As a card-carrying member of the Society of Young Publishers and a certified football spod, I’m always on the lookout for ways to bring two of my major interests together. Happy was the Christmas Day I spent with David Goldblatt’s 911-page whopper The Ball is Round in one hand and an isosceles turkey sandwich in the other.
A brief discussion this week with my fellow blogger Lloyd on current reading material set me on a quest for the best books on all things Football League. And I came up with very little. Despite a recent upsurge in quality football-related tomes, such as Jonathan Wilson’s colossal Inverting the Pyramid
(even if he has since made a career out of rehashing its material), leagues 2-4 of the English game have been largely overlooked. The two outstanding examples we came up with go back a few years.
First, RTÉ motormouth Eamon Dunphy
‘s unflinchingly honest Only a Game?
An account of the 1973-74 season at Millwall, Dunphy’s prose succeeds in providing a windowpane on the life of a professional footballer in the days when kick-off was delayed by dockworkers’ shifts rather than Rupert Murdoch’s TV schedules, while evoking a working-class corner of South London much changed in the intervening years.
The second, more recent, example is also a player’s eye-view of life in the lower reaches. Ex-Charlton striker Garry Nelson
‘s Left Foot Forward
is structured around the Addicks’ 1994-95 campaign, though portraying events outside the game as often as the team’s struggles on the pitch. Although aided by the ghostly presence of Anthony Fowles, Nelson’s tale successfully updates Dunphy’s experiences for the contemporary audience.
Beyond those two fine tomes, though, my dust-swept shelves need filling, and mornings are spent combing the train for discarded copies of Metro. Recommendations please.