The Naughty Nineties: Football's Coming Home (Mainstream sport)

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9781840181913: The Naughty Nineties: Football's Coming Home (Mainstream sport)
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The Naughty Nineties Martin King finds that although football hooligans are now a minority their maturity, experience and dedication are higher than ever. The style and character of the mobs has changed, the firms are smaller, more dangerous and highly organised. The soccer thug may have been locked out of the stadium, but he's pacing the waste ground outside. Full description

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Review:

One of the ironies of football in the 90s is that as hooliganism has apparently withered, helping to pave the way for the game's economic boom, books about it have been as lucrative and successful as Manchester United.

In recent years ex-hooligans have cashed in with numerous tomes, generally recounting with some nostalgia the riots and rucks of the 70s and 80s.

Martin King, one of Chelsea's violent devotees for 20 years, has already followed in the footsteps of Colin Ward and the Brimson brothers with one bestseller recalling his vicious past, Hoolifan.

In The Naughty Nineties he is re-united with co-writer and fellow Chelsea fan Martin Knight for more recollections of warring mobs, smashed-up pubs and mobile rucks on the London Underground.

Despite its title, many of the recollections date from before the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 fans died, and the revolution in policing and stadia safety which it ushered in.

In fact, it's often hard pinpoint any firm date for most of the tales King tells as he avoids specifics, even specific seasons, in favour of glass-smashing, punch-throwing, often blood-flowing action.

For anyone who has read any of the similar hooligan diaries, the style will be familiar: chapters about fights with "crews" from various other clubs, told in often explicit detail and extreme language.

King deploys a well-trodden defence of hooliganism: that the "crews" only confronted other willing pugilists. But he also reveals the reality in several episodes in which innocent fans and bystanders became victims.

His other sporadic attempts at analysing or explaining hooliganism are sometimes equally contradictory--for example he both blames the media for exaggerating the extent of hooliganism and also deliberately underestimating it.

But no-one has ever bought a book by an ex-hooligan for its thoughtful insight. Instead the public relies on the likes of King, and his former partners-in-crime, to report from the frontline of a phenomenon which has been, to a large extent, at least driven away from the sport and its stadia. And on those terms at least King can claim another result. --Nick Varley

Synopsis:

Football has reinvented itself. As television money has poured into the game, the traditional working class fans have poured out. Not by choice but by economic necessity. Their places on the terraces have been replaced by posh seats and those in charge of the game are especially proud that, according to them, the football hooligan has at last been eliminated from the landscape. But how true is this much-vaunted theory? Martin King, author of "Hoolifan", his account of 30 years of being in and around the notorious Chelsea gangs of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, brings his story up-to-date in this book. Ironically, he finds that although football hooligans are now a minority, their maturity, experience and dedication are higher than ever. The firms are smaller but far more dangerous. The style and character of the mobs have changed as has the author, who finds himself evolving from participant to observer as the decade wears on. Despite the picture painted by the media of soccer violence in previous decades, only in the 1990s is it truly highly organized.

Most of the confrontations occur away from stadiums, sometimes on days when no matches are being played, so King questions whether "football hooliganism" is in fact the correct description for such activity.

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