By Dave Roberts
Many years ago – before the internet, before before digital free-to-air television, before the Premier League, before wars on terrorism and obesity – people used to collect things like stamps, coins and paper clips.
Nowadays, young folk collect STDs (or STIs, or VD, if that’s your thing) and tattoos.
There are still those who collect football programmes.
Nothing says “I was there” like a programme. Oh, you could probably take a selfie, but a programme is a tangible thing that accumulates in a wonderful, glorious collection.
Programmes conjure up time and place. Specific memories are attached to each game that live on through the programme: First match; Thrilling cup tie; Chased by hooligans en route to the train station post-match.
Dave Roberts is – and let’s not beat about the bush here – a committed football programme collector. He amassed a collection of over 1000 programmes. 1134 to be precise, since precision is the realm of the collector.
When he and his wife decide to move to the USA, he assumes that his entire collection will come too. When his other half tells him he can only take whatever would fit into a Tupperware container, Dave has some difficult choices to make.
32 Programmes tells the story behind each of the programmes that make the cut.
Dave selects 31 programmes. The programme from his first Division One match. The programme that cost him a job. His 1000th programme.
Each chapter introduces a programme and a stage of Dave’s life, underpinned by his obsession. For Crystal Palace vs Manchester United (16 December 1972, Division One), Dave introduces us to Mandy, his first “proper girlfriend”. She was everything he ever dreamed of: “pretty, blonde and bubbly with the added bonus of living a few minutes’ walk from a First Division football ground.” But when Dave takes Mandy to the Holmesdale Road End, his plan of indoctrinating her into the ways of the Red Devils starts to fall apart.
The book is funny and well-paced. The reader is in the hands of a skilled story-teller. This is not a book aimed at anoraks; it’s a memoir filled with wit and emotion.