Book Review: Blue was the Colour: A Tale of Tarnished Love (Football Shorts) by Andy Hamilton

Football Shorts are a series of books created in a collaboration between award-winning journalist and author Ian Ridley’s own publishing company Floodlit Dreams and renowned sports book publisher, Pitch Publishing. Ridley details in the Notes and Acknowledgments of the first in the series, Pantomime Hero: Memories of the Man Who Lifted Leeds United After Brian Clough, that the inspiration came about during lockdown and his desire for a short sporting read.

The intention was that there would be three books in 2023, and this outstanding hat-trick of the written word has been achieved, with the first, Pantomime Hero: Memories of the Man Who Lifted Leeds United After Brian Clough by Ridley, released in January 2023, the second The Homecoming: The Lionesses and Beyond, from Jane Purdon in May 2023 and finally from comedian and writer Andy Hamilton with Blue was the Colour: A Tale of Tarnished Love  out in September 2023.


What links all three of these wonderful books is that they are personal stories written with genuine passion for the ‘beautiful game’ and its past, present and future. All three writers are respected figures in their particular fields, but at the heart of their writing is the overwhelming ability to let readers know that they are football fans.

In the case of Andy Hamilton’s, Blue was the Colour, the book looks at his changing relationship with Chelsea and indeed the game from his childhood to adult life, with the subtitle, A Tale of Tarnished Love, more than a clue as to how this has changed down the years.

For those wondering about the title of the book, Blue was the Colour, it is a play on words taken from the title of the single that the Chelsea players released in 1972 called, Blue Is the Colour (although on my occasional visits to the Bridge I was more of a fan of Liquidator by The Harry J Allstars). And like the book sub-title, reinforces the idea of Hamilton’s reassessment of his feelings and connection to the Stamford Bridge club.

As you’d expect from a man of his writing talent, Hamilton’s reflections here are witty, thought provoking, yet balanced – filled with joy and at times sadness, as well as disappointment and regret – a bit like watching your team really.

He uses the device of two Chelsea v Newcastle United fixtures (62 years apart) to bookend his journey supporting the club as he grows from boyhood to manhood, with observations about changes in the game thrown in for good measure. And these two fixtures tell you much about how Hamilton’s feelings have changed, when he details:

The (first) match back in 1960 was the first game I ever saw. I was six and a half years old and I watched from the terraces in a state of all-consuming, heart-thumping, knee-jiggling, bladder-squeezing excitement and wonder.

I did not watch the second match. I only listened to the closing moments of the game on Radio 5 Live as I pottered around the kitchen trying to find some scissors.

This book is my attempt to map the distance between those two states of mind – from a world where Chelsea v Newcastle was, at that moment, the only thing that mattered ‘in the entire universe’ to one where it was less important than scissors.

Of course as Hamilton acknowledges, that has as much to do with him growing up as it has to do with the game as it is today.

The sport that he fell in love with still had players on the maximum wage of £20, with some still travelling to games on public transport and were still accessible and relatable to the working class fans who filled the grounds. Kick-offs were on a Saturday at 3pm and the FA Cup held pride of place of the football calendar. However, before you think this is maybe some sentimental less than subjective view of the game Hamilton first watched, he admits that the violence on the terraces, racism within the game and the poor conditions within stadiums were also a reality of football in his formative years.

So what has lessened his love for the game today? Well, as someone a little younger than Hamilton it is for reasons I completely understand. It feels like he is speaking for a generation of supporters who have no love for what the Premier League stands for and what the billionaire owners and Sky have done to the game. Also, getting a bashing – deservedly – are FIFA and VAR amongst other things.

Despite this, Hamilton hopes that in another 60 years there will be six year olds as giddy as he was back in 1960 excited at going to their first game in stadiums will be full and still played on a Saturday.

Now that’s a thought that shouldn’t leave us blue.

(Publisher: Football Shorts. September 2023. Paperback:? 184 pages)


Buy the book here: Blue was the Colour

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Rebirth of the Blues is the third instalment in Neil Fitzsimon’s acclaimed trilogy on Chelsea FC.

