Title: We Ate All The Pies: How Football Swallowed Britain Whole
Author: John Nicholson
Publisher: Biteback (19th August 2010)
Author John Nicholson has a problem – the kind of which, should it concern methamphetamine or alcohol, would probably have seen him forced to attend bi-weekly, court-ordered rehab sessions by now. It becomes quickly apparent whilst reading We Ate All The Pies that he is utterly, rabidly and cripplingly addicted to football along with all of it’s many facets and foibles.
Nicholson is the acerbic scribe responsible for the ‘Very Northern Mind’ column over on football365.com and, as anyone who is aware of his work will testify, he isn’t exactly backward in coming forward – although he does so with such an overt and coercive passion that I defy you not to find yourself reading the last few chapters aloud in a gruff Teesside vernacular, such is his compelling sway.
In We Ate All The Pies, Nicholson sets about trying to fathom why it is that Britain continues to endure such a deep-seated love affair with a game that is often ‘so boring it can make your eyes melt’, as well as also taking a look at the myriad of different roles it fulfils within our society at large – doing so by refracting his theories through his own experiences growing up, alongside football, in the straight-laced industrial sprawl of the north east of England during the 1970s.
As well as wryly covering some of the more manifest elements of football’s cultural sub-sphere (drinking, anger, identity, social class, media etc.), Nicholson also examines many oft-neglected aspects of the game’s minutiae, revelling as he extracts great reels of detailed insight from that which, without the application of a keen mind and an impressively vivid memory, could otherwise be construed as rather mundane or superfluous subjects.
Nicholson looks at how sticker collecting, gaudy replica shirts, over-priced matchday ‘cuisine’, football’s idiosyncratic lexicon and the role that Jimmy Hill‘s face played in the art of delaying orgasms during the early 70’s served to eternally bind him, and by-proxy us, with the beautiful game.
The accompanying press release proclaims Nicholson to be an exponent of the gonzo school of sports journalism although you get the impression that this may just be part of the usual bow wave of PR guff that accompanies any release, rather than any self-proclamation on the author’s part.
However, the book does read like an effortless, one-sided conversation and the stream-of-consciousness witticisms, tangential vignettes and the quintessentially British self-degradation amply serve to balance out all of the balls-to-the-wall theorising and conjecture.
If you’re looking for a book that is willing to simultaneously tackle head-on some of the foulest, most corrupt elements that are currently threatening to undermine the integrity of the modern game, as well as talk you through the as-yet-unexplained phenomenon of throwing up an undigested fried egg in rigorous detail – you could do much worse.