REVIEW: Coaching Is Chaos, by John Kear and Peter Smith

Few rugby league books can ever have started with quite so much intensity as Coaching Is Chaos.

John Kear’s new autobiography is a trawl through a coaching career that has included two Challenge Cup successes, as well as steering England through their 2000 World Cup campaign.

But life is not just about fairytales.

Chapter One – entitled simply ‘Adam and Leon’ – contains Kear’s memories of the deaths of Wakefield’s Adam Watene and Leon Walker. It is everything you would expect: poignant, upsetting and deeply moving.

“I hope no club ever has to go through a year like it, but the strength of the club and the sport shone through. Throughout all the heartbreak, I was proud to be associated with both.”

Kear has worked with Yorkshire Evening Post writer Peter Smith on producing this book. The result is a well-written, thoughtful autobiography that is both revealing and entertaining.

A fall-out with Kath Hetherington is explained in detail, as is the planning that went into Sheffield’s 1998 Challenge Cup triumph.

Kear and his Eagles team wrote themselves into rugby league folklore that day, but it was nearly very different.

“We travelled to the capital on the Thursday and went out tenpin bowling and then for a Chinese meal in the evening. I had an allergic reaction to something I ate and one stage I was quite seriously poorly… I rang the team doctor, Janet Hornbuckle. Fortunately she had some Piriton, which is an allergy cure, with her. That settled everything down, but at one stage my eyes had swollen up so much they were starting to close and she was on the point of taking me to a hospital… I was convinced I was going to miss the biggest game of my life.”

Kear’s love of rugby league bursts off every page of Coaching Is Chaos, and one of the final chapters includes his thoughts on the future of the sport.

Rugby league has been better for having Kear involved. This cracking read shows exactly why he is so highly thought of.


Coaching Is Chaos, by John Kear and Peter Smith, is available now. ISBN 978-0956804358, published by Scratching Shed Publishing. Buy now and save on the cover price.

NEWS: Lee Crooks reveals the motivation behind his autobiography ‘From Hull to Hell and Back’

From Hull to Hell and back... Lee Crooks' autobiography

From Hull to Hell and back... Lee Crooks' autobiography is released this weekend

Lee Crooks has revealed the motivation behind the release of his autobiography From Hull to Hell and Back.

Former Great Britain, Hull, Leeds and Castleford forward Crooks told Rugby League Books: “It was something that I’ve wanted to do for a while.

“It’s not a money making exercise, but it gives me an opportunity to put down on paper my thoughts, and how I felt over a period of time.

“A lot of people think they know me, but they don’t know me that well. I had some ghosts to put to rest.”

From Hull to Hell and Back is released this weekend, with launches at Humber St Andrews Social Club in Hull (Mon 8 August) and Wheldon Road, Castleford (Tues 9 August).

Written with Hull FC fan Vince Groak, the book is Scratching Shed Publishing’s latest title and includes a foreword from Australian ace Peter Sterling.

Crooks joked: “People have asked me if ‘hell’ was spelt L-E-E-D-S.”

He added: “I don’t really read books, but the people in the know say it’s a good book. It’s taken three-and-a-half years to do, so I hope people enjoy it.”

From Hull to Hell and Back
is available at a discount price by clicking here.

FEATURE: Full steam ahead, insists Scratching Shed boss as book publisher celebrates its third birthday

From Hull to Hell and back... Lee Crooks' autobiography

From Hull to Hell and back... Lee Crooks' autobiography

Scratching Shed Publishing is approaching its third birthday, with co-director Tony Hannan telling Rugby League Books that there will be no let up in the company’s prolific output of rugby league titles.

Lee Crooks’ autobiography, From Hull to Hell and back, is among the books Scratching Shed are set to release in the imminent future.

And Hannan, who along with colleague Phil Caplan has helped to establish Scratching Shed, is busily preparing the company’s next moves after their recent launch of Forty-20, a new monthly rugby league magazine.

Hannan said: “If we’d have known we’d be where we are now when we first launched Scratching Shed then we’d have been very happy, because we’re still going for one thing. That’s an achievement in itself bearing in mind the market we’re in and the ongoing recession. [Read more…]

NEWS: Book publishers just 24 hours away from launch of new rugby league magazine ‘Forty-20’

Rugby League Books speaks exclusively to Scratching Shed Publishing on the eve of their new rugby league magazine ‘Forty-20’ hitting the shelves for the first time.

Forty-20, issue one

Forty-20, issue one

They say there’s nothing like diversification to keep a business fresh – and book publishers Scratching Shed have taken that on board as they prepare for the launch of their new monthly rugby league magazine ‘Forty-20’.

Issue one of Forty-20 hits the shelves on Wednesday, 13 July, and marks a major change for Scratching Shed, who until now have been known as the publishers of a range of books – including many rugby league titles.

