James Riordan

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James Riordan
Personal information
Place of birth Portsmouth, England
Height 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)
Playing position Centre half

James Riordan (10 October 1936 – 10 February 2012[1][2]) was an English novelist, broadcaster, sports historian, association football player and Russian scholar.[3]

Well known for his work Sport in Soviet Society, the first academic look at sport in the Soviet Union, and for his children's novels.

He claims to have been the first Briton to play football in the USSR, playing for FC Spartak Moscow in 1963.[4]

Life and career[edit]

Born in Portsmouth in 1936,[5] James Riordan learned to speak Russian during National Service training in the Royal Air Force from 1955 to 1957. In 1960, he graduated in Russian Studies at the University of Birmingham, before qualifying as a teacher at the London Institute of Education.

In 1963, Riordan studied at the Communist higher party school in Moscow; he was an avowed Communist, and was one of the few English students at the school.

His autobiography Comrade Jim: The Spy Who Played for Spartak includes an account of his games for Spartak Moscow; some Russian commentators have questioned these claims.[6]

When he returned to England he became lecturer at Bradford University before moving on to the University of Surrey at Guildford where became head of the Russian Department and was awarded a personal professorship. In 1980 he was the Olympic attache for the British Olympic Association of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. He held an honorary doctorate of Grenoble University and was President (2003-5) and later Fellow of the European Committee for Sports History.

Select bibliography[edit]


  • Comrade Jim: The Spy Who Played for Spartak, Harper Perennial, 2009. ISBN 0007251157


  • Sport in soviet society: development of sport and physical education in Russia and the USSR / James Riordan. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1977. (partially Birmingham, Univ., Diss.). ISBN 0-521-21284-7.
  • Sport in European Cultures (2002)

Children's novels[edit]

  • Sweet Clarinet
  • The Prisoner
  • When the Guns Fell Silent
  • An Illustrated Treasury of Fairy and Folk Tales
  • Rebel Cargo
  • The Woman in the Moon and Other Tales of Forgotten Heroines (1985) Dial ISBN 0-8037-0194-2
  • The Twelve Labours Of Hercules

As editor[edit]

  • James Riordan (ed.). Sport under Communism. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1978. ISBN 0-7735-0505-9.
  • Riordan, James & Arnd Krüger (eds.). The international politics of sport in the twentieth century. London: Routledge, 1999. ISBN 0-419-21160-8
  • James Riordan & Arnd Krüger (eds.). European cultures of sport: examining the nations and regions. Bristol: Intellect, 2003. ISBN 1-8415-0014-3
  • Football Stories (2004)
  • Arnd Krüger & James Riordan (eds). The story of worker sport. Champaign, Ill.: Human Kinetics (1996). ISBN 0-87322-874-X

As translator[edit]

Chingiz Aitmatov, Jamilia, Telgram Books: London, 2012

Literary awards[edit]

Riordan's first novel Sweet Clarinet won the NASEN Award, and was shortlisted for the Whitbread Children's Book Award. The Match of Death won the South Lanarkshire Book Award. The Gift was also shorted for the NASEN Award.[5]


  1. ^ Portsmouth News: Popular columnist Jim Riordan dies
  2. ^ Obituary on BBC Radio 4's Last Word http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01by9ll#p00pb1l9
  3. ^ "Professor James Riordan". University of Worcester. 2007-03-07. Retrieved 2009-02-19. 
  4. ^ Kevin O'Flynn (7 November 2006). "Introducing the first Briton ever to play in the USSR". Football. Guardian. Retrieved 2009-02-19. 
  5. ^ a b "James Riordan". Oxford Education. Oup.com. Retrieved 2009-02-19. 
  6. ^ http://www.utro.ru/articles/2008/04/18/731703.shtml

External links[edit]