'If I have an idealised still of my childhood, it's of standing amongst a small group of like-minded boys beside the player's tunnel as drizzle falls through the beam of the floodlights waiting to see which one of the team will come out to talk to the presenter...On an absolutely perfect occasion, on completion of his work in front of camera, the player might autograph my programme and possibly ruffle my hair and maybe even refer to me as mate. Sometimes on a Sunday I'd bike down to the ground and circle its silence, reliving the day before...' Last season Stoke City were unexpectedly propelled into the dizzy heights of the First Division, rare oxygen for a club that has been known to have three managers in one season. Stephen Foster, a diehard fan, who now lives in Norwich, follows the fortunes of his dire team as they struggle to retain their hold on this slippery peak of glory. From Icelandic owners, hopeless managers, hapless players, and a ground to rival the best of East German architecture, this is a marvellously mordant account of one fan's helpless obsession with a team that nearly always manages to let him down.
I began writing at the Norwich School of Art and Design when I returned to education in my mid-thirties. For my degree show piece I had fifty copies of a book of short stories printed which I put on a plinth. I intended to sell them at a fiver each on the night thereby making fifty quid over the £200 cost of publishing. Instead I gave most of them away and came out of it with a net loss of £150. It was an illustration of why writers need agents.
Those fifty books were called 'Close Quarters' and were eventually published as 'It Cracks Like Breaking Skin' by Faber, a course of events which amazed me. They were short-listed for the Macmillan PEN Award. More amazement. Next I wrote my first novel, 'Strides,' about love and trousers. I think it's my favourite of my own books. My project was to see whether you could get an un-cynical, literary love story published. And it turned out you could. It didn't sell much though. Next, a sequence of events involving my football club, Stoke City, provoked me to write my first non-fiction title, 'She Stood There Laughing.' That book charted in the national press, which was exciting. By now I was at work on my second novel, 'Are You With Me?' I am proud of that book, and I especially like the cover on the paperback original. I think it's my favourite cover of all my books.
While I was working on AYWM? a rescue lurcher called Ollie came along. Ollie tried to destroy my life for a while. After we had reached some sort of accommodation I wrote 'Walking Ollie,' which, to my surprise, became a bestseller. A pup called Dylan came to join Ollie and naturally there was a follow up 'Along Came Dylan,' which, for one week only, was outselling Russell Brand's 'Booky Wook.' I wrote an 80s memoir next: From Working Class Hero to Absolute Disgrace. Nice reviews, zip sales. Then Stoke City were promoted into the Premiership and I chronicled that year in 'And She Laughed No More.' That wasn't especially well published and by now my career was in a tailspin.
Stoke, founder members of the football league, have just reached the FA Cup Final for the first time in 148 years of club history. They will play Manchester City. I intend to write a book about that match called 'The Final.' Because I want to have it in the public domain as soon after the game as possible I am going to experiment by publishing it direct to Amazon Kindle on June 1st. Dear readers, please spread the word on that, and thanks for your support over the years.
All best wishes, Stephen Foster