Book Review: A Fan’s Folklore – Six Seasons of Triumph, Tragedy and Tough Luck by Dean T. Hartwell

Sport is often held up as a metaphor for life; no matter what the sport, the country that it is played in or whether you experience it as a participant or spectator. Dean T. Hartwell takes his early years watching his beloved Oakland Raiders in the National Football League (NFL) and Los Angeles Dodgers of the Major League Baseball (MLB) to illustrate how they taught him lessons in ways he “…could not have otherwise understood…”

Hartwell focuses on a six year period, from 1972 to 1978 and in particular nine games, as the basis of this book. These include NFL games between the Raiders and their great rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos and MLB fixtures featuring the Dodgers against Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees. They are then grouped into three categories, Triumph, Tragedy and Tough Luck, to illustrate the points the author wishes to imparts to the reader about the lessons he has learned from those games, in relation to ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ aspects of life.

Some of the games are infamous such as that remembered for the ‘Holy Rollers’ play involving Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers (1978) and another that is known for the ‘Immaculate Reception’ between Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers (1972). Hartwell looks at these incidents (and others in the nine games in the book) in detail to ascertain or offer a hypothesis as to what took place. For the most part this provides interesting reading, although I was not convinced as to the real benefit of the authors re-run of the 1975 AFC Championship game between Oakland and Pittsburgh based on Raiders home advantage and therefore less inclement weather.

This book is obviously a cathartic work for the author and Hartwell should be praised for his bravery in expressing such personal and sometimes painful episodes from his life. It is part sport, part self-help and a book that will spark debate.


Book Review: Bicycle Kicks by Simon Hood

Some say football is a metaphor for life, others state that life is a journey; so what does it say if you set yourself the task over a ten month period to complete a 10,000 mile journey on a bicycle watching every single game played by your team (home and away) in the Conference National and FA Cup in the 2009/10 season?

The obvious response for many would simply be – why? However, there was method in the madness for life-long York City supporter Simon Hood which he explains in the Prologue to his book Bicycle Kicks. In his self-deprecating manner Hood tells the reader that on the one-hand he undertook the challenge because at the age of thirty two he felt life was passing him by in a “…passive, rudderless existence…” and that the challenge “…seemed a bit of a lark…” On the other-hand he acknowledges that it was a chance to reconnect with his home-town club, carry out some fundraising for the Alzheimer’s Society, write about his experience and so avoid becoming “…that guy staring into the bottom of his pint glass, thinking about this great idea he’d once had, and had never seen through…” As a consequence, Hood hands in his notice at work, gives up the lease on his flat in London and prepares for life on the road, with his bicycle and panniers containing some basics including a tent.

Over the course of the 155 pages, the book sets out month by month from August 2009 to May 2010 the story of Hood’s efforts to get to complete the task he set himself. In a bizarre twist of footballing fate, the same opposition begin the journey and end it – Oxford United. In between the writer has forty six league games to attend as well as the FA Cup Rounds that The Minstermen find themselves involved in, all achieved by the solitary mode of transport that was his bicycle.

What emerges over the course of the book is a read and style that is engaging, which stems from Hood’s dry wit and sharp observational humour. He manages to balance details about the games he attends, with the cycling routes, his family and friends as well as anecdotes from his travels around the country. Hood allows the reader enough detail to follow the events whether it is on the terraces at Bootham Crescent or cycling through the Fens with a cruel wind biting into the cyclists face and hands. However, there is the feeling at times that the reader is being slightly kept at arm’s length and that some things are not dwelt on. Perhaps it merely reflects Hood’s journey round the country, where the scenery is constantly changing, so that nothing has a great deal of permanence and is merely a passing memory.

By the end of the book the reader has shared with the author some of the emotional highs and lows of an incredible challenge. The story of a man reconnecting with his club, his family and friends and getting his ‘kicks’ enjoying the freedom of the open road. It will leave you with a feel-good factor; it may help restore your faith in human nature. It may also inspire you to get out and do something in turning a dream into a reality.


