We Ate All The Pies, by John Nicholson

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Don't let this book's introduction put you off. Assertions such as "Go anywhere in the world and someone will be kicking a ball around" (you don't say) and "It's easy to forget just how huge football is in the UK" (no it isn't; easy to forget, that is) hardly inspire confidence in what is to come, but persevere and you are rewarded with an engaging riff on the game, loosely grouped under "Shirt", "Television", "Drink" and so on.

The author is a 49-year-old Teessider who claims never to have had a job or owned a suit, though presumably he gets paid something as football 365.com's star columnist.

With his contempt for "ruddy-faced Home Counties colonels" (do they still exist?), his penchant for slipping into "we supped some ale that night, we did" mode and his frequent references to his rock 'n' roll heroes, he often sounds like Nick Hornby's chippy northern cousin, but there is plenty to enjoy here, and some surprises.

While he's happy reminiscing about blow football and nylon socks, he prefers the present to the past. Rather than celebrating British grounds' pie 'n' burger tradition, he dismisses it as "rancid garbage" and is "hugely in favour of the new in-stadium restaurant culture".

Football on television? Bring it on, we can't have too much of it. The cumulative effect is akin to a long, rambling and unexpectedly interesting conversation with the bloke on the next stool in a pub you've stumbled into by accident, and is none the worse for that.

"If you're a football fan, these are the best of all times," claims Nicholson. True or not, he argues his case well.

Published in paperback by Biteback Sport, £9.99