retire from competitive singles

Rugby Union: Whilst Ireland have a great chance in the World Cup, I can’t see them beating the All Blacks; however, when it comes to the Six Nations, it’s the Irish to win, and Italy to claim the Wooden Spoon (again!) to add to their kitchen collection; in England, it will be the Exeter Chiefs winning the league, and Newcastle Falcons falling through the trap-door

More thoughts and predictions throughout the year!

The Racketeer


Sporting Summer Predictions

June 12, 2018

On a quiet Tuesday morning, what could be better than mulling over the impending sporting events of an English summer? And, as a man who thinks he knows his sporting onions from his asparagus, The Racketeer is prepared to stand up and be counted – and throw a few sporting predictions into the interweb ether, to be commented on / laughed at!

Cricket – having failed to beat the might of Scotland at the weekend, surely Australia and India will prove too much for an England team whose batting is weaker than a thrice-used teabag. Prediction: a summer of nearly / not quite / what could have been …… and a succession of new England batsmen attempting to nail-down a permanent place in the team

Football – another World Cup surely means another summer of disappointment, much like the owner of a hotel on the Dover beachside. Prediction: England to make it out of their group (just), and then lose to a footballing giant like Iceland …….

Rugby – fortunately England are playing a weak and inexperienced Springbok side, who are forced to tweak selection to meet colour quotas, or we might have lost the first test …… however, at least the team played really well for 20 minutes (of an 80-minute contest), have a bank of excuses for use at the next World Cup, and are great at taking Instagram photos with players from the team they have just lost to. Prediction: The players finally realise that they are playing for their country / the chance of a trip to Japan, and win the series 2-1 #heartoverhead

Cycling – finally, a sport where we have had some “English” success; though Chris Froome (winner of the Giro d’Italia) was brought up in Africa, and Geraint Thomas (winner of the Criterium de Dauphine) is as Welsh as Owain Glendower and Tom Jones. Prediction: A Tour de France win!

Tennis – with Andy Murray still injured, chances of British interest in week two of Wimbledon (in the singles at least) appear slim; however, Kyle Edmund and Jo Konta may just surprise us! Prediction: Some early wins against clay-court loving South Americans, and one surprising run to the quarter finals ……

The Home and Away Kit …..

January 12, 2017

I was flicking through an old Rothmans Football Yearbook the other Sunday (after all a man has to do something between the various football-related programmes on offer …..), when I started to realise just how simple kit colours were back in the 1970s; there was no need for a third kit – as each team only has to be different from one other team on the pitch, and the two kit choices on offer seemed to fall into a few distinct categories.

Red shirts were worn at home, and white for away fixtures by the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United, Nottingham Forest, Bristol City, Charlton Athletic, Swindon, Aberdeen; it was a blue home shirt for Everton, Chelsea, Leicester City, Ipswich Town, Rangers  and white away shirt; West Ham, Burnley and Aston Villa wore claret and blue at home and white when away; a number of teams even wore white at home – Derby, Leeds, Spurs; and, finally, there were some traditional ‘wild cards’ (canary yellow, dark green, blue and white checks, green and white hoops, a blue and red diagonal sash …..).

In all cases, if there was no clash between the kits of the two sides, they wore their traditional home shirt! Clubs made money selling tickets (and maybe the odd pie, programme and a cup of Bovril at half-time) and supporters wore scarves in their club colours, adorned with badges – leaving the players to wear the shirts …… there were no marketing departments, insisting that charcoal grey or fluorescent yellow, or black was this season’s “must have” choice of kit for the Johnson’s Paint Trophy, or pre-season trip to the Far East ….. and the aggregate total for shirt numbers for a team only surpassed 66 if the (one) substitute came on.

I am sure that the financially astute reader is now shaking their head, and telling me that times have changed, and that clubs need these new shirts to sell to supporters every year; to raise much-needed funds to pay spiralling wages, and support teams of doctors and statisticians and fitness advisors, and build new stands to house more supporters ….. but, if they were to stop changing managers every twenty minutes or so (thus saving the £4-5 million payoff which each change seems to bring), then maybe we could return to the halcyon days of home and away kits – and only the stewards and Police in fluorescent yellow!