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Book Review: This Is Our Time – The AFC Wimbledon Story by Niall Couper

My allegiance is to Fulham, it’s where I was born and they are the team I have supported since my first ‘live’ game in 1972. However, there are teams you get a soft spot for, a club whose results you look out for. That club for me is Wimbledon FC. The first time I went to Plough Lane was in January 1976 for an FA Trophy 1st Round Replay game against Sutton United. I’d never been to watch non-league football, but something that night hooked me in. Over the following years I regularly attended games at Wimbledon when Fulham were away and was fortunate enough to be there for some memorable games, including the victory against Minehead in May 1977 which went a long way to sealing the Southern League Premier Division, the first game in Division Four against Halifax Town in August 1977 and an FA Cup victory over Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest in January 1985. By the time I left London in August 1991 to live in Leeds, Wimbledon were an established First Division team, but had been forced to leave Plough Lane and were about to start life at Selhurst Park. Not being in the capital, I had to follow the disturbing rumours of The Dons move to Dublin and Milton Keynes from afar, but ultimately didn’t believe that The FA would sanction this most invidious of proposals. However, history tells us that the unfathomable decision came to pass and which subsequently led to the beginning of another chapter in the history of The Dons when AFC Wimbledon were born in 2002.

This Is Our Time – The AFC Wimbledon Story by Niall Couper recounts the incredible tale of the rise from the Combined Counties League (CCL) back to the Football League. Couper started following The Dons in 1982 and watched the club at Plough Lane and Selhurst Park. With the release of Charles Koppel’s plan to take Wimbledon to Milton Keynes in 2001, fans looked to boycott official merchandise. An alternative match-day programme, Yellow and Blue, came into existence edited by Couper, which in their inaugural season in the CCL became the ‘official’ club programme for AFC Wimbledon. In addition to this book, Couper was also the author of, The Spirit of Wimbledon – The living memories of the Dons 1922 – 2003. Both books are available from the publisher Cherry Red.

At nearly 600 pages This Is Our Time, is an incredible achievement in terms of research, editing and writing. In terms of style and structure, it is divided into 14 Chapters and for the most part dominated by interview pieces with key figures from The Dons down the years with players, managers, club officials and fans reflecting on the key moments from 2001 to the end of the 2011/12 season. The text is supplemented by a huge array of pictures, some of which are very poignant, including a shot of a disused and over-grown Plough Lane shortly before demolition. The opening chapter provides a brief history of Wimbledon up to the conclusion of the 2000/01 season and then takes on a more detailed look from the time leading up to the point The FA validates the establish of the franchise in Milton Keynes. There is plenty of coverage of the disbelief of the fans and the wider football community at the decision and the feelings of despair, anger and injustice pour out of the pages. Also in the book and very evident is the defiance and determination to put right this footballing wrong, so the stories of the Wimbledon Independent Supporters Association (WISA), the Dons Trust and Supporters Direct in the creation of AFC Wimbledon are all here. Incredibly the team was up and running for the 2002/03 season as The Dons entered the CCL after an inaugural friendly against Sutton United when a huge crowd of over 4,500 witnessed the fan’s club debut. The chapters then follow each season and progression from the CCL to the Isthmian League First Division, to the Isthmian Premier Division, to the Conference South, to the Conference Premier and the Football League. The Conference Premier Play-Off against Luton Town at the City of Manchester Stadium is not surprisingly detailed over two chapters, and the book gets its title (This Is Our Time) from the words of Danny Kedwell The Dons skipper that day, to his teammates just before he scored the decisive penalty.

You might think that this incredible nine year journey means that this book is just one long story of one big happy family where everything has gone well. However, Couper should be credited for writing a ‘warts and all’ book. The issues of the inevitable meeting with Milton Keynes in a fixture, the move back to Merton and the attempted takeover by Darragh MacAnthony are discussed. Likewise, the disciplining and sacking of Terry Eames is not avoided, neither is the difficult decisions that were taken when having to replace manager’s Nicky English and Dave Anderson. Disagreements amongst individuals, WISA and the Dons Trust are all here too. What comes through is that The Dons rise has not been without trauma, as the realities of the rapid growth, success and progress of the club hit home and the glass ceiling appears on the horizon. Those in charge accept that lessons have been learned and that mistakes have been made along the way. To some extent the model used at AFC Wimbledon is still really in its infancy and in the closing chapter, Where do you go from here?, the reality of The Dons surviving in the Football League on such a low budget and how progress can be achieved are explored.

