Paper chaser tells his life story

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Book – 32 Programmes

Author – Dave Roberts

When published – 2011

I rate this book – 3.5/5

Rating 5- Classic, one of my fav books of all time, to be read more than once.

Rating 4- Great read, entertaining and compelling throughout.

Rating 3- Good read, not quite a ‘can’t put down’ but good none the less.

Rating 2- A little dull, hard to get through, couldn’t recommend.

Rating 1- Awful, couldn’t finish it, lost interest.

Author Dave really struck on a novel idea here, that being to tell his life story in the guise of reviewing the football programmes and games seen from his youth, right up to an up to date emotional return to his first place of football pilgrimage at Hayes Lane the home of non league Bromley FC.

As a lifelong paper chaser myself I can fully empathise with Dave’s urge to bag the programme as soon as arriving at the game, something I have always done, and continue to do so, and then read it cover to cover when returning home.

And so the story goes that his wife demands he only take small box full of  his programmes for their new life overseas, and so then he begins a review of his 1,000 + games and associated programmes he’d collected over half a lifetime, and then he narrows them down to 32 to fit into a small tupperware box! His life story is then played out, around these 32 programmes and their significance to him at the time.

I won’t spoil it by discussing in detail which games and programmes he talks about. But I was highly amused to read about him taking a new girlfriend to Selhurst Park in December 1972, to see his boyhood heroes Manchester United get totally gubbed 5-0 by his ‘local’ league club Crystal Palace, which resulted in his new girlfriend becoming a life long Palace fan! Not what he had set out to do, thinking she’d be impressed by George Best and Denis Law and so him also! I was at this game, which was/is hugely memorable to me as a 10-year-old Palace fan at the time.

I did feel at times, he’d perhaps remembered far too much about the details and specifics of the games seen, and I wondered how much of that had been from modern-day research. And undoubtedly he also used some artistic license I believe. For instance, apparently writing to Brian Moore from the iconic ‘Big Match’ TV show in regard to a club name (in thinking he had a highly collectable programme because it had incorrectly listed the club name), when he could quite easily have looked in the papers for the league tables to verify that fact the club had changed its name at the start of that season.

However, if you love football programmes, you’ll really enjoy this tale, which rolls along smoothly, until about two thirds of the way through the book, when he really throws a massive surprise into the tale. Which I guess without spoiling it, goes to show, that life as well as football can be very unpredictable.

I especially enjoyed the ‘two’ reunions at the end of the book, adding a strong feel good human touch. All in all, it’s an excellent read.

The author has also written ‘The Bromley Boys’ which I’ve yet to read and review.

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