Book Review: Soap stars and burst bubbles: A season of Yorkshire football by Steven Penny
This book from Steven Penny was born out of his record of matches he attended during the 2002/03 season, documented on his website www.tyketravels.co.uk and which focuses on the game below the top four professional leagues in England. The book produced at the time proved popular but then went out of print, so prompted by repeated requests since, it was republished in February 2021.
Structure wise the book follows a timeline from August 2002 through to May 2003, and within each month, each game attended is afforded its own chapter. Given this format, it would be all too easy to fall into the trap of this being another book which just provides match reports, team line-ups, scorers etc. Penny’s great advantage that as a journalist he provides an interest story within each game, so that readers get interviews with players, managers, club officials and fans, which gives a wider perspective on the clubs featured, the realities of football at this level and some interesting tales indeed.
One such gives rise to part of the title of the book, with Helen Worth (soap star, Gail from Coronation Street), the Honorary President of the Ossett Albion club back in 2002/03 featured in the opening chapter. Another features a Goole supporter who was banned from attending matches at their Victoria Pleasure Grounds venue, but still bought a season-ticket!
The book very much focuses on life in non-league with trips to games within the Northern Counties East League dominating, however, this is supplemented by games featuring Yorkshire clubs, in the Northern Premier League, Humber Premier League, Northern League, and Central Midland League, as well as County Cups and the FA Vase and FA Cup. There are a handful of trips to watch games in the top four divisions, but in the main are not experiences that Penny enjoys, and his love for the non-league game which affords him his living as a journalist is evident.
Penny had intended that there would be a follow-up, in which he revisited and updated events at the various clubs he had taken in back in that 2002/03 campaign, however the global pandemic has had other ideas. Instead, his intentions are that a second volume will be produced once football at all steps of the National League System returns, with visits to completely different clubs to those featured in Soap stars and burst bubbles, and further down the line a third book, re-visiting and updating clubs’ stories from the first two volumes.
Reviewing this republished version, eighteen years after its first publication, it is evident that any follow-up will have many tales to tell and be able to reflect on much that has changed. For instance, there are clubs featured from 2002/03 that are no longer with us, even a new club in the form of Ossett United, from the merging of Albion and Town, and others that have either plummeted through the divisions or have equally soared to new heights. Fingers crossed that 2021/22 will see an uninterrupted return of football allowing Penny to tell the stories of those changes and bring fans once again more entertaining tales of his travels.
(Victor Publishing. February 2021. Paperback 267 pages)