Book Review: The Games People Play by Gary Thacker
Gary Thacker is a recognised football writer with his own website www.allbluedaze.com and has contributed to and been involved with a number of websites, podcasts, newspapers and magazines. In addition he has written two books, I Don’t Even Smoke! – A brief history of life, love and football through blue-tinted glasses. Oh yes, and a cigar (published 2016) and Cheers, Tears and Jeers: A History of England and the World Cup (published 2018). His latest book, The Games People Play Paperback, is his first venture into fiction.
The central character is Jon Moreton, a young player who having turned professional, has his career cut short by a serious injury. Still wanting to be involved in the game that is his passion, he takes his coaching qualifications and after working his way up to being in charge of the Development Squad at his former club, finds himself out of work when the owner sells to a foreign investor. Jon though is then offered the chance to manage abroad with a lower league Spanish team, CD Retama. Here the Englishman faces the challenges of not speaking the language and having to win over the trust of a young and inexperienced squad and their female coach, Sophia Garringues, as Jon attempts to get his charges promoted.
Gary Thacker’s football knowledge and his writing ability are not in doubt in this book, which its PR claims contains, “plenty of twists and turns…in this tale of football, love and betrayal”. Indeed, the authors understanding of football in areas such as the intricacies of the Spanish football pyramid, the UEFA coaching badges and qualifications, and his description and detail relating to the club on and off the pitch and indeed the playing of the game, give this book an authentic feel.
Part of the mark of a good book is knowing how much and when to use such detail and requires an understanding of the reader. Given this book attempts to include a football plotline, a love interest and a plot twist, for me as a reader the conclusion is that in covering all this ground, I’m left not knowing who the author is actually appealing to in terms of a target audience.
Pace wise, the story gathers momentum as the football season reaches its conclusion, with the final chapter (which shares it name with the title of the book, and its double meaning), providing the climax, in a finish which does provide a gripping finale.
(1889 Books. October 2020. Paperback 252 pages)