Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Book review: “On the Road: A journey through a season” by Daniel Harris

With nothing of note going on in the world of football finance, here’s a first for this blog; a book review...

A quick trawl through books about Manchester United on Amazon shows that two genres dominate, history and biography. Whilst that comes as no surprise, it’s a shame that there isn’t more decent writing from the people who actually are Manchester United, the fans. Dan Harris’ new book “On the Road: A journey through a season” is a welcome step in filling that gap.

On the Road brings together ex-lawyer Harris’ successful blogs for ESPN Soccernet following United away from home during the 2009/10 season. Harris blends match reports with observations on modern football and the existential angst of being a football supporter. Written over the course of a whole season rather than after its conclusion, it perfectly captures the mental gymnastics all football supporters go through; from hope, through fear, a bit of anger, more hope and eventually (in a sport where most teams win nothing) the resignation of failure. If that all sounds a little serious it really isn’t. Harris is a very funny writer (could he really have been a lawyer?) with a fantastic ability to be very rude about deserving people and places in new and amusing ways (although to be fair Garry Cook is the gift that keeps on giving).

Being 2009/10, green and gold, bonds, PIKs and the Glazers make their share of appearances of course. Harris stopped going to OT in 2005 on principle and now relies on favours, mates and swaps to get his precious United fix at aways. It won’t come as a surprise to hear I share his views on the subject of our owners, but I do recommend his calmly angry take on the financial alchemy that threatens the long-term future of our football club.

Re-reading On the Road as one work rather than individual blog posts through the season, the book works really well. Football seasons are long journeys with numerous diversions on them and Harris does a great job of taking the reader down these little paths (Fergie’s “unfit” referees comments, Bellamy bravely hitting a supporter who was being held by stewards, the great Oakwell half-time pie robbery....) before returning to the main subject. All this is done with the authentic voice of the proper, critical, clued up supporter Harris clearly is. Recommended.

“On the Road: A journey through a season” will be in good bookshops in Manchester and London later this week and can also be bought direct from Waterstones using this link.