Book Review: I Had A Wheelbarrow by Luke Williamson

Prior to the summer of 2009, Notts County were probably most well known for being the Oldest Professional Club in the World. However they shot into the consciousness of the country on a wider scale when it was announced that the club was to be the recipient of a huge financial investment. Within weeks ex-England boss Sven Goran Eriksson had arrived and there was ambitious talk of Premier League football and ultimately European participation from the new Board at Meadow Lane. Expectation amongst the County faithful was sky-high. That 2009/10 season saw the Magpies get promoted into League One. Therefore you would assume that the promised investment had had its desired effect and the first stage of the master plan had come to fruition?  If only it was that simple.

Luke Williamson, a Notts County fan since childhood, like many that summer in 2009, couldn’t quite believe what was going on at his beloved club. So feeling that something special was about to happen, he embarked on a journey to record the events of the 2009/10 season which have been captured in the book, I Had A Wheelbarrow. For those wondering the relevance of the title below is the explanation used by the author.

“…On 17th April 1990 as Notts trailed 2-0 away at Shrewsbury, the home fans started singing “On Top of Old Smokey” in their strong West Country accents. Mocking those fans for the way they spoke (or sang) the Notts following began to mimic the song with the following words:

I had a wheelbarrow, and the wheel feel off,

I had a wheelbarrow, and the wheel feel off,

I had a wheelbarrow, and the wheel feel off,

I had a wheelbarrow, and the wheel feel off,

County, County, County, County…”

Notts ended by drawing that game and went on an unbeaten run which saw the Magpies triumph at Wembley in the Play-Offs. The song is now very much part of County folklore.

Of the book itself, the first thing to say is this is no run of the mill diary of a season. The author weaves details of the Magpies 2009/10 title winning season and the controversy off the field, amongst football memories of his childhood and the bittersweet experience of relationships. What is refreshing is that whilst the book runs chronologically, it does not take the reader game by game through the season in a dry match report style. Instead key dates and key matches are featured and County game details sit side by side with those from a trip to see England v Croatia in a European Championship Qualifier and those of CSKA Carnabys, the Sunday League team that Williamson is player-manager of. Williamson also has garnered interviews with Colin Slater, BBC Nottingham’s legendary commentator as well as Notts County Chairman Ray Trew and the Board which help add insight to the drama at Meadow Lane during 2009/10.

The passion and commitment of the writer to all things football and especially Notts County is evident. Readers get the authors view on such topics as post-Sky football in England and looks to the game beyond the confines of Nottingham. Indeed the book captures how football for many is engrained into their psyche and the impact it has throughout their lives and on family and friends. The tales of getting to away games, the feeling of belonging amongst your own supporters, the thrill and disappointment of wins and losses are all described with an authentic manner that will be familiar to football fans the world over and not just those within the confines of NG2.

More than that though, Luke Williamson has produced a book which allows the reader into the writers personal life in an intimate yet frank manner, with an engaging conversational style. There are moments of reflection that are shared with the reader in respect of his relationships, of family and friends that have real pathos.

The book ends with the 2010/11 pre-season friendlies just starting. As we know now, County survived in League One on the last day of the season with a 1-1 draw against Champions Brighton, with a backdrop on and off the field that mirrored the drama of 2009/10. I hope that Luke Williamson has recorded this season events as I’d willingly read his take on them.

Any good book leaves you wanting more. I Had A Wheelbarrow does exactly that.

Book Details

I Had A Wheelbarrow

(a fan’s story of a Notts County adventure)

Luke Williamson

Pure Phase Publishing

The People’s History of Football Series #2

ISBN: 9780956114440 


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Posted May 8, 2011 by Editor in category "Reviews

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