Top positive review
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A love of language and a love of United. Brilliant,
on 29 October 2013
Ferguson. Unless you've been living under a rock for the last week it you could be forgiven for feeling like our legendary boss never left us. The media circus has been as depressing as it has been predictable. Coverage has centred on feuds; public and private, settled and unsettled. At the risk of sounding like Roy Maurice, it all feels unseemly and unnecessary. Autobiographies are commonly guilty of falling into the Father Ted Golden Cleric approach - 'you doubted me but look where I am now.' When it works it can be magnificent (Diego Maradona), but often it leaves an unedifying impression of the writer (Andy Cole). I'm hoping Fergie's falls into the former category. Of course I will read it - I'm starting it today - but for those of a red persuasion a potentially more satisfying read may have slipped under your radar.
Daniel Harris will be known to British readers as a writer for the Guardian; most recently drawing acclaim and ire for an honest/treacherous article raiding concerns about Moyes performance thus far. He secured a place in the hearts of United fans with his excellent blog turned book account of 2009/10 season. The Manchester United literary genre is saturated with anodyne musings but Harris made his mark by fusing three elements; love for the club, searing honesty and sardonic wit. I loved it, so news of a new tome focusing on the greatest nine months in the history of sport was cause for celebration.
Regular listeners to the pod (hello to the pair of you) and readers of my spiel (same two again) will be familiar with my Bill Murray tendencies to wallow in the treble campaign like a hog in wet soil. In 'The Promised Land' Harris takes us through that most remarkable of seasons month by month. To dismiss the book as a basic season review would be an injustice but I do think there is a lot to be said for the simple narrative approach. To impose a David Winner style abstract approach would dilute the experience as momentum builds towards the much vaunted climax. Large tracts of the book are essentially match reports where Harris delights in demonstrating his love of language - passes are 'tickled', shots are 'welted' and ankles are 'rapped' (inevitably by Scholes). A sad casualty of the saturation of football coverage has been the match report. Why should you pore over written description when you can witness instant visuals on your smart phone? Pleasingly Harris harks back to a simpler time and the book is all the richer for it. My advice is read the book, then relive the action through the Treble DVD. Shining throughout is the humour inherent in football - and no I don't mean 'banter.' Opportunities are embraced to make not so subtle digs at targets from Martin Tyler to Martin Edwards and everything in between. A healthy contempt for Liverpool football club is ever present.
Arguably the greatest strength of the book is the unashamed love of the club. No attempt is made to appear the impartial football journalist and instead the feeling is of a shared experience with a like mind. The men who redefined what could be achieved in the modern era are rightly held in the highest esteem; yet with the exception of Keane and Scholes such reverence never crosses into hero worship. The vanity and egos of Schmeichel, Sheringham and even Ferguson are addressed. When covering such a well trodden subject matter the small details become increasingly important and seemingly minor references such as Blomqvist's self-doubt become the most memorable the book. A criticism I would make is the failure to elaborate on such matters. An understandable decision to keep momentum I accept, but it left me frustrated that asides such as the complex relationship between Goalkeeper and Captain went unexplored. It certainly isn't a perfect work; the passages pulled from Neville and Keane's own books risked becoming repetitive, and the references to the current era felt clunky and shoe-horned in.
Overall a brilliant work that places the reader in the thick of the action whilst gaining insight into the foibles and motivations of the actors involved. Given my pride in knowing 'everything' about my most treasured season of triumph I was surprised how much I learned without feeling bombarded with trivia. In fact his work is anything but trivial. I would love to hear how younger fans who didn't experience the season first hand feel about the book. How effective the book is as a first encounter with the events of those unrivalled nine months I cannot evaluate, but as a trip down memory lane it made for a hugely enjoyable week. Now where did I put that DVD....