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32 Programmes

Rating:

William Shakespeare once wrote: Parting is such sweet sorrow. But if you are an obsessive football fan then dragging yourself away from anything connected with your team has nothing sweet about it. This is the position that author Dave Roberts finds himself in as he is moving to the USA and must whittle his precious programme collection down to 32, from 1,134.

• The Bromley Boys - By Dave Roberts

32 Programmes is the story of the ones that made the cut, what meaning each one has to Roberts and how it came to be that they were elevated to the position of 'most important' among his personal possessions.

Roberts' ability to make the game of football come alive through a fan's eyes is what makes the book such an enjoyable read. Even if you have little knowledge of the sport, he transports you back to a time when passion was the foremost attribute for a player and things like diving and alice bands were not tolerated. It's an easy narrative to follow.

The humorous anecdotes that permeate his writing tie Roberts inexorably to the book (and by association the programmes). From teenage heartbreak, to road trips, playground politics and young love, the stories that he evokes pull at the heartstrings and conjure up images of a happier time for him when all that mattered was what eleven blokes were doing on a patch of grass.

With each chapter given to describing a particular programme in chronological order, we are taken on a journey through Roberts' life. From Fulham v Man Utd in 1964, through England v West Germany in 1966 (not that one), to continual forays back to his first love, Bromley FC, this is the story of how a man can come to be a part of the game of football.

Anyone who has been to a game will sympathise with his woes - such as hitchhiking in the rain to Southampton to see his idol George Best play for Fulham, only for him to arrive late and catch him walking down the tunnel - and revel in his joys - like the trek to Denis Law's house that resulted in a signed programme.

But while all may seem rosy under the view of his football-tinted glasses, the sudden twist at the end sees Roberts faced with one of the toughest decisions in his life. His love for football will be tested by events out of his control, but ultimately, it goes to show the power the sport can have.

• You can buy 32 Programmes from here

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