Book Review: Matchday by Ross Paterson

Matchday is Ross Paterson’s second entry into the world of writing, having released an eBook, Before 2012, in September 2014, telling the tale of five fictional stories of British sporting defeats. One of those five features football and is an imagined Intercontinental Cup game set in 1978 between Liverpool and Boca Juniors.

Now in 2021, Paterson, a self-confessed keen football and sports fan, takes up the pen once more and returns with a solely fictional football novel. The book takes readers back to the beginning of the English Premier League in 1992/93 backed by satellite TV station Sky and their slogan, “It’s a whole new ball game”. Whilst Sky dominated the air-waves, RTV (a fictional broadcasting company) take their first steps into live games showing one Premier League game a week, with a trio of ex-players as their pundits, Dave Massey, Kevin Sheerman and Craig MacLeod. With ratings low, the station needs to liven up its panel and decide to take on ex-Wolverhampton Wanderers’ centre-forward, Clyde Benjamin, who as an outspoken, controversial and confrontational figure, provides the required spice. As Paterson acknowledges these four central characters, “are composite figures drawn from famous players and pundits…who even after retirement from the sport…are still competitive” and will be eminently recognisable by readers.

The book has three main plot lines, all involving Benjamin. The first sees him seek to oust the other three pundits and destroy their careers, with the second an ongoing dispute with Middlesbrough striker Steve Collyer and the third involving a disgruntled fan from Benjamin’s playing days at Molineux. These all combine to provide an entertaining comedic novel which does not hold back from the macho posturing of the football world, and has a sense of the writing of Tom Sharpe, with a bawdy style and humour that plays out in a slightly chaotic world that will certainly grab readers attention.

Matchday is very much a reflection of Paterson’s view of football where “the whole matchday experience for me, as a fan, involves some laughter – be it with your mates going to the game, in the crowd or aimed at away fans. There is humour in football and the book tries to deliver some of that.” He also shows an undoubted knowledge of the game as the book blends fact with fiction, although at times, this could be dealt with in a more seamless manner. There is a serious point to the book as well, with Paterson having a black central character in Benjamin, providing observations on the mixed messages that football can give out in relation to racism, and these should not be ignored as being part of the story.

Football fiction is not an easy genre to pull-off, but Paterson does a good job in an entertaining romp that certainly leaves the door open for a possible sequel.

(Independently Published. April 2021. Paperback 195 pages)



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Posted April 25, 2021 by Editor in category "Reviews

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