Football writing: Who you need to be reading this season

The False Nine and friends recommend the football writers and blogs you should be reading this season…

Football writing has exploded of late. In amongst all the pre-season  hype, it can be hard to know where to turn and who to read as the noise level increases and the click bait spam swamps social media.

This isn’t some “top 10 football websites” list, or a rundown of the 25 people you have to follow on Twitter. This is an attempt at some digital word of mouth to promote and elevate those writers that deserve it above the deafening distortion of listicles, reaction blogs and what not. If you’re a Twitter person, think of this as a grand, season-long #ff shout out that has broken the 140 character limit and gone wild.

Scroll down, have a look at who we think are worth your time and tell us who you’ll be reading this season in the comments box below.


Greg Johnson (TFN co-editor) – @gregianjohnson

Adam Hurrey (@FootballClichesClick to expand

Football is a game full of daft, stock phrases and recycled, flawed nuggets of flase wisdom. Thankfully, over the last couple of seasons, Adam has taken it upon himself to skewer the most absurd, banal and hilarious examples of the game’s folksy, linguistic excesses via his blog, Football Clichés. However, he doesn’t just thrive at poking fun at words and media-trained interview responses. Even before joining up with Project Babb for the World Cup in the summer, Adam’s Twitter profile was a favourite feed of mine due to the numerous flowcharts, website recreations and retro football graphics parodies. His recent Babb article on the football wikipedia profiles of the future was a piece of pure brilliance, and an ideal entry point for those who have somehow missed out on Football Clichés so far.

Adam Bate (@GhostGoalClick to expand

As ever, Adam will be my first port of all when it comes to analysis of games, teams and tactical quirks this season. Now writing for Sky Sports, his features are always brimming with well thought-out observations on the ideas, formations and tactics at play over the course of a match or a season. Yet while his analysis is often extensive it’s never tiring or boring to read, which is a testament not only to how well he reads the game but also his ability as a writer.

Musa Okwonga (@OkwongaClick to expand

Not only is Musa one of the nicest, most genuine and generous people I’ve ever met, he is a fabulous writer able to bring together cutting-edge analysis, imagination and an expansive grasp of cultural and sporting references to make his articles insightful and fun. As well as being one of ESPN‘s Manchester United experts, he has also recently returned to producing more general football feature writing for the likes of Al Jazeera USA, Monocle and Foreign Policy. Whether he’s reminiscing over Sacchi’s Milan, the beauty and injustices of Brazil 2014, or why Wayne Rooney is football’s answer to Perry from Dawson’s Creek, his take on the game and its surrounding issues is always sure to be a well-anticipated highlight. Musa is also the author of A Cultured Left Foot and Will You Manage? which to my mind are two of the most well-paced and readable football books out there.

Zito Madu (@Phaetonv2Click to expand

Zito writes for SBNation and Betting Instinct amongst other sites and is to my mind the football writing equivalent of that underground music act who you occasionally rage about not being as rich and famous as their obvious talent deserves. He usually covers all things Arsenal and Milan related, but genuinely whatever he’s writing about it’s a pleasure to read his words.
Andi Thomas (@Andi_Thomas) Click to expand
Andi “Andrew” Thomas’ writing is funny, thought-provoking and his prose is always a dream to read. Having made his bones with his own blog Twisted Blood, as well as being involved with FCF and Surreal Football back in their heydays, Andi has now become a regular features writer for SBNation, covering pretty much every aspect of the game. Like so many great minds, he is also a Manchester United fan who follows Dulwich Hamlet as his now local team, but he never lets this bias cloud his work apart from when it’s entertaining or appropriate to do so. Get following if somehow you don’t already and get bookmarking his stuff.
James D

James Dutton (TFN co-editor) – @jrgdutton

Neil Atkinson (@Knox_HarringtonClick to expand

Neil is the host of The Anfield Wrap podcast, a lovely man, and an excellent football writer. His writing style is unconventional and slightly belligerent, yet never is it a waste of time. Few conveyed the sense of being a Liverpool fan as eruditely as Neil last season, whether it be on the airwaves or on the internet.

Football Cliches (@FootballCliches) Click to expand

Adam is one of the best twitter follows you’ll ever make, but now he is so much more than that. Enhanced it seems by the powerful backing of The Telegraph’s Project Babb (Phil?), Football Cliches has upped his game considerably. From imagining future footballers’ wikipedia entries to modern-day Ceefax, he has the imagination to go with the ability to open your eyes to the mundane lexicon of modern football.

