Book Review – Sir Unwin Pugh: From Hull to Camp Nou by Warren Dudley

The Bromley Boys DVD cover

Warren Dudley is a screenwriter best known for the 2018 film The Bromley Boys based on the book about Bromley FC by Dave Roberts. In 2020 Dudley turned his hand to writing novels, producing Baby Blue: An American Horror Story and then his football based book, Sir Unwin Pugh: From Hull to Camp Nou.

The author himself describes it as, “a comedy football autobiography about a 90 year old ex-player and raconteur called Sir Unwin Pugh. A bit Partridge, a bit Count Arthur Strong, a bit Ron Atkinson.” Traits from these three personas are presented to the reader, as Sir Unwin regals his life story against the background of an impending court case. Like Alan Partridge, Pugh is never afraid to promote his own worth and has something of the Little Englander about him, with his right-wing views evident through his story. Pugh also displays at times a pompous attitude with significant delusions about his abilities as a player and manager, and indeed his life in all aspects, features akin to the Count Arthur Strong character. In respect of Dudley’s nod to the much travelled ex-manager Ron Atkinson, Pugh comes to represent all the cliches that managers and pundits come to espouse in the game over the last few years. There are of course other influences, with this book also aiming an arrow firmly at the ‘boy-done-good’ football autobiographies.

As its title suggests, the book does indeed take readers from Hull and its team Hull City to the Nou Camp the home of Spanish giants Barcelona FC via Pugh’s playing and managing exploits. However, in addition to the football related aspects, there are various bizarre tales of song-writing, business interests and his various marriages, with each chapter a mini-story or anecdote in the overall tale. As the book cover itself headlines, this is a “Footballish Story”.

Dudley is clearly a skilled writer which means this is a very readable and in parts amusing adventure. Comedy like music or art, is all about personal taste and therefore whilst one might appreciate a particular form, invariably it can never appeal to everyone. With that in mind, this readers view is that this book is likely to divide opinion.


(Sixty6Media. November 2020. Hardback 278 pages)


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Book Review: The Long, Long Road to Wembley by Dave Roberts

Following his previous football titles, The Bromley Boys, 32 Programmes and Home and Away, Dave Roberts brings us his latest offering, The Long, Long Road to Wembley. Once again at the heart of his book, is his beloved club, Bromley FC.

This time the inspiration for another excellent tale of the Lillywhites, is a framed picture of the Bromley skipper carried shoulder-high by his teammates, celebrating the 1948/49 FA Amateur Cup win at Wembley against Romford, which the young Roberts remembers adorning the tea-bar at Bromley in his early years supporting the Club. The image inspires in Roberts the desire to see his side repeat that journey and so begins the story as the sub-title of the book details, One man’s fifty-year journey towards his ultimate football dream.

The book is divided into two parts, the first (covering nine chapters) finds the author excitedly anticipating the 1968/69 FA Amateur Cup draw and takes readers through to 1979 and a visit to Wembley, at the Arena, rather than the twin-towers of the stadium, for a five-a-side competition involving a number of Isthmian league teams. During that time the FA Amateur Cup was ended in the 1973/74 season as the FA abolished the amateur status, with the FA Trophy beginning in 1969/70 and becoming the senior competition for non-league clubs. Whatever the title though of the tournament, Bromley never go near a return during that period to walking up Wembley Way.

One of the great strengths of Roberts writing is that it isn’t just tales of events on the pitch, and it brought a smile to the face to read of the author’s growing pains in the first part of the book. Readers are treated to Roberts in his Bryan Ferry phase, resplendent in white suit and smoking French cigarettes, Disque Bleu, from a black holder ivory, through to his punk transformation, black bin liner et al. with a tale of a near fatal experience with a three-wheeler, thrown in for good measure.

Part two covers the period from the end of the 1970s up to the 2017/18 season, as Roberts moves around the UK and even has spells abroad in New Zealand and United States, limiting his visits to Bromley’s home ground, Hayes Lane. Of the remaining eight chapters (and Epilogue), five are dedicated to the 2017/18 season, as Bromley, now a National League side, make another assault on reaching a Wembley Final.

Once again, the author in this book has captured what it is like to be a non-league fan, capturing the bond that exists at that level between its players, volunteers and die-hard fans. It also reminds us that as fans we should never give up on our dreams, and that despite all the ups and downs, our teams are in our blood.

(Unbound, August 2019. Paperback 212pp)



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Book Review: Home and Away by Dave Roberts

There are some books you read which you immediately engage with and just can’t put down. Home and Away by Dave Roberts definitely falls into that category. The thing is that there isn’t just one thread within the book that lures you in, but several.

At the heart is the story of Bromley FC and its historic first season (2015/16) in the Vanarama National League, the division below the professional ranks of the Football League. Happily, for the author it coincides with his return to England after 35 years living in New Zealand and America, as he and his wife spend 12 months deciding whether ‘home’ will be the UK or USA.

During that time Roberts travels to as many games as he can afford and some that he can’t, in order to reconnect with his boyhood team and to see if after his years away whether his feelings for his beloved Bromley are still the same. Roberts perfectly captures what it is to follow your team and the lengths that fans sometimes go to in order to get their football fix, as he evokes memories of the habit of watching football and more specifically what that experience means at non-league level.

And from these journeys to grounds such as Boreham Wood, Cheltenham, Forest Green Rovers, Southport, Torquay, Tranmere, Wrexham and Hayes Lane, home of Bromley, it can be seen how Roberts’ writing has been compared to Bill Bryson. As with some of Bryson’s books, Home and Away has travel as a vehicle for keeping the narrative interesting and Roberts also demonstrates Bryon-esque wit with observations about the places he visits and the people he encounters, whilst also showing his ability to be self-deprecating. Furthermore, there is a warmth and innocence that Roberts is able to produce in his writing as he observes the changes in football, Bromley and England, after such a prolonged period away from the UK.

As the book develops, whilst football is still at the centre of the narrative, the reader is increasingly exposed to the two families of the author. One being the regulars and characters who watch Bromley and the other, Roberts’ blood-relations. Through this the reader gets a sense of who Dave Roberts is as a person, in terms of what is important to him in life and what makes him tick.

As a reader I felt privileged to share the emotions and journey that Home and Away provides.