This book is an exceptional read, not only because of the incredible story it tells, but in that it captures all the emotions experienced by those in the fight for ‘their’ club and the return to their rightful place in the League.

Nine years, it only took nine year….


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Book Review: The Last Champions by Dave Simpson

If you wander into a bookshop and look at the section on Leeds United AFC, the shelves will invariably be loaded with titles which hark back to the Revie era and the exploits of his teams of the 1960s and 70s. Whilst those trophy winning days at Elland Road put the West Yorkshire club onto the footballing international stage, they were not the last Leeds team to bring the League title back to LS11. In 1991/92 under Howard Wilkinson, Leeds took the First Division title by four points from Manchester United, yet the story seems to have been fairly much passed over. In The Last Champions (Leeds United and the year that football changed for ever), Dave Simpson has brought that extraordinary season to life.

Simpson currently writes for the Guardian and had before that written for Melody Maker, with his previous foray into books a title about the band The Fallen. Away from music Simpson contributed to the official club magazine LeedsLeedsLeeds.

In terms of this book, The Last Champions, the title reflects a number of facts that at the start of the 2012/13 season still hold true. When Leeds United won the First Division title in 1991/92 it was the last time before the monster that is the Premier League took over the top division of English football and therefore Leeds will always be the last First Division Champions. Howard Wilkinson is the last English manager to win the title and that season was the last occasion when Leeds United were the Champions of England; who knows when these two facts will alter?

In telling the story of ‘Sergeant Wilko’ and his team, Simpson seeks out the players and staff who were part of that incredible season. Therefore the majority of the book features chapters which are set around interviews with the central characters of the Wilkinson era prior to and including the 1991/92 season. These include Wilkinson, his assistant Mick Hennigan, physio Alan Sutton, board members Leslie Silver and Bill Fotherby and players such as the late Gary Speed (to whom the book is dedicated), Vinnie Jones, John McClelland, Chris Kamara, Mike Whitlow, Chris Whyte, Lee Chapman and Jon Newsome.

The various chapters provide interesting anecdotes from within the dressing room, the training ground and ‘on and off’ the pitch. However, there are a number of themes that emerge time and time again. Wilkinson is portrayed as a disciplinarian who drilled into his players the benefits of organisation and structure in training until it became second nature on the pitch. He was also seen as ahead of his time in areas such as match preparation including a more modern approach to diet and nutrition for players. However, Wilko was by no means perfect and some players questioned his man management skills, in particular the manner in which so many of the squad left Elland Road. What also comes through is that in comparison with the current Premier League era ‘stars’, the players back then were just ‘ordinary’ guys, with many of them today doing ‘regular’ jobs.

Simpson also seamlessly weaves in his own story of growing up in Leeds and his attachment to the club. He admits as a child, he “…never really liked football…” because of his uncomfortable experiences of playing the game in the school playground. But, after seeing Leeds beat Arsenal 2-0 in October 1974, Simpson “…was hooked immediately…” However, his first love music still tugged at his heart strings and as football in the late 70s suffered at the hands of hooliganism and racism, so he swapped Elland Road for various music gigs. It wasn’t until Wilkinson arrived in 1988 that Simpson returned to LS11 to witness the revolution that saw Leeds take the Second Division title in 1989/90 and the top prize just two seasons later. He ends the book with a brief look at the first season of the Premier League and the end of the Wilkinson era.

This book is a fine tribute to the period Wilkinson was in charge at Leeds and the players and staff that saw them crowned as English Champions. Simpson’s journalistic style, one which never loses the feeling that he a fan, makes this a fascinating read, which is difficult to put down. There is also something ethereal and melancholic about the book. Whilst the pages celebrate that period of the Wilkinson era, the words and images have an underlying feel of a time gone-by. Perhaps it was because it was the last season prior to the Premier League and for Sky football never existed before that point and consequently those last First Division Champions are merely ghosts from the past. Football has become a different beast in the Sky era, where money is ‘king’ and the players, like television hold the clubs to ransom. Like Simpson, I remember growing up and watching football in the 70s when it was affordable. For many nowadays that is not true and that is a sad fact.

