SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER PITCH
The Magic and Madness of Football Style
By Simon Doonan
(£19.99 Laurence King Publishing)
I admit that my interest in football is marginal. In a moment of patriotic fervour I watched the England-Tunisia game, which didn’t really up my enthusiasm… So, although the title ‘Saturday Night Fever’ piqued my interest, I decided to hand-over this book review to Tester John, who’s been known to watch a game or two and also enjoys schmutter.
But then… I got the chance to meet the (charming, dryly witty) NY-domiciled British author, Simon Doonan, so naturally I felt that I too should delve into its pages. Well, I’m so glad I did. From now on I shall be watching the rest of the World Cup from an entirely different perspective. Previously I had players down as just one homogenous mob, but I now know better.
As Doonan explains there are actually five style tribes: Good Taste Ambassadors (like Thierry Henry, Steven Gerrard); Label Kings, happy to splurge on Louis Vuitton, Gucci and the like (think Ronaldo, Dupay, Ramos…); Psychedelic Ninjas (Cissé, Meireles) who push the boundaries of convention; the super-butch Hired Assassins (Boltelli, Fabregas, Alonso) who are “lean, mean, scrappy, edgy and scream ‘rough trade’” and finally Bohemians and Fauxhemians, epitomized by the likes of Japanese hipster Nakata and neo-mod Leighton Baines. I love the fact that Sir Alf had a strong aversion to hippies and fops, who he saw as “the kind of blokes who might infect the team with nasty habits and ‘alternative’ ideas”.
Football obsessive (thanks to a combo of his local team Reading and George Best – “the greatest, handsomest, most spiffily attired and most legendary footballing hero of all time”), Doonan casts his gimlet eye across the whole of the beautiful game, taking in past Kings of Style like Hudson, Summerbee, Cryff, Pele, Stiles, Ginola, Beckham….; hairdos, inking, car porn, bosses, wags and fans. “Where others see reasons for mockery – a swishy sarong, a bleached mohawk, a camo-painted Bentley – I see mysterious self-disclosure, creativity, swagger and style” he explains in his intro. Ooh, me too now.
So, that’s my review of this must-read book; here’s what the proper football fan thought:
Saturday Night Fever Pitch is certainly a title of two halves – but on the other hand it does consistently deliver on both.
Featuring players, managers, WAGS and fans, and going back as far as even the older readers are likely to remember, it highlights the clothes, the hair styles and cars that at the time were seen to be cutting edge but now perhaps for some a little less so. Look at the picture of Manchester City star Mike Summerbee in 1967 putting a vinyl record into the dash of his Volvo and wonder why the Gadget Show wasn’t about then to make you dream of having such a device too!
Simon Doonan’s book is one you will not want to put down. Leaf through it and it will lead you on a nostalgic journey to times a lot of football fans will have forgotten and some might even be embarrassed to have been part of.
My only negative thought is the referees don’t seem to get a look in – there was a time when even they were ‘fashionable’ characters in their own right. Roger Kirkpatrick’s Dickensian mutton chops or the ‘Peter Wyngarde’ look of Gordon Hill ring any bells? Perhaps Mr Doonan might want to consider VAR on that decision?