Sport Book of the Week: 'We Hate Humans' by David Robins

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The Independent Culture

A worsening economic recession, inflation slipping out of control, large-scale youth unemployment, hardening racist attitudes amid fears that immigrants are pouring in to take jobs away from the domestic population: Britain in the 1970s had largely lost the fizz and optimism of the "Swinging Sixties". One of the few growth sectors was football violence, and We Hate Humans – the title comes from a Manchester United fans' chant after they had been called "animals" in the press – was the first in-depth survey of the problem when it was originally published in 1984. Now reissued, it chronicles the rise of the fighting "Ends" such as Chelsea's Shed, Old Trafford's Stretford End and the North Bank at Highbury, incorporating scores of interviews with the hooligans of the day. It is strong on reportage rather than theory, but the message comes over loud and clear of a white, working-class generation who felt they had been cast on the scrapheap. Quite why they chose football violence as a way to make their voice heard remains unclear; in some cases it seems almost accidental, if this Southend skinhead is to be believed: "To me it just happened. One week you just went to see the game, the next week you were going there to have a good kickin'." Nevertheless, a section on foreign hooliganism reveals how successfully the idea was exported, with would-be hooligans from European clubs travelling over to see how it was done. While the level of violence today is nothing like it was, the last two sentences of this book seem uncomfortably topical: "So far organised youth resistance to unemployment has been minimal. But what happens if a whole generation discovers it has been in training for nothing?" Let's hope parallels with the Seventies don't extend to our football grounds.

Published in paperback by Milo Books, £6.99