Daniel Gray is the Anthony Bourdain of football writers, someone who is capable of mixing travel and sport in a truly fascinating way. His Hatters, Railwaymen and Knitters: Travels through England’s Football Provinces was widely acclaimed by ISN and just about everyone else.
Saturday, 3 PM: 50 Eternal Delights of Modern Football is Gray’s latest offering and one we eagerly waited months for. It was well worth the wait as they say, a truly enjoyable read that restores hope and trust in the beautiful game. Yes, football is a game that is now plagued by a FIFA corruption scandal, millionaire footballers, and billionaire owners. Yet Gray uncovers 50 reasons why we still love the game so much.
Gray’s words are pure poetry, football literature at its best. Our favorite line was “Being a football fan entitles us to a temporary, recurring retreat, a short holiday from real existence.” That’s exactly what football’s purpose is and exactly what this book does. It’s a retreat from TV deals, global sponsorship agreements, massive transfer fees, unscrupulous agents. It’s a return to what we love about the game, what actually happens on the pitch and in the stadium.
Gray refers to football to many things, but we loved the comparison to “a warm blanket.” We certainly agree that football is “our refuge from anything wretched, vicious reality hurls at us.” Simply put, reality can absolutely suck sometimes, but we have a release, a way to get away.
Football lives on through war, tragedy, terrorism, revolution, and even commercialism. It’s a beautiful thing, a beautiful game for the world to enjoy. It’s everlasting and always dependable; it’s always there.
We see this text as a recollection of simple pleasures associated with the sport and Gray once again hits a home run (or scores a hat trick) with his writing. It is worth a read, maybe ten. When you get bogged down by the modern game, pull this book out and reconnect with the game we all adore. Kudos to Gray and Bloomsbury Publishing for providing the football community with this gem!