Book Review: 43 years with the same bird

Earlier this month Tim was pondering which football related books to request for Christmas. There were some impressive books available for Liverpool fans this Christmas. Here Tim gives us a review of the one which he received, thanks to recommendations from our visitors…

“Probably the best footie book I’ve ever read…”

I have said before that you are taking a chance when you decide to buy a sports book. You are pretty certain that roads will be listed in an atlas and recipes will be in a cookery book, but you just do not know what you are going to get, when you buy a book from the book shop shelves that are interestingly called ‘œSports and Other Pastimes.’

Sometimes, what you hope would be a decent football read will turn into nothing more than pictures and words for ‘˜loo’ reading or something to brighten up your coffee table to tell your visitors that you dabble in the literary world.

I missed out on the Jamie Carragher book this Christmas, but I have got stuck into Brian Reade’s 43 Years with the Same Bird: A Liverpudlian Love Affair during this festive season. It has been the perfect diversion from the excess food and drink, as well as the rubbish festive TV. This book is not only in the ‘˜decent’ read’ category but it is probably the best football book that I have ever read.

I appreciate that this book has been available for a while, but it has already had a profound effect on what I think about Liverpool football club, being a Liverpool fan and Liverpool as a city. This book helped to explain some of those momentous events that have defined this football club. It is essential reading for any football fan whether they follow the reds or not.

Purchase 43 years with the same bird here.

When I want to read about Liverpool Football Club, I want to know more than just a list of scores and the number of trophies. You can not breathe in the emotion of the Kop through a series of sterile graphs and charts that you would see in the A and E wing of your local hospital.

Stats are a nice way to impress your friends during a pub quiz. Do we really need to know that Liverpool had 49.5% of the possession during the recent game versus Newcastle, or will we remember the commanding performance of Steven Gerrard and that Newcastle should be thankful to Shay Given that they did not loose 12-1?

Brian Reade’s book is more than a list of pointless stats. It is a journey through nearly half a century of supporting Liverpool. This ‘˜journey’ is more than one of those annoying celebrity ‘˜journeys’ to an X Factor Christmas number one, or becoming a Strictly Come Dancing champion.

Supporting Liverpool has been an intensely emotional experience, and Reade’s book debunked the myth that every single week brought victories, cups and plaudits.

I could easily relate to the material. After reading the passage about meeting Emlyn Hughes over the gates at Melwood, I recognised how I turn into a starry-eyed gushing fan as soon as I am in conversation with footballers.

I winced in embarrassment, when Bill Shankly gave a school newspaper article to Reade and his schoolmate. The description of one of Liverpool’s greatest managers (and some people could say the greatest manager) struggling to leave his beloved Melwood was heartbreaking. The interview between journalist Reade and Bob Paisley was difficult reading but utterly compelling too.

Author Brian Reade is currently a feature writer for The Mirror newspaper.

I felt as if I was on that train from Lime Street to the 1984 European Cup Final and rammed into one of those carriages, which stank with stale alcohol, body odour and hysterical expectation. Having gone on football expeditions with mates down the years, I could relate to Reade’s missions around the UK and the world. I wanted to be on the kop during the 1977 European Cup in my flared trousers, flowery shirts, platform shoes and flowing seventies locks that would make me look like a one-man Mud tribute act.

Liverpool Football Club began to enter my consciousness when I was six and I was pleased to see a whole chapter dedicated to the 1986 FA Cup Final. I can still remember wondering why the name of Ian Rush was mentioned every couple of seconds during the game, and adjusting my parent’s PYE TV with the hope that the grainy black and white picture could improve.

The book was written with a human touch. The events at Hillsborough in 1989 sent me to tears, and it was pleasing to hear Reade talk honestly about the barren years of Souness and Roy Evans in the 1990s. This part of the book was more than one of those celebratory DVDs, which always show the great goals but not the goal line howlers or the dreary 0-0s on a freezing Tuesday night in February.

This book is not a collection of newspaper headlines, or a colour supplement of hype and hysteria. It debunks a few myths that may have developed over the years, and transports you to some of the most memorable sporting moments associated with this proud club over the last forty plus years.

This book made my Christmas, and I hope that I strike gold again with my next book in 2009.