BY MARK GODFREY
Several of The Football Pink contributors have recently become fully fledged book authors (watch this space for more upcoming reviews) so, with my recent holiday freeing up some much-needed reading time, I packed a copy of Ian Cusack’s (TFP issues 4 and 5) Village Voice – The story of Percy Main Amateurs 2009/10 season into the suitcase next to my flip-flops, sunscreen and garish swimming shorts.
It’s fair to assume that the overwhelming majority of you reading this won’t know where the hell Percy Main is or, indeed, what a Percy Main might be. No, it’s not the name of a mythical wizard cooked up to rival the tales of Harry Potter; in fact it’s a small village on North Tyneside – on the periphery of North Shields – that grew up in the early 19th century around the colliery of the same name. And just like the hundreds of other estates and towns of a similar ilk, sport, and particularly the working class escape of football, played a huge role in the development and growth of such communities.
Cusack’s book is a detailed account of the amateur club’s dramatic and ultimately rewarding 2009/10 season in the Northern Alliance Division 1 and the various bizarrely-monikered Cup competitions in and around Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland and Country Durham (the Northern Alliance Pin Point Recruitment Combination Cup being one such example).
The book begins with the writer laying out his own story of how his disillusionment with his lifelong love – Newcastle United – had persuaded him to turn his back on the glitzy razzamatazz and overpriced hype of the Premier League (or Championship for NUFC in this particular campaign following relegation in 2009) for involvement in locally-based football in the North East of England; often referred to as the hottest of the game’s hotbeds, from Sunday league to St.James’ Park.
Ian takes us on a chronological odyssey through the team’s season and the happenings both on and off the field giving an insight specifically into the life of the thousands of hardy souls who volunteer their time and hard work to maintain amateur and non-league clubs up and down the land – often for little reward or praise.
We get the usual tales of agricultural pitches, dubious standards of officiating and meddlesome governing bodies as well as many of the trials and tribulations of the men and women who keep the club maintained and afloat (Ian being of them). We also get to know many of the players through Ian’s insight into their real world problems (one dropped off the radar due to courting a young lady in Scotland) and their exploits on the pitch; which, the book is perhaps a little bit heavy on for my tastes but act as comprehensive summaries for each fixture Percy Main played throughout the season.
Things bubble along nicely through the 180+ pages until the campaign’s gripping final weeks when the team’s hard work and countless comebacks could all amount to nothing as promotion to the Northern Alliance Premier Division hangs in the balance right ’til the end.
Being a long time resident of the North East and an ex-player in the region’s amateur ranks, both the places and scenarios mentioned in the book are familiar. But whether you live by the Tyne, the Thames or the Tay, football at the humblest of grassroots will throw up these tales of running a football club against the odds.
Village Voice is a charming book, reading more like a collection of entertaining monthly club website blog entries than any heavyweight literary goliath. But with Cusack’s attention to the minutiae and an apparent edge to his personality that comes through just enough in his writing, you’ll want to stick with Ian and Percy Main right to the end.
Village Voice is available in paperback for £2 (inc. P+P) via Paypal by paying account firstname.lastname@example.org