Author Patricia Nicol reveals a selection of the best books on: Football
- Patricia Nicol’s earliest football memory is singing around the 1978 World Cup
- Tom is signed to a small team in literary novel A Natural by Ross Raisin
- Billy is put in goal in borrowed ill-fitting clothes in A Kestrel For A Knave
My earliest footballing memory is of singing We’re On The March with Ally’s army, Scotland’s vainglorious anthem for the 1978 World Cup. I sang it for months after the tournament, upsetting my brothers; Scotland having failed to really shake things up, ‘even though Scotland are the greatest fitba team’.
My interest in football remains sporadic. We sat down as a family to watch Scotland v England: two supporting England; me and the youngest backing the Scots. But blimey, it was dull. Our sons never came back after half-time. I became increasingly distracted by the off-field manoeuvres of the Tartan Army. Ten days on, I am still worried about the welfare of that chap belly-sliding through Leicester Square. Scotland may have lost out after a valiant game against Croatia, but their support was winning.
While there are some excellent non-fiction books about football, there are fewer novels. One that stands out is David Peace’s dazzling The Damned United, a biographical novel about manager Brian Clough, set during his turbulent 44 days managing Leeds United, as successor to his long-term adversary Don Revie. Imaginatively, this puts you inside Clough’s head.
Patricia Nicol reveals a selection of the best books on football, including A Natural by Ross Raisin (pictured left) and A Kestrel For A Knave by Barry Hines (pictured right)
Writer Barry Hines was a keen footballer who had once dreamed of playing professionally. Instead, he qualified as a PE teacher, and wrote his first football-inspired novel, The Blinder, in the school library after the children had gone home. His most famous novel, A Kestrel For A Knave, filmed by Ken Loach as Kes, contains a memorable scene set during a school football lesson. Humiliation is piled upon protagonist Billy, put in goal in borrowed ill-fitting clothes.
A Natural by Ross Raisin is a literary novel set in the modern PremierLeague-era. After coming up through the youth programme of his major-league boyhood club, Tom has been dropped, then signed to a small team. He must also come to terms with his sexuality.
Although Scottish-born, rest assured, I will be cheering on England against Germany tomorrow.