Category Archives: Books

Project Restart

I have just read Project Restart: From Prem to the Parks, How Football Came Out of Lockdown. It includes case-studies of how nine teams fared during lockdown: Burnley, Swansea, Tranmere, Forest Green, Solihull Moors, Royston Town, Northumberland Park, Stonewall and St Albans City Girls. These were chosen to represent a spread of clubs from the Premier League down to grassroots football.  They were also chosen from the clubs that the author could get information on; many football media teams were inaccessible.

He writes about the contrast between communicating with people at the higher levels of the game and those lower down. Attempts to talk to those at higher levels usually came to nothing.  But when it came to Zooming and phone calls to those from lower levels he says, “my only function was to sit back and listen as they told me about their achievements, plans and ambitions . . . what they had in common was an enduring love of the game and what it can do for people.”

The author, Jon Berry, is a Birmingham City supporter so he mentions that club too. In the chapter on Solihull Moors he writes about Darren Carter and his decisive penalty that took Blues up to the Premier League. Jon Berry believes that football is one of the most important of the unimportant things. Reading his book is like chatting to another fan and it is a good book to read if you are missing football conversations.

Jon Berry writes about hope; hope for next season; hope that the Covid-19 restrictions will end.  He says, “And that hope, among talk of second waves and localised lockdowns, might just be one of the reasons that football really is important.”

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Hugging Strangers

I enjoyed reading Hugging Strangers: The Frequent Lows and Occasional Highs of Football Fandom by Jon Berry. It is well written and many of his stories about supporting Birmingham City resonated with me.  When my dad took me to games, I was one of the few little girls there and it felt like being in a different, much louder and more exciting world.

I took a long break from attending games when I went to university and lived abroad but I always checked their results. I went to only one game in the 1980s, an end of season relegation escape on May 15 1982, in which Mick Harford scored the goal that kept us up. I enjoyed the game but what I saw of destructive fans and aggressive policing made me decide never to go to any other games. I changed my mind about that when I went to the Leyland Daf Cup Final at Wembley, on May 26 1991. I went to the game feeling apprehensive about the possibility of hooligans being there but my mind was put at rest by the friendly group of men sitting around me. And when a stranger, celebrating our victory, kissed me on the way out of Wembley, I didn’t mind at all. I started going to games again.

Cover of Hugging Strangers book

Reading Hugging Strangers is like chatting to a friend about Blues, except than none of my friends deliver such quotable expressions as Jon Berry writes. I liked his description of Blues’ story as  “great moments, dreadful half hours”.  He wrote that “Fry was quite mad . . . the perfect fit for us.” He also aptly described my habit of protecting myself “by starting off expecting the worst and then being happily surprised if it doesn’t happen.”

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Enemies and friends

In Omar Bogle’s interview on BluesTV, he talked about scoring a goal against Jack Butland, a former Academy team mate of his. He said he talked with Jack after the game, but he didn’t talk about his goal. It sounded as though he had the ability that professional football players need to have, to regard opposing players as enemies during a game and as friends at other times.

I believe that fans also need to be able to do this. During games we want to see our team play well and be lucky; we want the opposition to play terribly and have the worst bad luck imaginable. But, at other times, we can sympathise with fans of other teams. When Frank Knight, a Blackpool fan, agreed to pay £20,000 to the Oyston family, owners of Blackpool, so that they wouldn’t take him to court for his rant against them on Facebook, fans from many other clubs made contributions to pay that, an example of the football community at its generous best.

I’m reading a book that discusses this: What we think about when we think about Football, by Simon Critchley, a Professor of Philosophy who supports Liverpool.  He says that “there is an inherent rationality in football that permits both passionately held commitment to one’s team at the same time as being able to tolerate, understand and indeed encourage others’ deeply felt support for their teams.”  It is not easy reading, but it is interesting and has some great photos.

Critchley wrote that “a game can be a 90-minute anxiety dream”.  Wednesday’s game felt like 87 anxious minutes until Bogle scored his brilliant goal and I stopped worrying that Stoke might equalise. But I will remember it as a brilliant game, with two great goals, a large crowd and an atmosphere that reminded me of how it felt when I stood with my dad on the Railway end about 65 years ago.

Hope I’ll also have good memories of today’s game.

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Worth reading

I don’t have time to write much but want to recommend an article and book that I’ve read recently.

The article, The forgotten story of … Jeff Hall, the footballer whose death turned tide against polio, was in the Guardian yesterday. I haven’t forgotten him. He was my favourite player and I was devastated when he died. As well as being a good but sad read, it has a great photo of him making a sliding tackle on a snow covered pitch.  Continue reading

Football or friendship?

Turning My Back on the Premier League is the story of a Man U fan who decided to follow his local team instead.  His local team is Dagenham & Redbridge and the book is an account of going to their games in the 2013/14 season. I haven’t finished reading it yet but would recommend it; it’s a good read. Continue reading

You draw some

As Jasper Carrott once said, “You lose some, you draw some.”  And Birmingham City have drawn their last four league games. And a draw doesn’t seem quite so good as it did when we drew with Wolves in November, a magnificent result in comparison with our 0-8 loss in the previous game. Continue reading

Tor! The story of German Football by Uli Hesse

You don’t have to be a fan of German football to enjoy this book. It’s packed with great stories of the characters that have enlivened German football from the days when it was seen as a dangerous foreign pastime up to May 25, 2013 when two German teams met in the Champions League final. It also discusses the difference between German and British fans’ views of their clubs. I have a feeling that Birmingham City fans are divided into two groups: those that are content to be customers and those that want to be more connected as German fans are. Continue reading

No magic solutions

I try not to spend my whole life thinking about Birmingham City but the worry about it lurks in the back of my mind. I can start off thinking about something completely different and my mind finds a way to relate it to the sorry state of modern football.   Continue reading

A pile of books

I did it again today. I went into a bookshop intending to collect two books I’d ordered and ended up buying two more that I saw as I walked through the shop.  The two books I’d ordered were to give away to friends. Not only am I addicted to books, I also try to push them on friends. Continue reading

“Richer than God” by David Conn

My aim in writing this review is not to give a balanced account of the whole book but to explain why I think it should be read by fans of all English football clubs and not just those who support Manchester City.  The subtitle of the book is “Manchester City, Modern Football and Growing Up” and the middle phrase, “Modern Football”, refers to David Conn’s account of the business of football.

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Thank God for antidepressants!

The title of this post is the title of a book written by Jane, a friend of mine.  It tells the story of her journey through depression and all the questions that it threw up. She moved from asking if she should be taking antidepressants to trying to find the one that was best for her, with side effects that she could live with.  It’s a personal memoir not a text book and she stresses the need for expert help in her search to find out what worked for her. She also makes it clear that the medicine that suits her won’t suit everyone.

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Night and day views of concentration camp

People react to suffering in different ways and the authors of two books* on my worth-reading list came to diametrically opposite conclusions about God following imprisonment in a concentration camp. Elie Wiesel’s faith died when he arrived at Auschwitz and saw bodies in pits being consumed by fire. Corrie ten Boom also saw terrible sights in Ravensbrück but emerged with her faith in God intact.

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“The Gift of Pain” by Dr Paul Brand and Philip Yancey

This book is about pain and its value.  It is written as a memoir of Dr Paul Brand, whose professional life revolved around the theme of pain.  As a child in India he observed pain and suffering as he watched his missionary parents treating those who came for help.  His parents were not doctors but had a little medical training that enabled them to treat ailments and, when necessary, extract teeth.  Some of the treatments Paul Brand watched were messy and revolting and made him decide that the last thing he wanted to do was to become a doctor.

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