The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
by Alan Sillitoe
Published in 1959, in the era of the Angry Young Men, Sillitoe's long short story is a first-person portrait of a rebellious borstal boy who refuses literally and metaphorically to play the games of the establishment.
by John Cheever
Cheever's best known story concerns one Neddy Merrill who, in the course of an afternoon, goes from one neighbour's pool to another, drinking when not swimming.
The Thistle and The Grail
by Robin Jenkins
In a small Scottish town - which may be based on Cambuslang, where the author was brought up - the 'holy grail' is to win the Scottish Junior Cup. Grim but compelling stuff.
This Sporting Life
by David Storey
Were there a prize for a great rugby league novel, Storey's would wipe the floor. Its rugged hero is Arthur Machin who, when he's not being a human battering ram, becomes emotionally involved with his landlady.
Three Men on the Bummel
by Jerome K. Jerome
The same three men who rowed down the Thames take to their bikes for a tour of Germany. Humour as we once knew it.
The Golden Bat and Other School Stories
by PG Wodehouse
If cricket has a laureate who else could it be but PG Wodehouse? At school he was a medium-fast bowler and remained addicted to the game. The immortal Jeeves took his name from Percy Jeeves, a Warwickshire bowler who died in the First World War. In these stories the milieu is that of the public school in the innocent days of fags and faggots toasted at dusk at the fireside. Pure nostalgia.
by Bernard Malamud
Baseball player Roy Hobbs is a natural sportsman, worshipped by fans and sportswriters. Women are another thing, two of whom play fatal roles in his life.
Putting the Boot In
by Dan Kavanagh
Back in the 1980s, Julian Barnes wrote four novels at a lick under the pseudonym Dan Kavanagh, featuring the bisexual sleuth and goalkeeper, Duffy. In this - the third in the series - Duffy investigates the troubled word of England's third division while also troubled by Aids.
by Richard Ford
The first of Ford's wonderful Bascombe novels. Its hero is a magazine sportswriter who can't write a novel. Meanwhile, he's separated from his wife and mourning the death of his child.
They Used To Play On Grass
by Gordon Williams
Is Gordon Williams the most overlooked Scottish novelist of the past half century? He wrote a number of excellent novels, including The Siege of Trencher's Farm, which was filmed as Straw Dogs, and From Scenes Like These, which stands comparison with William McIlvanney's Docherty, which it pre-dated by seven years. In They Used to Play on Grass, written in collaboration with Terry Venables and published in 1971, he looked forward to a time when synthetic pitches had become all the rage. Couldn't happen, could it?