Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Bromley Boys

The Bromley BoysThe Bromley Boys

Dave Roberts

ISBN: 1906032246
Portico;
Paperback, 272pp

Non-league football, the heart of the game, where only true fans live and breathe. I used to be one of them, but remember thinking as I stood frozen on the crumbling terraces of another middle-of-nowhere 'stadium', slurping thermonuclear hot chocolate the taste of sewer water, that it helps if you support a winning team in these circumstances.

My team Woking was one of the best, which made my teenage odyssey through England's decrepit amateur arenas a joy. In 1969, Dave Roberts however, followed not only a losing team but a hopeless one. Roberts chronicles his support across a season of almost unmitigated disaster, as Bromley cave in to one team after another and he searches in vain for love and identity.

A hymn to the intrinsic comedy of British football fandom in the spirit of Harry Pearson, The Bromley Boys, if never quite as hilarious as The Far Corner, is charming and humorous throughout and an easy page-turner. His utterly inept heroes who lose, lose and lose again as they stumble to a rock-bottom finish in the Isthmian League are centre stage, with every calamity meticulously recorded.

But the funniest parts of the book are his wry recollections of his own angst and misadventure as a hormonal teenager, which should have formed the core of the book instead of the matches. It is a charming read and a very British one. I can't think of another country which not only tolerates such ineptitude and naffness, but actually revels in it and celebrates it as a badge of cultural honour.

It is healthy to laugh at yourself, but following a losing team is actually the heart of most fans' experience as only one team end up champions each season. When your team is a bigger loser than all the others, your loyalty becomes a thing of true pride non-fans will never understand.

Sean O'Conor

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