The Penalty Kick by Robert McCrum: Coming October 2024 from NHE

We are delighted to be publishing a new book by Robert McCrum this October. The Penalty Kick: The Story of a Gamechanger presents the origins of the penalty kick by McCrum, whose great-grandfather invented the set piece.

Football, in the 1880s, was a rough and often dangerous game. As a result William McCrum, the heir to a linen fortune and a keen amateur goalkeeper in Co. Armagh, Northern Ireland, proposed a new and drastic sanction. The penalty kick would admonish anyone – and their team – for not following the rules. At first the International Football Board resisted ‘the Irishman’s Motion’ as a restriction that would curb the players’ freedom of expression, but the penalty kick was adopted in 1891 to almost immediate acclaim among fans and players. For decades, this extraordinary phenomenon has not only regulated the conduct of football, but has inspired game theorists and infiltrated classics of contemporary literature.

An all-or-nothing moment

Our publisher, Rosalind Porter commented: ‘From the moment Robert told me that his great-grandfather was responsible for something that is now such an integral part of the world’s most popular sport, I was hooked on William McCrum’s story. As with all the best narrative non-fiction, The Penalty Kick will be a book about many things: an examination of the penalty kick’s psychological – even philosophical – grip on our imaginations, with its distillation of risk and chance into an all-or-nothing moment, as well as an enthralling portrait of a lost age and the story of a man who was perhaps born into the wrong life and whose legacy is now sadly forgotten.’

McCrum added: ‘This strange marriage of family and football is a story I’ve told for many years. Now, for the first time, I’m really coming to terms with it in ways I never imagined.’

Pre-orders for The Penalty Kick will open soon; keep an eye on our website, or sign up to our newsletter to be the first to hear about it!

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