The book considers one of the most exciting eras in the club’s history – 1977 to 1985. It was a period when Chelsea narrowly escaped relegation into the Third Division in 1983, before being resurrected under the management of John Neal when the likes of Kerry Dixon, Pat Nevin and others catapulted the club to new glories.

The next year, Chelsea took the Second Division by storm with their new brand of quicksilver flowing football to make a triumphant return to the top flight as champions. But Rebirth of the Blues is more than just a chronicle of football history. It’s a gripping memoir of a Chelsea fan growing up in the late 1970s to mid-80s and his experiences of living through the political unrest of Thatcherite Britain when excess and greed were seen as ideals to be admired.

Fitzsimon recalls his tentative first steps with girlfriends, the changing face of the music scene and what it was like to be single and one of the lads.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. April 2023. Paperback: 256 pages)


Buy the book here: Rebirth of The Blues

Book Review: Pat Nevin – The Accidental Footballer: a memoir.

Depending on your age and interests, Pat Nevin is either an ex-Scottish International footballer and Chelsea legend, a DJ much influenced by the indie music scene or a respected media journalist and writer. One man, many facets and with a story to tell. Much like the release of Arsene Wenger’s autobiography, My Life in Red and White, Pat Nevin’s book was also keenly anticipated by many in the sporting world and beyond. And like the ex-Arsenal manager’s offering, Pat Nevin’s The Accidental Footballer is a book that has a sophistication, insight, depth and humour that is not always associated with the genre of football writing.

Growing up, football biographies and autobiographies tended to be very much along the lines of the ‘boy done good’, containing a less than inspiring linear plod through the matches and seasons the subject played in, with machismo tales of drinking and night club excesses adding the ‘colour’. During Nevin’s career at Chelsea and Everton (from 1983 to 1992), which he focuses on in his book, this was indeed the culture that he found himself amongst. However, where his fellow squad members were happy to lounge by the hotel pool on club and international trips abroad, downing a few beers in the sun, Nevin wanted to get out and see the countries and the culture, wherever he found himself, whether that be in Europe or further afield in China and Iraq.

This wasn’t the only aspect that singled out the Glasgow born fleet-footed forward from his clubmates. Nevin never intended to be a footballer (as the book’s title infers) with no clamour for the glamour and fame that a successful playing career could bring. Indeed even though he was released by Celtic, the club he supported and watched from the terraces as a boy, Nevin was determined to follow the educational path taken by his siblings and would have turned down the club whatever their decision. That he found his way into the game through playing for Clyde, was determined by his desire to play the game he loved purely for enjoyment, whilst allowing him to continue his University studies and earn some money on the side to get to various music gigs in Glasgow. Indeed, you get the impression his love of the arts, and the chance to get to more involved in the indie music scene was as much as a draw as he moved to London and Stamford Bridge, than going full-time in England.

The move saw Nevin become part of a successful Chelsea side as his goals and assists for Kerry Dixon saw the Blues gain promotion from the old Second Division in 1983/84 with him picking up the Player of the Year Award that season and in 1986/87. When Chelsea were relegated in 1987/88, he stayed in the old First Division by moving to Everton, where his time was blighted by injury and the return of former Toffee Manager Howard Kendall, which after a loan spell saw Nevin stay on Merseyside by signing permanently for Tranmere Rovers. Internationally, he was talented enough to earn 28 caps for Scotland, playing in the European Championship Finals in 1992 and was Player of the Tournament as Scotland became European Under 18 Champions in Finland ten years earlier.

Whilst football is central to Nevin’s ‘memoir’ (his parents always encouraged their children to use the best English they could), his love of music is evident not only through his interesting tales of his relationship with John Peel and meetings with others in the business such as Morrissey, but that each of the book’s 32 chapters headings are in fact song titles, handily detailed at the end with the artists also listed.

Football and music aside, readers also get to learn of Nevin’s politics, influenced by the hard-working ethos of his family and the reality of growing up in working-class Glasgow, a city divided by the Catholic and Protestant religions. Indeed, as a Catholic, Nevin believed that despite his father’s years of dedication to his job on the railways, he was always overlooked for promotion in favour of his Protestant colleagues. It is evident that Nevin’s father was an incredible inspiration, not only working long hours for British Rail, but spending hours coaching his son and various youth teams, and even when Nevin moved South, getting to games in London.

