Book Review: A Football Education by Michael Oates
1992 saw the release of Nick Hornby’s seminal book Fever Pitch, which detailed his experiences as an Arsenal fan and its impact on his life. For the first time the ‘up and downs’ of supporting ‘your’ team were detailed in a manner that had literary credibility. Since then, many writers have tried to produce a similar book about their own club, but none so far have come close to producing such a classic.
In A Football Education by Michael Oates, the author attempts a different approach to detailing his life supporting his team – in this case Sunderland AFC. The key word associated with his slant is ‘education’, as Oates “documents his own experiences…from childhood memories, early heroes, match days, even a trip back in time to the birth of football in late Victorian England, right through to the present day and beyond.”
The book operates on the premise that as supporters, “we have all had different football journeys, collecting many tales to tell and having countless opinions to share, whatever are we are. Each and every one of us has had their own ‘football education’”.
The idea is a good one, and Oates comes across as a genuine and loyal fan of The Black Cats in his conversational style throughout the book. At its best, when stoked by passion, such as his piece on Roy Keane, the writing is entertaining and akin to the best banter you have with your mates on match days over a few beers.
However, the overall impression is that the book lack fluidity, given the ‘list’ nature of a number of the chapters (for instance, Ancient Icons, Mirror Mirror on the Wall and Young Guns). The problem also with providing ‘lists’, is that for many fans they maybe all too familiar with the names and events described and therefore the material is not ‘new’.
Oates though has written an honest and heart-felt book about his ‘football education’, which will hopefully provoke readers into considering their own experiences about the club and the game they love.
For copies of the book click here