Interview with Chris Roberts author of, FOOTBALL>ANYTHING: How Football Has Brought Out The Worst In So Many For The Sport They “LOVE”

Ahead of a review of his book, FOOTBALL>ANYTHING: How Football Has Brought Out The Worst In So Many For The Sport They “LOVE”, Football Book Reviews posed a few questions to Chris Roberts.

Football Book Reviews (FBR): What is your first football memory and who is the club you support?

Chris Roberts (CR): My first ever football memory is actually going week in week out to watch my dad play football when I was a small child and also the teams he was physio for in the north west of England – the first two being Atherton Collieries and Prescot Cables. I loved being there and felt part of the team as a youngster and would play on the pitch before and after games and during half times. In terms of the team I support, I’m a lifelong Liverpool fan and am a season ticket holder in the Kop.

FBR: What was the motivation for writing the book?

CR: Essentially it was actually a way of helping me to cope with my depression. The person who gave me my love for football and who I shared a huge chunk of my footballing memories with – my dad –  died two years ago. The book has been a bit of a saviour for me as I have struggled a lot with my mental health and it has been a way of escaping the dark thoughts I had in my brain and gave me an escape.

FBR: How did you get into writing?

CR: It all came about really by helping a friend who was doing their own book and getting involved in searching for references/evidence for what they were writing. He sent a draft copy of a chapter of his book into a WhatsApp chat and I looked through and saw he was missing some stats. I then started researching for them and in spending time doing this I realised that even in one of my darkest periods it had taken my mind off of the situation I was dealing with. This then motivated me to think this could be a good idea and even if it didn’t lead to a book this could be an escape for me.

FBR: How difficult was it to get the book published?

CR: I have self-published the book as I am raising money for a local mental health charity in Liverpool Sean’s Place that has provided me with counselling. I used Amazon to do this as I was trying to raise as much money as possible for them and this allowed the book to receive more royalties.

FBR: What impact do you hope the book has?

CR: I hope the book helps others who may be struggling with their mental health to reach out and ask for help. The book shows the dark side of football and how mental health affects lots of professionals too. Our heroes who we treat like superheroes/superhuman are human too – everyone struggles and it’s important we reach out for help.

FBR: Finally, how do you see the game in 10 years from now?

CR: The game is changing in a way that I don’t think is for the better. My book shows the dark side of the game and greed is one chapter of the book that I focus on. This greed is what I think could potentially cause the game we love to be ruined. We saw that with the attempted European Super League, and most importantly I think you see that across the English Premier League (EPL) with how local children are priced out of ever watching their favourite team. Non-League football attendances are on the rise due to this and I know lots of people are leaving watching their favourite EPL team and you now see a more corporate fan base arising.

FBR: Thank you Chris and good luck with the book and raising funds.

Interview with Nicholas Dean author of ‘The Boy Who Saved Billy Bremner’.

The Boy Who Saved Billy Bremner is the debut novel from Nicholas Dean. Ahead of FBR’s review of the book we caught up with the author to get the lowdown on this intriguingly titled book.

FBR: What was inspiration for book?

Nicholas Dean (ND): I guess, it came from my own upbringing. Obviously the streets and other locations in the book are both real and this extends to a number of the people such as some of the teachers and the owner of the newsagents. Also part of the inspiration and driving forces behind the book were my age and my children. As I have grown older, I have found myself reminiscing more about my childhood and where I grew up and as my children have asked about me growing up, the more the desire and need to capture those days and the people also grew. I have had the actual idea for the main storyline for a while but other plots seemed to develop and take on a life of their own, some of the characters too, such as ‘Snowy Vest’ for example.

FBR: Given that you had said the book has aspects of your childhood within the storylines, how much of the book is biographical?

ND: There are clearly certain biographical aspects and events within the book. Like they say, a writer writes about what they know about. The school friends and the group of kids on the estate are a mishmash of real people, including myself and some events such as the game in the French lesson and the snowball fight are based on real events, but the main narratives and majority of characters are fictitious

FBR: What is your first football memory and who do you support?

ND: As anyone might guess from the title of the book, I am a Leeds United supporter and how I became to support the team from Elland Road is rather similar to the central character Phillip Knott,  in the book, only a few years later, around when the book is set. My family were from other areas of the UK – dad was from North East (Middlesbrough) and my mum from Herefordshire, so I did not have a direct connection to Coventry, although I was born there. My earliest football memories are the 1972 and 1973 FA Cup finals and of course Leeds United’s 29 game unbeaten run in the 1973-74 season. A run which I feel does not get the recognition it deserves. Another massive footballing memory from that period is watching the 1974 World Cup held in West Germany on the TV.

FBR: The Leeds and Scotland skipper Billy Bremner features not only in the title of the book but in its pages itself. Did you actually write to him, and if not how did the idea come about?

ND: The letter writing is all fictional. I remember the unbeaten run and the eventual loss at Stoke vividly for different reasons and had always had an idea to try and write about it in some way. How the eventual idea formed? To be honest, I am not sure. I guess, it was one of those eureka moments when I thought wouldn’t it be a good idea if I did this. Then I had to think about the issues Philip could be dealing with in order to write his letters.

FBR: How did you start writing?

I have always scribbled things here and there from a young age and the idea for and execution of my first novel was many years in the making and changed many times. I think when I was younger I had a fear of failure and a hang up around class. Working class people like me did not write books. I have always wanted to try it but lacked the confidence. Now, as I have already mentioned, age has played a part and pushed me to give it a try.

FBR: Stylistically, what writers influence you?

I don’t really think any particular writers influenced me or my writing style. I have to confess I do not read as much as I would like, my job and my family take up so much time and when I have time I tend to write rather than read. This is my second attempt at a novel; I haven’t done anything with the first one yet. I am currently reworking it.

FBR: Finally, how hard and what are the pitfalls for getting a book independently published?

I know the book lacks a professional touch and has a few errors but self-publishing was the only option left to me. I have become somewhat frustrated about agents and the way they operate. I have had many positive rejections, so to speak. Agencies seem to only want to take on guaranteed profit making books from the right type of person with the right profile. No matter how good my work might be, I don’t think I fit the required profile. I obviously make very little from the book on Amazon, 57p a sale to be exact but it is not about that. It is about people liking the book. I have had some great feedback and have sold over 300 copies which for me is great.

FBR: Nicholas, thank you for your time. Good luck with the book sales.


Interview with Billy Morris, author of Bournemouth 90 and LS92

Back in November 2021 FBR reviewed Bournemouth 90 by Billy Morris and the author followed up his debut novel with LS92 published in January 2022. Both books feature Leeds United in the early nineties set against a background of murky gangland activities. Following the release of the his second title, we caught with the author to find out a bit more about the man behind the books, which Morris himself describes as, “dark uncompromising crime fiction from a time when it was still grim up north.”

FBR: Given the two books you have written we presume that Leeds United is the Club you support, but how did you come to support them?

Billy Morris (BM): I was born into a family of Leeds fans who followed the Club home and away so there was never any chance of me supporting anyone else. I was born in 1966, just as Don Revie’s team were rising to prominence and starting to win trophies, so I guess the excitement and optimism of the time rubbed off on me at a very early age. I have photos of me as a toddler wearing Leeds colours and as a small child in the famous all-white Leeds kit. I guess it was in my blood!

FBR: So presumably it’s a safe bet that your first football memory features Leeds?