The Racketeer

Quality Sporting Memorabilia

The Racketeer Review: Number 2

November 19, 2016

The Sporting Landscape: Changes to the New World Order

The past months have seen dramatic changes to the natural order of life as we know it – and I’m not talking about trivial events regarding the EU or US presidential elections! Instead we’ve seen:

In tennis, Andy Murray tops the world rankings, while we also have Johanna Konta in the world’s top ten – though in the Davis Cup, it would appear that a certain Scot prevented our defence of the trophy …..

England beat Scotland at Wembley, without any subsequent need to relay the pitch, or buy a new set of goalposts!

As British & Irish Lions fever takes hold, the Irish managed to break a 111 year losing run against the All Blacks (maybe they should play all their matches in Chicago), whilst England managed to halt a run of twelve matches without a win against the Springboks.

The England cricket team manage to find an opening batsman who can play a bit, AND appears to look younger than Joe Root!

Six days (or evenings) of cycling in London, with Sir Wiggins and Mark Cavendish whizzing around in a variety of disciplines

Christmas Presents: A Helping Hand!

In the run-up to the Christmas period, a variety of new titles and products have been added to categories across the site. Maybe the following could help in the search for those “difficult to buy for” relatives:

Lawn Tennis

Racket Sports




Other Sports

  • A fabulous souvenir album from the 1936 Munich Olympics, and a badge / shield produced for Welsh athletes competing at the 1976 Montreal Games
  • Stephen Potter’s “The Art of Gamesmanship”; which reminds me of the classic Terry Thomas performance in “School for Scoundrels”! They don’t make films like that any more …..

And Finally …….

I’m not sure about this “Black Friday” thing ….. surely “All Black Saturday” is much more important? Can the Irish win twice in a row? Or will a star-studded All Black second row make all the difference this time around?

Please note the absence of reindeer, fir trees, baubles or The Racketeer sat in his armchair in a Christmas jumper (heaven forbid!); this is not humbug, or a lack of festive cheer (after all any day is a brandy day), but merely due to the fact that we are yet to reach the end of November!

The Racketeer may be found via the following means:



(Twitter)         @Theracketeer1

(Instagram)     @theracketeer

The Racketeer Review: Issue 1

August 16, 2016

The Sporting Landscape: Coaching, Winning and ….. Losing

In the current world of sport, do coaches get the credit they deserve for an athlete or team’s outstanding performances? Are we quick to criticise them when things go wrong, yet slow to mention their involvement in victories or providing a “winning edge”?

The past few months have witnessed some coaching highs and lows: Eddie Jones took an England Rugby team from a calamitous home World Cup in October to a Six Nations win and whitewash of Australia a few months later – with most of the team remaining unchanged; Andy Murray won his second Wimbledon title (three years after his last Grand Slam) just after Ivan Lendl re-joined his entourage; at the Olympics #TeamGB continue to dominate in sports where world-class performance programmes work again and again – think rowing and cycling; whilst, at the opposite end of the scale, Roy Hodgson lost his job, temper and multi-million pound salary after a poor performance from the “3 Lions” team at Euro 2016 (I’m presuming that the lions included Snagglepuss and the Pink Panther …..).

So, if we don’t have a lottery-funded budget to pay for coaches, nutritionists and psychologists, what can be done? What about some “self-coaching” with some input from the best coaches of yesteryear? Head to The Racketeer’s tennis book section for wise words from Dan Maskell, “Big” Bill Tilden, CM Jones and others!

New and Topical Items

In the recent weeks and months a variety of new titles and products have been added to the Lawn Tennis, Racket Sports and Cricket sections. They include:

A fabulous souvenir album from the 1936 Munich Olympics, and a badge / shield produced for Welsh athletes competing at the 1976 Montreal Games.

A 1948 French language booklet, which details games including Jeu de Paume and Pelote.

A variety of lawn tennis prints, and press photos from the 1930s and 1950s

Numerous cricket titles, including three WG Grace biographies to mark the great man’s birthday in July


What happens when the Rio Olympics finishes?!? At least it won’t be long to wait before the Premiership Rugby season kicks-off with a Twickenham double-header!

