Written by Dave
There is an old English saying that probably translates to other countries, “There is always someone worse off than you”. Bear that in mind when looking at perceived ills of Arsenal, for Bromley in 1969/70 the only team fitting that particular bill was Corinthian Casuals, who hamstrung themselves by not paying any fees or wages at all to their players. They were bottom, Bromley one place above them.
This is a story of that one season. Matches been “lovingly” recreated in this enjoyable tale of a fourteen year old boys obsession with his local football club, intertwined with his own travails. Enjoyable for the reader, for it must have been pure hell for the players and supporters.
The whole gamut of footballing excuses are brought forward from shockingly sub-standard players, bad luck and poor officiating being the root cause of the woes besetting the Isthmian League club. It is a different angle than reading of one person’s trials and tribulations in a successful season of one of the bigger clubs.
Those who have encountered the hardy souls that inhabit the semi-professional game will recognise some of the companions that accompany Roberts on this trip, they have their soulmates in the professional game as well. Their emotions are the same, the lows plummeting to same depths that the you or I do when Arsenal are involved, the highs far outpeaking ours simply for their scarcity.
It is said that there is a more anorakish element to the non-league game, something that is hard to believe given that Roberts own scrapbook-keeping and programme collecting are no more nor less different to those of a number of adolescents besotted by football. As for the subbuteo tournaments, well, it brought back memories of rain and snowswept afternoons when inclement weather prevented the usual kickabout.
Roberts mixes his own influence upon the club, from the terrace to the Xanadu of the Supporters Club Bar, with his school life, dominated by being asked to leave his private school to the local skinheads, unrequeited love, Arsenal and a disliking of purported love rival Jon Sammels. Aside from the dedication of travelling distances by bus or bike, his major achievement is persuading an Arsenal supporting friend to trade a visit to Arsenal for a similar visit at a lower standard. It is hard to guess which was more unimpressive, Roberts serving in the tea hut all game or the fare on offer.
That one of his friends vows never to go again after yet another defeat, only to turn up again on a regular basis shows the vice-like grip with which football grabs you. It is a charming tale, the recollection of matches testament to the author’s diligent notetaking at matches. A recommended read for all, especially with the festive seasons approaching.
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