1972 FA Cup Final Programme

BM: It is. I remember standing outside Elland Road to see the team bring back the FA Cup in 1972. My first game was in 1973 season against Chelsea, but I remember nothing of the match. My memories are of being in a pub before the game, the smell of Tetley bitter and cigarettes, surrounded by foul mouthed giants with collar length hair and denim jackets covered in Leeds patches, the smell of boiled burgers and onions, the sense of excitement and potential danger. Then after the game, buying a Green Post outside the ground with the full time match results and a report of the first half, and wondering how they got it out so quickly. (I still struggle with that one!)

FBR: What is your standout football memory from your time supporting the Club?

AFC Bournemouth v Leeds United programme 1990

BM: It probably sounds strange to a lot of people given the events of that particular weekend, but it was Bournemouth in 1990. I came of age watching Leeds. I left school and started work the year we got relegated, 1982, so I had a bit of money to start going to away games. It’s obviously frowned upon now but the whole mid-80s football scene was an amazing buzz for teenagers, travelling round the country with a gang of mates, with the very real possibility that the day could end in a cell or A&E. I was more into the casual fashion than the violence personally, but at that age the risk factor was a big draw, as was the chance to get one over on rival fans and the police. The grounds were awful, the football was usually terrible too, but for those of us of a certain age, they were the best days of our lives from a social angle. Friendships made back then endure to this day. Then in 1987, we got a brief taste of what success could feel like when Leeds reached the FA Cup semi-final, and the play-off final. We were within minutes of a return to the First Division, but in true Leeds style, blew it in injury time against Charlton. The following year, Howard Wilkinson took over and changed the whole culture of the club, much like Bielsa was to again do thirty years later. At the start of the 1989/90 season there was a real feel that this was to be our year. ‘Shit or Bust, this year promotion’s a must’ said the very unofficial T-Shirt displaying the snarling face of Vinnie Jones. Prophetically, the back of the shirt said, ‘Promotion Tour 89/90’ with the last game billed as ‘The Invasion of Bournemouth.’ Last game of the season, knowing a win would take us up, a Bank Holiday at the seaside, 90 degree sunshine…the scene was set, and for once Leeds didn’t blow it. Of course some of what happened down there were terrible, and it really felt like the end of an era and the start of a new one, like drawing a line under the eighties with a bright new decade dawning ahead.

FBR: How did you get into writing?

BM: I always loved writing at school but leaving at sixteen with a couple of O-Levels, I knew I was never going to make a living at it. I did a variety of jobs over the next thirty five years in various places around the world, then as often happens when you reach your fifties, found I had more time to spend on things I enjoyed doing, rather than things I needed to do to make money. I read a lot of crime fiction, dark stuff like James Ellroy and David Peace, and I noticed on social media that there was a real nostalgia for the eighties and nineties era in Leeds. The city has changed so much since then that its almost unrecognisable. I started to think about an Ellroy/Peace style novel set at that time in the city that I remembered back then. That’s how Bournemouth 90 came about, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well received it was.  A few people asked about a sequel, and I felt there were still a few unresolved questions, which are addressed in LS92.

FBR: Talking of the two books, what and who were the influences in writing ‘Bournemouth 9’0 and ‘LS92’?

BM: As I said, I enjoy James Ellroy’s noir-style crime writing which is set in L.A. My biggest influence though is probably David Peace. Specifically the Red Riding Quartet, which transplant Ellroy’s dark style into 70s West Yorkshire. I remember reading 1974 for the first time and being totally blown away by the writing style. I enjoyed his later stuff, Damned Utd obviously and also GB84, though I’ve struggled to get into his recent Tokyo trilogy. I’ve tried to capture the feel of late eighties/early nineties in my books – a city struggling with its identity, more Merrion Market than Harvey Nicks and with LUFC struggling to shift the 80s hooligan reputation but knowing that a re-brand was vital to its future in the new millennium. To anyone who wasn’t around then, the place I describe probably feels like a different city altogether, and if that’s the case, I’ve achieved what I set out to do!

FBR: Do you have any other books in the pipeline?

BM: I’m in the research stage of a book set over a hundred years ago at the end of the First World War. To say it was a time of upheaval in Leeds is an understatement – the war is coming to an end, the Leeds Pals were virtually wiped out on the first day of the Somme and families are struggling to cope with the aftermath of that. There is rationing and food shortages and Spanish flu is ravaging the city; At Elland Road Leeds City are struggling to explain how they funded an influx of ‘guest’ players who enabled them to win the 1917/18 League Championship, at a time when match fixing was rife. I’m planning to write another crime fiction story set against this backdrop and the writing challenges are different this time. I’m not writing about an era I’m familiar with, so am immersed in research at present – fashions, language, military and social history and of course, the mysterious events at the football club. Luckily I’m a big history buff so although it’s hard I don’t really see it as ‘work’, more a hobby. That’s actually probably a good way to sum up my attitude to writing in general too!

FBR: Many thanks for your time Billy. Good luck with the sales of your current books and good luck with your new project!


Q&A with Jade Craddock. Part 2 – Football background

FBR has some talented contributors, none more so that Jade Craddock who has been a regular writer for FBR with her insightful book reviews and articles covering the delayed 2020 Euros and the start of the 2021/22 Premier League and Women’s Super League. Jade’s talents have been recognised with a chapter in Football She Wrote. As part of the launch of the book, FBR caught up with Jade to find out a bit more about her football and writing background. This second part of the interview looks at Jade’s connection with the game as  fan and a player.

Q&A Part 1

FBR: What was your first football memory?

JC: My first football memory is probably around the age of seven or eight. I wasn’t really aware of football as a professional sport, or particularly of teams or leagues at this point, and certainly, this would have been just before or around the launch of the Premier League and there just wasn’t the omnipresence of football at that stage. But at primary school, lunchtimes and break times would mean a football – or several – appearing and the boys taking over one half of the playground. Or rather the boys, and me. At this point, I had never had any coaching or been taught to play, but I just naturally gravitated towards football and seemed to know what to do. And the great thing was, despite being the only girl who joined in, there was never any feeling of being marginalised or excluded by the boys but being treated equally and fairly – probably because I held my own. Thankfully, my experience throughout football, whether I was playing at school or casually, continued in this vein.

FBR: Did you continue to play football after leaving school?

JC: As mentioned, I started playing football at primary school, just joining in with the boys in the playground. There was no provision for girls’ football then and no other girls who seemed to be interested, but it never really crossed my mind that girls’/women’s football existed then. When I moved to middle school (it’s a three-tier system where I am), and I was around 10, I discovered some other girls who played football and they told me about their team. This pretty much blew my mind at the time – women’s football was really not visible back then and the idea that there were actual teams that I could play for was incredible. So I joined this local football team, but it had plenty of challenges, because girls’ football was very much still finding its feet (excuse the pun) and getting players involved and then getting to and from games was all tricky, and inevitably after a couple of years that team folded, but I’d already been introduced to the women’s set-up and was regularly training with them when I was 14.

Karen Carney

However, I still wasn’t ready physically for that step-up, so I moved to another nearby girls’ U16 side who’d just been promoted to the top league, which had all of your centre of excellences and academy sides – the likes of Leicester City, Derby County. And that was an eye-opener, especially when we played Birmingham City and I came up against a young Karen Carney. We lined up directly opposite each other as wingers and although I got named player of the match for my team, Karen really was head and shoulders above every other player on the pitch – and indeed every other player I’d come up against before and after! She could use both feet and was skilful and just an amazing talent and it’s been great to follow her career and to see her excel on the world stage.

After that one season with the U16s, I made the step-up to the local women’s team and, honestly, the seasons there were my absolute highlight. We had some really excellent players – I’m not sure how we found them – or they found us – but it seemed as if they had all ended up in this little town in the Midlands at the same time. They were women of all ages who’d played all over, and their experience and quality was really something. There were players there that could have easily gone on to a much higher level had the opportunities been available.