Jonathan Liew (@jonathanliewClick to expand

Jonathan is an exceptional writer, analyst and journalist. With a clever turn of phrase and a penchant for the inane, you get the impression that he does not take himself as seriously as perhaps a few of his colleagues at The Telegraph.

Rory Smith (@RorySmithTimesClick to expand

Rory remains my favourite football journalist and that is unlikely to change as the 2014-15 season approaches. Among the first to dis-spell common footballing myths and rail against the increasing takeover of narrative ahead of drama in the media, his ESPN blogs are a treat, while his roving reporter role at The Times has uncovered gems of stories from Gibraltar and elsewhere.

George Caulkin (@CaulkinTheTimesClick to expand

George has perhaps the most onerous of all tasks ahead of the coming season as he continues his pilgrimage in the North East, the most unforgiving job in football journalism. The Times’ Chronicler of Doom has a tough enough task purveying the gloom of Tyne and Wear side, but his Game blogs are frequently a thing of beauty.


Rob Brown (SBNation and The False Nine amongst others) – @robbro7

Assuming that the well-read bods among us will combine to name the obvious names, the well-known best of the best – Andi Thomas, Richard Whittall, the F365 brigade et al – I’m going to focus on a few writers who have really caught my eye over the last year or so. Interestingly – or perhaps completely coincidentally – all are (to the best of my knowledge) American.

Mike L. Goodman (@TheM_L_GClick to expand

First up, Mike, whose work is most commonly found on Grantland. What I am about to say may sound like a rather odd endorsement, given that football is a sport that markets itself as a game of opinions rather than one of facts or irrefutable well-reasoned arguments, but the thing that I like about Goodman’s analysis, the single defining characteristic that ensures that I make time to read his work, is that he’s always right. I can’t recall ever reading one of Goodman’s columns and having a problem with his opinion, his reasoning or his conclusion. He sees it as it is and writes it as it was and it’s great.

Michael Caley (@MC_of_A) Click to expand

I also want to recommend Michael, a writer who is, in his own words, “bringing baseball stat nerdiness to football.” Obviously your mileage may vary when it comes to stats geekery but I think the way in which Caley is using Opta data to shed some light on football’s machinations, particularly with his Expected Goals maps, is very interesting. Now writing for the Washington Post’s Sports section, Caley’s columns should go some way to advancing understanding of emerging metrics that remain fairly difficult to interpret.

Kirsten Schlewitz (@KDS_FootballClick to expand

Last but by no means least, Kirsten Schlewitz of SB Nation. Schlewitz writes primarily about Serie A and Napoli but also about general football matters and occasionally about Aston Villa. What I like about her output is that it’s unbelievably regular and of a consistently informative and entertaining standard. As someone who genuinely wants to keep on top of football news across the world, Schlewitz’s weekly Serie A roundups and more detailed writings are an absolute godsend. Her recent exploration of Bosnian nationalism during the World Cup was excellent, too.


Francis Gene-Rowe (The False Nine)

Adam Bate (@GhostGoalClick to expand

Although it has its shortcomings, is a fantastic website and my first port of call for general (rather than club specific) football coverage. Alongside the famed Mediawatch and Mailbox features, f365 boasts a strong roster of writers, including the likes of Matt Stanger (main man), Sarah Winterburn (should write more often), Tim Stannard (see below) and John Nicholson (equally capable of brilliance or clichéd tripe), as well as Andi Thomas and Nick Miller on a more ad hoc basis. This is more of a plug for the site than a specific writer, but I’ve decided to plump for Adam Bate as someone who perhaps less people will be familiar with. Bate has been writing for f365 for several months now, and his contributions stand out as thoughtful and coolly written, eschewing hyperbole for a more studied style. Read the site, and keep an eye open for this man, as there’s plenty more to come.

Anam Hassam (@arseblog) Click to expand

Arseblog is more of an institution than a blog by now, to the extent that I even have some non-Gooner friends who will read it. Main man Andrew Mangan and star columnist Tim Stillman are pretty much household names amongst Arsenal fans, whilst the brilliant stats articles by 7amkickoff have started to receive the attention they merit. However, a relative unknown is tactics specialist Anam Hassam. The arseblog tactics column is a relatively recent addition to the site, and the standard of the analysis is extremely high. Hassam’s understanding of the game – and the level of detail to which he will scrutinise a match – are on a par with the likes of Michael Cox, and in fact I would say that Hassam’s articles on Arsenal tactics are stronger than most zonalmarking pieces, which is saying something! Even if you’re not an Arsenal fan, you’ll have a much clearer idea of what makes the side tick if you read Hassam’s output, the work really is fantastic.

