Often Partisan

Book Review: The Element in Football Violence.

“What the hell were we doing in Peterborough. It had no reputation, had never bothered us at our place, but here we were.”

Russell Leond’s book “The Element in Football Violence” is a fan’s eye view from the sharp end of football violence, to coin a phrase. It talks about the crews and firms that populated the terraces in the seventies and eighties, and the scraps and skirmishes that they got into.

I have to make a confession first up. I absolutely detest hooliganism in all it’s forms, and as such I struggle to see the fascination with it. I came from a family that didn’t like football (well, barring a grandfather who supports the Villa but we don’t talk about him), and as such it was hard enough to persuade people to take me to the match. After the Leeds riot in 1985 I had no chance whatsoever – my dad was never going to expose his son to that kind of stuff.

And as such, I found it difficult to get into this book, because of my lack of interest in which firm took on which firm where, who stood and who ran – it means nothing to me. However, Leond is an honest writer, and it’s not really a glorification of the violence that marred football in those dark times but more an honest and open account of what happened. I get the impression that Leond is a bit rueful of his past; not regretting what he did, but more thinking of how it affected him as a person and there is a bit of introspection about how the violence of the terraces affected him.

I don’t think it helped that the typeface isn’t the best; because it’s written as an honest and open account by a fan rather than a pro writer, it’s written as an ordinary guy would see it – ie much longer paragraphs, and I struggled a bit with the walls of text that seemed to fill up each page without space to take a breath. It was almost as if James Joyce had stopped writing Ulyssees, picked up a pool cue, swigged a pint and gone out with the Blues fans for a few months. I found it easier to read in bite-size chunks, five minutes here and there whilst sitting on the loo for instance, and as I read I did feel I got a proper idea of what life was like back then.

I think after reading the book my views towards the casuals and whatnot has softened slightly; I’ve been to enough games now that I can understand why people get so het up about things and I can certainly empathise with the whole tribal brotherhood thing that Leond talks about. I think (I’m too young to remember) that times were different back then, and there wasn’t so many avenues for the angry young male to take out their aggression, and I can kind of see how someone like Leond would have gotten into the whole football violence thing – it was just something that happened rather than any innate badness.

At just over 150 pages it’s not the longest of books, and I think certainly for fans of a certain age it would certainly be something they might enjoy, to reminisce of times when football wasn’t about Sky TV, players roasting wannabe WAGs and money. I feel guilty I couldn’t get into it so much, and I’m certainly going to keep re-reading it to fill the gaps in my own football education. If you would like to buy the book, click the link at the top of the article and it will direct you straight to the publisher’s website.

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7 Responses to “Book Review: The Element in Football Violence.”

  • Peter says:

    you make a good point, but back then it was necessary to stand against being pigeon holed. The law came into the arena not to stop the violence, per se, but to ensure it was contained. You could see the law vying for a fight, and sometimes they got it too. Sometimes, both sides came together to fix a more rancid wrong! Those who stood along the Kop refused to budge for the likes of Chelsea, WestHam, Leeds or whoever came along, including the law attempting to clear us all out, when all we wanted to do was watch the match!

  • alan harrison says:

    The village mentality that flows in the blood that runs through our veins will always remain, we have just had to change the way we feel and react to opposition fans invading our patch. It is the same with all sports except football was always regarded as the sport of the working classes. How else were you to expend your excess energy and frustrations other than on the terraces. I have witnessed and participated in some regretful events in my younger years particularly late sixties and seventies supporting Blues,home and away.
    As a species we are territorial and human nature and survival means we tend to react sometimes without thinking for protection. It has always amazed me and always will, how gentle, careing (predominantly male but not excluding females) people suddenly develop split personalities once they step inside the areana.
    I would never condone violence but can understand how frustration impacts different people in different ways.
    I thoroughly enjoy your articles Almijir and OP is my first point of call every day looking for any news about our beloved BCFC. Long may you reign. KRO

    • almajir says:

      Thanks, I appeciate that Alan.

      And I think you’re right. Looking from a dispassionate point of view, it’s strange how 22 guys kicking round a ball can cause so much grief, but until you’re a fan and you’ve been in the situations you can’t understand why it happens I think.

  • alan harrison says:

    It is a simple game and by and large we are simple people. So why does it all seem so bloody complicated.
    We just want to be entertained and receive value for our hard earned money.

  • Barry says:

    Could never get into the football violence in the 70’s and 80’s. It had nothing to do with the game and still hasn’t. It’s just another form of gang culture where young (predominantly males) need to feel they belong to something and haves purpose. Sad and pathetic.

  • Barry, I think you’ve missed the point. Wrong it may well be, but sad and pathetic it is only to folks like you (and me, actually!) who never saw the reason or the underlying issues (I was only born in the 70s thankfully). The book (I’ve read it) looks into the reasons behind the violence, and it wasn’t always a wish to belong. Some kids got dragged into it by aggressors picking on them. Wrong time, wrong place. The police didn’t defend them, so they had to defend themselves. This led to retaliation, etc.

  • Bluenosesol says:

    I could tolerate a 100 70’s hooligans in comparison to some of the mindless, banal chanting, spliff smoking morons who infect the experience of the average away matches today. My presence at away games is somewhat restricted as I no longer enjoy the experience and it is nothing to do with performance on the pitch!

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