For me the pictures also say so much. The images used within the book are not colour or on glossy pages, but are black and white, with a grainy quality; unassuming and understated. Finally, check out the images used on the sleeve of the book. On the front the Leeds team celebrate with the trophy, most of whom are caught in the moment of triumph. Then look at the faces of Gary Speed, David Batty and Mel Sterland. These three seem somewhere else. Maybe the picture has just caught them off guard? What were they thinking about? On the back, Wilkinson is seen walking away (back to the camera) carrying the Championship trophy with Elland Road empty. To use a melancholic musical refrain, “those were the days my friend…”.



To read an interview with Dave Simpson and another review, please click here.

Book Review: Everywhere We Go – Hooligan Series Book One by Dougie and Eddy Brimson

Dougie and Eddy Brimson’s first book of their Hooligan series sets out to explain the phenomenon of football hooliganism; “who causes violence, why, how and when they do it; about what can be done and by whom to try and stop it” and it is also a robust defence of football fans against lazy journalism and stereotyping.

It delivers on all those points and more, but if you want imagery or Cantona-esque philosophy you’ve got off at the wrong tube station. Check over your shoulder for the spotters from the local mob and quickly head back to home turf.

However, if you stick it out on rival territory what you will find is a knowledgeable account of the experience of the football fan and the hooligan following their team home and away and being subjected to the heavy, prejudiced and uninformed hand of the police, media and the FA.

They try to explain that the catalyst that turns a fan into a hooligan can be an instantaneous and unexpected emotion rather than a predisposition and that hooligans and fans both care passionately about their club and its reputation; the difference being that one is on the field and the other is off it.

Their arguments are cogent and, despite their personal experiences, the authors are careful not to glorify the violence and, for every type of hooliganism they recollect, they also provide practical solutions to the problem that should embarrass those promoting knee-jerk reactions in today’s newspapers nearly 17 years later.

I’m reviewing a book written in 1996 under the lights of my 2012 Christmas tree, 2 months after the latest Hillsborough Enquiry found South Yorkshire Police largely culpable for the disaster, 6 weeks after one of my team’s fans shoved over an opposition goalkeeper in his own 6 yard box, the national team captain recently found guilty by the FA of racially abusing a fellow professional and racist abuse of players regularly in the headlines. It’s easy to conclude that much of the authors’ judgement of police, fans and the future of hooliganism is unerringly accurate. Which, given the enormous changes experienced by the game and its supporters since this book was written, is a significant achievement.

Of course, because it was written when the early-90s modernisation of the game was relatively fresh there are, what today may seem anachronistic views; longing for “male-dominated environment we grew up in and fell in love with” and a naïve view of what is and isn’t racist, but there is more than enough forward thinking elsewhere in the book to let these pass as “of-the-time”.

I haven’t yet read the rest of their series; I will in the New Year, confident that I may not agree with their opinion of fighting as a rite of passage nor the significance of the activities of football hooligans – my experience (as a fan of a notoriously supported team in the 70s and 80s) was that, for every fight there were 100 stand-offs where badly-dressed youths bounced around in front of opposing gangs, inviting them to a fight and backing off when they advanced, only for the scene to recur until everyone involved presumably got bored and went to the pub to exaggerate about it. But I will undoubtedly respect the knowledge and common-sense that the authors bring to the debate that they correctly predicted will continue to this day.

If only their judgement of what constitutes “the most famous diving header of all time” was as perceptive. Even up North we had TVs by the time of the 1972 FA Cup Final. No excuses.


