The Footballer Who Could Fly is a well-written but inconsistent book. That it is well-written is not surprising since Duncan Hamilton is two-time winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award (2007 & 2009) and his reputation alone is probably the reason why it was longlisted for the 2012 one. It is inconsistent because he is trying to do two things at the same time; look back on football in bygone days and explore the difficult relationship he had with his father. Problems arise from the difficulties he has in combining the two. You don’t need to take the reviewer’s word for this as the publishers demonstrate it explicitly.
Founder Mark Rasdall’s aim is that the books, “tell the key football stories, including brief geographies of the places concerned, as well as major, global historical events that were taking place at the same time.” At the heart of this, is his ambition to tackle the issue of getting youngsters to read, especially boys, who historically shun the written word.
At the heart is the story of Bromley FC and its historic first season (2015/16) in the Vanarama National League, the division below the professional ranks of the Football League. Happily, for the author it coincides with his return to England after 35 years living in New Zealand and America, as he and his wife spend 12 months deciding whether ‘home’ will be the UK or USA.
When writing about the history of Nottingham Forest, it is easy to focus on the period of success experienced under the management of Brian Clough; a time when you would seemingly wait a couple of seasons for an open-top bus tour of the Market Square then two would come along in quick succession. But there is more to Nottingham Forest than this, a history of otherwise infrequent success and near misses, along with early innovation, proceeded Clough’s appointment and that fateful day of 6 January 1975 is not reached until page 164 of this book.
In the modern age football feels like it is at saturation point in terms of coverage. Every detail about a player, manager or club is scrutinised to an infinite degree, so much so that nothing feels new, fresh or indeed inspiring. Therefore, it was a joy to read, Lost in France – The Remarkable Life and Death of Leigh Roose, Football’s First Superstar by Spencer Vignes. Here is a story from a very different age, a game in which amateur players still had a place alongside professionals, when football itself looked different to that we watch today and a world unknowingly stumbling towards the First World War.