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From Stonehouse to the Premier League
on 2 June 2014
Jock Morrison was a direct contemporary of mine and I remember playing against him in the Plymouth DJM football league (he played for Elm). He was a gifted football player and it was little surprise when he went onto enjoy a successful football career. The book is partly about football and making it as a professional but it is far more than that: Morrison's narrative takes us to the mean streets of Plymouth (prior to the makeover of Stonehouse and the near demolition of Union Street) where much of his life was played out. Morrison evokes the working class, macho culture that prevailed at the time where drinking, fighting and the need for respect drove a lot of life. The mindless violence is a damning indictment of the time. Quite simply, the savagery and commonplace nature of the thuggery recounted is horrifying. Morrison is candid about his failings and the book is clearly partly an attempt for him to understand his adult life to date. He writes poignantly about his personal problems and tragedy in his family.
For historians of football, the book captures a time when football started to change: the sections on Blackburn capture how the upper echelons of the game started to attract large sums of money. More generally, there is much of interest about the working of the game as an industry. There are comical moments in the book - such as Peter Shilton's tenure as Plymouth Argyle manager.
Football memoirs are generally clichéd and bland. This book is not. The author emerges as a complex and damaged figure, some of the accounts of violence - both meted out and received - are shocking. Add in a great deal of personal and family tragedy, and a fascinating football career and one gets a man of many parts. For all his self-stated failings, the text elicits some sort of respect and liking for Morrison, which is precisely how I remember him.