I did wonder about making this blog a football free zone for the duration of the World Cup. The hype about the tournament is predictably excessive, and a low point was reached on Saturday, I thought, when both Sky News and BBC News led with the ‘breaking news’ that the England team’s coach had arrived at the stadium before the match. As my wife wearily pointed out, it would have been more newsworthy if they’d decided not to turn up (and poor Rob Green probably wishes he hadn’t...)
However, the fact is that I grew up in a football household, and although I was a hopeless player, I’m still very keen on the game – my Dad’s life revolved around it, and as a result, so did mine and my mother’s. One book I am truly proud of is the 400 page history of the local club, Northwich Victoria, that he wrote over the last ten years of his life. Happily, it was published to considerable acclaim shortly before he died, and that gave him enormous, and well deserved, satisfaction. Quite an achievement for a man who left school at the age of 14.
After he died, I wrote a short story in his memory which has been published a couple of times. It was called ‘Penalty’, and the story centres around an old football ground, not dissimilar from the Drill Field in Northwich, which my father discovered was the oldest ground on which senior football had been played continuously, anywhere in the world. Football is a sport replete in tradition, and the story draws on the history of the game. I think it is sad that, a few years ago, the Drill Field was sold off and houses were built upon it. A piece of sporting heritage, lost forever.
Football has featured in some of my other stories, notably a Harry Devlin mystery called ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, which involved dark doings in the Liverpool football world. Several crime novels have had football themes or elements, but not many strike me as truly satisfactory. My first crime novel, Dead Shot, was no masterpiece either, and I was sensible enough never to try to get it published. I’m not sure if anyone has produced a mystery with a World Cup setting. If not, it may just be that the current tournament will inspire someone to write one...