The Racketeer may be found via the following means:

(web)      (email)

(Twitter) @Theracketeer1            (Instagram) @theracketeer

Sporting Workloads

February 24, 2016

The weekend’s FA Cup ties saw yet more comment regarding the “excessive workloads” of the modern-day footballer leading to Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City fielding a team of youngsters and squad players (and an aggregated shirt number total in excess of 500). This lead me to wonder just how these “soccer softies” compared with some of their sporting counter-parts – a quick trawl through the “interweb” allowed a 2015 activity list of:

Wayne Rooney (Man Utd & England)   53 matches

Raheem Sterling (Man City & England)   58 matches

Novak Djokovic (World No. 1 Tennis Player)   88 singles and 12 doubles = 100 matches

Nick Mathew (World No. 3 Squash Player)   46 PSA Tour matches, plus National Champs / League matches

Chris Robshaw (England / Harlequins Rugby Union) 11 England and 13 Harlequins = 24 matches

Alastair Cook (England / Essex Cricket)   14 test matches & some county appearances

Chris Froome (Tour de France winner)   7 races (though Le Tour is 21 days ….)

So just which sportsmen (or women) face the greatest workload? Answers on a postcode to The Racketeer c/o

Sport: the way it used to be

December 24, 2015

MTRC HallwayWhilst technology seems to march ever onward, and the world keeps moving inexorably forwards, there are times when taking a step back is the right thing to do. Not a regressive step mind you, but a brief return to a time when a two hour lunch was at least an hour too short; to a time when tennis was real (not lawn) and rackets was a game (rather than a graphite monstrosity used to impart mammoth amounts of topspin); and to a place with more wood cladding than Sherwood Forest (or a Scandinavian DIY furniture outlet) – and even further north!

I’m, of course talking about the delightful Manchester Tennis & Racquet Club; sadly the Turkish baths are no more, but much else still seems the same as it was when the club was re-built back in the 1870’s. The courts are as fine as the member’s hospitality (and the port cellar ….. hic!), and if you are lucky it might not rain – Hampton Court’s finest even managed a win before heading down the M6 (and M42 / M40 / ……)! To check out all that the club has to offer, they even produced a limited edition history (full of lavish illustrations).

The Racketeer would also like to offer up a brief word of thanks to the delightful staff at the Crowne Plaza near Manchester Airport; no Edwardian splendour there, but lots of excellent customer service and comfortable rooms – and ideally placed near the delightful town of Hale for some post-match fare and replenishment.

Sport & Hostility

November 24, 2015

Why do these terrorists think that they can use sport to further their aims? Do they not realise all the positive connotations linking sport and civilisation?

Sport can unite a nation (as with South Africa’s lifting the Webb Ellis Trophy in 1995), bring together a community or region (Llanelli or Munster defeating the might of the All Blacks), be used to instil courage in times of abject danger (brave Tommies dribbling footballs through no-man’s-land in WWI), improve morale (holding a cricket match during the siege of Ladysmith in the Boer War), or show solidarity against a common enemy (English and French football fans uniting to sing La Marseillaise at Wembley last week).

When will they learn?

A few interesting titles (and maybe even the odd Christmas present or two) may be found at

The Right Choice of Kit

May 11, 2011

Let no-one call The Racketeer an old-fashioned sort of chap. Whilst the demise of the cravatte on the cricket pitch must be lamented, sporting equipment simply has to move with the times. Though breathable fabrics don’t quite look the same as some pristine cotton – at least they don’t double in weight during a day in the field or a five-set tennis match in July (though in the British summer, the chance of breaking into a sweat in July can be less than evens ….).

However, whilst watching an early round from the Foro Italica, I came across the bizarre sight of the American Miss Bethanie Mattek-Sands in full flow: at this point I hasten to say that my concern had nothing to do with her performance, as she hit the ball most crisply. But …. can someone please explain the facepaint, yellow rubber hair band and long black socks? Is it part of some strange sponsorship / PR stunt?

Answers on a postcard to: “Outfits I Shouldn’t Have Worn Competition, PO Box 666, …..”