Tim Stannard (@LaLigaLoca), Sid Lowe (@SidLowe), Phil Ball (@PhilBallTweets) Click to expand

Los tres caballeros galantes of La Liga coverage, these three are all excellent writers on all things Spanish football related. The familiarity of Barcelona and Real Madrid leads many fans to assume a grasp of La Liga’s intricacies which they simply do not possess, but the articles of these writers demonstrate just how wildly wacky and distinct Spanish football is. Stannard’s regular f365 column provides cool, considered analysis and is particularly good for clearheaded assessments of players’ quality, both as players in Spain and as potential Premier League imports. Lowe is a top class all-rounder who headlines The Guardian’s La Liga coverage, both adroitly contextualising Iberian footballing news for us Little Englanders and contributing more indepth analysis, whilst Ball is notable both as a Real Sociedad fan and as someone with an intimate knowledge of the Spanish lower leagues and fan culture.

Check them all out!


Joe Devine (The Illustrated Game) – @JoeDevineTIG

The Illustrated Game (@IllustratedGameClick to expand

Is it too brash to choose yourself in a situation like this? Probably, yes. However, I couldn’t justify making a list like this (particularly for a publication at reputable as The False Nine) without being entirely honest with the reader. The Illustrated Game have continued to get better and better since they/we started around 18 months ago. Their/my podcast is possibly the best football podcast ever created, and of course their/our illustrations are some of the best things out there in the art world. Why wouldn’t you follow such a dynamic and excellent source of information and satire? They/I will always remain my first choice.

Offside Sports Photography (@WellOffsideClick to expand

Having had the pleasure of working with these chaps on a World Cup photography exhibition this summer, I’m delighted to say that their new content dude is totally the balls. A twitter feed/blog you may not have heard of before now, but totally worth following. If you’re only following one person this summer – make it The Illustrated Game.

Old Red Lion Pub (@ORLPubClick to expand

What is this list? Some corporate gang-bashing? Are you only going to choose things you’re affiliated with? The Old Red Lion Pub is totally the place to go for football, literally any football. Sky, BT Sports, 3pm games – it’s tha shit. They’re also the home of the famous ‘Comedy Commentary’ and the False Nine Pubcasts! Plus their twitter/facebook feed is HILARIOUS. Yes, it truly is.

Putnielsingoal (@PutNielsInGoalClick to expand

Yes, yes it is a rubbish name – and I know, I also hate football hipsters, BUT this website is generally pretty bearable. Content fluctuates between the super serious (when they get all moral) and the super funny (when they forget about morals). High-brow comedy, not for the stupid people.

Match Pint (@MatchPintClick to expand

This really was just a list of you and your friends, it’s such bullshit. I know right? Ha. But seriously though, Match Pint’s head content honcho Mr Pete Starr is massively funny. So funny in fact, that he’s a key component of the famous ‘Comedy Commentary’. So, if there’s one thing worth following this season, it’s The Illustrated Game.


Ally Moncrieff (All Or Nothing magazine, Betting Expert, Bets Of Mates and more) – @AllOrNothingMag

The internet is a big old place, and a lot of that mass is down to the sheer number of words about football, as with all creative endeavours the quality lurches from the sublime, to the headscratchingly awful, with a stop off at rage inducingly wrong along the way. As you know the lovely folks at the The False Nine have asked a few of us to put together a list of sites and blogs we’ll be following as we try to shake off our World Cup hangovers and embrace the bright new dawn of the coming season. So in the hope that Greg will shout me a pint in payment here is my contribution. In an act of rebellion and a tribute to the cult of freelancing I’ll be throwing in an individual writer or two as well.

SB Nation Click to expand

Anyone still labouring under the impression that Americans don’t ‘get’ football would do well do spend some time on the ‘soccer’ section of this multi-sport site. From analysis to opinion pieces, one thing remains constant on SB Nation, and that is the quality. A superb roster of writing talent is supported by a slick and well presented interface, it’s how websites should be done.

Eurosport Click to expand

Prettier and more intuitive on mobile when compared to the desktop version, but either way some excellent features and an appreciation that it’s okay to laugh at football sometimes.

Regista Blog Click to expand

Having recommended two massive multi national sites I’d like to pay tribute to the other side of football writing, and there are few finer examples of the amatuer blogger (who gets the occasional pay day) than Michael Moruzzi. His site is not updated daily or even weekly but when it is you can rest assured that you will be reading the words of a man with a genuine love for the game, and for some reason, Watford FC.

Bets of Mates Blog Click to expand

A fun way of betting with friends (or strangers who after all are just friends you haven’t met yet) with an excellent line up of writers, including er……….. me.

