The Fan Book Review

Book Review: The Fan

The Fan Book Review.

Hunter Davies
Pomona Press
ISBN: 1904590020; Paperback, 352pp

As a season-ticket holder for both Tottenham Hotspur and their North London rivals Arsenal, Hunter Davies has a stronger claim than most to the title of "The Fan".

His loyalties lie with Spurs (he shares his Highbury seat with another semi-regular), but as he explains with his trademark good humour, his true passion is the game of football itself.

That love, though, is not unconditional. In his collection of observations of the game between 1996 and 2003 - first published in his fortnightly column in The New Statesman - the prolific and celebrated author is clearly unhappy with the direction the British game has taken in an era when Sky dictates kick-off times and players earn tens of thousands of pounds a week before the bum-fluff has been blown from their chins.

Like many supporters with middle-class sensibilities, Hunter had a satellite dish installed only when it dawned on him that any attempt to face down the Murdoch media juggernaut would be self-defeating, depriving him, as it would, of his raison d'etre - long afternoons and evenings in front of the box, soaking up anything from the Champions League to the French lower divisions.

The original format for his musings mean the chapters can seem unconnected - a diary this is not. But all of the important occasions are there:

Euro 2000, the departure of "our Kev" and the arrival of Sven, the World Cup in Japan and South Korea, and the stirrings of Rooney-mania. In between we are treated to entertaining digressions - set out in short, pithy chapters - on everything from following Carlisle United, Davies's topsy-turvy diet, his neighbours in the stands, the FA, Sky (again), Julie Burchill's excruciating attempt to explain
David Beckham's sex appeal, Prince William's support for Aston Villa and, in a more serious vein, Spurs' latter-day neglect of their elderly former legend, Bill Nicholson.

There are also vignettes from the Davies household, usually involving genteel digs at his wife, who, despite her preference for evenings alone at the theatre or cinema, probably knows more about football than her hubby lets on.

Who, after all, could have lived with a man of Davies's obsessive nature for so long and not be influenced by it? The reader's time in his company is limited to a few hours over 300-plus pages, but his seductive techniques, buttressed by amiability and humour, are no less sharp for that. For most of us a season spent watching football at White Hart Lane is a terrifying prospect, but one imagines being able to sit next to Davies at his wryest every other Saturday would make it more than bearable. Compared with the (surely worn-out) fandom genre whose writers delight in recalling pints sunk and noses split, or miles clocked and funny foreigners encountered, Davies occupies another football universe. As a highly recommended close-season read through "The Fan" should prove, "Hunt" is no mere "supporter with a pen," but, happily for us, a first-rate writer who happens to be barking about "footer".

Justin McCurry

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Football Book Reviews

The Fan by Hunter Davies


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