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.

Fanzine Review: Are You the Clown? (No: 3 – February 2023)

Back in February 2021 FBR reviewed the first edition of Atherton Collieries Supporters Club Fanzine Are You the Clown? A link to the review is here:

Just over two years later, a third edition is out. It is as with the first issue in an A5 full colour format with an increase from 36 to 52 pages. It is of course centred on events at the Skuna Stadium, Alder Street, the home of the Colls and is therefore primarily aimed at those of a Black & White persuasion. However, there is more than enough interesting content for those interested in football and the non-league game in particular.

In this edition, the articles include the thoughts of a Colls fan who attended the World Cup in Qatar, which whilst interesting would have benefitted from been expanded to include more about the writers thoughts and experiences from what was acknowledged as once of the most controversial hosts down the years. This is followed by one of the longer pieces within the fanzine from Tony Mooney, and is a cracking read. Mooney tells of how he fell out of love of the professional game during his time supporting Bolton Wanderers and how he has rekindled his joy of the sport through following Atherton. His story of the friendship, and connection to the club is both heart-warming and familiar to all those who follow the non-league game.

Elsewhere, the experience and life of match officials are explored through a couple of articles, A week in the life of an EFL Referee from current man-in-the-middle, Darren Handley and Who would be a referee? from retired non-league match official Patrick Hayes, both offering interesting perspectives.

Also amongst the 52 pages is an extensive review of the calendar year 2022 from fan Emily Madden, which charts her highs and lows as Colls settled into life in the NPL Premier Division. There is also a pictorial review of the 2021/22 season featuring the programme covers from the Colls league and cup fixtures from the season.

Throw in articles about how 85 year old fan Eric Lancaster cycled 52 miles to watch Atherton in FA Cup action in Ossett, and one that nearly saw the Wimbledon FC ‘Crazy Gang’ play the Colls to christen the Alder Street floodlights and you can see that there is plenty of content to enjoy.

One thing to finish on and which adorns the back page is a ‘thank you’ dated November 1918 from Fletcher, Burrows & Co. Ltd who owned all the collieries and built cotton mills in Atherton. It praised the efforts of all those employed in the collieries and their contribution to the war effort. What it illustrates and is hugely important to the non-league community then and now, is the importance of community, of roots, of history – something the modern day professional game has long since lost.

This publication is a credit to the Club and the hard work of those involved in putting it together, such as Club Secretary Emil Anderson and Media Team, Rob Clarke and Zach Pierce.

For copies of all the issues to date please visit:

Magazine/Fanzine Review – Are You The Clown?

(C) Atherton Collieries

Atherton Collieries are a non-league club based in the town of Atherton, surrounded by Bolton to the North East, Leigh to the South West, Manchester to the South East and Wigan to the West. As the club badge proudly shows, the football team was founded in 1916 from it mining roots. The Colls played in various Lancashire leagues during their history and were founder members of the North West Counties Football League in 1982. In 2016/17 Atherton gained promotion to the Northern Premier League (NPL) and in their first season caused an upset by winning the League Cup beating Coalville Town 2-1 in the Final. Building on that The Colls then won the NPL Division One West in 2018/19 to achieve their highest position in the Football Pyramid (level seven, taking the Premier League as level one). As we now know the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons were declared ‘null and void’ with all club results expunged.

(C) Atherton Collieries

With the prospect of no football until the 2021/22 season, clubs have been creative in getting revenue into their coffers and maintaining connection with their fans and sponsors. In the case of The Colls, this has taken the form of a magazine produced by their matchday programme team and curiously title, “Are You The Clown?”.

This first issue is an informal look through the club archives, with interviews, photographs and stories from throughout their 105 year history. Contained within its glossy colour 36 pages are an explanation as to the title of the magazine and some articles that will appeal to both Atherton fans and football fans of all persuasions alike. These include an exclusive interview with former Colls, Manchester United and Bournemouth player, Russell Beardsmore, and an interesting piece from Zach Pierce who discusses the differences between the theatres of football and the arts.

The content wonderfully sums up football at non-league level – some history, a volunteers story, an interview with an ex-player who went into the professional game, and pictures and features that connect with its fans community.

Why not help support non-league football during this difficult time and order a copy for £3 plus £1 postage and available via: