It seems only right that when we were approached to review a book with our name in its title (nothing to do with us, obviously, rather the Saturday night sports papers of yesteryear) that we would take up the offer. That could soÂ easily have led to disappointment though, especially given that Black Boots and Football Pinks was penned by Daniel Gray, one of our favourite scribes. Thankfully, our highÂ expectations were met and exceeded.
This mini-book, with itsÂ beautiful cover, delivers the football writing equivalent of theÂ most satisfyingÂ cup of hot chocolateÂ topped with marshmallows; thankfully without the sickly after tasteÂ that can leave you putting the cup down longÂ before you’re left with just the milky froth at the bottom.
On theÂ motivation for writingÂ the book, Gray sets his stall outÂ early: ‘sketching ghosts before they leave the room’ – it’s a lovely turn of phrase and just oneÂ example of the poetic flourish heÂ is so expert at employing.Â In 50Â bite size chapters, he meanders down memory lane dropping love lettersÂ to some of football’s lost quirks, collective experiences and personal reminiscences of aspects of the game that have either ceased completely or areÂ fading fastÂ before our very eyes.Â Gray knows his audience wellÂ and justÂ how to reel them in.
The title of the bookÂ gives away two of his chosen topics, and amongst the other 48 are more that likely speak to all of us over a certain ageÂ to some degree orÂ other: multiple cup replays, proper stadium names, kids playing in the street, and paper match tickets areÂ just a few given the Daniel Gray treatment.
HisÂ feels likeÂ a voice from another era, and not just the 80s and 90s where his football upbringing is grounded. HeÂ communicates in a wayÂ we just don’t associate with most modern football writing. It’s florid without being showy;Â faintlyÂ old-fashioned, like your Nana’s best doilies, but he effortlesslyÂ paints pictures that transport you to a place and time that you’ve been before – maybe a hundred times – but can barely reconstructÂ in the fog of memory.
However,Â before you think this bookÂ is just another vehicle designedÂ toÂ make you feelÂ sad for what is lost, Gray pulls off the magic trickÂ ofÂ adroitly reminding us why we fell in love with going toÂ football in the first place. It’s both clever and endearing.
In 25 years time, some millennialÂ will attempt to write a similar lament for the dying of the light on the football experiences they held so dear – tekkers, heat maps, TwitterÂ ‘numbers’ andÂ dodgy streamsÂ perhaps. If they can doÂ nostalgia anything like Daniel Gray can, even this middle-aged miserablist could be persuaded to buy it.