Paul Gowland

Book Review: Crystal Palace FC 1990 – 2011: More Biased Commentary by Chris Winter

Chris Winter is a Crystal Palace fan who has watched his beloved team since 1969 and which have given rise to two books. The first Crystal Palace FC 1969 – 1990: A Biased Commentary and the second, Crystal Palace FC 1990 – 2011: More Biased Commentary (which is reviewed here). After a foreword by ‘celebrity’ Palace fan Jo Brand, Winter explains in the introduction that he has spent some of his years at Selhurst Park providing match day commentaries “…to patients in Mayday Hospital, and to blind and partially-sighted fans at the ground and there is no shame in admitting that my description of the action has always been utterly biased, hence the title and tone of the book…”

For me as a reader there is nothing wrong with that, as you then know exactly what you are getting, or as a well known slogan states, “…it does what it says on the tin…” In terms of the basic outline of the book, Winter provides a season by season summary of The Eagles from 1990/91, when Palace were in the ‘old’ First Division, through to 2010/11 in the Championship. This isn’t a game by game account of each season, and instead the focus is on key games or incidents, with the focal point being the players, whether they made a single appearance or were Palace regulars. There are no glossy colour pictures in the book, but the hand drawn sketches of the players by the author himself is a nice touch.

Not being a Palace fan didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book. Indeed I have to admit to learning a few things along the way about the club from South East London. For instance, did you know that Ashley Cole had a loan spell at Selhurst Park from Arsenal during the 1999/2000 season? What also came across is that The Eagles have had more than fair share of bad luck. A couple of instances stood out for me. The first relates to the 1990/91 season when Palace finished third in the ‘old’ First Division. Arsenal had won the title and Liverpool were second. The team from Anfield were still banned from European competition and so Palace were due to take the spot in the UEFA Cup. However, after ‘negotiations’ between the FA and UEFA, Liverpool had their ban revised and so took the European place. The second incident is from the 1994/95 Premier League season. This would see the league restructured from 22 to 20 clubs through the relegation of four rather than three sides and the promotion of just two from the division below. And the team that suffered the drop finishing fourth from bottom? Of course, The Eagles.

The last season detailed is 2010/11, which was a significant one as the new owners CPFC2010 took control of the club and towards the end saw Dougie Freedman become manager. This could be seen as the starting point of a renaissance, which although saw Freedman move to Bolton this season, has as I write, lead to Palace sitting in second place under Ian Holloway and the dream of a return to the Premier League very much alive.

In closing the book, Winter then reviews position by position, his best eleven from the 1990 – 2011 period and finishes with a postscript which the reveals his all-time fantasy team (covering both books from 1969 – 2011). My one slight criticism is that Winter discloses his best eleven from the 1990 – 2011 period in the introduction to the book, so when reading the positional review at the close of this edition, the suspense of who is in the line-up is already lost. However, this is a very minor point.

Overall, this is a good addition to the bookshelves for any Palace fan, in providing a very readable summary of the seasons since 1990/91 and will spark memories for those old enough to remember and provide a background to years gone-by for younger fans. Football is about opinions; this book will certainly stimulate that discussion and debate amongst its readers.

Book Review: Wings of a Sparrow by Dougie Brimson

As football fans we love our club with a passion. We also have by tradition, rivals; the team we love to hate, the one that we love to see struggle, the one that by beating brings boundless joy and local bragging rights. But what would you do if you found yourself in charge of the enemy, as Chairman of your bitterest rivals?

In his latest offering Wings of a Sparrow, Dougie Brimson uses this unusual premise as the main stay of the plot. Central character Rob Cooper is a fanatical United fan, and editor of the club fanzine Wings of a Sparrow. His beloved team play in the Championship whilst “…the scummers…” City struggle along playing in League Two. Through an inheritance, Cooper finds himself thrust into the position of City Chairman along with a luxury lifestyle and six million pounds. However, before he can get his hands on the money, Cooper is hit with a clause that causes a massive dilemma. In order for Rob, his wife Jane and son Charlie to have a millionaire fuelled future, City have to better the points total of the previous season. Suddenly, Rob is weighed down with a choice between sticking to his tribal football instinct and destroying his nemesis or seeing them thrive through his endeavours and so provide a future for his family of indulgence and extravagance.

