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Heart of Football by David McVay

Release date: 01st August, 2008
Publisher: Reid Publishing

List Price: £9.99
Our Price: £6.59
You Save: £3.4 (34%)
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It's back. Football's self-styled 'most exciting league in the world' which returns today is, of course, nothing of the sort, but such linguistic oversights are summarily dismissed with the nonchalant wave of a Rolex-encrusted wrist.

Only the mathematically challenged would define a 20-team league which 80% cannot win as competitive, yet our bloated top flight retains its 'exciting' tag, a perfect advertisement for ultra-fine imperial clothing, were it not so corpulent.

England's lower leagues are the Premier League's antithesis and few authors know their way around Prenton Park, Brisbane Road, Valley Parade or Gigg Lane better than David McVay.

He admits to being "forever smitten with life in the nether regions of the Football League" and like most genuine football fans, he would prefer "a suspect hot dog drowned in mustardÖto a half time prawn sandwich." His ideal club chairman is no well-tanned recidivist who accumulated his loot in questionable circumstances, but someone like Dagenham and Redbridge chairman Dave Andrews who retained his club's 10-man committee to ensure no individual could assume control.

Anyone searching for football's true heart should, therefore, give its highest echelons the widest possible body swerve and lunge for McVay's excellent book with the unfettered determination of an old fashioned defender executing a sliding tackle with intent.

Essentially, the book tells of McVay's travels last season as he meandered from Brentford to Barrow, Luton to Lincoln, observing that sizeable band of football supporters who choose to disregard Premier League glitz and bling in favour of the real thing.

Throughout, McVay mixes humour and poignancy, laughter and reality in equal measure.

When the Salvation Army turned up at Kenilworth Road to bring some Christmas cheer to Luton fans and their cash-strapped club, McVay suggests "the Samaritans would have been more fitting. That is if Luton Town could have stretched to the phone call."

Before a typical needle match between Mansfield and Chesterfield, the Last Post was immaculately observed by both sets of fans in honour of two British servicemen killed in Afghanistan, which prompted Spireites manager Lee Richardson to say that "Events such as this certainly put a football match into context." McVay concurs: "Only an imbecile would disagree," he says.

He ponders over whether Mrs Shevchenko would forfeit the glamour of Harrods and Armani for the Pound Shop in Nottingham as Tommy Lawton's wife once did when the legendary striker moved from Chelsea to Notts County, a transfer which hastened the end of Lawton's marriage.

He considers Gary McAllister's probable brief from Ken Bates upon taking the manager's job at Elland Road: "Steady and ailing team, spruce up their act from long-ball brawlers to passing purists and win promotion from League OneÖIn the more civilised Wild West of Yorkshire, where the mean streets are largely safe to walk since Ian Bowyer was kicked out of town, this remains a tough mission - even for Randolph Scott and a ten-gallon Stetson."

After Bournemouth had unexpectedly beaten Swansea at the Liberty Stadium with two goals in the last minute, the travelling band of 226 supporters burst into "Que sera, sera, whatever will be will be; we're going to Shrewsbury, que sera, sera." Not quite as stirring as Men of Harlech notes McVay, "Yet such stoic resignation surely deserves greater reward."

Any fan searching for football's heart will glean their reward by reading McVay's lively and often funny observations which serve to prove the man's in love with the game's 'nether regions'.

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