When people talk about how far the women’s game has come on in recent years, I think we have to be careful of disparaging earlier generations. My mum played in the seventies and when she watched my team in the 2000s, the main difference was not that the players were significantly better, but the opportunities had increased, which meant there were more players involved and naturally a higher overall standard. But, individually, there were players in my generation, in my mum’s generation and the generations before that were exceptional; the women’s game simply wasn’t ready. Now, we’re getting there, because the organisation and infrastructure has improved exponentially and there’s a much wider pool of players and better coaching and facilities but put those earlier players in this era and they’d have shone. Indeed, we were incredibly lucky in my team to have had such a strong collection of players and I would have loved some of those players to have had an opportunity to play in this era.

FBR: Do you think playing the game has helped your writing?

Absolutely. I think it gave me an added understanding and appreciation of some of the nuances of the game. Having been in particular situations and matches, I’m more aware of certain things than I think I would have been otherwise. I’m sure I would still have been interested and engaged in football had I not played, but I don’t think I’d have had such an understanding. Although, in truth, I never really had much coaching as such. In those days, training was literally turn up, jog around a bit, a few passing drills of no particular difficulty, then small-sided games! But I like to think I had a fairly natural football intelligence – in fact, I could probably read the game and see it more than I could pull it off!

FBR: So we know a bit about your playing career, but what about who you support?

JC: I grew up and live in the Midlands – my nearest league clubs being Birmingham City and Aston Villa, so obviously I’m an Arsenal fan! I did almost take a couple of different paths though. Villa was very much the club of choice in my school in the nineties – and that green and black Muller kit almost sold them to me, as well as the likes of Tony Daley and Dalian Atkinson, who were probably the first footballers I was really aware of. I also did work experience at Villa when I was 15 and there couldn’t be a nicer footballer than Cesc Fabregas. Alas, even Dion couldn’t sway me to the claret and blue in the end. In the late nineties when I moved to middle school, Liverpool were suddenly all the rage – it probably had something to do with those white suits?! And for a time, Liverpool were somewhat on my radar, not least because of Michael Owen’s heroics at World Cup 1998. But again, it wasn’t to be. When I started playing football myself in earnest and suddenly became much more aware of the game, began watching it religiously and understanding it as more than just a casual observer, there was really only one team at the time that played football the way I dreamt and imagined it should be played at its best – Arsenal. This was the age of Pires and Ljungberg and as a young winger myself, here were two proper attacking wingers. Add to that, the general ethos and style of play under Wenger in that period and the players in that squad and I was hooked. But one man ensured my heart was red – Cesc Fabregas. To me, he was everything that epitomised that Arsenal – stylish, intelligent, committed. He was, and remains, my favourite player. I’d always hoped he’d come back to the Emirates and thought we could have done more to bring him back when he left Barcelona, but even though he ended up at Chelsea, I always felt his heart was at Arsenal and if you took off that blue jersey there’d be a red one underneath – well, that’s what I told myself anyway!

FBR: Than you Jade and good luck with the book.

Q&A with Jade Craddock. Part 1 – Writing and ‘Football She Wrote’ anthology

FBR has some talented contributors, none more so that Jade Craddock who has been a regular writer for FBR with her insightful book reviews and additionally articles covering the delayed 2020 Euros and the start of the 2021/22 Premier League and Women’s Super League. Jade’s talents have been recognised with a chapter in Football She Wrote. As part of the launch of the book, FBR caught up with Jade to find out a bit more about her football and writing background. This first part of the interview looks at Jade’s involvement in writing and Football She Wrote.

FBR: Congratulations on getting published in the anthology. What can you tell us about the book?

Jade Craddock (JC): Thank you. I think I’m right in saying – at least I hope I am! – that Football She Wrote is the first book of its kind, the first anthology of women’s football writing, and that is something that is really exciting to me and something I’m hugely proud to be part of.

FBR: So how did you get involved in the book?

JC: Football She Wrote is the brainchild of Ian Ridley of Floodlit Dreams and Women in Football, who’d spotted a gap in football writing and realised there were plenty of women out there writing about football or wanting to write about it, so they got ten current female football writers on board and then launched a competition to find a further ten new female football writers to create an anthology of twenty new pieces of writing. I came across the competition one day and was inspired to enter. I had never written anything long-form before and never really thought about doing so, but the competition and the chance to be published gave me the motivation to do so. I’ve been writing football book reviews for a couple of years and been immersed in the sport for over twenty years as a player and a fan and spend a lot of time watching and thinking about football, so I figured I’d give the competition a go. If I got chosen, amazing; if I didn’t, I genuinely enjoyed exploring the area I chose to write about. I submitted the piece back in February, cautiously hopeful, and received an email in May to tell me my piece had been selected. From then on, it’s been a mad but exciting experience.

FBR: What is your chapter about and what was the inspiration behind writing it?

JC: I’m often thinking about football and tend to get a bit carried away in my own head, thinking of hypotheticals and different scenarios. I’m not sure what game I was watching or how exactly it came about, but I was wondering how the Premier League would look if instead of an eleven-a-side game, the format was five-a-side. Would the so-called big six still come out on top or actually would condensing the teams down erase the disparity? From there, I began thinking about what the ‘best’ Premier League five-a-side team would look like and realised there would probably be only a handful of names in the mix, but I wondered if there was another way of thinking about possible Premier League five-a-side line-ups that wouldn’t be the same-old, same-old, so I came up with a number of categories – most appearances, youngest, oldest, etc, and it snowballed from there. In the end, because of the word limit, I chose maybe ten or so categories, but I had a whole list of potential line-ups and there’d be some pretty good games in there if they ever came about!

FBR: What impact do you anticipate the book will have?

I just hope it gets seen, that even if people don’t read it or buy it, they may stop and take a look when they’re browsing for books and have a quick glance at what it’s about. That’s not to say I don’t want people to buy it, of course! But the most important thing to me is visibility. When I was younger, women’s football wasn’t visible and that really limited opportunities. Once you were aware of women’s football, it opened up so many more opportunities. In the same way, having a book written by women about football will hopefully make women’s football writing much more visible and open doors for those interested in it.

FBR: How did you get involved in writing?

JC: In truth, I don’t really feel as if I’m involved in writing necessarily. That may sound counterintuitive given that I have a chapter that I’ve written now published in a book, but I don’t suddenly see myself as a writer or part of a writing world. I obviously write book reviews pretty regularly and I have also written a range of pieces for FBR, and this brings me incredible satisfaction and is certainly something I plan to continue and develop, but outside of that I don’t write anything else. Whether that will change going forward, I don’t know. I certainly enjoyed writing this chapter, but it also gave me even greater respect for the authors whose books I review, having now experienced in miniature the time and effort that goes into it. I have lots of ideas but turning those into the finished article is the tricky thing!

FBR: You mentioned you have plenty of ideas, but what book would you most like to see written?

JC: Cesc Fabregas’s autobiography – but only if I can write it! In all honesty, though, football writing – and sports writing more generally – is something I’m really passionate about, but which I also feel is grossly under published. There are a number of dedicated sports publishers, like Floodlit Dreams, Pitch Publishing, Reach Sport, etc, who do an incredible job of finding and publishing sports writing and lead the way, but they can’t do everything, and I think other publishers should be doing more to support sports writing and making sure it continues to grow. There are so many stories out there that just aren’t getting told; you only have to look at the number of football autobiographies published, for instance, and it’s just a tiny fraction of the football world.

