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Pointless: A season with Britain's worst football team by Jeff Connor

Release date: 01st August, 2005
Publisher: Headline Publishing

List Price: £16.99
Our Price: £10.19
You Save: £6.8 (40%)
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Over the past few years, there has been a noticeable literary reaction to books which merely serve to bolster the sporting superstar's already inflated ego. 'Autobiographies', supposedly written by 22 year-old footballers who dispensed with formal education a decade or so earlier now form an integral part of said star's marketing strategy rather than making any serious attempt to engage readers.

An increasing number of magazines and websites have countered this 'celebritisation' of sport while genuine stars such as Boris Becker and Paul Gascoigne have had the good sense to make their respective stories more interesting by highlighting different aspects of their lives instead of adhering to any standard biographical template.

Humour too provides a welcome harbour from the rapidly swelling sea of sporting literature's mediocrity, which is where Jeff Connor's latest offering comes in.

Connor spent a year with East Stirling, officially Britain's worst football team, as they ended the 2004/05 season at the foot of the Scottish third division for the third consecutive time. It was, in fact, a season of improvement as the previous year they had lost all 18 of their away games whereas this term, they won one (3-1 against Elgin) and drew four. Nevertheless, with players such as Ross Donaldson, a striker "with the turning circle of the QE2" and defender David Harvey, "smitten by the Curse of the ShireÖtwo own goals in one game made him top scorer for a while" it was always going to be difficult to move away from bottom position.

In an age where footballers can demand £120,000 a week, it is heartening to read of real people playing in front of a few hundred souls for £10; it can also be very funny. Shire's (taken from East Stirlingshire) trip to play eventual champions Gretna is one such case which also shows how a sports book benefits from having the author so close to the action. It is difficult to imagine Sir Alex Ferguson, who started his managerial career at Firs Park, allowing any author to sit in on team meetings, travel on the coach to an away match, to listen intently to the pre-match team talk or watch any 'hairdryer' moments at half-time.

Connor has access to all of this and more and although he starts his assignment as any archetypal sceptic would, during the course of the season, the haughty mocking is cast aside as he begins to appreciate East Stirling's spirit. He even donates £2,000 to the club and at one point is asked whether he has his boots with him as the team appear to be a man short.

The list of characters Connor has to work with, from Alex Forsyth, the club's oldest director and line-dance lover ("he likes his partners about six feet tall so he can stick his nose in their tits"), to manager Dennis Newall, whose rantings can occasionally make Sir Alex sound like Mary Poppins, are as far removed from the pampered world of top-flight football as it is possible to be. At one stage, there is a report that Gazza himself is about to move to Firs Park, bogus as it transpires, but one fancies 'G8' would have fitted in well, appreciating the generous dollops of gallows humour and genuine Shire laughter. That was Gazza's loss, as any reader of this hugely enjoyable book will confirm.


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