Wednesday, 11 August 2010

#56 Jelleyman's Thrown a Wobbly, by Jeff Stelling (Harper Collins)

It's been a while. Sorry. Work. Moving swiftly on...

Football is a big part of my life, encompassing work and play. So Sky Sports' Soccer Saturday, that wonderfully addictive television show where 'people watch people watching football matches on television', hosted by the incomparable Jeff Stelling, is naturally a big part of that life. So it might come as a surprise that I didn't have high hopes for his book - Jelleyman's Thrown a Wobbly.

At its best, Soccer Saturday is a whirlwind of enthusiastic activity, football reporting, interviews, jokes, banter, mockery, opinions and controversy, capable of captivating television over the course of six hours, which fly by as a result. At its worst, it's a smug, blokey clicque laughing at their own jokes. Unfortunately, more of the latter than the former is present in the book.

That Soccer Saturday is much more difficult than it looks is undisputed, and the story of how the current format evolved (the history of the programme from when it covered Britain's Best Lady Driver as much as the football), and how the show is put together, makes for interesting stuff.

For those who don't know about the potential drinking games and the explanations behind the recurring jokes, I suppose there are some further passably entertaining sections, but I'm not so convinced by the parts of the book devoted to the other members of the panel.

I don't need to be constantly told that Paul Merson is always checking his weekend coupon when he's off screen, or Matt Le Tissier is constantly scoffing. The first time it's mildly amusing, the second time it simply seems unprofessional. It quickly gets boring and suggesting that the programme has ever set the football agenda, as it does when George Best is credited with starting the chorus of disapproval which greeted then England manager Glenn Hoddle's views on disabled people and led to his dismissal from the post, is stretching the truth, to say the least.

To Stelling's credit, he doesn't shy away from the odd criticism and occasional mild jab at various clubs and fans within the game, which is quite a rarity in these kind of books. But it's not enough to redeem a book which remains passably entertaining rather than a complete compendium of a phenomenen which remains incomprehensible to many people.

So, rating time:

#56 Jelleyman’s Thrown a Wobbly, by Jeff Stelling (Harper Collins) - 5/10

Next up: Shame the Devil, by George Pelecanos (Indigo)

  • Click here for the full list of books so far, and their rating
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