Matt Piper: Out of the Darkness – My life in football

I’m a great believer that every player – every person – has a story and they’re just out there waiting to be told. Look at any football club right now, and there’s some 25 to 30 first-team players, multiply that across the Premier League and that’s over 500 players, multiply that across the Football League and it’s over 2,000 players, yet probably only around 10 or 20 autobiographies are published each year. And that doesn’t even take into account the generations of players that have gone before – literally thousands of them. Of course, it may be that players don’t want to share their stories and that’s absolutely their right, but, conversely, I suspect there are a host that do. They may not be the seeming ‘stars’ of the game, but oftentimes these narratives offer the most important and interesting stories. Take Nicklas Bendtner, for example. He is probably not the first name on fans’ lips when it comes to football icons and autobiographies you’d want to read, but his is one of the most engaging, eye-opening and frank football books I’ve read. Similarly, Matty Piper, whose career ended prematurely, may be little known outside Leicester, but his is an incredibly important story about the darker side of football. Neither of these players are ones that would necessarily spring to mind when drafting a list of potential subjects for autobiographies, but they prove that there are a range of stories out there waiting to be told. It shouldn’t just be the big names, the success stories that are published, but books should reflect the many sides and experiences in football; players who’ve been let go, who’ve had to retire early, who’ve moved into different areas of the game, who’ve come back from injury, who’ve played in lower leagues. The best stories are not necessarily the most well-known, the most obvious, and with so many players past and present, the choice really is wide open. Of course, there is a commercial side to it, and I wouldn’t begin to suggest I have any knowledge of that – and, ultimately, books have to sell and make money, but I genuinely think there is a world of unpublished books out there that need to be found, published and promoted.

In terms of picking books that I would like to see published, autobiography-wise, there’s a number of female footballers I’d love to see in print – there’s whole generations of players from the seventies, eighties, nineties and even 2000s that were integral to the development of women’s football that have gone unrecognised and will surely have incredible stories to share.

In terms of men’s football, I’d love to see Freddie Ljungberg and Gilberto Silva, and of current players, Hector Bellerin and Jesse Lingard. I’m also a huge fan of the Micah Richards/Roy Keane bromance and surely there’s a book in that somewhere. Other stories from within clubs would be great to hear too; I know there’s a recipe book coming out shortly by Mona Nemmer – Liverpool’s head of nutrition – for instance, and it’s this sort of innovation and a different way of engaging with the reading public that is really great to see.

As for football writers, I devoured Daniel Gray’s backlist during lockdown and anyone who’s read my reviews on here will know I’m chomping at the bit for another book from him – he’s just a superb writer. So, in a rather convoluted way, my answer to the question is there’s no end of books I’d like to see written and there’s plenty I could suggest, but the best books are maybe not the ones you expect and that’s why the work of football publishers is so crucial.

FBR: To finish – if you were on a desert island what three football books would you take with you?

Patrice Evra – I Love This Game

JC: I’m not really one for re-reading books and it would have to be a pretty amazing book for me to go back to it. There’s plenty of books that I’ve loved but, in truth, only one that I would choose to read again – How to be a Footballer by Peter Crouch. That would definitely make the desert island cut, not least because if I’m stuck on a desert island I’m going to need something to lift my spirits, and this is genuinely one of the funniest books I’ve read across all genres. I’m a big fan of stats and love to dive into records and the like, so my second pick would be something like England Players’ Records by Graham Betts. And finally, I’d have to have something new to read, so I’d probably pick Patrice Evra’s forthcoming autobiography, I Love This Game. Although, if I’m going to be stuck on the island for more than a week, I’d somehow have to find a way to get more books delivered, because I’d be lost once I’d finished reading those!

Q&A Part 2

Interview with Mike Bayly author of British Football’s Greatest Grounds: One Hundred Must-See Football Venues

Mike Bayly describes himself on his Twitter profile (@Mike_Bayly) as, “History enthusiast. Contributor to  @wsc_magazine Amateur photographer and writer. Quirky ground lover.” And all these attributes have been brought together in his latest project, British Football’s Greatest Grounds: One Hundred Must-See Football Venues. Following the publication of the book which has received much critical acclaim, FBR caught up with the author.

1986 FA Cup Final programme cover

Football Book Reviews (FBR): Can you tell us what were your first football memories?

Mike Bayly (MB): Like most children, I played football at school and in parks as soon as I was old enough to kick a ball. The first televised game I clearly remember watching was the 1986 FA Cup Final between Liverpool and Everton, followed by my first major tournament, Mexico ‘86, shortly afterwards. In 1987, I attended my first live game, seeing Hereford United beat Hartlepool United 4-0 at Edgar Street in the old Division Four. Football quickly became an obsession after that, and I was never happier than when pouring after the results and tables in the ‘Sports Argus’, the local results newspaper for the West Midlands.

FBR: Do you have a team you specifically support?

MB: Growing up in the West Midlands, I occasionally watched Hereford United and Shrewsbury Town, but Kidderminster Harriers were my first love. Harriers were then a very successful non-League side, winning the 1986-87 FA Trophy. I spent many happy years at Aggborough and still have a framed photo from when I was mascot against Maidstone United in 1988.

When I moved to Sheffield for university in 1994, it was much harder to attend games and I lost touch with the club. While it may be anathema to most fans, I tend to gravitate towards clubs where I live, and as a resident of the Steel City, would probably describe myself as a fan of local football than of a specific team.  While I consider myself a casual follower of Sheffield Wednesday, the club I probably watch more than any other is Hallam FC of the Northern Counties East League, albeit only a few times a season. Most Saturdays I tend to be out photographing random grounds and have long passed the point where I can claim a specific allegiance.

FBR: Changing Ends: A Season in Non-League Football was your first football book. What was the driving force for writing it?

MB: During the first decade of the 2000s, I grew increasingly disillusioned with football and hadn’t watched a non-League game in years. For reasons I don’t entirely recall, I attended what was effectively the Conference South title decider between Hampton & Richmond Borough and AFC Wimbledon in April 2009. It was a fantastic experience and made me question whether the charge that football had ‘lost its soul’ could be so readily applied to non-League football. I decided to spend the 2009-10 season watching different non-League clubs, interviewing fans and committee members for their take on the modern game. This included trips to London APSA, a leading Asian club, and the fan-owned AFC Liverpool. It was through this journey I rediscovered my love of football and became aware of the invaluable and unsung work volunteers do, who, in my opinion, are the real heroes of our national game.

FBR: Do you think this book has even more relevance today?

MB: In some respects, yes. Professional football has become even more commercialised and expensive to watch in the last decade and will presumably continue on a similar trajectory. There have long been examples of fans finding refuge in the non-League game as it offers an affordable and more traditional matchday experience. Interestingly, a by-product of the pandemic is that fans desperate for live football have turned out in record numbers at non-League grounds. Here in Sheffield, interest in Hallam FC spiked prior to the latest lockdown. For a league game against Brigg Town, the Covid-restricted ticket allocation of 150 sold out in two minutes.

A number of those attending would ordinarily be watching Sheffield Wednesday or Sheffield United, and it would be naïve to assume ticket demand will remain the same once things return to normal. However, it is interesting to note that many fans watching non-League football for the first time loved the experience and vowed to continue doing so even when restrictions lift. At places like Hallam, you can watch the game and have a couple of pints for £10. The quality of football might not be the same as in the Football League or Premier League, but as an overall experience I suspect it will remain highly appealing in a financially uncertain post-Covid world.

FBR: What is the inspiration for your latest book, British Football’s Greatest Grounds: One Hundred Must-See Football Venues?

There were two main reasons I decided to write the book after the idea came to me in 2013.