Brimson brings all his knowledge as a football aficionado to the table and provides an authentic voice through Rob in both in terms of the support of your team and of them. Throughout the book, the tone and language is unashamedly Brimson at his bloke-ish best and with comedy that has the satirical and waspish tones and observations of Tom Sharpe. However, don’t think that this is just another geezer’s tale and the world of football. As the book develops the emotional journey for Rob and his family is interwoven with the fortunes of City and is convincingly portrayed, adding a bittersweet thread to the story. Yes this book is comedic, yes football provides the backdrop, but ultimately it is about what doing what we believe to be right. Looks like another winner from the Brimson stable.


Book Review: The Fashion of Football: From Best to Beckham, from Mod to Label Lover by Paolo Hewitt and Mark Baxter.

The illustrated hardback edition of this book was published by Mainstream Publishing in November 2004, with an eBook distributed by Wholepoint Publications in August 2011. It is the latter version of this work by Paolo Hewitt and Mark Baxter that was read for the purposes of this review. This detailing of the date and format may not seem the normal way to start a review, but in one of those strange twists of fate it became relevant when reading the eBook.

Towards the end of the book there is a chapter entitled United Colours of Beckham which for the most part extols the virtues of the lad from East London and his place as both footballer and fashion role model. However, when the hardback edition was released at the back end of 2004, Hewitt and Baxter reflected;

“…2004 arrived and with it a massive sea change. Beckham’s form dipped badly…during this torrid time on the field came another storm, this time from outside. Beckham was publicly accused of infidelity, a massive blow to his image as devoted family man…Beckham travelled to Portugal to captain England in the Euro 2004 tournament…often he seemed tired, somewhat lost even as the battle raged around him…by the tournaments end…Beckham faced the press…knowing it was Wayne Rooney the advertisers now desired…”

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but in the eight years since, Beckham has proved himself to be an iconic figure. His England career extended to 115 caps and he became integral to a successful Real Madrid team, before taking on new challenges in the USA with Los Angeles Galaxy and loan spells with AC Milan. From fashion through to his role as an Ambassador for the 2012 London Olympics, David Robert Joseph Beckham has been there and done it. As I finished the last pages of this eBook, Beckham announced that he was moving on again, looking for one last football challenge in his career. Even once his boots are finally hung up, you know that Beckham will still be in the limelight, an influential figure. Wayne Rooney? Well 2004 may prove to be the highlight of his international career. Compare the brilliance and exuberance of the teenager who burst onto the scene in Portugal to the sneering man who slatted England fans who dared to complain about the abysmal World Cup campaign in South Africa in 2010. I may be wrong, but…

However, returning to the eBook. In terms of its writers, Paolo Hewitt (a Spurs fan), has a background in music, having worked as a journalist on NME and been involved in numerous books of the musical genre. He also collaborated with Oasis bassist Paul McGuigan on a book about Reading and Cardiff City player, Robin Friday, titled The Greatest Footballer You Never Saw. The Fashion of Football was co-writer Mark Baxter’s (a Millwall season-ticket holder), first venture into the publishing world. Both men are fanatics of the trinity that is, football, fashion and music. The love and understanding of these topics translates into this book. Indeed the relationship between the two writers creates a very readable and comfortable conversational tone. Hewitt and Baxter whilst knowledgeable about the subject matter, also show us that they are still fans at heart, and are ‘star-struck’ in carrying out some of the interviews transcribed in the eBook. Amongst those interviewed from the football world were ex-players Alan Hudson, Alan Birchenall, Frank McLintock, Mike Summerbee, Steve Perryman and the “Peckham Beckham” Darren Ward (who was playing for Millwall back in 2004). From the music industry there are contributions from Steve Diggle, Paul McGuigan and Kevin Rowland, whilst from fashion, included are Mark Powell, Tim and Olaf Burro and William Hunt.