Scratching Shed co-director and Forty-20 editor Tony Hannan told Rugby League Books: “It’s an exciting time. [Read more…]

REVIEW: Reluctant Hero: The John Holmes Story, by Phil Holmes Jr and Phil Holmes Snr

Reluctant Hero - The John Holmes Story

Read our two part interview with Phil Holmes Jr, co-author of ‘Reluctant Hero: The John Holmes Story‘, by clicking here and here.

Anybody searching for a rugby league book that combines emotion, nostalgia and dignity can stop looking now.

Reluctant Hero: The John Holmes Story charts the career of one of England’s finest ever rugby league players.

That it brings to life so well a man who was regarded as quiet and unassuming is testament to the quality and hard work put in by Holmes’ nehpew and brother. [Read more…]

INTERVIEW: John Holmes’ nephew, Phil Jr, remembers a rugby league great

This is the second installment of a two-part interview with Phil Holmes Jr, co-author of Reluctant Hero: The John Holmes Story. Here he talks about John’s remarkable talents. You can read part one of this interview by clicking here.

Reluctant Hero - The John Holmes Story

John Holmes was always known as a special talent on the field, and a quiet guy off it.

A Leeds hero of the 70s and 80s, most South Standers regard Holmes as a magician – a master craftsman with the ball in his hands.

Holmes’ nephew, Phil Jr, told Rugby League Books: “His first wife, Jenny, and his second wife, Karen, were telling him he was special and that he needed to celebrate that.

“Towards the end he did, but John just found the game of rugby league very easy.”

He continued: “John grew up playing against his two brothers. One was four years older than him, and the other was eight years older than him.

“When he turned professional there were guys coming to take his head off, but he was used to it because ‘our kid’ had been doing it all his life. I don’t think he really knew how difficult other people found the game. [Read more…]

REVIEW: Border City Blues, by Alan Tucker

Border City Blues: The Story of Carlisle Rugby League, by Alan Tucker

Border City Blues: The Story of Carlisle Rugby League, by Alan Tucker

Alan Tucker’s book Border City Blues will go down as the definitive history of Carlisle rugby league.

Tucker writes with authority, having served as Carlisle’s chairman, and the result is a book packed with memories and insight that would otherwise have been lost in time.

From the enormous to the trivial, the challenges Carlisle rugby league faced are laid bare for all to see.

On top of that, every campaign is recorded, starting from 1981-82 through to the 1997 summer season, and Tucker brings the statistics to life with some of the tales he recalls in absorbing detail. [Read more…]

NEWS: Scratching Shed confirms plans for four new rugby league books

From Hull to Hell and Back

From Hull to Hell and Back, by Lee Crooks and Vince Groak, is one of four new rugby league books set to be released by Scratching Shed Publishing during 2011

Lee Crooks’ autobiography is one of four new rugby league books Scratching Shed Publishing is planning for 2011, the company has revealed.

The independent publishers – who have already produced 24 titles in little more than two years – are also hoping to secure further rugby league titles for the coming 12 months.

Crooks’ book, titled From Hull to Hell and Back, is being ghostwritten by Vince Groak and will look back at the former Hull, Leeds, Castleford and Great Britain forward’s illustrious career.

Bev Risman’s Both Sides Of The Fence is also set to be released soon, along with Phil Caplan’s ‘History of Schools Rugby League’ and a further, as yet unspecified, reprint of a rugby league classic.

Rugby League Books will be among the first to review each of the titles and speak to the people involved. Keep your eyes peeled.

NEWS: Scratching Shed Publishing reprints three rugby league titles

Scratching Shed Publishing has reprinted three recently-released rugby league books, co-director Tony Hannan has revealed.

Demand from buyers has meant Ray French… and rugby, Reluctant Hero: The John Holmes Story and Dave Hadfield’s Down and Under have all been reprinted in recent weeks.

'Reluctant Hero: The John Holmes Story' is one of three books Scratching Shed Publishing has recently reprinted

Hannan told Rugby League Books: “The fact that we’ve had to produce these reprints is very encouraging.”

He added: “Times are tough in the book trade generally at the moment. In the last few days Waterstone’s have announced that they’ll be closing 20 stores, and small independent stores have also been struggling. On top of all of that, it’s only last year that we lost Borders.

“For something like rugby league to continue to perform well – albeit in a niche way – is very helpful, especially to smaller publishers like ourselves.”

Hannan cited the strong feelings of many rugby league supporters as one of the key reasons behind the continued success of rugby league books across the market.

“In some ways, they are more passionate than fans of other sports,” he said. “Perhaps that’s because it’s very hard to read about it anywhere else. Coverage is shrinking in certain parts of the media and people get very hungry for information.”

In the reprinted version of Ray French… and rugby, author Ray French has written a new page about his recent MBE award.