Book Review: Hatters, Railwaymen and Knitters

Daniel Gray celebrates his thirtieth birthday by touring England’s footballing hinterland and has-been post-industrial giants. The result is a wonderfully witty tome that will strike a chord for any fans of smaller clubs, and maybe even some of the big ones…

 

Just what is ‘England’, where can it be found and who defines it? This is one of the things Daniel Gray sets off to find out in Hatters, Railwaymen and Knitters.

 

Living in Edinburgh, the writer is bombarded with a unified vision of Scotland, Scottishness and the independence debate. As a native of Middlesbrough he sets out to head south and discover England through football. [Continues]

 

Tunbridge Wells FC

 

But he doesn’t head to the glamour cities – your Londons, Liverpools or Manchesters – he heads to the heart of industrial decline (Middlesbrough, Sheffield, Burnley, Bradford), London satellite towns (Luton, Watford) and even some more rural settings (Hinckley, Newquay).

 

It’s quite a journey. So many different ‘Englands’, and not even just north-and-south and the middle ground in-between.

 

Gray infuses a keen wit throughout and his analogies are bang on – such as his comparison of Watford Junction station to a stack of Bourbon biscuits. [Continues]

 

 

The scene for each location is set with a keen sociological and economic history of that town, and the context to which the local football clubs fit in: the heroes, the villains, the ups and the downs.

 

Local characters from old punters to over-zealous stewards are described in wonderful Technicolor clarity, as if you’re sat with Gray watching the same match, the same bobbing heads, the same venomous tongues.

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In Hatters, Railwaymen and Knitters, Gray has achieved something of a tour de force. This is a book that can sit comfortably with some of the leading titles in modern football travel writing.

 

Read it. What more can I say?

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