Firstly, I’ve always enjoyed visiting new grounds, but, as I’m sure is the case with a lot of people, social and work commitments can restrict opportunities to do so. There were numerous ground guides available in print and on the internet, but, to the best of my knowledge, nothing that provided a shortlist of our must-see venues. Providing some guidance or suggestions in the form of a ‘bucket list’ might be useful for those fans with limited free time who wanted to be more selective with their football trips.

And secondly, I thought it would be a fun and rewarding project to carry out. Which it certainly proved to be.

FBR: Do you have a favourite ground and why?

MB: Like music albums, I think my choice of favourite ground changes with my mood or interest at a given time. However, there are three grounds that will always occupy a place near the top:

Cappielow [Credit: Greenock Morton FC]
  1. Cappielow (Greenock Morton) – A timeless football ground with old stands, large open terracing, evocative floodlights and an industrial titan crane for backdrop.
  2. Bellslea Park (Fraserburgh) – The 1920s main stand. The imposing Victorian church behind the ground. The harbour views. Quite wonderful.
  3. Cadbury Recreation Ground (Cadbury Athletic) – Part of the Bournville Model Village laid out by the Cadbury brothers in the late 19th/early 20th century. Complete with Edwardian Pavilion, the Cadbury Recreation Ground is in Birmingham but not of it. A utopian place to watch football.

FBR: Do you think the unique grounds will survive or is there an inevitability about standardisation where clubs are in the football pyramid?

MB: The football ground landscape in Britain has changed behind recognition in the past 30 years. I suspect there are five man drivers for this.

  1. The recommendations laid out in the Taylor Report that compelled many professional clubs to upgrade their ageing grounds to all-seater and improve safety.
  2. The increased cost of competing at the highest level, resulting in numerous out-of-town ground relocations. Some ground moves are made from necessity (Shrewsbury Town relocated from the beautiful Gay Meadow partly because of constant flooding) but other new builds appear to be driven solely by the desire to capitalise on land value and/or increase revenue.
  3. The desire to replace old structures with newer, more comfortable facilities that enable other revenue streams such as bars, hotels or conference suites.
  4. More stringent ground grading standards in the non-league pyramid (I reference this specifically in the last part of the Richmond Town section of my latest book)
  5. Greater fluidity in the non-League pyramid (not least automatic promotion to the Football League and play-off places in the tiers below) resulting in a greater number of aspirational clubs replacing older structures or moving to new facilities.
Bootham Crescent, York City FC

Taking this as a whole, I fear it is a case of when, not if, our oldest or most unique grounds will cease to exist. The Boleyn Ground, Griffin Park and Bootham Crescent have been lost in the last few years and based on current planning discussions, it’s only a matter of time before places like Goodison Park (Everton) or the Pilot Field (Hastings United) go the same way. Many other sacred venues have been the subject of relocation talk in the last decade. The fate of football grounds rests as much on the attitude and ambition of incumbent owners as anything else. I do worry that in the twilight of my life, ‘British Football’s Greatest Grounds’ will be more a document of what was, than what is.

FBR: How do you think COVID will  shape football going forward?

MB: I think it’s very difficult to tell at present. Reduced capacity at stadiums could be in place until late 2021 or even 2022. In this eventuality, some fans might have gone 18-24 months without watching their clubs live. I imagine the vast majority of supporters will be desperate to watch their club play again, regardless of the wait. However, it’s more than feasible that some will drift away or find themselves in the habit of watching non-League football, assuming restrictions are lifted earlier that those in the Premier League or Football League. As for Covid’s impact on the actual ground layout or design, I don’t know. Making predictions on anything right now can be a fallacious exercise.

FBR: Many thanks for your time Mike. Good luck with the book!

Interview with Warren Dudley, author of Sir Unwin Pugh, From Hull to Camp Nou.

Warren Dudley is an award-winning screenwriter and author from the UK, who has spent all his life living in Seaford, East Sussex, and the surrounding areas. He studied at Tideway School in Newhaven before embarking on a career in print and design.

After a brief dalliance with music in the 1990s with his band steBson, Warren turned to writing and making a small budget movie called Lived with Rick Roberts in the early 2000s. After several more self-made films projects, he got his big break when the opportunity to adapt Dave Roberts’ football memoir The Bromley Boys was handed to him by friend and producer TJ Herbert in 2012. The movie went on to have a successful UK and US cinema run and has garnered critical acclaim. In 2018 he worked with Blair Witch Project director Eduardo Sanchez on a pilot for Sky TV.

In November 2020 he released his first football novel, Sir Unwin Pugh: From Hull to Camp Nou following his debut horror novel in July 2020, Baby Blue: An American horror story. 

Footballbookreviews (FBR): What is your first football memory?

Warren Dudley (WD): My first game was a 4-1 win for Brighton over Manchester City in around 1981 I think (Editors Note: 03 October 1981 – League Division One: Brighton beat City 4-1 at the Goldstone Ground). My first very strong football memory is being 3-0 down at half-time in the 1983 FA Cup Final Replay against Manchester United. I sat in my bedroom aged ten and burst into tears…that’s when it all started.

FBR: You are a Brighton fan, how did this come about, and have you weaved them or their rivals into the Sir Unwin Pugh storyline?

WD: My Dad and Grandad were both big Albion fans so it was inevitable I would be too I guess. It’s been a long and varied 35 years of going to games come rain or shine. Ranging from the fight to keep The Goldstone, away games at Gillingham, the move to the Withdean athletics ground and then on to The Amex. Being in the Premier League now is a very odd, and not always a great experience…the journey was much more fun than the destination. As for our rivals Crystal Palace, there is one chapter dedicated to them in the book. It’s all done with love though!

FBR: How did you get into writing?

WD: I started ‘filmmaking’ about 15 years ago just making little, short-films and ideas. This progressed into writing longer scripts and culminated in me writing a football mock-doc TV pilot called Newhaven Port in 2005-ish. It was on that set where I met TJ Herbert. He went on to become a movie producer and offered me the chance to adapt Dave Roberts fantastic book The Bromley Boys – that was my big break. Since then I have attempted to make writing my living. It’s incredibly tough and I am lucky to have a very patient wife.

FBR: You have previously written a book, “Baby Blue: An American horror story” and now this football related story. How did you come to make the transition between two different genres?

WD: When I look back on my writing ‘career’ it appears I have written something scary and then immediately followed it up with a football palate cleanser. I love both genres but find it hard to keep doing just the one. The horror/thriller stuff is often more commercially viable but not nearly as much fun.

FBR: What was the inspiration for writing the Sir Unwin Pugh book?

WD: I have become quite good mates with Dave Roberts, since I adapted his book for screen. We are always batting ideas backwards and forwards and when I mentioned this he didn’t think it was a terrible idea. I had a look around on Amazon and it didn’t seem to be a very well-trodden path (there could of course be a good reason for that!) For me it’s just a lovely opportunity to write something that gives me a blank canvas to come up with a series of silly footballing anecdotes – something I am always very happy to do…

FBR: Is Sir Unwin Pugh based on anyone?

WD: Not really – he’s one of those slightly posh Alf Ramsay types. Saying that, I was often picturing Paul Whitehouse as Rowley Birkin QC from The Fast Show while writing.

FBR: What are the major differences between screenwriting and writing novels?

WD: It’s been one of the great pleasures of switching from screenwriting to writing books. When you write for the screen you are always thinking about budget and being harassed by producers to keep things tight. When writing a book, if you want to send your main character to manage a team in Borneo you can do just that without worrying about who’s gonna pay for the trip!

FBR: Thank you Warren for your time! All the best with the book.

