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Above Head Height A Five-a-Side Life By James Brown

Release date: 09th February, 2017
Publisher: Quercus

List Price: £16.99
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In 1973, Dr Jacob Bronowski published The Ascent of Man, a fascinating guide to Mankind’s relentless, mostly forward progress, from his first evolutionary footsteps in pre-history through each significant cultural diversion and up to the present day.

It’s taken almost half a century for an author to write something similar from a sporting perspective – though in reverse – what might be called The Descent of a Footballer, a snapshot of what happens once the amateur player has peaked and started his long, downward trajectory, becoming progressively slower and fatter. Such a title may have sounded a little pretentious, however, so James Brown has instead opted for Above Head Height.

Five-a-side football is the pastime most of us tackle with even greater enthusiasm once the 11-a-side game (and training for it) becomes too much of a chore. Better to turn up on a Tuesday night, don the shirt which has become a tad too tight around the waist, jettison any notion of a warm-up, run around rather aimlessly for an hour and then conduct all post-match analysis in the pub afterwards.

Above Head Height is a well-written, sharply-observed book. The references to constantly damp kit had particular resonance for your reporter, once renowned for forgetting to take said sweaty kit out of his sports bag, or else inadvertently leaving a wet towel on top of everything for a few days because upon arriving home, the bag was chucked under the stairs. Disgusting, I know, but who hasn’t dragged on a damp shirt prior to a five-a-side duel, sneaked a quick smell of the (unwashed) armpits and declared it perfectly acceptable attire?

What keeps us coming back to play five-a-side? Dressing room banter; a prolonged moan about an injury incurred the previous week; playing ‘up front’ (a joy for perennial defenders); the prospect of a few pints afterwards, or perhaps lashing in a goal from four yards. Actually, as Brown reminds us, it’s all of the above. The next stage on the amateur footballers’ descent is golf, ostensibly because most males crave an element of sporting competition and what could be easier than knocking a little white ball into a small hole?


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