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The Glory Game, by Hunter Davies

Posted on August 22, 2011 by samh

The Glory Game, by Hunter Davies (1972)

This fly-on-the-wall book about a season in the life of Tottenham Hotspur is widely regarded as a contemporary classic in football literature.

Davies is meticulously observant and unbiased, and his research is impeccable. He shows the same qualities which brought acclaim for his biographies of people as diverse as The Beatles and William Wordsworth. He does not just follow the players – such as Ralph Coates, Alan Mullery and Martin Chivers; but also the travelling hooligans on the ‘Skinhead Special'; the manager Bill Nicholson; the club’s directors; and the fans.


The climax of the book is fittingly reached at the end of the 1971-2 season when Spurs beat Wolves to win the European Cup (the book would have been very different had their season merely tailed off into mediocrity). However, Davies questions the nature of glory throughout; the book does not end in a blaze of celebration and excitement. Davies follows Nicholson’s caution, saying that “Spurs had achieved glory without being particularly glorious”, and ends with the thought that these idolised men would only have been factory workers or builders but, “Thanks to football, they’re special”.Davies is fairly detached, leaving most of his thoughts for the closing summary. Most of the time, he lets his ‘characters’ speak for themselves, letting us decide for ourselves. One skinhead, for example, says that Ipswich is his favourite place, because there’s “More c**t…We always stay the night there and chase their birds”. Similarly, Nicholson’s views about women in the game and some of the players’ inherent racism are barely commented on. One wonders, though, if Davies was to write such a book again in these politically correct times, whether he would be forced to comment.

The Glory Game has stood the test of time admirably; it is still hard to believe a journalist was allowed such freedom behind the scenes. Twenty-seven years have not made any of the revelations redundant; football is still close-lipped about such things as sweeteners (cars, money, etc.) being given to the parents of talented youngsters to induce them to sign for a particular club. The Glory Game does much more than merely satisfy insatiable curiosity; it is an important social document on Britain in the 1970s. The fact that hardly any of the players, outside of their skills on the pitch, are individual, intelligent or even very likeable, prove Davies’ point about the unreal rise to stardom for average people with average attitudes.

Buy this book from Amazon

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