For more information about Warren, please visit his website

You can also follow Sir Unwin Pugh on Facebook

Interview with Texi Smith, author of ‘Jarrod Black – Guilty Party’

Following the success of the first two Jarrod Black novels, Introducing Jarrod Black, and Jarrod Black – Hospital Pass, we at footballbookreviews (FBR) are delighted that there is a third offering in the series – Guilty Party. Ahead of our review of the book, we caught up with their author Texi Smith (TS) to talk all things ‘lockdown’ and what readers can expect from this latest instalment.

(FBR): What has lockdown been like for you?

(TS): Lockdown seems to have been a lot less traumatic in this part of the world. Australia has been locked down state by state. Apart from letting a cruise ship dock in Sydney and let out a group of contaminated people, New South Wales has been well contained. Only Victoria remains as the hot spot for the virus. Park football started up again at the beginning of July, the NRL (rugby league) and AFL (Australian Rules football) have been going for a few weeks now behind closed doors, and A-League (football) restarts in a couple of weeks. Apart from having to hunt high and low for toilet paper and having six weeks with limited movement around town, we’ve been very lucky.

(FBR): Has it allowed for more reading and writing? If so, what has been a stand-out read and what have you been writing?

(TS): I was midway through writing a fourth book when COVID-19 struck. I absolutely powered through the writing and finished the first draft in May. It’s a different story this time, an aside from the chronicles of Jarrod Black, but I absolutely loved writing it. I’ll be getting back to the editing process when the publisher gives the green light. I found my favourite ever football book in lockdown too – Full Time: The Secret Life Of Tony Cascarino. It just struck a chord with me and I could not put it down. I’d recommend it to anyone who was around to experience the twilight of his career.

(FBR): What was the inspiration for writing the third instalment of the Jarrod Black series, ‘Guilty Party’?

(TS) Guilty Party was born from the exciting end to the second book, Hospital Pass. It allowed me to go back to the North East of England and write about Newcastle and St James Park. Again, it was great fun writing it and the story took some twists as it evolved. The next in the series is underway, but with life getting back to normal, progress is at a more realistic pace.

(FBR): Finally, what’s on the horizon for you?

(TS): Australia and New Zealand will be the hosts for the next FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023 – look out for the next book, as yet untitled, which delves into the World Cup scene for its storyline. You’ll love this one!

Interview with Tom Flight, author of ‘Yer Joking Aren’t Ya? – The Story of Middlesbrough FC’s 1996/97 Season’

As football in the Premier League and the Championship prepares to return after the COVID-19 outbreak, titles, promotions, and relegations will be fought for behind closed doors. For Middlesbrough, the remaining nine games are vital as they look to ensure their survival in the Championship. Ahead of this unusual end of season, FBR caught up with Tom Flight (TF) who has released a book about an incredible season in the Boro’s history.


(FBR): Congratulations on the publication of ‘Yer Joking Aren’t Ya?’ which tells the story of the 1996/1997 season at Middlesbrough. Can you tell us a bit about your affinity with the club?

(TF): Thank you very much. My family moved to Teesside when I was two, so I grew up with them being my local team. My dad wasn’t a particularly huge football fan, but he got swept away with the optimism and all the excitement when Bryan Robson became manager. We started going to games during the 1994/95 season, the year we got promoted, and then we got a season ticket the following season which we kept for years. In the mid-90s Middlesbrough was an absolutely amazing place to be a young football fan.

(FBR): The 1980s were a difficult period financially for the club, but Middlesbrough were promoted back to the Premier League in 1994/1995, what were the feelings around the club at the time?

(TF): I remember there being a distinct buzz all season about that promotion side. I imagine the events of 1986 were still raw, but what that young side did was such an incredible achievement. When Steve Gibson became chairman in 1994 and appointed Bryan Robson, I think it felt like Boro’ were finally going to go to the next level.

(FBR): Bryan Robson was brought in as player-manager in 1994, in his first experience in a managerial role, what was the reaction to his arrival and his time at Middlesbrough?

(TF): I think it was seen as a massive coup. When Robson retired from playing for Manchester United, he was approached by a number of clubs, and Ron Atkinson was trying to bring him in as assistant at Aston Villa. Terry Venables had picked him for the assistant job for England, so Robson was definitely seen as an up-and-coming manager.

(FBR): In the first season back in the Premier League, Middlesbrough finished 12th, was there a sense of optimism at the start of the 1996/1997 season?

(TF): I’ve never experienced anything close to the optimism that I felt as a young Middlesbrough fan in the summer of 1996. Middlesbrough had started well in the 95/96 campaign, but they dropped off after Christmas, but that season really felt like a prequel ahead of what was going to happen the following season. The transfer of Juninho in October 1995 had been ground-breaking, but when we signed Fabrizio Ravanelli it was unbelievable.

(FBR): Can you tell us a bit about the story of the 1996/1997 season and its inspiration for the book?

(TF): I’ve always thought it was one of the most incredible stories of the Premier League era. How a side like Middlesbrough was able to attract top stars and compete financially with top sides in Europe was impressive in itself. But it was quite remarkable how the season unravelled. It was a campaign full of crazy stories, like Brazilian midfielder Emerson going AWOL for a month, and the debacle at Ewood Park where Boro’ were deducted three points for failing to show up for a match. At the same time, Middlesbrough were also embarking on two epic cup finals and two Wembley appearances. That one season produced more memories and incredible moments than you would normally hope to see in a decade.

(FBR): In Ravanelli and Juninho, Middlesbrough had two of the league’s most mercurial figures, both of whom were amongst the top scorers in the Premier League in 1996/1997, how did this mesh with Middlesbrough’s falling to relegation?

(TF): At the start of the season, I think Boro’ fans were just so excited by the fact we had two genuine world-class players in Ravanelli and Juninho, plus Emerson in midfield, but it soon became apparent that the side was horribly unbalanced. The defence was just a mess, not helped by a pretty severe injury crisis. Ravanelli in particular found the defence exasperating and was slagging his own side off to Italian newspapers during the season. Robson made a couple of late signings in getting goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer and Italian defender Gianluca Festa which massively improved the side at the back, but the damage had already been done.

(FBR): How is the 1996/1997 season reflected back on now? Has there been a lasting effect at all?

(TF): I’ve actually had several people message me saying that they’ve purchased the book but said they can’t bring themselves to read it and revisit those memories. Over 20 years later it still feels “too soon.” Rob Nicholls who is editor for the Middlesbrough Fanzine Fly Me To The Moon has said that Boro’ fans “lost the ability to truly let themselves go” after this season. There was so much drama and emotion and memorable moments, but for it all to end in relegation and two cup final defeats was just completely crushing. It was also a major sliding-doors moment. If we had been able to stay up, there were all sorts of rumours about who we were going to sign next (Gabriel Batistuta and Roberto Carlos were serious targets), but relegation dashed all those dreams. I think the thought of what might have been still lingers with a lot of fans today.

(FBR): Juninho left at the end of that ‘96/97 season, only to return for spells in 1999/2000 and in 2002 to 2004 and is still very much synonymous with Middlesbrough. How important was he for the club and where does he rank for you amongst the best players the team has seen?

(TF): He is the best player I’ve ever seen in a Middlesbrough shirt. When I started researching the book and watched some of the matches, I was fully prepared for my memories to be steeped in nostalgia and maybe find he wasn’t as good as I thought. To be honest, he was far better than I remembered. I’m not exaggerating when I say he could pick the ball up literally anywhere on the pitch and you’d be on the edge of your seat. He would glide past players with such grace and ease, but he was always direct, never showing off. It often felt like he was taking on the opposition almost singlehandedly. If his teammates got the ball, they would just give it straight back to him. Obviously, he was tiny, but his balance was incredible. The game is significantly less physical now, I think if he played in the modern era, he’d be unstoppable.

