Book Review: 'The Footballer Who Could Fly'
By DUNCAN HAMILTON, Century, £14.99 ($23.70), 352 pages
"The Footballer Who Could Fly" features extended vignettes of "how central the FA Cup used to be in the nation’s sporting and cultural life, of club owners’ exploitation of noble players before the abolition of the maximum wage," according to a review by Jason Cowley of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Hamilton, twice winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award and a former provincial newspaper journalist, was "introduced to football by his father, who was a miner and a Newcastle United fan." Hamilton's father was 40 by the time his son, an only child, was born. Remote and taciturn, he was "prematurely aged, exhausted by working down the pit." The father "spoke rarely and the son stuttered." Football brought them together. Without it, “we were strangers under a shared roof.” Hamilton is "an instinctive elegist" --an earlier book, "A Last English Summer," was about the decline of county cricket. His prose has "a sad Larkinian music." He is also "a sentimentalist; always a dangerous thing when writing about one’s own family." The book is "episodic and meandering, a little humourless, unravelling in a series of extended vignettes." The book is "sincere and deeply honouring" of Hamilton’s father as well as dead greats such as TOMMY LAWTON, BILL SHANKLY, JACKIE MILBURN, DUNCAN EDWARDS and BOBBY MOORE, men who "lived alongside, and travelled to games with, those who paid to watch them." It will be of interest "principally to football nostalgists happily sad to be reminded of how things used to be" before the coming of RUPERT MURDOCH and the Premier League; before football "became an icon of globalisation and the plaything of the international plutocracy" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 8/24).