Book Review: Glory, Goals and Greed
Published by Mainstream, August 2011
In pitching my ideas for Kissing The Badge to Bloomsbury, other options also made the short list. My favourite, a club-by-club, season-by-season review of the Premier League with additional sections on the best players, bosses, matches and so on was shelved. It would have taken too long, cost too much to put together and carried too high a price tag for most fans of its subject matter. Leave that one to the sponsors then.
Joe Lovejoy’s effort is maybe halfway to that initial idea. It’s not the definitive record, but who would want one? It’s not an official account, and the author makes full use of the resulting freedom. And it’s not in any way a chronological countdown of the highs and lows of the self-styled “best league in the world.”
It is a fascinating collection, review and analysis of milestones selected by Lovejoy as being worthy of inclusion. He doesn’t offer any criteria for including some bits and omitting others, but then I know from my own experience that you can’t squeeze everything in there. By and large you try and include the big stories from Premier League history, a few weird and quirky anecdotes and anything else you can get that fits the plan. It can be quite random in parts.
Kissing The Badge crams in trivia, questions and quotes and includes every team that has ever kicked a ball in the Premier League, but even having researched and written it I came across a few things in Lovejoy’s work that I’d forgotten or didn’t know in the first place.
Glory, Goals & Greed looks at a lot less of the action and events but in much more detail – and it benefits on a number of fronts by having been written by one of the foremost football correspondents of the last 30 years, someone who has vast knowledge and experience of football – crucially extending well before the launch of the Premier League – and who has a great affection of the game, but stopping short of blind faith.
When I was starting out in journalism, more than 30 years ago, I was advised by Billy Bremner, on his appointment as manager of Doncaster Rovers, that I would be fine if I just wrote about the football. I was reminded of the conversation while reading Lovejoy. He reports his favourite 20 Premier League matches in the simple, traditional style, letting the goals speak for themselves.
He uses the same uncomplicated technique for his interviews, letting some of the big names of the past 20 years recount their own experiences and opinions. It wouldn’t work on TV because some self-important presenter would keep interrupting, but for all his own experience and ability Lovejoy knows when to step into the background and let his interviewees demonstrate their insight.
The comments are often contradictory because the interviewees don’t always share the same views. Lovejoy talks to people who have played at the top of the Premier League and the bottom, others who were involved in its formation without embracing the ideal simply because they recognised the inevitability of the situation.
So there is a lot in Glory, Goals & Greed about the politics and the money, the wheeling and dealing behind the scenes, but some of the most compelling content comes from football people talking candidly about the game in a style that you wouldn’t get in the tabloids. That’s refreshing, and it’s relevant throughout professional football.
And if you only read one page in one football book this year then take a look at page 234 here, in which Lovejoy and Niall Quinn discuss ways of narrowing the ever-increasing gap between the Premier League participants and the communities from which they make their living.