We’re edging ever closer to two pints worth of content here so I’ll just rattle of a list of twitter links to people whose stuff I make a point of reading – Nick MillerAndrew ThomasAnna-Louise AdamsLaura JonesAlexander NethertonCallum HamiltonPaul Rantcast (I know his real second name but it’s a secret). Of course you already follow everyone involved with The False Nine, don’t you?

The second I submit this I’ll realise I’ve forgotten someone obvious, but such is the nature of things, neither you nor I can alter that my friend. By the way, feel free to ignore everything I’ve just said and just follow me – Ally Moncrieff


Tom Victor (Betting Instinct, Pele Confidential, Stable Floor and others) – @tomvictor

Andi Thomas (@andi_thomas) Click to expand

Equally proficient in longform articles and lighter pieces. I’ve enjoyed reading Andi’s work for years, and SB Nation seems to be providing him with the platform he deserves. The comments sections on his articles are always a treat too.

Jonathan Fadugba (@JFfutbol) Click to expand

Another who has made the leap from independent blogger to regular columnist, Jonathan has a wider knowledge of the game than pretty much anyone I’ve had the pleasure to meet. His Just Football blog has not suffered whatsoever, despite being run in tandem with a full-time role at FourFourTwo.

Alex Stewart (@putnielsingoal) Click to expand

I got into Alex’s writing on the strength of a piece on Vladimir Nabokov’s relationship with football, and that’s a guide to what to expect – generally highbrow topics approached intelligently but not in a way that alienates the reader.

Laura Jones (@YICETOR) Click to expand

Laura’s first-hand account of the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster is one of the best football articles I’ve read in recent years, while her Football’s Fallen project brings together a number of top writers to write sensitively about footballers who have died on the field of play.

Dom Bliss/The Inside Left (@TheInsideLefty) Click to expand

After a relatively quiet spell towards the end of last season, Dom has stepped things up with The Inside Left and there’s sure to be a steady flow of interviews with rising stars and long-forgotten stories that go beyond football.


Rob Pollard (Typical City, Bleacher Report, New Statesman and more) – @RobPollard_

Richard Jolly (@RichJollyClick to expand

If there’s one writer I think is criminally underrated, it’s Richard Jolly. He’s absolutely brilliant. His ability to understand the game is exceptional and he writes beautifully for The Blizzard, ESPN, The Guardian and The National.

Simon Curtis (@bifana_bifana) and Howard Hockin (@howiehok34)
Click to expand

All the City fans probably already know, but Simon Curtis and Howard Hockin are the best City writers out there. Curtis often writes historical pieces, using all his archived newspaper cuttings and pictures to tell the story of the club’s rich past, with sweeping metaphors and poetic language his defining features. Hockin is hilarious. He keeps a check on what journalists and opposition fans are saying about us, and writes brilliant match reports after every game. Love them both and City fans are lucky to have them.

Nick Miller @NickMiller79 Click to expand

I love reading Nick’s stuff. He’s always funny and engaging and brings sensible analysis to issues so many others struggle to make any sense of. He’s also top on Twitter and is well worth following.

Really obvious ones: Daniel Taylor, who appears to be the most well-connected and rational high-profile football journalist in the country, George Caulkin, who writes absolutely wonderfully (that long piece of almost-poetry he did on the eve of the League Cup final was something special), and then Hugh McIlvanney in The Times who’s just ace. 


Tom Pattison (Can They Score?) – @Tommy_CTS

Andy Mitten (@AndyMitten) Click to expand

Definitely my go-to-guy when it comes to the voice of Manchester United fans. He’s been following the club for many years and has many a wise, understated word to share. It was something of a Walter Cronkite moment back in the spring when he questioned whether the end was approaching for David Moyes.

Musa Okwonga (@Okwonga) Click to expand

Like Andy the focus is primarily Manchester United but Musa has such a poetic way with words that his match reaction pieces read more like Pinter than Winter. Reading Musa I always find I have missed an aspect of the game that really deserved more attention.

Darren Richman (@DarrenRichman) Click to expand

A writer after my own heart as Darren regular relates to his personal experiences when reflecting on football. His piece on watching United seal the treble is as good as I have read on a match that has been rehashed so many times. His recent World Cup project has also underlined what a great flare for comedy he has.

Robert Martinez (@ElRob) Click to expand

It would be remiss to refer to humour in football coverage and not mention the magnificent Rob at As we all know blogging is a VERY serious business – especially when it comes to Manchester United – so it is utterly reprehensible that these musings from Trinidad consistently provoke what I believe the youngsters describe as ‘lolling’.

