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In search of the heart of Scotland
on 5 June 2011
Tired of football's commercialisation, and attempting to return to what he sees as the `roots' of the game, Daniel Gray's `Stramash' takes the reader round twelve Scottish towns, relaying both the history of their football sides, and also the histories of the towns; often focusing on industry, literary heritage and politics, in his social study. There's no doubt that it's nice to read a book which takes the focus away from the sides constantly on the front and back pages of the newspapers, and constantly discussed on Sky, but Gray's study of Scottish football is too one-sided to be as rewarding and enjoyable as it should be.
Gray is best when evoking forgotten legends and matches of the sides in question, like with his loving descriptions of diminutive Alloa forward Willie Crilley, and archaic crowd trouble at Montrose, but in his comparisons of the teams and towns with football at a higher level, the book falls down. Gray's gripes at monopolising Supermarkets taking over local shops, for example, is a fair point, but one that disrupts the book due to his constant hammering home of the point, and his almost childish dislike of anything to do with the Old Firm, constantly turning any reference to them into a snipe, detracts from the value of the work. There's still enough to enjoy in `Stramash', with its enlightening histories of past industries, small-town footballing (and otherwise) heroes, and formations of football sides in community centres and local pubs, but it's buried under a one-sided devotion to praise the small and parochial, and to endlessly gripe about consumerism and the commercialisation of football. The chapter on Cumbernauld encapsulates the book. Gray here is happy to see a small town move away from its original home, despite sneering at the `reviled franchises' of the better known MK Dons (amongst others), but within the same pages, gives the reader some fantastic social and footballing history. For those wanting a glance at Scotland's small towns and local clubs, there are enough interesting historical points, tales of mecurial wingers and enjoyable anecdotes here to make `Stramash' a worthwhile buy, but don't be surprised if it's a book which frustrates you as much as it delights.