Tuesday, December 02, 2008

SPAOTP Book Review: The Bromley Boys

We've all been there. Sometimes the team you follow goes through a bad patch, which turns into a really awful patch, which eventually becomes the mother of all hell-like patches. Dave Roberts has been there too, and as a way of recovering from such a traumatic experience, he chose to write a book about it.

The Bromley Boys is a full and detailed account of the author's experiences as he followed his local team's progress through the 1969-70 Isthmian League season. As the title suggests, Roberts was a fan of Bromley FC and though it would have been easy to follow other big names from not so far away like West Ham or Crystal Palace, he chose the path less travelled. It would prove to be a journey that would harden the most hopeful of young football fans, full of few highs and many lows.

When Roberts went to see his first Bromley match at the tender age of eleven, he was immediately captivated by seeing 'the beautiful game' at such close quarters. England were still world champions and the last embers of the afterglow from that victory had not quite been extinguished. For everyone that followed Sir Alf Ramsey's men, these were exciting times.

Dave Roberts was undoubtedly caught up in the biggest wave of euphoria for the national game there had ever been. He'd decided to support his local team and do so wholeheartedly, visiting as many games as he could - home and away - while obsessing over the minutest of details surrounding the sport the way only an 11-year-old could.

The young fan quickly familiarised himself with the names of the players and their real-life occupations, the results and fixtures, the people that worked at Bromley's Hayes Lane ground... everything mattered to this small boy, and his hunger for football knew no bounds.

There was, however, one thing that severely dented Dave Roberts' besottedness over his favourite club - Bromley's tendency to not win many games. Most teams lose the occasional match here and there, even the very best ones, but Bromley lost more than most.

And here's the underlying story behind The Bromley Boys. As a young football fan, Dave Roberts watched more Bromley games than most and would without fail retain that anticipation of the next win being just around the corner. This book beautifully describes the feeling that he and many other fans of Bromley FC had when that next win never seemed to come - week in, week out.

It has to be said the author really excels in putting us firmly in the shoes of that 11-year-0ld back in 1969. Many of his experiences, his traits and his interests will ring nostalgic bells for many of you and if you yearn for a more innocent time before mobile phones, PlayStations and satellite TV, this book will provide the looking glass you've been searching for.

This was a time when schoolboys played Subbuteo, read Shoot! magazine and worshipped heroes like George Best, Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton through the grubby pages of the News of the World. As a boy, Dave Roberts crystallised that fanaticism into a form that worked at a local level for his local team with all the local people that played for it, despite the futility of rarely seeing his team win.

The Bromley Boys is a wonderful book and I've no doubt you'll enjoy it greatly. It's funny, charming, engaging and enlightening in equal measure. What's more, it brilliantly sums up the lives and hopes of many a football fan that's shunned the glamour of the big teams for the harsh realities of the lower leagues.

If that doesn't apply to you, buy this book anyway. Beyond the corporate glossiness of the Man Uniteds and Chelseas of this world are a bunch of fans who know only too well that Football can often be a tough sport to follow, but follow it they do with great passion and commitment. Dave Roberts is one such fan and the story he tells is one that you'll enjoy reading from cover to cover.

The Bromley Boys is currently available from Amazon.co.uk for just £7.69 in paperback.

The Bromley Boys: The True Story of Supporting the Worst Football Team in Britain
Author: Dave Roberts
Publisher: Portico
ISBN-10: 1906032246
ISBN-13: 978-1906032241

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