A Matter of Life and Death, By Ronni Ancona & Alistair McGowan

Comics are match of the day
Click to follow

"Do you really want to be associated with a gang of overweight, badly dressed men as they taunt another gang of overweight, badly dressed men?" Ronni Ancona asks Alistair McGowan. The impressionists were once a couple, and McGowan admits "football was our Camilla". But they have remained friends and now Ronni has a 12-point plan to wean Ali off football.

He accepts because he realises his addiction is absurd and he likes a challenge. This involves cutting out, in stages, Champions League games, Super Sundays, England games, Monday night games, Match of the Day and so on. They write alternate chapters utilising their gifts for stand-up one liners. When Ali took Ronni to her first match she found it smelled of "mustard and urine". She appeals to his vanity and guilt, comparing football to Tesco and then "a big grey squirrel, that's killing off all the little red squirrels that are the minor sports."

This book's conversational style suits the couple's banter although at times it drifts into anecdotes more suited to an autobiography, such as the pair turning down a gig at Posh and Becks's wedding. But it is a humorous page-turner full of the comedy of recognition. McGowan is very good on the joy of Shoot League Ladders and his childhood awe of Leeds United. Ronni wants life to be like a Woody Allen movie, and as she and McGowan attend art-house movies, galleries and opera, you wonder if the pair might rekindle their relationship. He finds that he's a more rounded person.

But Alistair still has his Camilla at hand. A chance piece of information about Hull City has McGowan mainlining Sunday sport sections again ("cereal and scores, toast and tables"), and this fan cheering as he sneaks into a Plymouth Argyle match. For any man to give up football completely is, as they say, a big ask. Very much so, Gary.

Pete May is author of 'There's a Hippo in My Cistern' (Collins)