The Groundsman’s Shed

Among the Thugs, Freaks and Footballers. by groundsman
February 9, 2008, 10:17 pm
Filed under: books, football

You can see my last entry in edited form on ESPN’s Soccernet website!  A hearty thanks to the folks over there for posting it. 

Meanwhile, I’ve spent my past two days off reading like a madwoman and learning as much as I can about the “hooligan culture” that has surrounded football, particularly in England, nearly since the sport’s inception.  I’d long been interested in the topic, but it wasn’t until I stumbled upon journalist Bill Buford’s Among the Thugs in the sports section of my local bookstore that I became wrapped up in the history, the leaders, the political ramifications, and the social implications of football supporter violence.   It’s odd that I happened upon this particular novel, as I’d just spent the past few days examining various bloggers’ takes on Spanish and Italian racism/classism/regionalism in sport.   I won’t delve too deeply (right now) into group behavioral theories or various science-types or authors’ takes on what drives the masses to violent action for seemingly no reason- but I’ll say that Among the Thugs is a cracker of a read, if not a bit difficult to get through- because as a passionate fan of sport, any sport, we’re all guilty of acting irrationally.

I also picked up Love&Blood at the World Cup: With the Footballers, Fans, and Freaks by Jamie Trecker.  I’d recognized his byline because I’m an avid reader of The Guardian’s sports pages, and until very recently, I watched nothing but Fox Soccer Channel (I’ve weaned myself from cable in an effort to save money to travel more often).  I’m only about 60 pages into the book at the moment, and I’m already loving his take on the events of both the 2002 and 2006 World Cup tournaments.   If Trecker hasn’t already written a book about the history of the various failed leagues in the US, I suggest he take up pen and pad and get to it immediately.  He did a good job of succintly outlining Team USA’s World Cup campaign failures in 1998 and 2006, and telling from a journo’s not-entirely-unbiased perspective why the teams have not made more of an impact internationally.  

I’ll most likely be writing my next review about either of those two books, but I’m always looking for other items to pick apart.  Have any suggestions?  Consider this my plea for help.  Do the easy thing and leave a comment below, or shoot an email to

Feel free to include any reasons why you think I should waste my precious time watching another football blooper video (the more terrible comedy sound effects, the better).


5 Comments so far
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hi there, nice blog!

I would strongly recommend reading some of Richard Giulianotti’s pioneering sociological & anthropological work on football violence, perhaps taking his “Football, Violence and Social Identity” as a starting point.

Novel-wise you might enjoy John King’s “The Football Factory”

I would issue a major caution though about the majority of writing on football violence – a sports sociologist friend of mine calls it Hoolie-porn – whether academic, personal memoir or fictional it is mostly written by people who have a major fascination with the violence and can’t quite keep emotionally detached. Which is fine, so long as they’re upfront about it, which sometimes they aren’t. There’s a lot of vicarious identification going on, which imo includes Buford. It’s also worth bearing in mind that a lot has changed in Britain since Buford’s book came out.

Comment by SpanglyPrincess

Thanks for the tips, and also thanks for your blog about racism in football!!

As for Buford’s issues in the book- you definitely can see he was a young man in a new country, looking to “belong” to something (rather unconciously it would seem) and ended up voluntarily covering football firms for about 4 years.

Not good.

That said, it is interesting reading for sure, but not terrible comfortable (who wants to be that deeply immersed in someone’s concience for that long?) or academic- as I’m sure it’s not meant to be.

You say a lot has changed in Britain, which I definitely believe to be true- but what did it?

Was it the introduction of the all seater stadiums/simply closing the terraces? Was it raising match ticket prices? Was it a concentrated effort to make English football more loved the world over(nearly every casual fan here in the States supports ManU)?

Any insight would be appreciated!

Comment by puppdogsandicecream

Dolly Williams

Perfect. Cut. Print. Great.

Trackback by Dolly Williams

For Hooligan culture may i suggest a number of interesting reads: for Italian football “A Season with Verona” by Tim Parks about an expatriate English guy and the right wing footballing team of the city of Romeo and Juliet.
The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro by Joe McGuiness is similar but less to do with Ultras. It follows an American expatriate in a small Italian city (Catsel Di Sangro) following a football team that has defied the odds and entered into division B. It tells about their survival.
English reads “Scally” about an Everton hooligan Andy Nichols in the ’80’s terrace football. Soul Crew by Dave Jones and the infamous “Soul cru” of Cardiff City. Google ICF (Inner City Firm) or Cass Pennant for West Ham United. Or “Out of his Skin” about racism in football in England in the 80’s and John Barnes, who played for Liverpool

Comment by Zappata Dolcy

Thanks! I’ve done my research about ICF before, but I haven’t stumbled upon those books at my local stores. I’ll be hitting up Amazon tonight. I’m particularly interested in “Out of his Skin”.

Thanks again!

Comment by groundsman

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