by Richard Foster
Published by Amberley Publishing
A book about pet hates in football? Just the one book, I hear you ask. At the moment, twenty-six letters of the alphabet, some with two chapters offers plenty of scope for volumes two through infinity.
Tongue-in-cheek some of the topics might be but there are moments where the venom is barely suppressed. As a Palace fan, you would expect the author to hold Ian Wright in high esteem.
Not so, his goals at Highbury effectively relegated The Eagles on the last day of the season and Wright was not slow to show his joy at finding the back of the net. Wright, so good they named him thrice, was whichever way you look at it, true to form; he was never slow to show his delight at scoring against anyone, Palace were not given any special treatment or disrespect in that sense. It always amazes me that the footballing equivalent of an orgasm is given such a reserved reception.
And it’s a fair point, one I’ve made before. As Foster points out, the false respect of not celebrating has gone too far. He highlights Denis Law’s bewildered state after scoring a goal for Manchester City which contributed a significant moment in United’s demise in the mid-70s. You understand that but now we are treated to the sight of players who barely managed a dozen appearances for teams, showing their respect for their former employers. It’s a job, they are employees; emotional investment? Leave that to us.
I’m not sure that the cupped hand to the ear or silencing finger is as irritating. Indeed, I probably get irked more by the preciousness fans display when faced with a footballer giving back the ‘banter’ they have to take without reaction. It’s a new disease that has spread through the game in recent years and is as poisonous as diving was for the spectacle.
Banter itself deserved a chapter, culminating in the risible trading of wit – I wonder if spellchecker will pick that one up – between Reading and Bolton Wanderers social media teams. At that moment in time, I would have quite cheerfully resorted to the menacing undercurrent of violence which haunted football grounds forty years ago.
The obvious targets are included with Agents opening proceedings and giving you a good indication of what is to follow over the next couple of hundred pages. Had he missed the target, it would have been a long read. Thankfully, you could hear the funfair bell ringing every time a shot hit home. Bells, yes, I’m not sure I have come across them to the extent that they became pet hates. Brass bands? Definitely, members should be barred sine die from football. Perhaps ‘B’ could have been covered off with a chapter entitled, “Bloody…“, so much of what is wrong with football begins with that letter.
Arsenal feature, surprisingly Robert Pires is let off the hook in the chapter on diving; Ashley Young is not so fortunate. The mawkish habit of bringing babies into trophy celebrations is given short shrift, as is Newcastle chairman Mike Ashley’s habit of giving jobs to the boys who are patently unsuited to the role. That’s the ‘A’ sorted; Agents and Ashley.
It’s not all fun and games though. Anyone who had the misfortune of watching England’s lumbering performance in Talinn will find themselves nodding sagely with the author’s view on the national squad, sharing the same discomfort at finding balance in Sepp Blatter’s comments at the end. Fortunately, the issues which continue to besiege the game following the decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup are not evaded, highlighting the genuine concern that fans feel on the issue.
That’s the book’s strength. As well as a fans eye view on writing the book, there are contributions from ex-players and supporters of other hues add some sort of balance to the Palace viewpoint. Arsène elicits sympathy in his seemingly eternal battle with his coat zip without finding the answer to the simple question of why Wenger didn’t just change to ‘popper button’ style fastenings.
Had I written the book, ‘football list’ books would have their own chapter. A rework would be necessary as this enjoyable romp through the less obvious aspects of the game has changed my mind. One thing though. Perhaps we can expand the sphere to draw in advertising agencies who ruin a good song with dreary or incomprehensible cover versions such as the car company currently ruining That’s Entertainment. Bloody advertisers. Ah, wonderfully versatile word, bloody…
If you feel that your inner Victor Meldrew needs an outlet, this is the book for you, one that will get you nodding in agreement or exasperated at how wrong it all is. You can buy The A-Z Of Football Hates here.