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4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 1 June 2008
I bought this book largely on the strength of the other two reviews that were in place here on Amazon; both reviews described the book as being "so much more" than a "standard" hooligan book. When it arrived on my doorstep (I live in the USA) I happily ripped the packaging apart before tearing into the book with focused eyes. I read the first 70 pages in what felt like an hour, which was quick even for me. McCall's description of his city, plus what I imagined to be his enchanted Scottish homestead close to the Dundonian centre - and its two football grounds - had my nostalgia sense clicking into overdrive. I myself am a writer (author of "Perry Boys", a book in a similar genre) and I lapped up the images of little Kenny McCall peeping over the window-sill of his modest Dundee home, as armies of Glaswegians flowed down his street drunkenly trashing the place. The early accounts of Dundee United's growing presence in League and Scottish Cup and Premier League glows with an unvarnished pride, as young Kenny attends his first Hampden Park final, as well as what McCall refers to as the rise of the "New Firm" - Dundee United's rivalry with Aberdeen.

But then the story turns a strange corner. The drunken chaos of the 70s becomes the mid-80s, and Scotland's Casual era makes its presence felt. McCall does well to draw out his own development as a fighter on Dundee United's front lines - beginning with a chapter entitled "The Debut". It also becomes clear at this point that Dundee's Stobswell housing scheme was among its trendiest, as well as cosmopolitan enough to agree to an alliance with the casuals from Dundee's other football club, Dundee FC. McCall easily convinces the reader that he is some kind of big lovable "Bungle Bear" of a mate, who will protect you in a scrape. This is undoubtedly true - if you're a member of his firm. But he also mentions (without making a meal of) the fact he's a big lad, and as he grows older, Kenneth McCall obviously weighs into most every important battle the Dundee Utility had with any opposition worth its salt. He is in the thick of it and swinging every time it kicks off. He is clearly an Old School hooligan, and one to be respected.
McCall's introduction to Scotland's version of Manchester United - the curiously named Aberdeen Soccer Casuals - generates a lot of tension, and it was a pleasure to read of his trepidation when faced with this giant-sized mob of clobbered-up hooligans. Several accounts are detailed in the book, and I doubt there's anyone in Aberdeen who cares (or dares) to rewrite this most objective history; McCall is an engineer, and his truthfulness and lack of partiality are apparent throughout.
The phasing into the "second generation" via John Robb's excellent and intelligent contributions are a welcome shift in the tale; Robb outlines the exquisite degree of planning inherent in the Utility's invasion of places like Aberdeen and Glasgow, when the younger casuals were struggling to keep the culture alive, and some dramatic battles are described, with weapons, flare-guns, and many arrests.
Robb's consequent "third generation" is a timely report on the state of football (or "soccer" if you're an Aberdonian) casualism today. The diminished numbers in the mobs, and the increased football intelligence presence fighting to keep it that way, are described in honest and interesting sojourns, such as the trips down south to fight alongside Stoke City's Naughty Forty.
Finally, the game against England for the '96 Euro Championships sees some interesting accounts of how Scotland's top boys all met in advance in Dundee to discuss strategy. The resultant mayhem in Trafalgar Square says it all. I disagree with the claims that this isn't a hooligan book. It is very much a hooligan book, but it is a book that gives you a proper fighter's opinion. The closer to the action you live, the more honest you tend to be, and this is one big honest story, just like its authors. I loved it.
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on 16 August 2007
If you're looking for a standard "hoolie" book I suggest you look elsewhere. After the so much more.
This book tells the true story of the Dundee Utility, a truly unique football firm, who draw their members from both Dundee football clubs.
Well-written and very easy to either dip in and out of or sit down for a long reading session, I found the book both informative and entertaining.
From the very beginnings of the casual movement in Scotland in the early 80s right up to the present day, the book tells all, from the changing fashions,the rival firms and the continuing efforts to stay one step ahead of the police. The accounts are far from the usual "we did them" boasts and the stories of run-ins with rival firms are at times both frightening and comic in their honesty.
