Book Review - Above Head Height: A Five-A-Side Life

A memoir on the role of the beautiful game in the lives of its many practitioners
14:06, 06 Dec 2019

This book sprang from a newspaper article that former magazine editor James Brown wrote on the occasion of the death of a five-a-side teammate.

At the funeral, he realised he didn’t even know most of his side’s surnames, let alone any details of their off-pitch existence, yet had shared regular playing time with several of them for decades.

The book is, therefore, a memoir and meditation on the role of the game in the lives of its many and varied practitioners, especially his own.

For those expecting a bloke-ish Match of the Day highlight reel, leave the room now because this is a surprisingly introspective account of how the game helps with the “howling gale of distraction that makes up my head,” (an agony aunt tells him he has “the Bipolar Starter Pack Entry Level 1”) and especially how nothing quite measures up to the existential perfection of playing football as a kid.

Above Head Height by James Brown. Quercus, £8.99