Anything But Balls: The Football Book History Forgot

Dan O’Mahony remembers the iconic Irish football publication, Anything But Balls.

Anything But Balls is a football book from the 90s…. actually it’s a fairly insubstantial publication that might be better described as a booklet and most copies would have ended up in landfill years ago.

However, we at Pundit Arena have gotten our mitts on one of the few remaining examples and couldn’t resist the temptation to take a nostalgic look at the musings of many the now retired footballers featured. It’s the type of thing that costs a tenner and tends to be given by a kid to a football loving Dad on Christmas day in exchange for a 300 quid games console going the other direction.

Sadly history has forgotten the tome, even a Google search doesn’t yield any reference to it.  There was a worthy cause in it all though, the proceeds went to the charity, The Marie Keating Foundation. George Michael wrote the blurb on the back, an ironic choice for a book entitled ‘Anything but Balls’.

It came out back in 1999, a time when constant exhortations to drink Amstel beer in a cancer charity publication would not have seemed as out of place as today.

The format of the book is a series of questions asked to a collection of football players. Having a look through there were some interesting responses.

Ten questions were put to every player, a few serious ones like ‘What do you feel about the introduction of video evidence?’  and a few that gave a bit of scope to take the piss such as ‘Who would you most like to have an Amstel beer with in the hot tub with you after a big match?’

The latter question elicited varied responses; the standard ones were the pin up girls of the day such as Page 3 girl Melinda Messenger, supermodel Tyra Banks, and  Melanie Sykes whose bikini clad appearances in Boddingtons beer commercials in the 90s were a glimpse of heaven for all of us old enough to remember.

This question had some baffling responses too however, Johnny Giles opted for Jack Nicklaus…clearly indicating that the homoerotic worshiping from Eamon Dunphy has some basis. 70’s hell raising Arsenal player Charlie George wanted to share the hot tub with his ex wife; therapy needed urgently.

Rory Delap considered winning the illustrious Auto-Windscreen Shield as hi s’most memorable professional moment’, an astonishing achievement in itself.

Every boy grows up dreaming of winning the Auto-Windscreen Shield.


Alex Ferguson’s responses made him out to be the dour puritanical Scot he actually is, he answered the racy questions like who to share the hot tub with or is scoring a goal better than sex with a terse “no comment”. Question 6 was ‘Do you have an alternative career plan for the day you retire from professional football?’ Fergie said he wanted to remain in the game as long as possible, a wish that was spectacularly realised to the horror of  Manchester United’s opponents.

His reign of terror was to continue for a further 12 years, to the ripe old age of 71. The sage’s answer to the video evidence conundrum drew a cryptic reply  that technology would be difficult to employ during winter. Any ideas on this one?

Roy Keane also features, when the issue of video evidence was put to him he said it wasn’t needed and that things usually even themselves out over the course of a season. Maybe it’s  just us but we can’t recall the Irishman accepting adverse referring decisions with such equanimity in his playing days.

Keane ‘s view on refereeing decisions may have changed in recent times.


Another Irish legend Damien Duff gave somewhat anodyne replies but the then youngster was searingly honest when asked would he dive in the last minute of a cup final to win a cup final. His reply was an emphatic yes foretelling the incident a few years later when the flying winger produced a spectacular dive to win a penalty for the Ireland in their 2002 World Cup second round clash with Spain.

Regrettably, his theatrics were in vain as the spot kick was fluffed by Ian Harte.

The final question was a cheeky “Do you agree with Ian Wright’s quote that scoring a goal was better than sex?”, the general consensus was that the Arsenal legend’s prowess in the bedroom must be lacking to come up with a statement like that.

Marco Tardelli wasn’t asked in this publication but he would surely answer yes, his insane celebration in the 1982 World Cup final betrayed an off the scale ecstasy that couldn’t be replicated in any sexual encounter, perhaps apart from one involving Melanie Sykes.

Kenny Cunningham, for some reason, was quick to outline the consistencies between his lack of action in front of the goal and his lack of action in the bedroom. His admission that a bodhrán was the craziest thing he bought may explain the latter.

Poor ol’ Kenny!


Stay tuned to Pundit Arena, as we will be releasing our top ten favourite responses from ‘Anything But Balls’ during the week.

Dan O’Mahony, Pundit Arena.


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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.