by Paul Grech.
“Very slick but a bit soulless.”
Dave Roberts could easily be talking about modern football when he utters that phrase but he’s actually talking about one of its particular aspects: programmes.
For generations these were an integral part of the match-going experience; a way of getting a bit of a peak behind the curtains of your club as well as learning something about those whom you’re playing against. I don’t think it is at all possible for those who weren’t born when the internet was something you read about in sci-fi magazines to understand how little information there was and the important role programmes had in filling in that gap.
They were certainly important for Roberts, who religiously got a programme from any match he went to (and, judging by the evidence, he went to an awful lot of them). He took them with him to the other side of the world when he went to live in New Zealand but it was probably when he was faced with choosing his favoured 32 programmes due to another inter-continental move that he really had to think about what each one meant for him.
The result of all that is laid down in this book – conveniently titled 32 Programmes – that details not only the games in question but also what made them so important to him. Through this vehicle we get to see him as he grows up and slowly get to learn about his life. If we think back, any football fan tends to associate key moments in their life with what was going on in their team (I, for instance, got married on the day that Michael Owen scored a hat-trick against Manchester City. Or vice-versa.) so Roberts using programmes to go over his life is actually quite an intelligent (not to mention highly readable) trick.
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