Book Review: Family Life, Death and Football by Michael Calvin

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Millwall's bench on their visit to Tolka Park to play Shels in 2012 Credit: Jason O'Callaghan

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Millwall is a club that has been in the headlines of late owing to the fact that Lewisham Borough Council are attempting to sell the land surrounding the stadium to a local property developer.

 

Back in the summer of 2009, journalist Michael Calvin approached the then Millwall manager Kenny Jackett asking permission to cover the club with a view to creating a book.

 

This project became ‘Family Life, Death and Football: A year on the frontline with a proper club’ and the book swept the boards when it came to the awards at the end of the year. After reading it following a recommendation from a college friend it is easy to see why.

 

The experienced journalist and writer wanted it to be a ‘warts and all’ story and this book covers the season expertly showing everything from the riots before a league cup game between West Ham United and Millwall in Upton Park, right up the dressing room atmosphere before the team ran out on to the field at Wembley to play a playoff final against Swindon Town.

 

Jackett, who lasted just 39 days recently as manager of hapless Rotherham United in the Championship, plays a central role in the book. The manager typifies the Millwall attitude of the world against them and revels in the underdog role.

 

Jackett gives Calvin unrivalled access to the team during the season with everything from transfer targets to player’s wages being shown and discussed in the book.

 

Reading it a few years after the publication date, it is interesting to see how some players have progressed with their careers; George Friend is one in particular who stands out as he struggled to cope with League One with Millwall yet now thrives with Middlesbrough FC.

 

The players are very honest in their interaction with Calvin and this helps many of them to shine in particular Neil ‘Chopper’ Harris whose interaction with fans is a highlight of the book and shows that footballers are human and not just divas as sections of the media would make you think on a daily basis.

 

After reading this book, I would put it up there with the books like Miracles of Castel Di Sangro and Fever Pitch with regard to how the club is shown. This is a story that a non-sports fan would like as they learn about a community and how they go about their daily lives, with the football almost becoming a sideshow in the background.

 

Pick this up, it is available online in any major book shop, and you won’t regret it.

 

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/iconbooks">@iconbooks</a> RT <a href="https://twitter.com/MrZampa7">@MrZampa7</a> Just got my copies of Family, Life, Death and Football. A year on the frontline with <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Millwall?src=hash">#Millwall</a> <a href="http://t.co/ZzAYLRJn">pic.twitter.com/ZzAYLRJn</a></p>&mdash; Michael Calvin (@CalvinBook) <a href="https://twitter.com/CalvinBook/status/156755170074701824">January 10, 2012</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>