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Football Books: News and Reviews

Spitting in the Wind: An Alternative View of Newcastle United

Posted on January 16, 2012 by samh

Spitting in the Wind: An Alternative View of Newcastle United, by Billy FuriousSpitting in the Wind, the latest book by ranter extraordinaire Billy Furious, aka Kriss Knights, represents two decades of “crackpot ramblings” on Newcastle United.

As a collection of fanzine articles (some previously unpublished and others with updated comments added with the benefit of hindsight), it is a haphazard and outspoken volume. At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s just another one of those badly produced, badly written amateur books in dire need of a proofreader and editor. While some of this may be true, certainly with reference to the production (which Furious’s website admits is “irreverent, sweary, often drunk and lacking in a basic understanding of any punctuation that [isn’t] a exclamation mark”), don’t let that put you off – this Billy bloke has a way with words that had me hooked from the start, and I’m not even a Magpies fan.

“I live in Newcastle, I go to the match. I don’t drink brown ale down the Bigg Market on a Friday neet-oot. I’m not a racist, homophobe, sexist, or, worse, have Mark Knopfler’s Local Hero as the ringtone on my phone. I wouldn’t rather my team lost 4-3 than won 1-0, I don’t think Kevin Keegan is particularly God-like, I don’t think Alan Shearer is the Lord Jesus Christ himself…” I am going to like this book, I thought, on reading that.

One thing that particularly tickled me was the consistent spelling of “sunderland” with a lower-case “s”. At first, I thought that this was a punctuation error, something to be expected of a fanzine production. But when it appeared again, and again, I realised it was in fact an excellent putdown – much cleverer and more refreshing than simply asterisking the word out, or refusing to write it. A great way to convey disdain without resorting to cliché.

The style is very stream-of-consciousness, but the ranting is coherent, sharp and often highly amusing. It demonstrates that the lot of a football fan is largely one of despair and frustration, with the occasional high point. Obviously, as a non-Newcastle fan I enjoyed the general rants perhaps more than the club-specific ones – for example, Furious goes off on one about DIY more than once in the book, but still managing to link it to football. In “If you stop going to the match you might DIE!!!” he warns of the dangers that await on Saturday afternoons when you’ve not bothered to go to the game, and idle hands turn to the dreaded do-it-yourself and a whole manner of potential injuries. He’s got a point. He also talks a lot of sense about the hysteria that led to football matches being cancelled after the death of Diana in 1997, and offers an interesting perspective when he meets the New York City Mags on a trip to the US.

I also found myself saying “Yes! You’re dead right!” on reading “The 1980s were bollocks”, which attacks the rose-tinted view a lot of people seem to have adopted of this most depressing decade. “Kids, don’t be taken in by the lies,” Furious says. “All TV except Hill Street Blues and Dangermouse was fucking garbage and there was no such thing as Playstations. Being a football supporter meant you got treated like a leper with a chainsaw by the police and general public and we had to spend games peering through fences at shit footballers with skinny arms and big hair.”

The book has a “parental advisory: explicit content” warning on the front, and I wonder whether this is more to attract attention than to really warn youngsters (who hardly read at all nowadays). I reckon young people (well, ok, not small children) should be encouraged to read this book, as it might prevent some of them becoming herd-following knuckle-trailers in later life.

If you’re a Newcastle fan with a brain, then this book is certainly worth spending twelve quid on. Even if you’re not a Newcastle fan (but still have a brain), I would recommend it – it’s great to dip in and out of. I also think it would be good as an audiobook – I’m sure that hearing Furious’s rants spoken in a Geordie accent would make his voice even more distinctive.

For more information about Billy Furious and to buy the book, visit the Billy Furious website.

Review by Sam Hawcroft

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