Since Christmas, I’ve been reading the various football books I was given as gifts, then reviewing them. This week, I’m casting my eye over Who Are Ya?: 92 Football Clubs and Why You Shouldn’t Support Them by Kevin Day.

This is a bit of a change of pace for me; so far during the Reading the Game series of blogs, I’ve studiously avoided getting too close to the Premier League and EFL. I’ve taken a deep dive into the history of a South American superclub, yomped around the former German Democratic Republic, and celebrated the daft little things that make football so special. I also tagged along with Gary Imlach and Harry Pearson as they made personal journeys, with football at the heart of them.

But, so far, the nearest I’ve got to discussing the top four tiers of English football was when I reviewed British Football’s Greatest Grounds, which includes a number of clubs from the professional ranks.

And yet… Who Are Ya? had been on the wish list long before it came out. This is partly because I’d heard about it on the excellent Price of Football podcast, where Day plays the permanently surprised straight man to Kieran Maguire, who lectures in Football Finance at the University of Liverpool. It’s also partly because I remember Kevin Day as “that bloke off Match of The Day 2” and recognise him as a proper, old-school football fan.

It’s that ‘old-school’ element that appealed to me about this book. There is a tale in here about policemen telling Day and his mates that “I hope you get your heads kicked in” when asked for directions to an away ground. There are rivalries, both real and imagined. Throw in some petty jealousies, the odd misadventure and an awful lot of beer and you start to get a sense of Kevin Day’s life as a football fan… and how it’s remarkably similar to mine, or yours, or anyone else’s.

It helps that, as a stand-up comedian and celebrated comedy writer, Day is able to deliver a potted history of each of the clubs, a few personal recollections and three reasons not to support that club with an easy humour and a genuine warmth. The warmth comes from the fact that Kevin Day loves football. He is, first and foremost, a Crystal Palace fan (although he only mentions that once or twice…) but he is passionate about the game. The humour is, of course, Day’s stock in trade and this is a very funny book. The author doesn’t take himself, or any of the clubs he features, too seriously and that leaves the reader holding a book that is part memoir, part saloon bar polemic, almost all of it amusing.

There’s something in here for football fans of all ages. Youngsters, who have grown up in the era of all-seater stadia and the Premier League, will scarcely believe some of the tales of Football Specials and hostile law enforcement. Supporters of a certain age will suck a thoughtful tooth and be transported back to some of their own journeys on those decrepit trains. Then there’s the likes of me, who read about the jovial copper and suddenly remembered why my Mum – a woman who was Chelsea daft and who had stood on the Shed End – chose to take me to Egham Town (a 10 minute walk from home) when, as a 10 year old, I demanded to go to a game.

For the record, I have never supported Chelsea; force me to nail my colours to the mast of a professional club and it will be Middlesbrough. This would annoy Kevin Day for two reasons; one is that I grew up in Surrey, not Stockton-on-Tees, the other is spelling-related. Very big on supporting your local team, is Mr Day. But, I have two factors in my favour here. One is that the Boro’ were my Dad’s team (and he really was from Stockton), the other was that my cousin played for them. He pops up a few times in these highlights from the game that won Middlesbrough a founder member’s place in the Premier League, not least just over 4 minutes into the video, when the ball is delicately chipped across the penalty area for Paul Wilkinson to head into the net.  

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I’d probably be forgiven as well, given that those youthful wanderings down Thorpe Lea Road led to a lifetime of supporting and volunteering for various local teams and even a spell running the Middlesex FA’s cup competitions. I’m involved in the game to this day and took a lot of pleasure from Who Are Ya? Even the chapter about Plastic Wimbledon Milton Keynes.

If you miss being able to talk rubbish about football in the pub with your mates, Who Are Ya? is not a bad substitute. It’s well-written, funny and treats every club with an even hand… Kevin Day is scathing about all of them.

 To get hold of a copy, try Stanchion. It’s an independent football bookshop, from which I’ve ordered a few things. Their customer service is excellent and it’s not like Jeff Bezos needs any more money, is it?

This is the last Reading the Game for a while, but if you’ve enjoyed them, please let me know. You can find me on Twitter, or use the Contact Form to send me a slightly longer message.