Jane Stuart – Writer

Writer on beer, football culture and Blackpool FC.

Football Book Review #6: I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You by Greg Whitaker

Welcome to the sixth episode in my series of football book reviews. I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You by Greg Whitaker covers an 18-year period from 2001 supporting Hull City and England.

I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You charts the author’s addiction to football, which grabs him during his childhood and continues to this day.

Whitaker cutely summarises a number of things in this book – including the template for England’s exit from tournaments (including ‘an early goal to get fans’ hopes up’ and ending with ‘a penalty shootout defeat’) – and categorising football fans:

As a fellow football addict, I could empathise with much that Whitaker experiences in this book. This was definitely me for the most part of last season (and Nigel Worthington’s entire reign) following Blackpool:

I learned a lot about Hull City from this book. From how it feels when your club finds a new home – to why so many City fans are now boycotting the club in protest at the current ownership (a sadly all too familiar occurrence these days).

There are a lot of parallels with Blackpool in this book – from the unexpected and magical journey from the lower leagues to the Premier League…to the subsequent disillusionment which led to even the most ardent fans boycotting.

You know one of my favourite subjects is matchday food and Whitaker charts his hunt for a decent chippy following the relocation from Boothferry Park. I felt his pain.

I’ll certainly be looking out for the eventual winner, Viking Fisheries, on my next visit to Hull. I’ve just had a peek at their menu and there is no gravy – but anywhere with Spam and Chips on the menu deserves a visit.

I like the way Whitaker manages time, breaking down the 18-year period covered into smaller sections. Each chapter is then broken down to cover a specific match (or matches). The Hull City adventure is interspersed with memories of England heartbreak at major tournaments.

Much of the book is set in Whitaker’s childhood and I did find it a little concerting when he projects his 25-year-old self’s language onto his younger self. As I began to wonder why he wasn’t going to the pub before matches, I had to remind myself that he was a child. I wonder if the language could have been tweaked to better reflect the age of young Whitaker.

I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You is a good summary of the period and I enjoyed reading it – even the stories of England heartbreak. It is a relatively short book covering a lengthy period – and I would have liked more detail in parts, especially in terms of characters (fans, players and staff) as well as the experience of travelling to matches.

Whilst the book ends mid-boycott at Hull City, the fortunes of England are reviving. When you’re a football addict like us the (sometimes not so) beautiful game will always find a way. Where there’s football, there’s hope…

NEXT UP: The Miracle Of Castel Di Sangro by Joe McGinniss

Please do keep your football book recommendations coming!

Don’t forget you can also read about my awaydays with Blackpool from the 2019/20 season right here.

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