Book Review: Adventures of a Tractor Boy – the story of an obsessive fan by Graeme Brooke
As a Fulham fan of over forty years I’ve seen my team in all four division, the FA Cup, the League Cup, in Europe and even the Preliminary Round of the Leyland DAF Cup, so I think I can safely call myself a supporter who has ‘done a few miles’. However, I’m a pure novice when it comes to Ipswich Town fan Graeme Brooke who back in 2002 chalked up his 1,000th game against arch-rivals Norwich City and was voted ‘Super-fan’ by the Town, players, manager, directors and fellow supporters.
Brooke continues to follow the team, but acknowledges within the book that he, “…cannot afford the money nor the time to attend the number of away games…” he used to, which points the finger at the modern game and the inflated prices fans have to pay, and the fact he has a family and job which demand his time as he has got older. Nonetheless the author is still a season-ticket holder at Portman Road and has ensured his daughters are Blues too, keeping them on the straight and narrow and away from the temptation of supporting a Premier League club.
This book details Brooke’s support for his club from the 1970s through to the 2013/14 season. Thankfully the author hasn’t simply gone for a year-on-year detailing of the games he attended, but instead has gone for thirteen themed chapters (excluding the Introduction), over 148 pages. These include the highs of the UEFA Cup win in 1980/81, the Wembley 2000 Play-off win, a chapter on the European Pre-seasons and “Why I hate Villa Park”.
My own favourite chapter is that dedicated to the European Pre-seasons at a time when attending such events was well before clubs organised ‘official’ trips. Brooke’s adventures belong to a different era and reading about the miles he covered by road, rail and sea to Scandinavia and the Netherlands (amongst others) brought a nostalgic smile to my face.
As the author reflects on the club going forward, it was interesting to read his views on the nickname that Ipswich have come to acquire in recent years – Tractor Boys.
“I liked the descriptive term for Ipswich Town originally, hence the title of the book but I am now tiring of it and even believe it goes with too nice and friendly an image of the club. Maybe we need to rethink and become tougher and harder to beat”.
However, as any loyal fan would, Brooke believes there is a positive future for the team under Mick McCarthy.
Overall, this is an honest and enjoyable account of “…an obsessive fan..”, which will remind readers of a very different footballing experience to that of the ‘Sky generation’ and will be appreciated by fans whether you are a Town supporter or not. However, there are for me a couple of things which could have improved the book. It would for instance have been interesting to discover if the problems with the birth of his daughter Leah changed his outlook on football. More generally, the book would have benefited from a more thorough proof-reading and editing.
Besides the recording of the experiences of an incredibly dedicated fan, there is a serious point to this book, in that all profits are to be donated to Colchester Hospital Special Care Baby Unit, who provided extensive care when Graeme Brooke’s youngest daughter, Leah, was born eight weeks premature. More details can be found at the following website: www.adventuresofatractorboy.co.uk/ which features a page that encourages people to “…take a photo of your book with a famous or far away scene behind it or even a famous person holding it and submit it to email@example.com to assist in publicising & promoting this book…”. So far there have been pictures from as far away as Tasmania in Australia.