You'll Win Nothing With Kids by Jim White

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You'll Win Nothing With Kids by Jim White

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Category: Biography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: An amusing memoir about father and son football. It's kind-hearted and clear-sighted and will make everyone, even the mothers, laugh. Perhaps a little thin on material for almost three hundred pages, but the cognoscenti won't mind.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: September 2007
Publisher: Little, Brown
ISBN: 978-0316029827

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Jim White has coached his son's football team for the past six years. He is that touchline wally. He is the man who makes you nudge your neighbour in the sparsely-populated stand, point him out and say "Watch him. Look at him now. Ha. Oh. Oh my lord. What's he doing?" That is Jim White. Father and son and football. They love it. They hate it. They obsess over it. They argue. It's probably the only time they exchange more than three words to one another in an entire week. It takes over the entire house. And now, it's even made it into a book.

You'll Win Nothing With Kids (title shamelessly pinched from Alan Hansen, as many of White's team speeches are shamefully pinched from other pundits) really is exceedingly and excruciatingly funny. From the dog turds on the centre spot, through the wannabe Mourinhos, the paralysed goalkeepers and the fisticuffs over a tea urn to the nailbiting relegation match, it's a series of triumphs and disasters that will be enjoyed, recognised and laughed at by families up and down the country. White knows exactly how much he can suck, and much of the book is written in a wry, self-deprecating tone. But he also knows how much he, and his team, can rock and the moments of triumph almost brought a tear or two to my motherly eye. But most of all, reading it, I just got the been there, done that, got the t-shirt feeling that makes a book comfortable to read. Here's just one example, about the County Cup Final:

Today is the big one. It is the biggest game any of our players have ever played in. It is certainly the biggest game this particular manager has ever been involved in. There will be a crowd, there will be a matchday programme with the boys' names in it, there will be a fully functioning tea bar, complete with hot beverages. There will even be sausage and chips for the players afterwards. It really is that big.

Snigger, but awww.

Ah y'know, perhaps it's a bit thin on material for almost three hundred pages. We follow White and his team through a season containing a great cup run and a relegation zone league struggle interspersed with reminiscences of six years coaching youth football. With the best will in the world, there's going to be some repetition. There are only so many ways you can stand on the touchline and make a prat of yourself and those who aren't involved in this particular father-son joy and torment might wilt before the end. I didn't wilt. I laughed, and laughed heartily, all the way through. So many of its cameos are repeated weekly chez Murphy, I just couldn't help it. When the team are languishing without a win at the bottom of the league and White's wife drily remarks that they are altogether pointless, I filed the excellent pun away, for future - but hopefully infrequent! - spouse taunting.

Recommended for all little leaguers, up and down the country.

My thanks to the nice people at Little Brown for sending the book.

Football fans might also enjoy Michael Crick's excellent and very revealing biography of Alex Ferguson, The Boss.

Booklists.jpg You'll Win Nothing With Kids by Jim White is in the Top Ten Books For Your Father.

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Magda said:

What a terrifying future, though of course there is a chance that he'll take up something else, I don't know, rock climbing? sailing? judo? drums? WarCraft?

I have a life-long prejudice against team games (possibly because my father never watched football or anything like that while I was always picked last for anything at school apart from basketball (for which I was picked in the bottom 10% anyway).

Jill replied:

Haha. It'll be football. And YOU'LL have to go and watch!

Sue said:

Yes, Magda - your son will force you to muddy football fields in the depths of winter. Treasure him before it's forced upon you.