Friday, 28 December 2012

Gerrin' me kicks on Yorkshire's Route 66

Review: ‘Route 66 – A Journey Around the Football Grounds of Yorkshire’

Firstly apologies.  This review is somewhat outdated, having been printed for the Phoenix match programme of 8th December, the first of three successive home games to fall victim to the weather.  It is also outdated inasmuch as I originally aimed it at those people looking for a Christmas stocking filler.  And finally, it's also outdated as I've since gone on to finish the book...something which wasn't true when this review was written.  Anyway, despite all that, here's hoping it will still tempt some of you to go out and buy it...
For a club of its size, Easington United has featured quite heavily in Yorkshire-based football publications. 
Steven Penny, once of the Yorkshire Post and author of the excellent Tykes Travels yearbooks, devoted a chapter to the club in his ‘Soap Stars & Burst Bubbles – A Season of Yorkshire Football’.  Easington also featured heavily in Hull writer Craig Ellyard’s 2002 book ‘Now Then – A Journey Across The Football Fields of East Yorkshire’, while numerous Ground-hoppers have written very complimentary posts about the Low Farm match day experience on various blogs and websites.   All of which has brought ‘The Eastenders’ welcome publicity. 
The latest addition to the set comes courtesy of ‘Route 66 – A Journey Around the Football Grounds of Yorkshire’ by Michael J Mowbray.
Midlands-born Michael is an adopted Yorkshireman and also, for his sins, a Leeds United fan.  He describes his quest to spend a season visiting all 66 Yorkshire football grounds at Step 7 level and above as a sign of his impending mid-life crisis.  (For the record my equivalent would currently appear to involve visiting every CML ground Easington United play at – preferably with an accompanying pint of real ale at a nearby hostelry!).
I must confess that my review of the book suffers one slight flaw in that I’ve not yet actually finished it.  But with Christmas rapidly approaching I feel the need to point you in the direction of it as a rather fabulous stocking-filler.
Actually, by the time you read this, I may well have reached the final whistle.  In addition to having read the first 33 chapters in sequence, for the purposes of this review I’ve also covered those ‘second half’ offerings that feature the remaining East Riding clubs - Bridlington Town (Chapter 42), Hull City (49), Hall Road Rangers (53) and of course Easington United (55) – as well as our fellow CML teams (Bentley Colliery, Yorkshire Main, Harworth Colliery, Thorne Colliery, Kiveton Park (v Easington, Chapter 62), Phoenix and Westella & Willerby).  So, I think I’ve digested enough to be able to judge it.
If there are failings with Route 66 they are few and far between and most can be overlooked, although I might have to ask him to double check my quote against Dronfield – did I really predict a win?  If so it must have been down to the sloe-gin.   
As you’d expect from what is essentially the work of a keen amateur, there’s the odd spelling mistake, the occasional gaffe (Queensway instead of Queensgate for Bridlington Town’s ground) and one of my personal pet hates when it comes to grammar - the regular use of the word “of” when it should be “have” (as in “would of predicted”).  But, unlike Mr Ellyard’s error-ridden offering, such slips don’t spoil the read.
The reason for this is because the content is excellent.  Not only in the rich diversity of football grounds visited but also in the little sub-plots involved in each chapter.
I particularly liked the author’s story of his walk from Scarborough to Bridlington for the Seadogs’ ‘home’ game against Staveley on a Tuesday in November; a feat which is almost matched in its foolhardiness by his decision to drive from his snow-bound Ilkley home to Bishop Burton and back, simply in order to tick Westella & Willerby off his list!
Michael’s attention to detail is excellent – though thankfully not overly so where the graffiti-adorned grandstand at Bentley Colliery is concerned! He also introduces some fantastic characters along the way, with Goole appearing to have more than its fair share.  That said I’m still trying to work out the identities of the ‘League of Gentleman’ extras he met on his visit to the “Humber Riviera”. (Note to Michael – “Humber” not “Hull”!)
Although some of the football watched would appear to have been fairly poor, the author still manages to find something that will keep the reader’s attention, whether it’s the quality of food on offer, a particular incident involving sons George and Lucas (of which there are too many for his liking) or just the general scene around him.  He also has a very amusing knack of managing to miss goals due to various reasons.
Certainly those of you who’ve travelled away with Easington will relate to many of his observations – the clubhouse atmosphere at Harworth, the “big lads” in the Kinsley team and the smell of cannabis at Yorkshire Main!  On the debit side, I can’t believe he passed up the pies at Bentley Colliery or the range of ales available in the clubhouse at Phoenix.  Perhaps he’s saving these for a Route 66 Revisited?
There are also some items Michael now perhaps regrets including.  For example he won’t be the only person who thought Jimmy Savile deserving of a gushing tribute in the immediate wake of his death.  Thankfully, this is more than offset by similar pieces on the much worthier Gary Speed and Arthur Wharton.
On a personal note, I smiled at a description (admittedly not Michael’s) of the CML as “park football with no stands or beer”.  I also took as a real compliment his comment that “it must take years to get to this level of an anorak” in relation to a piece I’d written about Hutton Cranswick, even though I’m not sure it was intended thus!
In addition to a foreword by Michael Vaughan, what really sets this book apart from being just another Ground-hopper’s Travelogue are the author’s child-related scrapes.  Tales of the hazards encountered when taking young sons to games, while trying to record events for posterity, gives Route 66 a human feel that is perhaps lacking from similar publications.
I found (or should I say, am still finding) the book both informative and entertaining.  I’d like to think many of you will back yourselves to do the same. 
You can also check out Michael's excellent new website of the same name.

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