And just as Nevin feels able to articulate his view of the discrimination against his father, he is open in expressing opinions on major issues such as racism, the child abuse scandal at the Celtic Boys Club and the continuing sectarian problems at both Celtic and Rangers. Indeed, it will be interesting to see whether that particular issue would be explored in any potentially further book to come from Nevin, which could also look at parts of his playing career not mentioned in this memoir, at Kilmarnock and Motherwell, where he also had a stint as Chief Executive.

It was a pleasure to be let into Nevin’s world through The Accidental Footballer, a book which so easily have been called, The Arty Footballer, The Artistic Footballer, The Articulate Footballer, The Alternative Footballer or indeed The Accomplished Footballer.

(Monoray. May 2021. Hardback: 352 pages)


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Book Review: Rhapsody in Blue – How I Fell in Love with the Great Chelsea Team of the Early Seventies by Neil Fitzsimon

Chelsea Football Club were founded in 1905 playing their homes games at Stamford Bridge, which they still do, to this day. Up to the First World War, The Blues were very much a yo-yo club, as they bounced between the First and Second Division, but did make an FA Cup Final appearance in 1914/15 losing 3-0 at Old Trafford to Sheffield United. After the war and the resumption of football and up to the start of the Second World War, Chelsea continued to drift between the two divisions, leaving their best performances for the FA Cup as they appeared in a number of Semi-Finals.

It wasn’t until 1954/55 that the club made its mark in the English game, when they won the First Division title for the first time. However, it was not a success that The Blues built on and in 1961/62 they suffered relegation back to the Second Division, only to bounce straight back up the following season under Manager Tommy Docherty. It was to see the club have up to that period its best years, with players coming through the youth set-up and the League Cup won in 1964/65 after a 3-2 aggregate win over Leicester City. The club then also made it through to the 1966/67 FA Cup Final against Spurs, going down 2-1 to their London rivals. Docherty was sacked in 1967 heralding the start of the era under Dave Sexton, with Chelsea at the centre of the ‘swinging sixties’ with celebrity fans and the bars and clubs of the Kings Road the places to be.

Neil Fitzsimon’s book, Rhapsody in Blue – How I Fell in Love with the Great Chelsea Team of the Early Seventies, picks up the story of the Stamford Bridge club, as the author attends his first games in SW6 during the 1968/69 campaign and charts the success of the early 70s. In that period Chelsea won the FA Cup in 1969/70 after a replay against Leeds United and in the following season picked up the (now defunct) European Cup Winners Cup, also after a replay against Spanish giants, Real Madrid. The Blues made it to a third cup final in 1971/72 only to lose 2-1 to unfancied Stoke City in the League Cup. As the author details and believes, from that point the club suffered a decline that was only halted in the 1990s with the advent of the Premier League and the financial backing of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, that has subsequently brought unparalleled success to Chelsea.

Fitzsimon’s focus though is not only of that four or five year period back in the late 60s and early 70s at the Bridge and the stereotypical view of grim northern teams, but also of his formative years growing up into a young adult and the nostalgic days of playing football in the streets and on local pitches, Subbuteo football tournaments and of travelling to games with his mates. This is undoubtedly a tale of a time never to be repeated as money and the media has changed the professional game and the matchday ‘experience’ beyond recognition and for Fitzsimon’s the loss of the innocence of youth.

Stylistically, it is written in a very conversational and at time laddish manner, with vignettes of varying length covering from a football perspective, the highs and lows of the cup triumphs at Old Trafford, Athens and Wembley, other memorable games Fitzsimon attended, as well as his observations and memories of homelife, friendship and growing-up. There is a passion in the text that demonstrates and captures the love that fans have for their club, whether in the biased admiration of their own team or the sometimes illogical dislike of opposition teams. For those of a similar age to the author, so much of the book will ring true with their own experiences of the time and for younger readers it will give a view into a life and a sport that was different in so many ways to that of the current generation.