The content is really divided into two elements. The first takes the reader on a journey through the development and influence of players on fashion (and vice-versa). 1962 is used as the starting point, as this was the year that the maximum wage for footballers was abolished and therefore suddenly provided them with disposable income to spend, on such items such as clothes. Figures such as George Best and the London set of the 1960’s and 70’s including Bobby Moore and Martin Peters (both West Ham United), Peter Osgood, David Webb and Eddie McCreadie (all Chelsea), are all detailed as the hand-made suit swept through the football fraternity. The King’s Road, Carnaby Street and Savile Row are all here as the journey continues through the various decades to the 2004, from the infamous FA Cup Final Liverpool FC ‘white suits’ to the perms and mullets of Keegan and Waddle. A journey which has seen footballers become fashion followers and in some cases icons. In the second section, the focus is more on the terrace culture and what was ‘in’ and ‘out’ for the football fashionitas, as the rise of ‘labels’ came to the fore. Running through both elements are brief descriptions from the clothes and hair perspectives of particular times and fashions, which were great little insights. These started with, The Mod’s Formal Dressing Room 1963 and went through the following, The Mod Casual’s Dressing Room 1965, The Skinhead’s Dressing Room 1970, The Suedehead’s Dressing Room 1972, The Soulboy’s Dressing Room 1973, The Casual’s Dressing Room 1982, The Formal Label Slave’s Dressing Room 2004, finishing with The Casual Label Slave’s Dressing Room 2004.

Ultimately, it was a book I did enjoy and would recommend for the fact that it does provide a different angle on football through the mediums of fashion and music. The writers’ enthusiasm is infectious, and the level of research is impressive and both translated to me as a reader. My one gripe with the eBook is that despite the great subject matter, it suffers, because unlike it hardback original, there are no pictures or illustrations to support the images that the words create. Despite that though, worth a read.

Book Review: After Extra Time (‘Dirty Leeds’ Uncut) by Robert Endeacott

This book is an absorbing mix of fact and fiction that details the factual life of Leeds United and the fictional life of a young Leeds fan throughout the Don Revie era. The fictional life of Jimmy O’Rourke is set amid real events both at the club and in the city of Leeds which adds context to the footballing narrative of Don Revie’s transformational time as manager of the club from 1961 to his departure to take up the England manager’s post in 1974.

Through the life of Jimmy O’Rourke we see that the ‘Dirty Leeds’ tag applies more to working-class life in Leeds in that period than a description of the football team’s ethics as the city starts to implement the Clean Air Act to reduce air pollution; a particular issue for populous industrialised cities at that time. Jimmy and his Gran show us the dour existence and steely determination of working class citizens of 1960s Leeds and, as much as you will be moved by the seemingly endless mishaps and footballing heartache that was, ironically, Leeds Utd’s most successful period, you will also find that the author handles events in Jimmy O’Rourke’s life such as aspiration, injury and bereavement in a very touching and believable way. These, like the character itself, are described in a very ‘Leeds’ style (far from melodramatic, quite matter-of-fact; no-nonsense yet not without feeling).

Thankfully the book doesn’t preach on football matters, nor does it avoid controversial incidents or resolutely argue the innocence of Leeds United or its fans but it quietly and unassumingly (in that ‘Leeds’ style) puts the key events into perspective. Crowd trouble (a grenade at Millwall is my favourite), on-field misdemeanours and allegations of bribery are evident throughout the Football League and teams other than Leeds suffer the type of fixture congestion that not even today’s TV companies could dream up.  As a consequence, without overtly defending Leeds, the book highlights the fact that the FA had much more to deal with than a few raincoat-clad middle-aged men with comb-overs arguing with a ref on the Elland Road pitch after a controversial West Brom goal.

The book clearly sets out to honour not only Don Revie but also less well-known characters that helped build the team, the club and its facilities; Harry Reynolds the Chairman and Ces Burroughs the Groundsman are revered by the author who clearly has some knowledge of their lives and the role they played at the club. It is here however that the book lets you down slightly; this knowledge leads you to mistakenly believe that you will subsequently receive some previously unknown detail about the club or the goings-on inside Revie’s office that would shed new light on the well-known events of that time.

