— by Alan Gibbons, Blue Peter Book Award Winner
The Alan Gibbons books are like FEVER PITCH, JR. A boy. A girl. Liverpool. Manchester Utd. Romeo. Juliet. In track suits. I love these books because of Gibbons application of “Grammar B”, a writing style that flies in the face of traditional grammar. I love how he uses fragments, interjections, punctuation. That especially. He uses punctuation to create an arpeggio of emotional chords. It looks so simple, but any writer worth the title knows he must have worked it out the way Beethoven worked out the final movement of the Ninth Symphony.
These books are close to my heart because I lived so many of the moments, both personal and soccer-related. England’s shambolic last minute fumble against Romania in Euro2000. (To this day, my parents still don’t understand why I was yelling at the TV.) Beckham’s tragic spleen venting at World Cup 98. Michael Owen! Phwooooaaaarrrr! Michael Owen. Oooooh, he’s GOR-GEOUS! His sexy smile and big brown eyes on a cover were guaranteed to sell millions of copies of magazines like 442 and Shoot! He’s just so feckin’ hot!
But the dodgy hamstring. The silly crisps commercials. The disastrous year at Real Madrid. Joining Newcastle to work with Alan Shearer (scored pots of goals, but could bore for England) who then retired. Collapsing like a house of cards at World Cup 06. I think he had a vision of what was up the road against Portugal, so his knee did him a favor.
To understand the premise of the novels, you have to understand this tenet of English football culture: one is not allowed to love Liverpool AND ManUtd. At the same time. They are titanic rivals. Cowboys vs. Redskins? Piffle. Lakers vs. everyone? Small potatoes. Mets vs. whoever their rival is? Not a patch. One is not allowed to love Liverpool and Everton at the same time. One is not allowed to love ManUtd (ManYoo) and Manchester City at the same time. That one’s really vicious! City will sic Oasis on you.
Yet — as an outsider, I strongly believe I can like whichever teams I damn well want to. So here are my teams.
And if I ever met someone who loved Inter Milan while I love AC Milan? I could live with it. It’s called "being an adult". Check it out. I think it might become a trend.