Book Review: Wings of a Sparrow
Wings of a Sparrow by Dougie Brimson
Published by eBookPartnership.com
2012, £1.90 (Kindle)
I wonder how many Southampton fans have fantasized about a large lottery win in the past two years — one that could see them elbow aside the various suitors bidding for control of rivals Portsmouth, promptly running the club even further into the ground on assuming ownership of the Fratton Parkers – selling off assets and wreaking havoc from within.
Such ‘Agent X’ scenarios will surely rank high among the daydreams of more impassioned football supporters. Accepting a job with one’s fiercest enemies under false premises and using it as a launch pad to work harm is a favourite reverie indeed — perhaps Ken Bates was highlighting the curious rivalry between Chelsea and Leeds United during his spell in West Yorkshire?
Examples are legion — George Graham never really suited the hot seat at Spurs while Lee Clark famously exhibited his contempt for Sunderland. Michael Owen’s inconsequential displays at Old Trafford made one suspicious, while Rafa Benitez’s current employment at Chelsea cannot end quickly enough for many.
But going back to Johann Cruyff’s successful Indian summer at Feyenoord, the opposite is actually more regularly the case. Indeed, such switches usually serve to show the modern football person’s lack of loyalty — think Carlos Tevez at Man City, Mo Johnston at Rangers and Sol Campbell at the Arsenal.
Which brings us to Dougie Brimson’s latest book, Wings of a Sparrow – a tale of an unexpected inheritance that brings a rabid follower and fanzine editor of a fictional Yorkshire club to take charge of his favourites’ bitterest rivals — a deal beset by clever caveats and challenges but one which leaves him facing up to the true nature of his partisanship nonetheless.
Rob Cooper sells City’s goalkeeper to their enemies, sacks the manager and replaces him with a United legend, takes great delight in abusing the club hierarchy and supporters, and even goes so far as to fire a long standing car park attendant — all because he can — the comparisons with a certain Papa Smurf lookalike in a West Yorkshire metropolis are evident.
It’s a knockabout and far from serious account and inevitably, there is some softening along the way — the perils of a marriage hamstrung by football obsession, the opinions of family and mates, and the conscience within all see Rob torn between various decisions — although loyalty really only seems to be present amongst the fandom of the fictional club — anybody actually earning money from the game has self- interest at heart.
The book’s touches include a mock appearance on Soccer AM with Peter Beardsley and Theo Paphitis, a lampooning from a rival fanzine set up in Cooper’s name, The Pie Eating Ponce, and the usual sequence of nerve jangling fixtures as a season strangely not reliant on escape from relegation draws to a close — it would be giving too much away to explain why the breaking of the 51 point mark is important in this case rather than simply staying in the league.
The dialogue is well staged if very unreconstructed — and probably a pretty accurate assessment of the colloquy typical of a League 2 club – while Brimson continues his tradition explored in previous titles such as The Geezers’ Guide to Football: A Lifetime of Lads and Lager and Top Dog . He can be followed on twitter here.