The additional 50,000 words that the author has re-instated from the first ‘Dirty Leeds’ book give this unabridged edition more detail and texture and it flows through this historic and turbulent period with all the footballing information you need (without being reduced to a dry account of each season), and with a simultaneous view of real life in and around both Elland Road and the city of Leeds. It is a comprehensive review of the Leeds United’s Don Revie era but is written with imagination and emotion. Whether a Leeds fan or not, my advice would be (in that ‘Leeds’ style); read the book, it’s not bad at all.


Paul Gowland


Book Review: From Hobby To Obsession by Darragh MacAnthony

Let’s start by getting a few things out of the way. Firstly, this book is an example of where you have to be brutally honest and say that the proof-reading has been poor and therefore resulted in numerous spelling and grammatical errors slipping through the net into the final published edition. Secondly, the language leaves nothing to the imagination. Having played, watched and written about football over the years, I’m used to the ‘industrial’ nature of it and understand that it is all part of the game, but potential readers should be aware. Lastly, I appreciate that part of the publishing business is to ‘talk-up’ your book, but it really puts enormous pressure on the publisher (The Posh Book Company, in this case) to deliver, when phrases such as, “…this is a remarkable insight…” and describing the book as delivering, “…above all the TRUTH…” are used in their recounting of their first foray into the publishing world.

However, putting all that to one side, what does the reader get from the story of Darragh MacAnthony, Peterborough United FC chairman? Well, the 221 pages are essentially split in four sections. The first 178 pages focus on the six years of involvement MacAnthony has had as chairman of The Posh. There then follows two smaller chapters from current manager Darren Ferguson (13 pages) and Director of Football, Barry Fry (22 pages), who reflect on their time at the club and their views and dealings with the chairman. The book is completed by a small statistical section, focusing on the years of MacAnthony’s reign.

There is no doubt that the book covers an interesting period in the history of Peterborough United and the three promotions, one relegation and managerial comings and goings are all told through the eyes of MacAnthony in a forthright style. The six years are covered at breakneck speed, with the events and language coming at you with machinegun regularity. Whilst the pace does generally engage, there is a feeling at times that some of the stories are rushed, perhaps reflecting a trait of the chairman, who Barry Fry describes as “…impatient…”  There is no doubt that MacAnthony has invested a small fortune into Peterborough and personally I admire anyone who takes the gamble of investing in a football club, since it is more often an investment that provides no financial return. Yes, MacAnthony is a businessman and that has allowed him to become chairman, but his love of the game is genuine and it was interesting to read of his knowledge of non-league football. Indeed MacAnthony explains when first arriving at London Road that part of his vision and policy was of finding talent outside of the Football League, developing them and then selling them on for major fees, so enabling the club to be less reliant on his financial input. His other great driver is around producing young talent, with the aims of having, “…one of the best training academies in the Football League…” and “…by 2016 have five or six home grown youth talent in the first eleven…” Manager Darren Ferguson accepts that MacAnthony “…loves being involved: not in the sense that he’s in the dressing room, like a lot of chairman are, but that he wants to know what’s going on and he wants to be appreciated..” It is apparent Ferguson does have a good relationship with his chairman, not least because of their similar desires of wanting to be winners and the fact that they are both strong characters. However, a shared trait of stubbornness led through various events to the parting of the ways in 2009 and the episode is covered quite nicely, as what happened is described from the perspectives of MacAnthony, Fry and Ferguson himself. However the reader is left with a teaser by the Peterborough manager (who returned in 2011) when he states, “…in truth there is so much more I could tell you, but I think we’ll wait until my book hits the shelves…”

At the end I am left with the impression that MacAnthony is a chairman who loves not only his club, but the game in general and is knowledgeable about it in ways that many other people in his position are not. He is a young chairman and has ambition and his plans for the future of The Posh (as outlined in the book) are admirable. However, I am left with a nagging question; that being why did MacAnthony decide to write this book? Whilst his passion and commitment, both financially and personally to the club is evident in the book, so is the image of him as an, at times impatient, unflinching and aggressive individual. Is the man at the helm at London Road, simply portraying himself warts and all? Does he not care how he is viewed? Has the real Darren MacAnthony stood up? No doubt there are interesting times ahead for Peterborough United and their chairman. A case of watch this space.


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