In a continued attempt to save some of the history of the great Ciderspace.co.uk, we have salvaged a trio of book reviews from the archive and are pleased to present them here.
These were last updated on the Ciderspace in around 2004, 2006 & 2008 respectivley..

Behind The Green Door, by Brendon Owen – First Stone Publishers – £9.99

Brendon Owen is a football fan. More importantly, Brendon Owen is a Yeovil Town fan. One hundred and eight years of non-league football came to an end for Yeovil Town in 2003 and the Championship season was captured brilliantly by Brendon’s first book ‘Yeovil ‘til I die’.

That momentous season was catalogued in a bright and breezy style that we could all relate to. With ‘Behind the green door’ Brendon carries on the story, which has now moved to more illustrious venues with the KC Stadium, McAlpine Stadium and Reynolds Arena replacing Cherrywood Road, The Lawn and Edgar Street.

The book starts with the arguments about the change of shirt design to hoops for our inaugural league season. Remember them? I’d almost forgotten just how heated the arguments were. Now, twelve months on it seems the most natural thing in the world to see the lads in the green and white hoops. It moves on to describe the turmoil in the camp caused by Michael McIndoe’s wish to move to a bigger club. The reader is left in no doubt as to Brendon’s feelings in this matter!

Brendon had to miss the first game at Rochdale as his son was getting married on the same day. Radio Five Live picked up on this and phoned him that morning to ask about the fan that was left behind! Brendon managed to keep up with events at Spotland with the help of his mobile phone and was able to enjoy a double celebration that day.

For this season, Brendon had been given access behind the scenes and is able to shed some light on the activities at the club between matches. He was also invited to travel with the team to an away match and this was duly arranged for the teams’ league fixture at Belle Vue against the play-off promoted Doncaster Rovers. As most of us would agree, this was like an early Christmas present to Brendon and even a fairly serious fall at home the night before travelling was not going to stop the intrepid author joining the team. It was interesting to find that the team apparently stayed overnight at the same hotel that McIndoe was staying at! In retrospect, travelling with the team is a brave thing to do. What if you sit in the wrong seat? What if the team suffer their heaviest defeat for years when you accompany them? And possibly worst of all, if the team lose, where do you look for the entire journey home?

As we now know, a Supergav goal won the game that night and Brendon’s worries were over.

The book continues to chronicle the season interspersed with stories from Brendon’s day-to-day life. It is this aspect which makes the book so readable and personal. It’s reassuring to know that we are not alone in following some of our rituals in our own attempts to help the cause. The camaraderie and friendship that following a football team creates is there for all to see in the pages of this book. We all know it exists. We all try to explain it to our non-footballing friends. Supporting your team is a tribal thing and it’s difficult for someone who hasn’t experienced this to understand. If you’re having trouble convincing someone of the merits of football supporting then give him or her a copy of this book and tell them to read it. They will soon understand!

The season’s high and low points are all here with understandably more than a few pages written about the Liverpool game. I’m pleased to learn that I’m not the only one who felt a little jealous of the poor souls who queued overnight for tickets and enjoyed an unforgettable experience. I’d forgotten the fire, which created so many problems for the club immediately before the match tickets went on sale.

Of course, the Liverpool match didn’t end up as we all wished and indeed you could say the same for the season as a whole. The book does remind me however, of the sheer fun that we had for our first season in the league, even the defeats.

For those who know the format of the first book, the second is very similar but with over 170 pages of text this time the second book is somewhat longer. With some excellent photographs from Nigel Andrews and an appendix which includes statistics from the season’s games it is a must buy for every Yeovil fan.

I like sports books. I especially like books about football and feel that we are privileged to have two excellent books from Brendon, which mean so much to us all personally about our team. I’m also not a quick reader. I can’t be doing with this scan reading, I have to hear each and every word in my head as I read.

I bought Brendon’s book and sat down to read it. I finished it at 2am the following morning, read all in one sitting and I knew the ending!!!!

I can give it no higher praise than that.

