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Congratulations You Have Just Met the ICF Hardcover – 15 Apr 2002
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'Cass Pennant is one of the hardest men ever to come out of the bloody world of football violence. His stories will chill your blood.' Sunday People
About the Author
Best-selling author Cass Pennant has used his unique position as a West Ham insider to bring together these first hand accounts from the men who were in the eye of the storm. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
The book is mainly concentrated on the 70s and early 80s when the ICF were most active. You get stories from some of the main members and it covers events with some of the usual suspects of early 80s hooliganism. Obviously the book is written by ex ICF so its going to be biased however 400 odd pages of "About 400 of them came at us, we had about 50 but these were our main boys, we stood firm and done them" It does come to a point where you have to wonder. The "Top boys" of Liverpool and Manchester are knocked out with a single blow, the main face of Millwall is sent running in terror at a machete wielding ICF (Remember that scene from Rise of the foot soldier? Well according to the book that was ICF not Millwall) 200 West Ham take on and beat about 2000 up in the North East (Seriously, I kid you not these are the kind of numbers they are talking about in the book. There is even one where 3 of them take on 200 Leicester!) The best bit in that was was them getting bricked by thousands, Bill Gardner getting hit with bricks but he is just "So tough" He just stands there and takes it before they all stroll over, scale some railings and run them! As for the main faces of the ICF, well reading this I would think it would take kryptonite, plutonium, act of God maybe to so much as inflict a scratch on them (Bricks, knives, bottles dont seem to work although one punch from any of them and you seem to end up on a drip).
Some of its just comical. Mention is made of the hooligan documentary even a chapter from the maker of the film. The event in Manchester where they are seen running almost all the way back to London in the book they not only knocked the leader of the red army all over the place, ran them before the game, took them on after and only didnt charge them again because they were split up (Pity none of this was caught on camera isnt it lads?) At Chelsea when they are seen running in terror back onto the train apparently this was because someone up front saw the police (So why in the documentary is Cass screaming abuse at Chelsea on the platform from the safety of the train? He did manage to scare a few girl scouts on a day trip though!)
Then we have the chapter on the "England Hammers" Bill Gardners contribution was the all time best to this one. Apparently on a trip out to Spain Gardner took on and defeated ETA (Yes thats right, the separatist group that the Spanish government have been fighting for decades) Bil describes them as a "Two bit mob" In another part he chases 200 Man United out of a hotel armed with only a towel! I loved the other Gardner chapter where he tells us he never runs then later in the book in Liverpool one of his friends describes him as running so fast he actually ran past him to get away.
My all time favorite though was the Liverpool one. Apparently outnumbered by about 1000-1 Stanley knife wielding scousers (Who they knock unconscious by the way) The not only beat the living daylights out of their top lad but fought from their ground to within a quarter of a mile of Toxteth!!! That must have been some fight lads as Anfield is in North Liverpool and Toxteth in south about 6 miles away! Why dont you go a bit further and say you saw roadsigns for Warrington or Stoke? Why does nobody in Toxteth have any recollection of several hundred white lads in pitch battle on their doorstep with the ICF taking on the world (Including local residents wielding wheel locks and God know what)? You would have thought that would be something even one person in the area would remember considering we are talking about an area that went up in one of the biggest riots in British history. The Everton bit is even more bizarre they couldnt get into the Liverpool game so they all went as a mob to a friendly Everton were playing and couldnt understand why the locals including the players were just looking at them puzzled) There is a chapter on black lads in the ICF though it doesnt have anything to say really other than equally odd quotes like the black skinhead who was made up he was "Welcomed" By this gang of saluting bigots or Cass walking through on his own through a swarm of saluting West Ham.
Considering presumably the "Black Hammers" Chapter was designed to dispel some myths, stereotypes and contradictions this book is full of them. Everyone is Liverpool carries a Stanley knife (Then we are treated to West Ham attacking people with machetes!) West Ham never run (They just make tactical retreats or lull their enemies into believing they are running when in fact its a surprise attack. Strange thing is when Middlesbrough do exactly the same thing in the book thats not how its described) West Ham never attack normal fans (Then we have the bit where West Ham wait outside Millwalls ground and leather normal fans with an industrial screwdriver used on the railways) After reading this book the Cockney Rejects description of Cass Pennant as a "Black Del Boy" Really does spring to mind as I feel like I have just bought a used car off him got half way down the road and the wheels have fallen off.
And just for the kids watching Danny Dyre films and asking mum for a stone island jacket for Christmas Cass has even treated us to a chapter of West Ham songs so they know what to sing in between pie munching.
What elevates this book is that the author has a genuine flair for structure and narrative and draws intelligently upon a number of sources to flesh out a tale that, let's face it, we all know the conclusion to, in a thoroughly entertaining manner.
He may not quite be the Hemingway of the terraces, but based on this showing I'd read anything by the same author; it's a worthwhile education for anyone who either follows football or just wondered what all the fuss was about on a Saturday afternoon before Sky TV.
And by the way this is from someone who WASN'T there.
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