The lost innocence of a football fan is something that may seem trivial to those unaccustomed to the inner-sanctum of a supporter’s universe. But, in Dave Robert’s 32 Programmes, we are kindly given access the history books of an obsessive. Entertaining, heart-warming and expertly executed, this book is certain to strike a chord with anyone who’s ever loved the game.
While the concept may seem a tad strange, it actually works to a degree that has made me re-think football books entirely. Essentially, Roberts tells his life story through the frames of collected football programmes; an obsession which began in 1964. Dave recalls the first match he ever attended, Fulham v Manchester United at Craven Cottage and gives a detailed and memorable account of himself as a giddy 9 year-old supported of the game. As the pages turn- and they’ll do that at some velocity- the story of Dave unfolds as tells tale upon tale, each as engrossing and enjoyable as the last.
How can you explain that surge of emotion that you get with that first glimpse of the floodlights… especially if it’s a ground with so many memories…
- Extract from 32 Programmes by Dave Roberts -
Everything about the book matures as it goes on. From Dave’s first experiences of disappointment with females to the question most football fans will have asked themselves; work or the match? And although the average reader may not be able to connect with Dave on a programme-loving level, I can guarantee at least one of the chapters will seem familiar. The drink-fuelled trips to far-off grounds are there for the die-hards, but the note-scribbling, half-time tea jokes are there for the less travelled.
Funny and charming on more than a few occasions, 32 Programmes has the ability to sit side-by-side with Fever Pitch and has really had me lamenting the times I’d left my programme on the floor at Cambridge United’s Abbey Stadium. The book may not have done enough to inspire me to go on a copy-cat mission to Swansea to see David Silva (Roberts hitchhikes to Southampton to see Best in Chapter 12) but it certainly has me considering the status of the modern-day fan. A thought Dave mentions, but does well to avoid later on in the closing pages.
Essentially, different football fans will read this in different ways. I thoroughly enjoyed the relatively short story of Dave Roberts, mainly because I could empathise through matching experiences. Other readers will almost certainly marry different memories to the ones Dave describes; and that’s the beauty of this excellently crafted tale of obsession.
Heart-warmingly sincere in it’s ending, the book does well to avoid the sale of a sob story, instead giving a sub-text that will only make you want to share a pie and a pint with the author, whilst sitting back and letting retell the other 1,102 stories of games gone by.
To cut a long review short, just bloody buy it, ok?