Don Gibson

——–

Around The World With Yeovil Town, by Michael Bromfield – Tempus Publishing – £12.99
Not many shy retiring types become millionaires, the likes of Jon Goddard-Watts or the Barclay brothers excepted. And the author of Around The World With Yeovil Town, Michael Bromfield, isn’t one of those exceptions that proves the rule.

Book reviews don’t generally concentrate on the author, but this book is very much about Bromfield, with Yeovil Town, and indeed much of the rest of the World, a backdrop. Amidst the ‘if it’s Thursday it must be Timbuktu’ one learns a lot about Michael. Perhaps more than he intended; and, for the more private amongst us, more than maybe we’d feel comfortable revealing. Refreshing openness, or overweening egotism? One’s view of Michael gleaned from these pages will, to a large measure, determine whether one enjoys this book or not.

Written and dictated every few days over the 2004-05 football season the source material ran to over 600,000 words – longer than Lord of the Rings, as Bromfield charmingly admits one publisher’s rejection letter pointed out. The finished product runs to a more realistic 256 pages. Outside of some introductory and concluding material the structure of the book is based around the sequence of matches played by Yeovil throughout their second season in the Football League, each one providing a ‘chapter’.

The book crosses over two potential, and crowded, markets: Football Fan Writes About, and Travel Writing. Amazon chooses to reference it under ‘Sports, Hobbies & Games’ rather than ‘Travel & Holiday’. However both markets have produced a certain genre, and are linked by a common factor. Whether the work provides the reader with a feel, be it for the experience of the club, its season and being a fan in the former, or for the places and people in the latter, determines the success or otherwise of the writing. So does Around The World With Yeovil Town have ‘feel’?

This question brings us back to the author, again. There’s too much Bromfield, particularly on the travel side of the book. I didn’t get much of a feel for the places Michael visited. Argentina was best, perhaps because this was new to the author, and seen and recorded through fresh eyes. Of the people he came across one only gets glimpses, often tantalising glimpses that leave you thirsting to know more about them. This thirst is rarely quenched, because potential stars in the making are generally only accorded the role of extras in the book.

On the football side the book works better. Firstly there’s the variety between the fifteen games Michael was in this country to see, and those recorded as secondhand experiences in distant climes. He was extraordinarily lucky too, his visits home coinciding with many of the classic matches of the season. Football is all about opinions, as the cliché goes, and when reporting on games, players and giving his views the author may not have much that’s particularly original to say, but most of what he expounds is sensible. Or, to put it another way, there wasn’t too much this reviewer disagreed with. There are some insightful comments of a wider nature too, though again more of the sort where other fans will tend to say : ‘Yep, fair shout’; rather than : ‘Wow, I’d never thought of it in that way before’.

Of the matches Bromfield didn’t attend, which is of course the main theme of the book, there are only so many different ways one can record making or taking a phone call, or logging onto the Internet, even if it is from various parts of the planet. It’s now possible to say that’s less than thirty-nine.

So, is this book worth buying? It depends who you are. As someone who had followed the season closely and seen all but two matches, and who has read it when that campaign is still fresh in the mind, it didn’t offer enough surprises. There could be more value coming to it in a year or two when the memories have dimmed and need refreshing. For those Yeovil fans who couldn’t get to so many games it can be recommended as a solid account, from an unusual perspective, of a great season and time in the club’s history. For the football rather than the Yeovil fan, looking for a read relating to a team other than their own, there are alternatives out there with more of that ‘feel’ factor.

In the final analysis, if you come away from it rather liking the author you’ll have rather liked the book. Despite qualms about its literary qualities – one definite recommendation, should there ever be a sequel, is to leave SHIFT resolutely alone when using the ‘1/!’ key – this reviewer did indeed come away rather liking Michael Bromfield.

Hugh Gleave.

—– 

Birth of the Giant-killers, by various contributors – JLH Design – £6.99

It is unlikely any fan of the Glovers will not know that January 2009 sees the Diamond Anniversary of what still remains the most famous, if no longer the most important, match played by Yeovil Town F.C. Although the FA Cup may not be the huge draw it once was, it still remains the case that since the introduction of exemption to Round Three Proper for leading clubs in 1925 on only six occasions has a Non-league side knocked out a team from the highest division. Yeovil’s achievement remains unique in that all other instances, by Colchester United, Hereford United, Wimbledon, Altrincham and Sutton United, came in the Third Round, while the Glovers made their greatest mark in FA Cup folklore in the Fourth.

