For Whom the Ball Rolls

ballrolls(Orion, 2003)

The ex-pro sitting in front of the TV, interminably replaying the last moment of his career; the political activist who’s struggling to concentrate on a political seminar because he knows a vital international match is being shown in the bar; the failed, alcoholic actor who reflects on life from inside the club mascot; the quiet left-back who never speaks to any of his team-mates …

Ian Plenderleith gets inside the heads of all his characters in this wonderfully eclectic collection of stories with football as their base, though not necessarily their theme. Beyond that are a handful of non-football stories to prove that life does exist away from the sporting turf, touching on subjects such as the loneliness of mail-order brides and deranged central European traffic police.

Reviews
Read full review from The Sunday Times here

“A fascinating collection of stories… a must for all those who love football and love reading.” Liverpool Echo, 30/8/03

“Delicious black comedy ideal not just for football fanatics, but anyone with a wry sense of humour.” Western Mail Magazine, 20/9/03

“ANOTHER collection celebrating the beautiful game, but this time fiction, with a few non-football related stories to prove that Plenderleith can craft an entertaining, offbeat little tale. He understands both the necessities of the short story idiom and the equal demands of football worship. The result? Stories that bring out the passion, fears, hopes and failures of his characters, football fans or not. A failed actor plumbs the depths as Topsy the toucan, a football mascot. A pushy father becomes unhinged at a son¹s football match. A business entertainer has to choose between his career and football. Perfectly dippable, it’s the ideal accompaniment to the late summer and cunningly timed for the kick-off of the new season.”
The Scotsman, 23/8/03

‘”His love of the game comes through in this collection of short stories. A collection of characters and stories that have humour, tenderness and situations that everyone has experienced.”
Burton Mail, 23/8/03

“Football journalist Plenderleith obviously knows his stuff. This is a little more than your average lad fiction.”
South Wales Echo, 9/8/03

“Written with flair and substance. If you’re anticipating Roy of the Rovers from start to finish, this is not for you. It is, however, well written and has wide appeal.”
Shoot Monthly

“The football stories contained here are funny and poignant but Plenderleith has enough about him to entertain when the action strays away from the field of play.” Glasgow Herald

“Ian Plenderleith’s excellent short stories follow a similar pattern – he concocts a great punchline and spins a web of circumstances that allow him to deliver itŠ These are well-crafted tales from a writer with a good grasp of the dynamics of the short story and a firm grip on the reality (and surreality) of what it means to be a football fan.” Total Football (UK national soccer monthly)

“Plenderleith injects genuine pathos into his tales… Recommended.” FHM

“Reviewing football books is a double-edged sword. As you wade through page after page of dull-as-dishwater tomes explaining in excruciating detail that football is now heavily influenced by money and football/violence books in which ugly blokes with beer bellies tell you that they’re very, very hard, the only thing to keep you awake is the knowledge that there are books like For Whom The Ball Rolls out there. Books written by people who love football.

“Although this book is an entirely fictional collection of short stories, it manages to capture precisely what the game means to so many people in a way that no in depth academic study of footy, no matter how well meaning, ever will. Nice.” Football365.com (international soccer website)

“Grimly funny” The Observer

“For Whom the Ball Rolls is a superb volume of mainly football related stories from WSC regular Ian Plenderleith in which the author looks behind almost every emotion connected with the game and delivers a wonderful collection of tales that will set new standards in football fiction.

“From the semi-autobiographical tale of childhood in ‘Save of the Day’ to ‘The man in the Mascot’, the story of a failed alcoholic actor, Plenderleith gets into the psyche of all his characters and gives each story a poignancy and sharpness previously lacking in many that have tackled this genreŠ in fact it is the varied nature of these tales that makes the book so readable. Ranging from bittersweet to sidesplitting, there seems no emotion has been unturned by Plenderleith as he casts his eye over football’s incongruous as well as euphoric nature.

“I really can’t praise this book highly enough, it’s as eloquent a footie book as you’d find anywhere. Intelligent, thoughtful and praiseworthy in the extreme, go out and buy this book now.

“In a word …………Brilliant! ” Footie51 (UK-based independent soccer website)

“This breezy collection of short stories offers critical and sympathetic celebrations of the game¹s little people ­ the eccentrics, the small-town dreamers, the losers and loners, the frustrated idealists and the plain mad. In short, the sort of people who, it might uncharitably be said, read magazines such as this one…

“Plenderleith has a good sense of the absurd and knows how to spring the odd surprise. There is darkness, pathos and a pleasing lack of sentimentality. There is more than enough here to entertain discerning fans of the game and, for that matter, many who can¹t stand it. Real storybook stuff, as they say. Or perhaps not, thankfully.” When Saturday Comes (UK national soccer monthly)

“In this collection of short stories football is a mere springboard in a study of some wonderfully weird lives.” Four Four Two (UK national soccer monthly)