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Hatters, Railwaymen, and Knitters by Daniel Gray (Review)

I had been waiting quite some time to read Daniel Gray’s Hatters, Railwaymen, and Knitters: Travels through England’s Football Provinces.  I have to say it was worth the wait and then some, considering it was one of our favorite books in recent memory.

It is a unique title, one that is part travel journal and part football commentary.  Think Anthony Bourdain meets Martin Tyler or the Travel Channel meets ESPN.  You get your footballing fix with some social history, geography, and great storytelling thrown in along the way.  It is really quite brilliant.

Gray rediscovers the beautiful game in England, not in London or Manchester, but rather in places like Carlisle and Newquay.  The game is not in the hands of multimillionaire footballers, but rather in the lives of ordinary fans.  He sees football being played in cities that time has forgot and in towns where industry has simply up and walked away.

Great legends like Joe Payne, who scored ten against Bristol Rovers, permeate the story like magic. These greats are paired with all kinds of quotables, all of which explain England’s love affair with the game.

My favorite line of the book talks about how the game gives the “hatters, railwaymen, and knitters a place to breathe and berate when Saturday came.”  That sounds to me like the reason why we all love football.  We can leave our troubles, our worries, and our everyday lives behind for a couple of hours to be part of something bigger: a club, a country, a global game.  That’s what this book is about.

I like to think of this book as a TV series with each chapter a lively episode in a larger journey.  The journey, which some may view as an early middle life crisis, is a satisfying one.  The author is wildly entertaining, someone you would want to watch a football game with.  His conversational style works well with any audience, but it seems especially suited for football fans and the like.

The book was pitched as a journey of discovery, the author looking for the heart of the beautiful game.  From what we can tell, he certainly found it.

Category: Reviews