Book Review: Roy Bentley’s Stationary Club

Posted by on Feb 19, 2019 in Book Review | 3 Comments
Book Review: Roy Bentley’s Stationary Club

Roy Bentley’s Stationary Club
by Roger Titford
Published by Further Thought
2018

In his seminal volume, The Football Grounds of England Wales published in the late 1980s, Simon Inglis described Reading FC’s then stadium Elm Park as possibly the least interesting in the league and that’s also reflected by how many fans in the wider football community regard the club as a whole. Indeed, there is a twitter feed devoted to highlighting the Berkshire outfit as the exemplar of dowdiness, updated many times weekly with the spluttering of opposing supporters.

Roger Titford’s new book Roy Bentley’s Stationary Club will do little to rectify that impression. A truly curious exercise that probably does more to highlight the possibilities of self-publishing as anything else, the author takes a six-year period in Reading’s history and places it under the microscope. What’s odd about that, you may ask? After all, Paolo Condo devoted a whole book to just a few short months in the history of Real Madrid and Barcelona and microhistory is a valid approach these days.

Well the volume is odd because the years between 1963 and 1969 were almost superhumanly uneventful for Reading Football Club – hence the book’s title. Under the stewardship of the former Chelsea and England man, Roy Bentley, Reading were noteworthy for their lack of progress. Indeed, I was reminded of an observation my Dad made to me when I was small that Reading would generally expect to finish in the top 10 of the English third tier season after season, thus being a good team to support and one a fan could count on to provide happiness at a quarter to five on the Saturday more weeks than most.

But this is a tough sell over the space of a book. Sure, there are observations to be made about the influence of petty local businessmen at board level, an age before the play-offs were introduced where a season’s outcome would often be known as early as November, and the way the swinging sixties passed most ordinary towns and the people in them by.

Aside from mildly eyebrow raising facts such as the number of Reading players of the time who would go on to sire famous offspring (Martin Allen, Neil Webb), the book is surely one for completists and the information therein, carefully gleaned from a spectacular collection of press cuttings, will be of less significance to the history of the game than a previous volume Titford published on the early years of the club at the turn of the previous century.

It’s tricky enough to persuade the current generation of social media animals to take an interest in the 1990s, let alone a decade that is very distant indeed and the lack of trophies and events really compound this. Titford, a When Saturday Comes regular, writes in exemplary fashion with flashes of low-key humour but one wonders whether he should have sat back and held back his various projects to provide a definitive, sweeping overview of Reading Football Club as a whole. With the 150 year anniversary of the team’s founding approaching in 2021, that surely would have been a better project. Maybe he has it up his sleeve?

Rob Langham
Rob Langham is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 50 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, Futbolgrad and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.

3 Comments

  1. PaulM
    February 19, 2019

    No one likes us, we are Reading.

    Reply
  2. Roger Titford
    March 27, 2019

    The Author replies:
    In what’s a generally favourable review Rob makes a number of astute points, a couple of which I’d like to pick up on.

    Rob writes that this book is “a truly curious exercise that probably does more to highlight the possibilities of self-publishing as anything else”. True on both counts. A print run of 200 has sold out and turned a profit just into four figures (and that’s not including the pennies). It’s very deliberately ‘curious’ (and unique) in the sense of making ordinariness and non-achievement the central focus. As it happened, the research material existed for what we’d now term a complete 360 degree look at an ordinary FL club 50 years ago and to examine how it worked, what scale it was and what pressures it faced when a great deal around it was changing rapidly. Of course, no publisher would consider such a ‘worst-selling’ proposition.

    With a small print run thankfully it doesn’t need “the current generation of social media animals” – other than the ones happy to buy the book for dad, uncle, granddad at Christmas. The sixty-somethings who’ve bought and read, I’m glad to say, have been appreciative – in part, no doubt, because it brings back distant / childhood memories and places them in a contemporary analytical context: one said “you’ve made a totally unremarkable era interesting.”

    I’m not quite sure what’s up my sleeve for 2021-22 – but thanks for speculating!

    Roger

    Reply
  3. Rob Langham
    March 27, 2019

    Thanks for your comment Roger and great to hear that the book has done well. I work for a publisher with similar print runs and can confirm that it is a good business model these days. I’ll also confirm that my Dad, who watched a lot of Reading in the Sixties, raced through the book.

    Reply

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