Home and Away by Dave Roberts
|Home and Away by Dave Roberts|
|Reviewer: John Ewbank|
|Summary: Home and Away, by Bromley FC supporter Dave Roberts, is an entertaining account of life as a non-league football fan.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: August 2016|
|Publisher: Bantam Press|
|External links: [www.daverobertsbooks.com/ Author's website]|
For most football fans, non-league clubs (that is, teams who play outside the top four divisions of English football) are like a distant relative fallen on hard times; you're vaguely aware of their existence but have no particular wish to visit them. Apart from a few weeks in early January, when the odd non-league club reaches the third round of the FA cup and embarks on a spot of giant killing, the lower leagues receive almost no attention outside their small groups of devoted supporters. So what's it like to support a non-league team? Enter Dave Roberts, a fan of Bromley FC who are currently plying their trade in the Vanarama National League – the fifth tier of English football. In Home and Away, Dave documents the highs and lows of travelling the country watching Bromley during the 2015/2016 season.
I'd recommend this book to fans of Premier League teams, particularly those who are prone to moaning about their team's performance; such fans don't know how lucky they are (ticket prices notwithstanding). Non-league supporters like Dave Roberts have to put up with waterlogged pitches, floodlight failures (or floodlights so poor fans can only see one half of the pitch), getting score updates only via twitter due to the total lack of TV or radio coverage, and standing on uncovered terraces in the pouring rain. Instead of glamour ties at Chelsea or Man United, fans in the Vanarama National League must travel to places like Boreham Wood and Guiseley; Macclesfield, and Eastleigh. It's about as far removed from the cash-saturated upper leagues as it's possible to be.
Despite the hardships, what Home and Away does show is that life in the lower leagues can be surprisingly rewarding. Adversity breeds community, and the travelling Bromley faithful (usually numbering around fifty) seem to be a far friendlier bunch than your average group of away supporters; not a whiff off the thuggery and foul language you see with the clubs. By the end of the season Dave knows most of his fellow supporters by name, and several have given him lifts or lent him money to buy a programme. Naturally they're an odd bunch (it takes a particular kind of insanity to travel hundreds of miles to watch a non-league fixture) but all the more endearing for it.
If I had to criticise I'd say, paradoxically, that there's a bit too much football in Home and Away. Roberts has a habit of noting every goal scorer and every substitution from every game, and while it's forgivable given his Bromley obsession, I'm not sure anyone other than a Bromley obsessive would find this interesting. But there's plenty in the book that will please a more general audience, and it's well worth reading.
If you'd like to read more about Dave Roberts' obsession with Bromley, we're sure you'd enjoy The Bromley Boys.
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