Thursday, 22 January 2009

Book notes - The Football Factory

John King's The Football Factory is the loo and bath book of choice in JMP Towers at the moment. I first read it ages ago, and have periodically reread it ever since. A "bleak, thought-provoking and brutal" (Literary Review) novel published in the mid '90's about football hooliganism and a very white working class, its descriptions of violence are superb and hypnotic; and I think there is something in them which is very appealing to people like me - middle class, white collar professional job, who last got in a fight when they were nine. I suspect, though I may be wrong, that you have to be a bloke to feel this.

Anyway, I wanted to share a passage from towards the end of the book when a group of about 300 Chelsea fans travelling away to Millwall have just got off the train at Peckham Rye, looking for trouble and knowing it's not far away. I think it's great writing, with the testosterone palpable:

We pile out of the station and we're on our own, spilling into the road, geared up because we're steaming, moving away from the station, over the street not waiting for the traffic lights to change, energy flooding our brains and we're on their manor now strutting along and we know the bastards will be around somewhere with their scouts out, mobile phones in small fists for a quick call to the Bushwhackers switchboard.

We look at stray males with suspicion and head towards the ground, buzzing inside the whole time. It's going to go off in a matter of minutes rather than hours. It's a fucking unreal feeling getting into a place like this knowing there's another mob nearby looking to do the same thing, and the fact that they're Millwall makes the whole thing major league. This is top of the table. Millwall and West Ham. But we're united, all together in this, and we're telling ourslves that Millwall are mental, but we're mental as well, like we were against West Ham at Victoria, and it's all about pride and self-respect. Traffic piles up as we cover the street, taking over, total control, a shot of power...The tension rises. We're nervous and cocky at the same time. Somehow we've got to control the nerves and make it work for us. It makes us more violent. More determined. When it goes off we'll have to be brutal if we're going to survive. We're putting ourselves on the edge and when you're in South East London it's a fucking long way to the bottom if you get thrown off.

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