Programmed to entertain

The market in self-centred memoirs penned by obsessive football fans has veered close to saturation point more than once since Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch unleashed the genre’s potential in 1992.

Naturally, it takes a special writer to stand out from the crowd and for that reason a new work from Dave Roberts, author of The Bromley Boys, is worth noting.

Roberts, a former advertising copywriter, won wide acclaim for managing to capture how it feels to support a less-than-successful non-League club in his account of Bromley FC’s desperate times in the Isthmian League of 1969-70.

Remembering in admirable detail how football (plus life, the universe and everything, of course…) looked through the eyes of a 14-year-old boy, Roberts revealed a talent for self-deprecating humour that impressed reviewers for The Guardian, The Independent and When Saturday Comes among others and saw Roberts proudly cover-to-cover with such luminary fan-writers as Tim Parks and Harry Pearson on book shop shelves.

He is following up now with 32 Programmes, the title of which is unashamedly inspired by Hornby’s similarly-autobiographical 31 Songs.

Due out in August next year, 32 Programmes, in the author’s own words, describes how a collection of 1,134 football programmes had to be whittled down to “whatever would fit inside a Tupperware container the size of a Dan Brown hardback” when Roberts and his wife, Liz, moved from New Zealand to Connecticut in the United States.

The book tells a story behind each of the 32 chosen, which range from an FA Cup qualifying round game between Bromley and the Civil Service to Argentina meeting Peru in a World Cup quarter-final.

As with The Bromley Boys, Roberts takes the platform of 32 Programmes to indulge in a nostalgic look back towards the simplicity of his youth in the 1960s and 70s, when he was obsessed with football, meandered through a succession of menial jobs and was generally unlucky in love.

32 Programmes is to be published by Transworld after sports editor Giles Elliott bought world English language rights from agent Kate Hordern.

Elliott said publishing the work would be “an absolute honour and pleasure.”

He added: “Dave is the fan’s fan, as obsessive as they come, and a wonderful writer. It’s a brilliant concept for a book, and beautifully delivered.”

Click here to buy The Bromley Boys: The True Story of Supporting the Worst Football Team in Britain, published by Portico or read reviews from The Guardian and When Saturday Comes.

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