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An Authentic VoIce
on 7 December 2011
There were times during my reading of Andy Rivers' book when I felt I was reading my own diary from years gone by. We're the same age, attended a lot of the same matches, share similar views on the club and even our first Newcastle match appears to have been the very same game.
As the author gave a description of many of the places he saw growing up, I realised that I'd trodden the very same fields, been served by the same shop owner and been in and around the same pubs - slightly spooky at times. I half expected to see some names of people I knew cropping up before long.
I did enjoy reading this book as it indulged my passion for Newcastle United and gave plenty of coverage to the pre-Sky TV days of football (yes it did exist before Sky, they didn't actually invent the game!). Almost every chapter was devoted to selected games throughout the author's supporting history and he chose a nice cross-section and not just the glorious victories by any means.
The book's strength lies not in its description of the actual games themselves but in his experiences as a fan. I preferred his descriptions of his adventures before and after than his descriptions of during the game. I'd like to have seen him expand on these and somehow link the chapters, but perhaps that's asking too much. Indeed one of the most interesting parts of the book details his life working as a coach holiday rep - he certainly expresses himself very crisply and clearly and whilst you could not really say that the book is a literary marvel, it is fairly well written and his conversational style suits it very well.
His perfect articulation of the utter apathy that followed the initial dejection of Souness' tenure is there or thereabouts the most concise verdict on those dark, dark days. His take on Keegan is well observed and not diminshed by rose-tinted glasses or the modern Newcastle fan's dismissiveness.
I think one of the main dangers of a book like this is that they can sometimes descend into little more than a very very long post on a message board by somebody who loves the sound of their own voice, but Rivers avoids that with an amiable and varied flow speckled with humour and dry wit.
I would recommend it to Newcastle fans, though I'm not sure fans of other clubs will quite fully understand some of the subtler aspects of a perennially disappointed supporter of Newcastle United. I would however recommend it to those who accuse Newcastle fans of being delusional idiots who simply do not understand their 'rightful' place, so that'll be a lot of orders coming up from journalists and pundits then, won't it?