As an aside, is there a story behind the choice of title Rhapsody in Blue? The Oxford Dictionary definition states: a popular musical work for piano and orchestra by George Gershwin. It combines jazz and classical music and was first performed in 1924 by the band of Paul Whiteman, with Gershwin at the piano. The film ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ (1945) was about Gershwin’s life. Much is made that of the fact that football in the 70s was very physical, with every successful club having its ‘hardmen’, with Leeds United having, Norman Hunter, Peter Storey at Arsenal and Tommy Smith at Liverpool. Chelsea though were seen as a flare team, with Alan Hudson, and Peter Osgood, but the reality was that they had their share of those who could dish it out such as Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris and David Webb. The Blues were in fact a combination of the two styles of the 70s, as with the musical Rhapsody in Blue was described as a combination of jazz and classical. Coincidence? Given Fitzsimon’s background as a songwriter maybe it isn’t.


(Pitch Publishing Ltd. April 2020. Paperback 224pp)


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2019/20: An Incredible Journey – In the beginning by Steve Blighton

Saturday 16th August 1969, my Dad, Uncle Jim, and me walking down the Kings Road – the 6 year old me staring agog at the huge amounts of men and boys around me all moving in one direction.

The smell of fried onions and a hint of burgers fills the air as I rush to keep up with my Dad and Uncle that Saturday afternoon around 2.30pm, after walking from my Nan’s house along Lots Road, stopping off for a coke en-route in a smoke filled pub.

Chelsea versus Ipswich Town, the first home game of the 1969/70 First Division campaign, started my football journey that season beginning at Stamford Bridge and culminated nine months later, being allowed to stay up late to watch what has since become billed as ‘the most brutal game of football’. Wednesday night 29th April 1970, Chelsea versus Leeds United in the FA Cup final replay at Old Trafford – they don’t make them like that anymore. And then after the brutality came the beauty of the 1970 World Cup and that amazing Brazil team. I was now hooked on the game!

Like most boys, and pretty much throughout their lives, their Dad is their hero, and my Dad was mine. He had taken me to my first ever game of football and would continue to do so on many occasions. I loved going to football with my Dad which we did throughout my life, and my last memory of him was watching Chelsea demolish Tottenham Hotspur 4-0 on Sunday 8th March 2014 – 4 days later he died in his sleep.

Some of dad’s medals (front view)
Some of dad’s medals (back view)

My Dad was quite a good footballer himself. He had trials at Chelsea, which I only ever found out after he died. He was rejected by the Blues because his heading was weak. However, he got signed by Arsenal but decided to stay part-time and remain in the Air Force. He was stationed in Lincolnshire and spent some time at Scunthorpe United and was good enough to play Representative football for the Air Force. During that time he was dedicated enough to change his preferred foot. He was a right-half and his competition at the time was an amateur international, so he taught himself to kick with his left foot and a new career as a left-half was born.

So in honour of his memory I decided I would attempt to get to 50 games during the 2019/20 season – homage to my first game with my dad fifty years ago. My original criteria was that I would go to games at grounds of teams that had either been a full member of the Football League (or phoenix club) or had won the FA Cup. However, as the season progressed, I revised my criteria as it was obvious, I wouldn’t reach my goal that way, so I lowered the net to include games as far down the football pyramid as Step 10. For those unfamiliar with the pyramid, the Premier League is Step 1, the Championship is Step 2 and so on. Step 10 is the North West Counties League Division One North and is where AFC Darwen ply their trade. I got to see Darwen on my journey, who are the current incarnation of the club that played in the Football League from 1891 to 1899, with the original Darwen FC featured recently in the excellent Netflix series, The English Game.

However, the story of that trip to Lancashire and the wonderfully named, Anchor Ground, is for another time. So let’s go back to where this all started with the match details of that Saturday in August 1969.

First Division

Chelsea 1 (Hutchinson 74’) Ipswich Town 0

Venue: Stamford Bridge

Attendance: 29,613

Chelsea: Bonetti, Dempsey, Houston, McCreadie, Hinton, Cooke, Hollins, Houseman, Hutchinson, Baldwin (Osgood), Tambling

Ipswich Town: Best, Carroll, Mills, Morris, Baxter, Jefferson, Woods, Viljoen, Wigg, O’Rourke, Brogan. Substitute: McNeil

So the journey begins

Love you Dad x