Book Review: Show Some Respect! (The Sound and the Fury of Junior Football) by Chris Kirkham

In the week just gone, the ugly side of football has once again been making the headlines. Firstly there was the news that Wayne Rooney has been handed a three game ban that will see him miss the entire Group Stage of England’s participation in next seasons UEFA European Championships in Poland and Ukraine.  Debate has raged as to whether he should still travel, in the hope that he could play in the knock-out stages. My stance is a simple one – don’t take him. His sending off was unnecessary and violent against Montenegro, and he should be punished by not being involved in the Finals at all. It would be a clear message to footballers, from juniors to professionals that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated. The second incident took place in the Evo-Stik Southern Premier Division fixture between Chesham and Redditch United. United striker Josh McKenzie punched the referee leading to the abandonment of the game. This is an extreme and disturbing incident. The fact is that when it occurs at this level of football, you can be sure it will be translated down through the game all the way to junior football.

The FA has and is trying to combat the problems through its ‘Respect’ campaign, which was launched in 2008. The FA stated that, “…Respect is the collective responsibility of everyone involved in football to create a fair, safe and enjoyable environment in which the game can take place…” and set out a number of outcomes including:

•           Increase in numbers in terms referee recruitment and retention;

•           Improvement in On-Field discipline;

•           Reducing assaults on referees;

•           Enhancing the experience of the game;

•           Support of and commitment to the ‘Respect’ campaign.

As overall guardians of the game The FA have implemented the campaign at all levels of the game. In his book Show Some Respect!, Chris Kirkham looks at how “Respect” has attempted to address the issues and the progress being made at the grassroots level of football. Chris is ideally placed to write this book since he is a Qualified and experience Coach who has worked in the USA and in England with clubs including Manchester United, Hull City and Scarborough Town.

It is obvious from reading this publication that the author is passionate about the subject matter and this is backed up by his coaching experience and extensive research from not only the UK but around the world. Chris Kirkham’s aspiration that this publication becomes a must-read for those involved in junior football is to be applauded. Amongst the most invaluable sections within the book are the following:

•           What is the ‘Respect’ campaign;

•           The templates for clubs (for example in relation to codes of conduct);

•           Sites and Source Material for further reference

•           Statistics on the impact of the ‘Respect’ campaign.

If though this publication is to make itself a must-read and a point of reference for players, coaches, parents, referees and club officials, then there has to be changes in future editions. The author recognises this and the following points will be taken into account when producing a format that may be produced for a specific audience (for examples, an edition just for coaches):

1.          Page listings for each chapter for the contents page is a must for quick access.

2.         In reducing the book to around 100 pages, the publication becomes easier to be used as a reference guide and allows it to be more focused on the advice, guidance, issues and examples that need to be put across.

3.         The various examples of crowd trouble, player reaction and referee abuse could be reduced since many of them simply reiterate the same point again and again.

4.         By reducing the examples the book size can be brought down and therefore chapters become tighter and more focused. There are occasions when the narrative jumps from topic to topic, leaving the reader unsure of the thread of what is being written.

My recommendation is that these changes will be of benefit to the book. However, even in its current guise, this publication is about getting all those involved in grassroots football to take a look at themselves and assess whether they indeed respect our national game and how their future attitudes and behaviours can help to improve football going forward.


Book Review: I Had A Wheelbarrow by Luke Williamson

Prior to the summer of 2009, Notts County were probably most well known for being the Oldest Professional Club in the World. However they shot into the consciousness of the country on a wider scale when it was announced that the club was to be the recipient of a huge financial investment. Within weeks ex-England boss Sven Goran Eriksson had arrived and there was ambitious talk of Premier League football and ultimately European participation from the new Board at Meadow Lane. Expectation amongst the County faithful was sky-high. That 2009/10 season saw the Magpies get promoted into League One. Therefore you would assume that the promised investment had had its desired effect and the first stage of the master plan had come to fruition?  If only it was that simple.

Luke Williamson, a Notts County fan since childhood, like many that summer in 2009, couldn’t quite believe what was going on at his beloved club. So feeling that something special was about to happen, he embarked on a journey to record the events of the 2009/10 season which have been captured in the book, I Had A Wheelbarrow. For those wondering the relevance of the title below is the explanation used by the author.

“…On 17th April 1990 as Notts trailed 2-0 away at Shrewsbury, the home fans started singing “On Top of Old Smokey” in their strong West Country accents. Mocking those fans for the way they spoke (or sang) the Notts following began to mimic the song with the following words:

I had a wheelbarrow, and the wheel feel off,

I had a wheelbarrow, and the wheel feel off,

I had a wheelbarrow, and the wheel feel off,

I had a wheelbarrow, and the wheel feel off,

County, County, County, County…”

Notts ended by drawing that game and went on an unbeaten run which saw the Magpies triumph at Wembley in the Play-Offs. The song is now very much part of County folklore.

Of the book itself, the first thing to say is this is no run of the mill diary of a season. The author weaves details of the Magpies 2009/10 title winning season and the controversy off the field, amongst football memories of his childhood and the bittersweet experience of relationships. What is refreshing is that whilst the book runs chronologically, it does not take the reader game by game through the season in a dry match report style. Instead key dates and key matches are featured and County game details sit side by side with those from a trip to see England v Croatia in a European Championship Qualifier and those of CSKA Carnabys, the Sunday League team that Williamson is player-manager of. Williamson also has garnered interviews with Colin Slater, BBC Nottingham’s legendary commentator as well as Notts County Chairman Ray Trew and the Board which help add insight to the drama at Meadow Lane during 2009/10.

The passion and commitment of the writer to all things football and especially Notts County is evident. Readers get the authors view on such topics as post-Sky football in England and looks to the game beyond the confines of Nottingham. Indeed the book captures how football for many is engrained into their psyche and the impact it has throughout their lives and on family and friends. The tales of getting to away games, the feeling of belonging amongst your own supporters, the thrill and disappointment of wins and losses are all described with an authentic manner that will be familiar to football fans the world over and not just those within the confines of NG2.

More than that though, Luke Williamson has produced a book which allows the reader into the writers personal life in an intimate yet frank manner, with an engaging conversational style. There are moments of reflection that are shared with the reader in respect of his relationships, of family and friends that have real pathos.

The book ends with the 2010/11 pre-season friendlies just starting. As we know now, County survived in League One on the last day of the season with a 1-1 draw against Champions Brighton, with a backdrop on and off the field that mirrored the drama of 2009/10. I hope that Luke Williamson has recorded this season events as I’d willingly read his take on them.

Any good book leaves you wanting more. I Had A Wheelbarrow does exactly that.

Book Details

I Had A Wheelbarrow

(a fan’s story of a Notts County adventure)

Luke Williamson

Pure Phase Publishing

The People’s History of Football Series #2

ISBN: 9780956114440 


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