My Father and other Working-Class Football Heroes – By Gary Imlach

This beautifully tender book looks back on the changing world on football from the mid twentieth century game of the people to the bloated, money obsesed world that was ushered in with the arrival of The Premiership.

Stewart Imlach found a measure of success early in a career that saw him move from Scotland to England at a young age. It was though one that peaked early, before the whims of management and injury moved him down the football ladder. Not that this books wallows in any self-pity, Gary Imlach captures the raw enthusiasm and passion that his father had for the game througout his career.

Shifted around the country, lauded then discarded, the life of a footballer is a strange one. Furthermore, at the time that the book covers, a poorly rewarded one in purely financial terms. Consequently we frequently read of Stewart Imlach returning to pick up his joinery tools as he works through the summer break or between clubs. That was not a problem for Stewart, he was a man who was very much part of his community, in a way that few footballers are today.

It’s also a book about the relationship between a father and a son. You can feel Gary Imlach bristle at the memory of some of the things that happened too his father as he recreates his dad’s life through chats with old colleagues, newspaper clippings and a loft full of old memories. As with so many father / son relationships, the conversations between the two of them are run through the filter of football. Rather than ask how they feel directly, emotions and health are guessed from answeres to questions about the latest big game. It’s not uncommon but this book captures the oddly indirect relationships between men very well.