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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended for all fans, indispensible for City fans, 12 Oct 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Blue Moon: The Modern Football Classic of a Season Down Among the Dead Men: Down Among the Dead Men with Manchester City (Mainstream Sport) (Paperback)
Mark Hodkinson spent a year following Manchester City, producing a weekly column for The Times newspaper on life at Maine Road. His book 'Blue Moon - Down Among the Dead Men with Manchester City' centres round the unedited versions of the articles he produced during that dramatic season, presented in chronological order. These are supplemented by a brief day-by-day summary of relevant news items to put the longer pieces in context. In many cases the author also chooses to re-examine with the benefit of hindsight the subjects he addressed earlier.
Hodkinson was asked to cover City after undertaking a similar task the previous year at Barnsley during the Yorkshire club's one season in the Premiership. The angle then had been the fight of a relative minnow against the top flight's giants. Manchester City in division two offered an obvious contrast, with by far the largest crowds and income in the section.
As a City fan, had I been told of Hodkinson's assignment before he began, I'd have been instantly mistrustful. In the preceding years the club had managed to consolidate its undisputed niche as English football's biggest laughing stock and it would have been all to easy for any author to resort lazily to cheap jibes. Hodkinson himself admits that it was "magnanimous" of City to allow him the access they did, but the club's trust wasn't betrayed. He's fair and the notes on the back cover can justifiably claim he's "impartial". This doesn't necessarily mean that I agree with every opinion he expresses on every topic but his views are sufficiently considered for the odd divergence of his outlook from mine not to grate.
This balanced approach contributes to making the book the most genuinely revealing I've read in a long time about Manchester City and the people there who count. Hodkinson has gathered thoughtful pieces centred round interviews with board members, the management team, the Director of City's Youth Academy and the team captain.
While it's these pieces which hold most interest for me personally as a City fan concerned about how my club is run, the book's entertainment value and its appeal to those whose priorities differ from mine are enhanced considerably by the variety of the other articles. Many of those focus on characters from the City community who are not currently playing a high-profile role within the club itself. Hodkinson covers a range of personalities in this category - such as former players, an ex-manager, former directors, an eclectic bunch of celebrity fans, the Maine Road laundry women and the editor of a City fanzine. Then there are pieces where the author reflects on the latest events at the club. Finally, there's a twenty-page chapter recording City fans' memories, expressed in their own words, of a dramatic afternoon at Wembley when City sealed promotion after trailing 2-0 with ten minutes of normal time remaining.
This breadth of scope notwithstanding, I have one or two other aspects of life at Maine Road into which I might have liked an insight, such as the routine of one of the young hopefuls at the club's Youth Academy or an overview of the work of the club's commercial and marketing operations. However, it's impossible to deny that the author conveys the variety among the adherents of the broad church which is Manchester City FC, so again the criticism is minor.
Furthermore, to emphasise this small gripe would be to ignore the quality of what actually is present. For instance, the depth of many of the interviews is remarkable. Hodkinson evidently has the knack of gaining his subject's trust (he's invited to Joe Royle's house at the end of the season, for instance) and the result is invariably far removed from the habitual, anodyne fare of many football interviews. Captain Andy Morrison is brutally honest when talking about his temperament and the problems it's caused him while assistant manager Willie Donachie talks openly about his tough upbringing in Glasgow in the fifties and sixties. Former player Paul Lake explains more fully than in any interview I've seen before how the club's flawed approach to treating his knee injury led to his retirement, while fanzine editor Tom Ritchie talks about how his City obsession cost him a marriage and his health.
An equally telling strength is the quality of the writing. Always eminently readable, Hodkinson's best pieces are delightful, none more so than the reflection on the play-off final which appeared in the next day's Times. This piece was posted, uncredited, on the Internet a day or two later and was immediately embraced by the new site for Irish City fans who, unaware of its origins, enthused that, "You won't get much better writing than that."
While these qualities derive from the author's abilities, the third major strength of the book (at least from a City fan's perspective) is a function of the subject matter. Now that City seem to be making progress at last, there's a certain enjoyment (born mainly of relief) in looking back at how things were in those dark days. Additionally, Hodkinson benefits from something almost unique in the Manchester City literary canon - a happy ending.
I'm confident enough in the author's writing ability and subject selection to feel that his work will be appreciated by non-City fans - after all, my own intention to read 'Life at the Top', his book on Barnsley, is evidence that I don't see partisanship as a pre-requisite for enjoying his material. However, this review is from the perspective of the avid Manchester City supporter. 'Blue Moon' offers an entertaining account of an emotional rollercoaster of a season which will live long in the memory. It offers revealing portraits of major personalities both inside and associated with the club. It's incisive and exceptionally well-written. For these reasons, I don't hesitate to recommend it as a book the committed City fan should own.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A must for every City fan, 3 Sep 2014
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Russell Ward - See all my reviews
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A compilation of weekly articles written by the author allows you to follow the most important season in the history of MCFC. The club had fallen into the 3rd tear of English football, it's lowest point since it's foundation in 1894. Gives great incite into the season. Is well written and very enjoyable.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Blue Moon: How It Was, 19 Feb 2013
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When you consider the changes to Manchester City in the last few seasons this book is still an real eye opener. I originally bought it in paperback, and was happy to buy again. Recommended read for today's City fans, and all those who care about football.
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