A tale of two seasons

I don't know what it is but I love it - Liverpool's unforgettable 1983-84 seasonI don’t know what it is but I love it: Liverpool’s Unforgettable 1983-84 Season by Tony Evans

The Bromley Boys by Dave Roberts

Cards on the table: I’m not a Liverpool supporter. Don’t care for ’em. In my youth I was surrounded by bandwagon-jumpers wearing Liverpool shirts.

They were insufferable. They blazed the trail for future generations of bandwagon-jumpers.

So why did I find I don’t know what it is but I love it so engrossing? How is this possible? What’s wrong with me?

The answer is simple: the story is well-written. Tony Evans, football editor at The Times and a born Liverpool fan, wastes few words as he reconstructs Liverpool’s entire 1983-84 season.

This is not one of those tedious and bland reconstructions of seasons that will only ever be bought by the sort of idiots who’ll buy any tat being flogged in the club shop.

The book is detailed, witty and engaging. There are no lulls, no dead spots.

Evans is unapologetically a Liverpool supporter. He attended all 42 league games in the 1983-84 season and many of the cup matches. He recreates the world of the Liverpool supporter in vivid detail.

He has spoken to the main protagonists in the season and researched the newspaper reports of the day.

By far the most interesting character in the book is Craig Johnston. He is honest and humble as he recalls being on the outer with manager Joe Fagan.

There are many things from my youth that, in moments of hazy nostalgia, I wish were still with us today. LP liner notes and my hair, to name but two.

But those insufferable, smug Liverpool supporters of the 1980s are not one of them. These days, bandwagon-jumpers have a range of clubs to choose from, such as Barcelona, Real Madrid and Whichever Club From Manchester Is In Ascendancy. But for me, the original club for bandwagon-jumpers will always be Liverpool.

The Bromley Boys by Dave RobertsAt the other end of the scale to Liverpool is Bromley Football Club. Dave Roberts, of 32 Programmes fame, dedicated a year of his life to following Bromley. It was a character-building experience, as the team finished bottom of the Isthmian League for 1969-70.

14-year-old Dave was convinced that, following a promising 17th place finish (out of 20 teams) the previous year, and on the back of a plucky 3-1 loss pre-season to a team of largely unidentifiable West Ham United players, 1969-70 was going to be Bromley FC’s season.

It turned out to be the club’s worst ever.

Dave took his boots to that pre-season game, in case a Bromley FC team member was involved in a “non-fatal car crash” en route to the match, resulting in a call over the PA for a member of the crowd to take the unfortunate’s place in the team.

The book isn’t really a history of that awful season. It’s about being a teenager, misplaced dedication, finding your place in the world, and collecting football memorabilia – including, of course, two copies of every matchday programme.

There’s a movie in the pipeline, but don’t wait for the movie, even if Martine McCutcheon is rumoured to be the female lead.

Tragedy plus time equals comedy, said Steve Allen. This is a very funny book.