Book review: The Rough Guide to Cult Football

by

The Rough Guide to Cult Football : edited by Andy Mitten

Year Published : 2nd edition 2010

ISBN 13: 978-1-84836542-1

Score out of 5 :

To be fair, Ron himself was born in Liverpool’s Old Swan, and has had some trouble with Scousers. “Going to Anfield was like Vietnam”, he said of his visits as Manchester United manager. He was once tear-gassed on a trip there, and had to put up with baffling Kop banners reading “Big Ron’s Leather” and “Ron’s Tart Is a Slag”.

I’ve done a fair bit of travelling in my time, and before I went somewhere I would usually buy a Rough Guide travel guide, because a) I like info on cheap hotels in third world shitholes, b) Rough Guides are British, unlike them hippy Aussies who churn out the Lonely Planet guidebooks.

But Rough Guides do other quirky stuff too, and their guide on the beautiful game is one of the oddest. Thinking it might have some information like how to navigate say a Faroe Islands v Northern Ireland World Cup qualifier, I bought a copy at Heathrow en route to work abroad. Not a bit of it, with chapters on “The Legends”, “The Gaffers” and “The Rivalries” the Rough Guide to Cult Football is no travel book.

The idea is great, a potted history of the oddness that follows the game everywhere, from fandom to the many whackos and spivs who have populated football from the start. There’s also sober stuff about legends of the game and memorabilia, it’s a great read, perfect for clocking time on the bog. My only gripe is that there should be a lot more in it. I’ve lugged the Rough Guide to China around China, and if those writers can flesh out 1140 heavy pages on one fifth of the world’s population, surely they can better that on the game that is adored by many more teeming billions.

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