The Offside Book Review – Football Hooliganism under the spotlight in The Crew

By Paul Dargan.

In a new feature on the site, we review some of the latest football books to hit the shelves. This week, Paul Dargan focuses on Dougie Brimson’s award-winning novel, The Crew. Recently, the book was reissued in print. 

The Crew by Dougie Brimson (Caffeine Nights Publishing)

Not normally a fan of football hooliganism, fact or fiction, The Crew was a refreshingly good read. Written by Dougie Brimson, a man with 18 years of RAF service, along with his brother Eddy, it is the story of one man’s desperation to catch another, with the subplot of a Brummie caught up in the mire surrounding the main plot. The catchee is Billy Evans, a long-time football hooligan from the East End of London, who by day is a car salesman who likes a good scrap at a football match, but has since toned down his attendance at matches altogether – something that’s not gone unnoticed by wannabe successors to his role as kingpin of the hooligan underworld.

In pursuit of Evans, is Detective Inspector Paul Jarvis of the National Football Intelligence Unit (NFIU). He is eager to detain Evans not just for the stuff he knows he gets up to at football grounds around the UK and Europe, but also because he suspects him in the case of a murdered colleague, who attempted to go undercover in order to infiltrate the hooligan scene. Jarvis has to try and prove this, not only to himself but also to his superiors, in order to stick Evans away for a very long time. But it’s not as easy as that.

The main obstacle in the way of Jarvis and his men is Evans himself, who is more than able to laugh off the ‘wild allegations,’ with the full support of his brief.

I was (maybe dismissively) half-expecting violence, racism and bigotry coupled with characters who would appeal to fans of books about factual gangsters, hooligans, thugs and all of nature’s dark side. These themes are obviously important components of the story, but all-in-all, they are not all of thr ingredients and this results in a clever entry to the field of football writing.

Brimson captures the emotions in both sides of good and evil very well and gives valid reasons for rooting for a character who may not be the person you thought, when their life is laid bare for all to see. Collateral damage ensues and the frustrations that real-life police cases are full of, are also depicted in good order here.

An enjoyable read and one that should stand the test of time.

3.5-stars

Currently reading: The Dark Side of Jose Mourinho by Diego Torres (translated by Pete Jenson)

Reviews coming soon: Andre Pirlo: I think therefore I play

Got a book you’d like us to review? Get in touch by leaving a comment below or getting in touch with Paul directly!

Follow @dejonefc

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