(FBR): Do you still follow Middlesbrough today and if so, prior to the coronavirus pandemic, how would you view their season and their ambitions for the future?

(TF): Yes, I still follow Middlesbrough. I live in the States now though, so I’m always watching or listening to games on Saturday mornings. When I get home to the UK, I usually get to a game. I’m desperate for Jonathan Woodgate to do well, but obviously we have struggled a lot this season. There have been glimpses where we’ve looked promising, and a few of the goals we’ve scored this season have been some of the best I’ve seen in years, but I think we are also the lowest scorers in the league, and the defence has hardly been covering themselves in glory. We’re definitely in a process of rebuilding, so I’m just hoping we can just stay up and then perhaps we’ll see Boro’ evolve into a more consistent side next season.

As for the future, the footballing world has changed so much. The gap between the elite and the rest is so vast now it’s almost impossible to imagine we’ll ever see players of the calibre of Juninho playing at the Riverside again. I just hope Steve Gibson is able to turn things round and get us back in the Premier League one day, and maybe have one more shot at a trophy. He’s given so much to the club, it would be great if he could have one last shot at glory.

(FBR): It’s impossible not to mention the current situation, with football suspended in England, and generally worldwide, for the last couple of months, with plans for the resumption in mid-June, how much have you missed it and what are you most looking forward to when it returns?

(TF): I’ve definitely missed it. Not only the end of the regular season, but I was also looking forward to the Euros and going to some MLS games here in the States. But at the same time I’ve quite enjoyed the excuse to indulge in looking back at classic matches and past seasons. I wrote this book because I love football nostalgia, particularly from the 90s, so I always enjoy looking back.

(FBR): And finally if you could pick one former Middlesbrough player to slot into the current team who would it be and why?

(TF): Juninho. He would be worth a fair bit in today’s market though.


Jade Craddock (for FBR)

Interview with Peter Roberts, author of Park Life: Four seasons of Rhondda football (Cyfweliad gyda Peter Roberts, awdur bywyd y Parc: pedwar tymor o bêl-droed Rhondda)

Football is a game that is not just about the elite at the top of the professional pyramid. Up and down the country on weekends during the season, park pitches ring to the sound of players of all shapes, sizes and abilities giving it their all at the grassroots level. Peter Roberts has recorded that story from his perspective in his book, Park Life: Four seasons of Rhondda football, and ahead of our review of it, the FBR team caught up with him.

Mae pêl-droed yn gêm nad yw’n ymwneud â’r elît yn unig ar frig y pyramid proffesiynol. I fyny ac i lawr y wlad ar benwythnosau yn ystod y tymor, mae lleiniau Parc yn canu i s?n chwaraewyr o bob math, maint a gallu gan roi’r cyfan ar lefel llawr gwlad. Mae Peter Roberts wedi recordio’r stori honno o’i safbwynt yn ei lyfr, bywyd y Parc: pedwar tymor o bêl-droed Rhondda, a cyn ein hadolygiad ohoni, daliodd tîm FBR ag ef i fyny gydag ef.

Football Book Reviews (FBR): Congratulations on the publication of ‘Park Life’ – this was the first book you’ve written, so how did you find the process? Were there any particular challenges?

Llongyfarchiadau ar gyhoeddiad ‘ bywyd Parc ‘-Dyma’r llyfr cyntaf i chi ei ysgrifennu, felly sut y gwnaethoch chi ddod o hyd i’r broses? A oedd unrhyw heriau penodol?

Peter Roberts (PR): Thank you. As a complete novice author, I was not familiar with the publishing process at all and I made mistakes and suffered numerous knockbacks along the way.

However, I felt strongly that I had a proper football and community story to tell that was both relevant and relatable to amateur footballers up and down the country. So, I persevered, a skill that I learnt on the football field, and eventually the publishers Y Lolfa showed an interest. The team there were extremely helpful and instrumental in making Park Life a reality, and I am grateful to them.

Diolch. Fel un o’r awduron cyflawn, nid oeddwn yn gyfarwydd â’r broses gyhoeddi o gwbl a gwneuthum gamgymeriadau a dioddef tagfeydd niferus ar hyd y ffordd.

Fodd bynnag, teimlais yn gryf fod gennyf stori bêl-droed a chymunedol briodol i’w hadrodd a oedd yn berthnasol ac yn addas i bêl-droedwyr amatur ar hyd a lled y wlad. Felly, yr wyf yn dyfalbarhau, sgìl a ddysgais ar y cae pêl-droed, ac yn y pen draw Dangosodd y cyhoeddwyr Y lolfa ddiddordeb. Roedd y tîm yno yn hynod o gymwynasgar ac yn allweddol o ran gwneud bywyd y Parc yn realiti, ac rwy’n ddiolchgar iddynt.

FBR: The book focuses on Maindy Conservative Football Club, can you tell us a bit about the club and your association with it?

Mae’r llyfr yn canolbwyntio ar Glwb Pêl-droed Maindy, a allwch ddweud ychydig wrthym am y clwb a’ch cysylltiad ag ef?

PR: The football team was formed when a group of us who used the Maindy Con club socially approached the Club Committee with the suggestion to run a football team from there. Luckily, they agreed, and we joined the Rhondda Sunday League. As the book explains, I became player/manager despite not having any managerial experience.

The club itself is a typical workingman’s club located in a street of terraced houses in the Rhondda, South Wales.

Cafodd y tîm pêl-droed ei ffurfio pan ddaeth gr?p ohonom a ddefnyddiodd glwb Maindy Con yn gymdeithasol at bwyllgor y clwb gyda’r awgrym i redeg tîm pêl-droed oddi yno. Yn ffodus, cytunasant, ac ymunon ni â Chynghrair Sul y Rhondda. Fel yr eglura’r llyfr, deuthum yn chwaraewr/rheolwr er nad oedd gennyf unrhyw brofiad rheolaethol.

Mae’r clwb ei hun yn glwb workingman nodweddiadol sydd wedi ei leoli mewn stryd o dai teras yn y Rhondda, De Cymru.

FBR: What was the decision behind focusing on four seasons in the book and how easy was it to decide on which stories to recount?

Beth oedd y penderfyniad a oedd yn sail i ganolbwyntio ar bedwar tymor yn y llyfr a pha mor hawdd oedd hi i benderfynu ar ba straeon i adrodd?

PR: The book is an actual snapshot of four seasons and is an extension of the game-by-game summaries I gave at our end-of-season presentation nights.

It documents the ups and downs of a local grassroots football team that highlights and illustrates what Sunday League football is like – a million miles from the Premier League!

It also illustrates the camaraderie that exists within the grassroots game, detailing the post-match pub culture, as well as the football.

Mae’r llyfr yn gipolwg go iawn ar bedwar tymor ac mae’n estyniad o’r crynodebau gêm-wrth-gêm a roddais yn ein nosweithiau cyflwyno ar ddiwedd y tymor.

Mae’n nodi’r ups a’r drwg gan dîm pêl-droed lleol ar lawr gwlad sy’n amlygu ac yn darlunio beth yw pêl-droed y gynghrair ddydd Sul – miliwn o filltiroedd o’r uwch gynghrair!

Mae hefyd yn dangos y camaraderie sy’n bodoli o fewn y gêm llawr gwlad, gan fanylu ar y diwylliant dafarn ôl-gyfatebol, yn ogystal â’r bêl-droed.