As part of its celebration sixty years on of the victory over Sunderland, the club has produced a book subtitled ‘A tribute to Yeovil Town Football Club’s historic achievements in the 1948/49 FA Cup’. So, is it a fitting tribute, and has it captured the essence of that momentous event in the club’s history?

It is a very thin publication, and even the claimed sixty pages is rather over egging the pudding. While common enough to include the covers in the page numbering sequence in football programmes this is not the usual practice with books. Inside, eight pages are taken up by advertising. The core of the book is a series of articles and the photographs. The producers of the work were fortunate enough to track down the last surviving member of the 1948-49 team, Victor ‘Dickie’ Dyke, just days before he too passed on, and understandably have built the resulting interview and photos from Dickie’s own scrapbook into the main component of the book. It captures well a completely unassuming and essentially very private man a little bemused that anyone would remain interested in what he had achieved sixty years before. Martin McConachie follows up the feature on Dyke with brief thumbnails on all eleven Yeovil players in the Sunderland game.

The other articles are from: John Lukins on Alec Stock; Dorset Echo journalist Chris Spittles, who covers the matches in the 1948-49 cup run in some detail, and provides a brief trot through all Yeovil’s other giant-killing exploits; the reminiscences of three there that day, Bryan Moore, later a chairman of the club, player’s wife Audrey Hamilton and supporter Gerald Isaacs; and finally the opposition’s perspective on the tie from Winston Young who is the Secretary of the Sunderland Former Players Association. Of these, Bryan has written better elsewhere on the game, notably in the programme of 25th July 1998 for the friendly against Sunderland, though the paragraph on his first kiss as a twelve-year-old from a woman other than his mother as the final whistle went, and remembered all these years, is touching. The piece from Mr Isaacs is an interesting inclusion. A self admitted occasional follower of the Glovers, it reminds us that so were the vast majority of the home support there that day. Such matches accrue their own mystique, and with hindsight claims of undying loyalty are easily scattered about, but in reality most ‘fans’ in such Non-league v Big Club events are there because of who the opposition is, and the club’s support rapidly dwindles back to more normal figures once the glamour tie is over. The contributions of Audrey Hamilton and Winston Young stand out as providing a different perspective and some of the essence of what makes some football matches so much more than what happened in 90, or in this case 120, minutes on the pitch. Audrey’s inaccurate recall of the game itself – Stock did not score the winning goal – matters naught, as it is the peripheral colour and memories that turn a result in the record books into a legend, and hers are simply but poignantly described. Winston Young’s piece is an excellent evocation of the trauma and downright humiliation of being on the losing end of such an event, and how it haunts supporters for years every time it crops up again in conversation or the media.

The articles are interspersed with pages carrying reproductions of clippings from the time out of newspapers. These are a welcome addition, providing the immediacy of reporting that no subsequent recollections can, influenced as the latter are bound to be by hindsight and the layers of myth that build up and eventually supersede reality as the years advance. It would have been good to see the original publications from which they originated recorded though, but perhaps that’s the historian and a dedication to the itemising of primary source material in the reviewer showing through.

So, back to the original questions. Is it a fitting tribute? Though the contributions are uneven in quality, the book does strike, whether by accident or design, the right balance between historical reality, the accumulated legend and panegyric. Though some passages do teeter on the brink, there’s enough that avoids the trap of cloying sentimentality to maintain it as a worthwhile record, and quite a few of the photos are unfamiliar. The essence of how and why football provides memorable moments in so many people’s lives does shine through. At £6.99 the price, however, is steep for the amount of content. Given all the contributions, and one should have hoped the work of JLH Design, would have been provided without cost, and that 13% of the publication is advertisements, one trusts that all the somewhat excessive mark up is heading into our club’s coffers.

Hugh Gleave.


 

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