by Daniel Gray
Bloomsbury Sport, £9.99
Reviewed by Tom Lines
From WSC 358, December 2016
Buy this book
A love affair in the lower leagues
by Simon Carter
Pitch Publishing, £12.99
Reviewed by Gary Andrews
From WSC 355 September 2016
Towards the end of Simon Carter’s memoir of his 37 years as an Exeter City supporter, the local sports journalist takes great pains to play down his credentials as a superfan. His enthusiasm for football may wane a little in the later chapters, but with tales of skipping school to travel to watch Halifax and his loathing for Gus Honeybun, a Plymouth Argyle-supporting rabbit that performs birthday bunny hops for children on the regional ITV news, there’s little doubt that Carter is one of those rare breed who is as much a part of the club as the players themselves.
The real story told by the people themselves
by Kevin Sampson
Ebury Press, £12.99
Reviewed by Rob Hughes
From WSC 353 July 2016
There are many horrific disclosures in the testimonies that make up this essential book. But perhaps the most shocking is that, of the 96 people who died at Hillsborough, as many as 58 could have survived had the correct medical procedures been in place. It’s a statistic that campaigner Sheila Coleman calls “obscene”. Compiled by Awaydays author Kevin Sampson in association with the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, Hillsborough Voices offers an unflinching account of the events of April 15, 1989 and its aftermath, from those who were there, those left bereaved and those who subsequently devoted their energies to the long struggle for truth and justice.
Could Oxford United really steal the heart of a Manchester City fanatic?
by Steve Mingle
Pitch Publishing, £12.99
Reviewed by Piers Pennington
From WSC 349 March 2016
The subtitle of this book – Could Oxford United really steal the heart of a Manchester City fanatic? – poses a question I have been wrestling with for more than 50 years. I looked forward to reading an account of what it felt like to have divided loyalties in a part of your life where devotion is meant to be wholehearted and unequivocal. A fellow sufferer, and the same two teams.
Everpresent since 1968 – an incredible journey
by Gary Edwards & Andy Starmore
Pitch Publishing £15.99
Reviewed by Simon Creasey
From WSC 339 May 2015
Every club has single-minded fans who are prepared to follow their team everywhere through thick and thin. At Leeds United the custodian of the title of “superfan” is Gary Edwards, who hasn’t missed a competitive game home and away since January 1968 – in fact, in the last 46 years he’s only failed to see one pre-season friendly and that was due to an air traffic control strike which stopped him flying to Toronto.
Edwards’ unstinting dedication to the club is documented in Fanatical which charts Leeds’ modern history, from the heyday under Don Revie, through the hooligan-fuelled 1980s and the heights scaled in the 1990s, before the collapse around the new millennium that culminated in relegation to League One. In addition to detailing a vanished era of “football special” trains, piping hot plastic cups of Oxo sipped on the terraces and an orange ball being hoofed around a badly chewed up pitch, Edwards’ book is filled with humour and tragedy.
The former includes his various ways of getting into the home end at away matches, such as sneaking through the hospitality section at the Bernabéu and running around the edge of the pitch after losing his match ticket and wallet (miraculously the wallet and its contents were handed back to him at half time having been passed through the crowd). For the latter, there is an account of the numerous times the club have fallen foul of bad refereeing decisions and, more seriously, the deaths of two Leeds supporters in Turkey. (In response to intimidation from Galatasaray fans who famously greeted away supporters with banners bearing the words “Welcome to hell”, Edwards created a poster that read “Hello hell, we’re Leeds”.)
As well as charting the club’s highs and lows, Fanatical also provides an insight into what sort of character becomes a die-hard fan. Edwards is an eccentric – a painter and decorator by trade, his hatred of Manchester United runs so deep that he refuses to use the colour red and will even remove it for free. He also used to travel to games in a hearse christened “Doombuggy” ferrying around an empty coffin. On one occasion the coffin was stolen and dumped in a local pub – Edwards turned up at Leeds police station’s lost property department to retrieve it dressed in funereal top hat and tails.
As the above examples suggest, Fanatical is not an attempt to intellectualise the game or explain the nature of fandom. It’s an honest account of the experiences that every football supporter will endure during a lifetime of following any club. It’s also a timely reminder that players, managers and chairman may come and go (particularly at Elland Road at the moment), but the one constant are the supporters and especially those like Gary Edwards.