Interview with Ralph Robb, author of, More Than a Game: A Story About Football and other stuff.
Originally published in 2006 through Raldon Books, More Than a Game, A Story About Football and other stuff, is a novel which has been recently released on Kindle.
Set in the early 80s after Aston Villa had won the English First Division title, the story centres on Sabina Park Rangers an amateur team of black players who are the first to reach the final of the Watney’s Challenge Cup. Their coach Horace McIntosh has more selection problems than most, with Villa, the First Division champions wanting to sign one of his best players, and right up until the day of the match, uncertainty about whether he will have a team for the biggest game in the club’s history, set against a background of arrests, a scam and an atmosphere of impending violence.
Author Ralph Robb who grew up in Wolverhampton, but now lives in Canada answered a few questions about his book and its new release some thirteen years later.
Footballbookreviews.com (FBR): What was the inspiration for writing the novel?
Ralph Robb (RR): As a teenager I belonged to a karate club that took on the name of the organization in which we practiced – Wolverhampton YMCA. The same vicinity served as a club house for an all-black football team, to which several members of the karate team also belonged.
Many of their experiences were casually shared between members of the club, this painting a tapestry of characters and events both uplifting and heart wrenching. It is from these stories that the inspiration for the book evolved.
FBR: You were raised in Wolverhampton; did you watch Wolves growing up?
RR: I’ve never gone to watch the Wolves play! Like most kids I played football excessively, whether it was for the school team, in the local park or just heading the ball against a wall. I had a few friends that occasionally went to see Wolves play on the weekend, usually with an older brother, father or uncle. My family wasn’t particularly well off, so I had to settle for hearing the results on ITV’s World of Sport or BBC’s Grandstand programmes. The fact that I couldn’t afford it was only part of the reason I attend. I remember being chased by visiting fans, looking for trouble. So, I learnt very early to avoid the unpredictable nature of football fans.
With the lessons learnt as a kid, visiting the Wolves ground, Molineux, as a young man was still off the table. The Molineux was such a magnet for hooliganism I daren’t go. It was exclusively white, working class and intolerable towards most minorities in which women were included. I knew a few black teens, older than myself, that would go as a group for protection, but that didn’t last long as the racial abuse for the few black players on the pitch became too much for them.
FBR: How much of the book is biographical?
RR: The book was written as a piece of fiction, but I’d like to think of it as also being realistic, in terms of ‘that could happen’ or ‘I’ve experienced the same thing’.
FBR: What resonance do you think the book has currently bearing in mind the recent racist incidents at two England games and the abandonment of the FA Cup tie involving Yeovil Town?
RR: The tribalistic nature of the fans is a strange beast. I find it a little patronizing that we find the behaviour of the Bulgarian fans so offensive, which it is; however, at the same time neglecting the fact that the same behaviour was tolerated in England for many years.
FBR: Did you ever consider an alternative ending for the book?
RR: I wanted the ending of the book to be as realistic as possible. With any competitive team sport, the stars have to be in perfect alignment in order to obtain the desired result. With Sabina Park Rangers, they had so much going against going into the final.
FBR: Do you follow football over in Canada at all?
RR: Every now and again I like to check in to how Wolves are doing. I do however follow the international games in which England are playing.
FBR: Is there a possibility of a second book featuring Sabina Park Rangers?
RR: Sorry, there’s no plan for any sort of a follow up.
FBR: Many thanks for your time Ralph.
For more information about the author:
Twitter: www. twitter.com/RalphSRobb