The Fan: It's Social Progress When Autobiographies of Footballers Are in Hardback

By Davies, Hunter | New Statesman (1996), November 1, 2004 | Go to article overview

The Fan: It's Social Progress When Autobiographies of Footballers Are in Hardback


Davies, Hunter, New Statesman (1996)


At last, what a relief, Gazza: my story is out of the bestseller lists. For the past 15 weeks, he's been in the top ten in the Sunday Times non-fiction hardback list, beating piddling people who have done little in their lives, such as the former American president Bill Clinton, whose autobiography came out on the same day. Gazza's did twice as well. So far, 250,000 copies of his story have been shifted. Appalling, of course, what the world has come to.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

But it's part of a modern trend. Fergie, Roy Keane, Beckham--their autobiogs all topped the hardback list, which usually has been dominated by literary or political figures, as it should be, come on, we do have standards. They are clearly being lowered. Just look at all the space in our newspapers devoted to stupid old football, whole sections, acres every day, compared with the poor old book reviews, which you can hardly find these days, even in the broadsheets. Disgusting, where will it end, etc.

Will that do, dear? I'm just trying to keep her happy. She goes on all the time about the football coverage taking space and attention away from proper books.

I've tried to tell her. Football biogs and autobiogs have a long and interesting history. For a start, you didn't get them back in the 1880s, when football became professional. Publishers just didn't consider the lives of horny-handed, working-class professionals worthy of notice. Football books did exist, of course, right from the beginning, but they were written by, about and for the posh amateur gents and their amateur clubs. Very soon, however, the popular press began to devote space to match results and our heroes, but they still didn't make it on to the pages of hardback books.

Footer biogs and autobiogs began in the 1930s. Probably the earliest, in the form we now recognise, was Herbert Chapman's autobiog in 1934. I'm still looking for a copy, but in my football library--more than 500 books so far--I've got George Allison's The Inside Story of Football, from 1938. A cheap paperback, it was published by Quaker Oats, complete with a competition for free gifts. …

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