Many footballers have aspired to hard man status over the years: Norman Hunter, Chopper Harris, Vinnie Jones.
Chris Hulme spent a season with the Kingston Arrows, a prison football team playing in the Portsmouth North End League. The starting line-up--nine convicted murderers and two of their warders.
Against the backdrop of a season of amateur football, the men talk candidly of lives lived in prison--the game on Saturday and the game of getting to Saturday with mind, body and hope of release intact.
It's an engrossing read, but these aren't comedy villains in a knockabout tale of the power of football to change lives. The stories of brutal living and brutal crimes are genuinely harrowing; their victims and their families, though not the subject of this book, are an inescapable presence.
There is little sense either of a redemptive quality in the hours of reflection that prison has forced upon them. Instead, Hulme presents us with the stark fact that these men and their crimes are inseparable.
"I'm kicking, I'm stamping on her forehead, all around her chest, probably her arms and legs... I tried to have my way with her, but all I could see was this person beaten to a pulp... Would I give my life for hers? It's just never going to happen, is it?."
Hulme is confronting the reader with very difficult subject matter, and it's a mark of the extent to which we have made a totem of sport, that the football makes this an entertaining read. --Alex Hankin
"An extraordinary book. Buy it, read it, treasure it" (Sunday Times
"Porridge meets Escape to Victory
. A witty, moving and wholly original read" (Daily Mirror
"Electrifying... a riveting account of what football can mean when you, quite literally have nothing else to live for" (Pete Davies)
"A great slice of sports writing" (Total Football
"A moving, enthralling and extraordinary book" (Maxim