FBR: Can you tell us a little about the highs and lows of playing in the Rhondda Valley and District League?

A allwch ddweud ychydig wrthym am uchafbwyntiau ac isafbwyntiau chwarae yng nghynghrair Cwm Rhondda a’r cylch?

PR: The League has a proud history, celebrating its centenary year in 2007. Like lots of local leagues, it is very competitive, and the winners of the Saturday League have the opportunity to gain promotion to the South Wales Alliance.

As the book details, we experienced some great highs, like winning the South Wales Intermediate Cup, whilst also experiencing some lows, such as having a game abandoned as we only had six players left on the pitch.

Mae gan y Gynghrair hanes balch, sy’n dathlu ei blwyddyn ganmlwyddiant ym 2007. Fel llawer o gynghreiriau lleol, mae’n gystadleuol iawn, ac mae enillwyr y Gynghrair ar ddydd Sadwrn yn cael cyfle i gael dyrchafiad i Gynghrair De Cymru.

Fel y manylion llyfr, buom yn profi uchafbwyntiau gwych, fel ennill Cwpan canolradd De Cymru, tra hefyd yn profi rhai isafbwyntiau, megis cael gêm wedi’i adael gan mai dim ond chwe chwaraewr oedd ar ôl ar y cae.

FBR: As for many towns and individuals, grassroots football is their lifeblood, how did you first get involved and what importance does it hold in your life?

Fel yn achos llawer o drefi ac unigolion, pêl-droed ar lawr gwlad yw eu hunain, sut y gwnaethoch chi gymryd rhan am y tro cyntaf a pha mor bwysig yw dal yn eich bywyd?

PR: I started playing football for Ton and Gelli Boys’ Club Under 10s. From then on, football was in my blood. I went on to play for the club at every age level from Under 10s to Under 18s. It was during this time that I played against Nathan Jones, current manager of Luton Town FC, who kindly wrote the foreword for me.

I am now 47 and have been involved with local grassroots football ever since, playing, managing, and coaching.

Currently I play for Ferndale and District Over 40s team in the Wales Veterans League. The League is a great way to keep playing and even has some ex professionals playing in it, including Lee Trundle (ex-Swansea City) and Scott Young (ex-Cardiff City).

Coaching wise I look after the Ton and Gelli Boys’ Club Under 18s team. I really enjoy this, and it is great to see the next generation of local footballers enjoying the game.

Dechreuais chwarae pêl-droed i Glwb Bechgyn ton a’r Gelli dan 10 oed. O hynny ymlaen, roedd pêl-droed yn fy ngwaed. Euthum ymlaen i chwarae i’r clwb ar bob lefel oedran o dan 10s i rai dan 18 oed. Yn ystod y cyfnod hwn y bûm yn chwarae yn erbyn Nathan Jones, rheolwr presennol clwb pêl-droed Luton Town, a ysgrifennodd y Rhagair i mi yn garedig.

Rwyf bellach yn 47 ac wedi bod yn gysylltiedig â phêl-droed lleol ar lawr gwlad byth ers hynny, yn chwarae, yn rheoli, ac yn hyfforddi.

Ar hyn o bryd rwyf yn chwarae i dîm Glynrhedynog a’r ardal dros 40au yng nghynghrair cyn-filwyr Cymru. Mae’r Gynghrair yn ffordd wych o ddal i chwarae, ac mae rhai cyn-weithwyr proffesiynol yn chwarae ynddi hyd yn oed, gan gynnwys Lee Trundle (cyn-ddinas Abertawe) a Scott Young (cyn-ddinas Caerdydd).

Hyfforddi’n ddoeth Dwi’n gofalu am dîm dan 18 clwb bechgyn ton a’r Gelli. Rwy’n mwynhau hyn yn fawr, ac mae’n wych gweld y genhedlaeth nesaf o bêl-droedwyr lleol yn mwynhau’r gêm.

FBR: What value do you think grassroots football has in general and what state is the game in at this level from your own experiences?

Yn eich barn chi, pa werth sydd gan bêl-droed ar lawr gwlad yn gyffredinol, a beth yw’r gamp ar y lefel hon o’ch profiadau chi eich hun?

PR: I cannot overemphasise the value of grassroots football, as I think it is part of the glue that holds communities together. For example, most teams play from a pub or club and the revenue generated from the after-match refreshments are often key in keeping these places open.

Grassroots is much more than just the football, and this is what I hoped to capture in Park Life.

These days, I think grassroots football is fighting a battle to survive, costs are rising and there are also so many things that compete with football. However, I have no doubt it is a battle it will win and continue to thrive.

Ni allaf orbwysleisio gwerth pêl-droed ar lawr gwlad, oherwydd credaf ei fod yn rhan o’r glud sy’n dal cymunedau at ei gilydd. Er enghraifft, mae’r rhan fwyaf o dimau’n chwarae o dafarn neu glwb ac mae’r refeniw a gynhyrchir o’r lluniaeth ar ôl y gêm yn aml yn allweddol i gadw’r lleoedd hyn ar agor.

Mae llawr gwlad yn llawer mwy na dim ond y bêl-droed, a dyma’r hyn yr oeddwn yn gobeithio ei gipio ym mywyd y Parc.

Y dyddiau hyn, rwy’n meddwl bod pêl-droed ar lawr gwlad yn ymladd brwydr i oroesi, mae costau’n codi ac mae yna hefyd gymaint o bethau sy’n cystadlu â phêl-droed. Fodd bynnag, nid oes gennyf amheuaeth ei bod yn frwydr y bydd yn ei hennill ac yn parhau i ffynnu.

FBR: We can’t avoid touching on current circumstances and the suspension of all football, what effect has this had on your own club and what in particular are you missing about football?

Ni allwn osgoi cyffwrdd â’r amgylchiadau presennol ac atal pob pêl-droed, pa effaith a gafodd hyn ar eich clwb eich hun a beth yn benodol ydych chi’n ei golli am bêl-droed?

PR: Personally, I think grassroots football is being missed far more than the professional game because of the community and camaraderie that exists at our level. I sincerely hope that everyone is back on the pitch as soon as possible.

Yn bersonol, rwy’n credu bod pêl-droed ar lawr gwlad yn cael ei cholli llawer mwy na’r gêm broffesiynol oherwydd y gymuned a’r cyfeillgarwch sy’n bodoli ar ein lefel ni. Mawr obeithiaf y bydd pawb yn ôl ar y cae cyn gynted ag y bo modd.

FBR: And, finally, you’ve presumably been a part of some big games with Maindy, but if you could have any team from the past or present face you at home who would it be?

Ac, yn olaf, mae’n debyg eich bod wedi bod yn rhan o rai gemau mawr gyda’r Maindy, ond os gallech chi gael unrhyw dîm o’r gorffennol neu’r presennol yn eich wynebu chi gartref pwy fyddai hwnnw?

PR: My team, Cardiff City!

For those who buy a copy of the book I really hope it takes readers back to their own playing days and most importantly that they find it an enjoyable read!

Park Life is available from Amazon, Waterstones and also direct from the Publishers ‘Y Lolfa’.

Fy nhîm i, Dinas Caerdydd!

I’r rhai sy’n prynu copi o’r llyfr Rwy’n gobeithio’n fawr y bydd yn mynd â darllenwyr yn ôl i’w diwrnodau chwarae eu hunain ac yn bwysicaf oll eu bod yn ei ddarllen yn bleserus!

Mae bywyd Parc ar gael gan Amazon, Waterstones a hefyd yn uniongyrchol gan y cyhoeddwyr ‘ Y lolfa ‘.