James Horncastle (@JamesHorncastle) Click to expand

And finally a non-United choice… As a youth I fell deeply in love with Calcio. The death of football italia led to this becoming a more long distant relationship yet reading James’ musings packed with rare insight and rye humour has kept the fire burning.


Musa Okwonga (ESPN, Al Jazeera USA, Monocle, New Statesman and more) – @Okwonga

James Horncastle (@jameshorncastle) Click to expand

He is probably my favourite prose stylist in football, which given the competition is as high praise as I can offer. A European football expert, James wrote an excellent essay on Alessandro Del Piero’s departure from Juventus which is as lyrical a piece as I have read. He, Philippe Auclair, Laure James and Andy Brassell are indispensable on European football, but that Del Piero essay means that James gets the nod from me.

Philippa Booth (@Philby1976) Click to expand

Philippa writes mainly about French football, and is a fine tweeter and blogger; it was actually her tweets about Formula One which first made me truly love her work, when she tweeted the name of a dead protester for every lap of the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix, using the race’s official hashtag. Since then, I have found her to be a football writer of great style, social conscience and statistical rigour – a very difficult blend to manage, but she somehow makes it work.

Greg Ian Johnson (@gregianjohnson) and Premier League Owl (@Premleagueowl) Click to expand

A writer who has made the greatest progress – not in terms of quality, that was always there, but in terms of profile – of perhaps any football writer over the last twelve months. (An honourable mention here for @Premleagueowl, whose work is equally accomplished but slightly better established, and so who just misses out in this category. My apologies, Owl, I will make it up with a FollowFriday). I first met Greg when he was working on an a project on the similarities between football, art and music, and was struck by his ability to draw and develop connections between the game’s history and its development. He is probably the first person whom I have befriended purely through the quality of his writing, and I look forward to reading more of it on the various platforms that he has now earned.

James Masters (@Masters_JamesD) Click to expand

I first read James’s work when he was attempting, successfully as it turned out, to help a French footballer win his release from Qatar. It was a story that initially no-one wanted to touch, but James Masters, working then for CNN – one of the more cautious news organisations – pursued it relentlessly, to excellent effect. Since then I have seen him confront some of the other issues from which other writers, perhaps wanting a quieter life, have shied away; and he has always done so with great nuance and greater bravery. (He writes an excellent match report, too.)


Darren Richman (The Telegraph, The Independent and others) – @DarrenRichman

Robert Martinez (@ElRob) Click to expand

Robert joins Brian Lara and Dwight Yorke in the Trinidad and Tobago holy trinity. He’s fiercely intelligent, reads the game perfectly and his blogs are almost always guaranteed to have me loling in the aisles.

Paul Rantcast (@UtdRantcast) Click to expand

Paul Rantcast (née Ansorge) is famed for that rarest of qualities on the Internet; niceness. He is an authority on all things Manchester United and coped manfully with the unenviable task of covering Greece during the World Cup. He’s a lovely man and his podcast is required listening for United fans.

Anam Hassam (@arseblog)and James McNicholas (@gunnerblogClick to expand

Arsenal are fortunate to have two magnificent bloggers amongst their support, @arseblog and @gunnerblog. The latter (James McNicholas) is a terrific actor as well as being an excellent writer whose love of his club does not blind him from objective, intelligent analysis.

Jonathan Liew (@jonathanliewClick to expand

Jonathan is a brilliant, provocative writer who can cover pretty much any sport with ease. He has a blue tick on Twitter but don’t let that put you off following him.

Mehreen Khan (@MehreenKhn) Click to expand

Mehreen is hilarious on any topic and disgustingly young. Despite her brilliance when tackling sport, her true passion is (genuinely) financial journalism. It will be football’s loss if she goes down that route.


Tom McGhee (Twitter’s most infamous plumber) – @tom_mcghee

“I don’t know any. Hope this helps. Actually, I did think of one I like reading but only because I think he’s in the mafia, and I’m hoping to get in Moruzzi innit.”

Follow Michael Moruzzi on Twitter and read his writing at

2 thoughts on “Football writing: Who you need to be reading this season

  1. Surprised Miguel Delaney & Ken Early aren’t mentioned anywhere, lads – two of the best writers out there. Iain MacIntosh is also superb at making you laugh your socks off whilst summing up situations excellently.

    • Completely agree Cian! Miguel and Iain would have been on the subs bench for me if I had one but I thought both were big and well established enough for others to take a starting berth. Forgot about Ken though, which is completely unforgivable. He’s a great writer.

      Thanks for your comment.

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