England 'Til I Die - A celebration of England's amazing supporters by David Lane

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England 'Til I Die - A celebration of England's amazing supporters by David Lane

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Category: Sport
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: The art and travel involved with being a fan of the English soccer squad, from the horse's mouth.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 200 Date: April 2010
Publisher: Legends Publishing
ISBN: 978-1906796501

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To start with, an admission. I am an English fan of football, but I am not a fan of England’s football squad. Hardly ever would I prefer to see the Three Lions triumphant. I never got into the habit, partly because I never saw the singularly English habit of supporting the underdog as making any sense. Plus you'll never get me standing up and singing that awful tune before the match. But here are testimonies from twenty or so people who see things completely differently to me.

This is a book to give proof of what a sacrifice is involved with following England. How somebody here could afford 222 matches on the trot, missing out on absolutely nothing, while having four children and two wives, I don’t know. Here is the young lad of yore, losing a perfectly healthy tooth, as dental pain was his excuse to skive school and see the game.

In fact the delights of foreign travel, the frustrations of the actual matches, the camaraderie among the terrace inhabitants – all are here and all are obvious. Several summations of this book, and conclusions, are just that – a little too obvious. It’s clear all essays here are far too eloquent, erudite and entertaining – the first one is immediately seen as good quality journalese. These are not from the average Eng-er-land fan, surely.

It’s clear too how much copious drinking goes on around the match. It’s clear too how these reporters travel the globe following the squad, and all the witnessed violence, antagonism, racism and more is entirely the fault of those bearing foreign flags (and, OK, their violent police forces).

Page 56 is the book in summary. Mick always said that the games were 'always rubbish' and that he’d never seen England play well – but more importantly, it was 'a good piss up'! But beyond that reductio ad absurdum, there is variety here. There are home experiences, at Wembley and more, and different approaches to the anecdote from Europe. Dare I say it, a couple of the writers here I could even see myself getting along with very well – namely the two that most visibly broke away from the booze trail to see more of far-flung climes, even if they're only darkest Poland. As for the young fan who said he felt very privileged because he’d seen so much more of the world than anybody else he’d known, purely because of England’s Eleven, I can’t be alone in wanting to throttle him and suggest the world was there anyway, outside the stadia and the official fan trips.

A brother gets his ribs crushed in a mass brawl, and the correspondent says England fans were given a terrible reputation by the media. That's probably true, and this book is going to partly redress the balance – but in that and other regards it will be preaching to the converted. I cannot see this selling well in Scotland. But there are of course many people for whom this book will speak to the soul, and encapsulate their very own thoughts and experiences. They might even know the writers from within the turnstiles – or within the sozzled fall-out afterwards.

To those red and white-clad fans, they can add half a mark to our Bookbag rating. This is a book which goes where it wants in a brisk, bright (and brightly-coloured) and enjoyable style, but with such a singular raison d’etre does not have far to travel.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

I can see the fans herein enjoying Where Are They Now? - Rediscovering Over 100 Football Stars of the 70s and 80s by Matt Allen hugely – I did.

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Buy England 'Til I Die - A celebration of England's amazing supporters by David Lane at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy England 'Til I Die - A celebration of England's amazing supporters by David Lane at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy England 'Til I Die - A celebration of England's amazing supporters by David Lane at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy England 'Til I Die - A celebration of England's amazing supporters by David Lane at Amazon.com.

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