There's Only One...
A journey around thirteen unique football communities.
This is a book about football that rarely mentions football. It is not about the game, it’s about what surrounds the game, and the place that holds in people’s lives, as part of the fabric of society. It was inspired by the discovery of a painting that languishes unseen in the archive of The National Football Museum. It is not a bad painting and not a great painting; it is an unremarkable painting, recording an unremarkable game, watched by unremarkable people, with an unremarkable title ‘Spectators Returning Home After Port Vale vs. Accrington Stanley’.
What the painting does capture, perhaps unwittingly, is the condition of a lost working-class life in an era of post-war austere bleakness. The spectral stream of heavily overcoated spectators trudging disconsolately away from the match, collars pulled up, flat caps tugged down against a leaden industrial sky. With the hard-earned week’s entertainment over, the fans’ countenances betray the anticipation of the fortnight’s manual toil ahead, of the hope and frustration, prayer and despair that the next home game may bring. A long-lost world of hard graft, simple pleasures and rooted community, or perhaps not so lost?
Taking the painting as its start point, this work of faction, part-truth. part-tale, visits in turn those sometimes obscure, sometimes familiar, always unique communities that follow clubs with equally unique collective names like Vale and Stanley or indeed Wednesday, Hotspur, Forest, Argyle, Alexandra, North End, Palace, Villa, Orient, Rangers, looking to discover what part these clubs now play, if any, at the heart of their contemporary community.
As an exploration of the side-show to the game itself, rather than the players, managers or owners, in meeting tea-ladies and coach drivers, landlords and car park attendants, its often funny, sometimes tragic, always poignant observation offers up a personal record to the condition of English community in the Twenty-First Century.