Tag Archives: Jon Berry

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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