If you are even slightly interested in this genre I would urge you to read "when the match...." for yourself, you will not be disappointed.
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on 9 October 2011
i remember the Bohemians fc mob attacking and clashing with dundee united supporters in the 80s in dublin during an i think uefa cup game.the book itself was a great read especially if you were into the fashion trends that played their part in the emerging football hooligan culture.i may have presumed that dundee and dundee united were somewhat drawn along sectarian-catholic united v protestant dfc grounds-but clearly thay werent but was still surprised to see dundee united(who started as dundee hibernian fc)hooligans agreeing to fught behind a union jack,i dont think i ever saw a union jack at arabs/terrors games,whereas the dens did display them sometimes provocatively.still a good read for an old skinhead.
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on 4 July 2012
A very interesting book about a unique band of people who spent their days battling on two fronts. The arrangment between Dundee & Dundee UTD must the only one of it's kind in football. The story is told by people who were there in the thick of it. I couldn't put it down.
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on 4 October 2009
Now, I don't really read biographies and can't really have considered myself a casual so lets be clear on this. I bought the book because I know the authors. (Even went to the 91 Scottish Cup Final with Kenny and his dad and... probably best I don't mention what John and I got up to when we were nippers.)
But here's the thing. I'm really glad I read it.
Starting with Kenny's tale, it's not just full out football violence but a well rounded account of time and scene. It's about fighting at football, yes. But it's also about growing up, family values, fashion, relationships the lot. And it doesn't shirk from describing the bad times as well as the good. It's the good times that make the story though. It just happens that Kenny's idea of a good time was chasing after rival gangs with the purpose of crashing a bottle over someone's head. Still it's a tale that most readers will find some empathy with.
John's tale, it would seem, is one more of an out-and-out thug. A little more sinister a good bit more focused on the job. Even John's story though, is one of the camaraderie between mates. John's also not shy of describing the times when things went bad and the bond between those involved.
This book could easily have read like a bandwagonesque `my dad's bigger than your dad' glory fest but it doesn't. Instead it's a very plausible account of time and place and two lads' involvement in some very bizarre incidents, all set against the background of the 80s & 90s Casuals scene.. A compelling read and one that I can definitely recommend.
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on 20 July 2015
As a Dundee supporter I found this book to be a fantastic read and could not put it down! It was well written and in such a way that you feel like you were actually there with the boys going to the games. Recommended!
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on 7 March 2013
excellent book,no favroutism shown here said it like it was,two lads giving an account of going to the football and having it large
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on 19 August 2007
This is not another ordinary hooligan book, this one stands out from the rest with a well written, sometimes amusing, no holds barred tales of the casual culture from schoolboy into grown men fighting on a saturday at the football in the guise of defending their town "Dundee" from any invaders and on other occasions invading other towns with the sole purpose of taking on other casuals.
Also written about is the expensive designer clothes they wear and how the fasions changed through the years and also their musical tastes. I'd urge anyone who likes hoolie books or wants to read about the unique friendship between the two Dundee sides "casuals" and how they formed one firm between them, the Dundee Utility to buy this book. You won't be dissappointed
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on 3 January 2014
Good read , interesting to find out what went on when all the normal fans were watching the match ,
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on 30 May 2008
first of all i'm an ex dundonian living in australia, a mate of mine was over on holiday earlier on this year and he recommended it (probably because he was mentioned a few times in it!), a very well written book clever enough not to mention the boys full names but if you were going around dundee at that time you knew most of them anyway, it captures the feeling around dundee at the time, fatties,old bank bar,JD's and the unique situation where two teams supporters become one. in 88-89 most of us were turning 18 started work had a few extra quid in our pockets to buy the good gear, i also make the trip through to perth to valentino's ( all for a pair of pop 84 jeans!), so i can relate to that. the book is honestly written enough to say when things went pear shaped, and tell us when things went well. good effort kenny and john, look forward to the movie.....
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