Sunday 25 August 2019

Fans to the fore in latest chronicle of Premier League

The Premier League: 25 Years
The Premier League: 25 Years

Book review - Jason Goodison

For a Liverpool fan like myself, any book containing every Premier League table of the last 25 years is bound to be pretty painful.

But Liverpool's sudden inability to climb to the summit of England's top division, almost immediately after the creation of the Premier League, is far from the only story of the Premier League era.

'The Premier League: 25 Years' by Lloyd Pettiford looks to tell all of these stories, albeit in a different style to most authors.

Several weeks ago I reviewed 'The Mixer' by Michael Cox, which holds a very similar objective to Pettiford's book. Both aim to chronicle the first quarter of a century of Premier League football, but both do it in contrasting ways.

While Cox emphasised the tactical developments over the past 25 years, Pettiford calls on the experiences of the fans as he paints a slightly different picture in this light-hearted, easy to read production.

The back cover suggests that 'You'll be laughing one moment and penning a strongly worded letter to the publisher the next'. This is a bold statement and somewhat optimistic regarding one's true emotions when reading, which are admittedly more mundane.

Pettiford certainly tries to be witty, but failed to resurrect a grin on more than a couple of occasions. In fairness, creating a laugh-out-loud football book probably isn't the easiest task and his bravery to try something different must be acknowledged.

'The Premier League: 25 Years' is a very simply written book, as even the 'no frills' title suggests. After a lengthy introduction, in which Pettiford discusses the sizeable impact money has played in the Premier League years, each new chapter focuses on a different season.

Each chapter follows an identical format, which ultimately could do with refreshing as the book gets into the latter stages, and is named after a song released in that year.

After a brief background of the season in review, Pettiford 'focuses on' two of the teams which provided something different in that particular season - often smaller clubs who either over- or under-achieved. This is probably that fan-centred area of the book which makes this a worthwhile purchase.

Few books give the fans an opportunity to have an input, and even fewer have paragraphs from the run of the mill Barnsley, Bradford or Nottingham Forest supporter. Again, Pettiford must be applauded for taking the road less travelled and is ultimately rewarded with some interesting and obscure football stories, from fans all over the British Isles.

After the wise words of Tom, Dick and Harry, each chapter closes with a 'Seasons Awards' and 'Crazy but True Facts and Statistics' section. These are often provided with a light-hearted sentiment and act as a somewhat interesting page filler.

One thing this book certainly is, is inclusive. Pettiford notes that after last season's promotions, for the first time ever more than 50% of the 92 clubs in the English Football League have played at least a season in the Premier League.

Certainly it's one of the more interesting statistics Pettiford provides, and to his credit he spends as much time on each one of these smaller clubs as he does with the giants. With that in mind, fans of the Man Uniteds and Chelseas should not expect a book littered with references to their sides.

In many ways this is a book for the neutral in football and with the unique aspect of calling on the voice of the fans, it becomes, while maybe not a best-seller, a worthwhile buy nonetheless.

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