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NORTHERN SOUL BY ED JONES
By Andrew Vaughan
'Northern Soul' is the story of Wigan's first season in the Premiership and takes a look behind the scenes at the Lancashire club.
Ed Jones was the only journalist to be granted access all-areas and he tells the story of a season in the life of the new kids on the block in a beautiful style. He has a lovely self-deprecating touch and the fact that he was there as a fan and a journalist when they were shit means that he doesn't forget the days BW (Before Whelan). He portrays a club that is almost a throwback to the old days in that it is run by a small tight-knit staff that seem to be enjoying the ride as much as the fans. The star of the show is undoubtedly the manager, Paul Jewell His Scouse wit is razor sharp and his personality pervades the playing side of the club as his effervescent verve is as essential as his tactical acumen to the team and football club.
It is apparent early in the book that although Jones is there to chart the season's progress he is quickly brought on board when they realise he can speak fluent French. I mean (although the book doesn't tell us) this is the club that when negotiating with a Turkish player dragged a waiter from a local restaurant all the way to Istanbul to act as a translator. Professionalism is not a word that is often associated with the administration at Wigan and Jones is brought in to help the loonies that are Pascal Chimbonda and Henri Camara. Much revolves around these two and he tells the tales with just the right amount of wit, affection and decorum.
However by taking this position - and as he admits he is quickly accepted by all at the club - it compromises his position as a writer and the book has undoubtedly taken on a different tone. It was never going to be over-critical from thence on and the book at times does read as a PR job for the club. This is not to say that it isn't a great read and it gives a real insight into the workings behind a top club and due to Jones' skills as a writer is a breeze to get through. It will appeal to all Wigan supporters and anybody that has a genuine affinity for modern football. There is however an awful lot that is left out - if you are slightly aware of the "runnings" at Whelan Towers. The man himself is portrayed as a loveable businessman - when he is anything but - and the co-opting onto the board of Wigan Rugby's Maurice Lindsay, while covered, is brushed over somewhat. Sure there are comments from members of the public - just not the ones that have vehemently opposed his directorship and detest the man. There is no mention of the fans that have been so aggrieved by some of the things the club has done over the season and have continued into this season (40% price increase) that they have set up an independent supporters club. While the people queuing over night for tickets to away matches is due to our marvellous support and nothing to do with the fact that the ticket office couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery. Plus another 100 complaints ……………. But this isn't the place.
That is my only gripe and maybe Jones never intended to write that book. And to be honest I'm not his market. But as I said it is a really well-written tome and it deserves to sell in its thousands and place itself in that small club of very fine football diaries.
Meanwhile I'd encourage everybody to seek out Ed's previous book 'This Is Pop' (Canongate) - a fantastic insight into how not to make it in the music business.
THE DAMNED UNITED BY DAVID PEACE
If it is a small club of very fine football books the club of very fine football novels has just been opened and as it's founding member is David Peace and his astounding football novel 'The Damned United'.
This wonderfully structured book shifts across three football clubs and 12 years and 44 days surrounding the life of Brian Clough. The 44 days refer to the time that Clough spent at Leeds. Dirty, dirty, dirty Leeds. Written in short one-line paragraphs, repeated mantras and drenched in drink, hatred, paranoia and plays out under deeply leaden Yorkshire skies. It is harrowing, disturbing, awkward, nasty and mind-blowingly good. How much is fact and how much is fiction you can only guess but read it and weep. Read it and feel disgusted. Read it and rejoice in a unique novel.
This is a dark dirty novel set in the dark dirty 1970s. When hooliganism was rife, players smoked, drank, fucked (and fucked about) and traded punches rather than handbags out on the pitch. Journalists were confidantes and comrades and managers hated each other's guts. Especially Brain Howard Clough and Don Revie. Oh and Bob Stokoe - who hated Revie more than Clough. It was Clough though who hated everybody. Even his best fucking mate Peter Taylor is kept at an arms length. And it is without Taylor that Clough goes to Leeds. No friends at all. Just a bottle of brandy and a curious dog in the night that barks "Clough Out".
Peace has the period detail spot on. The world of Brian Moore and Old Big 'Ead on ITV. The world of nasty Johnny Giles and Norman Hunter The mud-bath that was the Baseball Ground. The world of light-blue Mercedes Benzes and the curses and the psalms and dirty, dirty, dirty Leeds and Brian Bloody Clough.
There are no happy endings.
The most extraordinarily complex book I have read this year.
DUFC ROOLS OK!
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