32 Programmes, by Dave Roberts

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The Independent Culture

After being taken to his first football match in 1964 (Fulham versus Manchester United, 5 September), Dave Roberts amassed a collection of 1,134 matchday programmes over the next 44 years.

But when he and his wife decided to move to the United States, she decreed that he had to winnow these down to 32 – all that would fit into a small Tupperware container.

Sifting through his stack to make a final selection allowed Roberts to tell his life story through the memories evoked: girlfriends won and lost, ambitions fulfilled and blighted and, of course, games enjoyed and endured. He is often very funny in wry, Nick Hornby-esque fashion, and is not afraid to send himself up for displaying the slightly dotty obsessiveness of the true programme collector.

For instance, he says he "regrets turning down the chance to go to Stamford Bridge the week after watching Bromley put 10 past the Civil Service in 1971... I would have witnessed Chelsea beating Jeunesse Hautcharage 13-0 in a European Cup-Winners' Cup game. Statistically this would have put me in an elite group. How many other collectors could boast programmes from consecutive matches with double-digit scorelines?"

Roberts may have lost most of his programmes, but in compensation this memoir will gain him a lot of fans.

Another football odyssey by numbers is 92 Pies (Blackline, £14.99) by Tom Dickinson. No prizes for guessing that it centres around that old favourite, a visit to all 92 League grounds, or that it involves eating a pie at each. This meaty tale is amiable, undemanding stuff, though because it is centred around the 2008-09 season it's in danger of passing its sell-by date.

Maybe it took Dickinson some time to digest his research.



Published in paperback by Bantam, £12.99

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