“You’re mad”, the first two words in this 232 page book. Every reader of the book may come to the same conclusion having followed his trials and tribulations as Mel sets out on his plan to do as many games in a football season in as many weird and wonderful places and share that experience with us.
Firstly, hats off to the author as a lot of us gave him a look of ‘are you sure ?’ when he first talked of his plans about two years ago. Secondly, you feel for his wallet and his wife as our intrepid explorer heads to all corners of the globe in search of (A), a holiday, (B), a decent amount of liquid refreshment and (C), a football match or matches. To say it’s a football book would be missing the point somewhat as it’s not exactly about the match, but the journey involved, the people he meets and a few relevant observations thrown in for good measure.
Lots of QPR fans are name checked in the book as you’d expect, but that’s not the reason for liking it. It’s a story of one person’s wanderlust with plenty of drunken nights thrown in with football as the sideshow. While the book was being written, we would be regaled with stories of how he’d just got off a plane having been to some exotic destination to see a game.
The narrator starts off on 21st July 2009 when he makes a flying visit to Germany for a Union Berlin pre-season friendly. When I say flying visit, he was actually on German terra firma for about 4 hours as he flew in and flew back out as quickly as Bomber Harris’s visit to Dresden back in the 40’s. He was back in his local for last orders somehow. His tale then takes in QPR games, he has a season ticket, but also finds him going to Premiership games, Conference, Ryman Premier, Scottish Leagues then he heads abroad with more visits to Germany plus appearances in Greece, Holland, Belgium, Italy, Rumania, France, Latvia, Cyprus (where he was under manners from the wife NOT to go to football !), Hungary and Spain. Then there were England games, home and away, he even managed to find a WC qualifier in Trinidad & Tobago.
The book ends with Mel in South Africa for the World Cup and after England got knocked out, he stayed on and his last game was one of the semi-finals on 11th July 2010, some 355 days after he set out on his voyage. Having known Mel for about 25 years, I have been impressed with his knowledge of world football, but in this book it stands out a mile. Another thing that stands out is a wicked sense of humour with some great anecdotes and really funny one-liners. It could be described as ‘lowbrow’ by some journalists, but who wants ‘Fever Pitch’ by some Cambridge Graduate who used football as a crutch to make a living.
This is the real deal, from a true football fans perspective. The language used is the language of the terraces or in these days of all-seater stadiums, the language of the pub. It’s sexist and racist in equal measure, he doesn’t want to be accused of being discriminatory now does he ? It’s definitely a blokes book, it’s a book that we would’ve loved to have written as we would’ve chopped off our right arms to have done what Mel accomplished. And what makes it all the more incredible was that the author was out of work at the time.
I believe that Mel just fell short of a century of games, but it wasn’t for the lack of trying as a couple of times he turned up in some foreign country to find out that a game was played the day before. So on that front I can only give it a 8 out of 10 I’m afraid. Come back next year when you’ve managed the ton !!!
Available for the price of 10 English pounds from: firstname.lastname@example.org
He needs to buy some nappies for Jake !