Book Review - How To Run A Football Club: The Story Of Our National Game

Jim Keoghan's insightful read comes just when football needs it most
11:00, 28 Sep 2020

With an extended lockdown threatening the existence of a substantial portion of the United Kingdom’s football institutions across the divisions, there isn’t a better time to read Jim Keoghan’s book ‘How to Run a Football Club: The Story of our National Game’.

More than any other country on the planet, England can take pride in the heritage and depth of its football pyramid. Way beyond the 20 elite teams of the Premier League and 72 teams of the Football League, the English footballing system alone is an interconnected network of more than 480 divisions, with over 40,000 clubs, of course with varying degrees of support.

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Every single one of us has no doubt had a conversation about the audacity and ridiculousness of the primadonna Premier League player’s wages, and as much as many may not want to admit it, money is as intrinsic to the conversation as debating which is better between 4-4-2 or 4-3-3. The TV deal to cover the top division has now reached a brobdingnagian £9bn, whilst clubs just several tiers down scramble for the scraps.

In ‘How To Run A Football Club: The Story Of Our National Game’, writer Keoghan, also a junior football coach, swiftly and solidly allows the reader to go full Lepsius and rediscover this wonderful pyramid, whose many levels are being continuously rocked. This book is the story of our national game and duly goes from grassroots to the global stage. Told through a journey up the pyramid, from the muddy pitches and ramshackle changing rooms at the lowest levels, to the glitz and glamour of the Premier League, the book explores that common theme that links the game at all levels - the simple love of the sport.

It is a particularly profound read in a year of turmoil away from the pandemic, in the shadow of the Bury FC tragedy, the precariousness of Bolton Wanderers, and only recently the demise of Macclesfield Town. Keoghan provides similarly heartbreaking revisitations to such injustices as the story of Charlton Athletic’s women’s team, which was as strong as the men’s team were lacklustre, but were hit with a series of debilitating cuts when sponsorship dried up. There’s also positivity and hopefulness in the accounts of Andy Holt at Accrington Stanley, and Sean Dyche’s Burnley.

Author and beautiful game devotee Jim Keoghan has been developing a solid reputation with his previous publications, including ‘Punk Football: The Rise of Fan Ownership in English Football’; ‘Highs, Lows and Bakayokos: Everton in the 90s’. His latest offering certainly benefits that burgeoning standing of the writer, and is a must-read for the everyman football fan, and hopefully the Football Association in order to keep this football pyramid, truly one of the wonders of the sporting world, intact and attractive.

‘How To Run A Football Club: The Story Of Our National Game’ , Jim Keoghan, Pitch Publishing, RRP: £12.99