Colin Murray is fast becoming the rising star of British sport punditry. After cutting his teeth with Channel 5’s football coverage here in the UK, Murray has slowly been making his mark at BBC Radio 5 through the excellent Fighting Talk. Last summer, Murray officially joined Radio 5 as a presenter and he’s shown himself to be a witty, enjoyable and knowledgeable host. Thankfully he’s stayed with Fighting Talk whilst becoming the main anchor man on Friday nights and all day Sunday and the station is all the better for his presence.
Using his love of Liverpool as a starting point, Murray is a big football fan, his passion and commitment clear to see. Yet when the opportunity came round to writing his first solo book, he used Fighting Talk’s humour as the backdrop to debut. A Random History of Football is a book about Football, but perhaps not the type of book you’d naturally expect. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to Fighting Talk, you’ll know just what to expect.
Thankfully it avoids the horror that was Tim Lovejoy’s book that came out in 2007, which simply showed him to know absolutely nothing about the game on any level. That probably garnered the best football book review I’ve ever read in When Saturday Comes, which summed him up perfectly. Murray on the other hand clearly knows his football before the billions came rolling in and it shows throughout the book. This is a book by someone who clearly loves the game, in fact it’s a complete antidote to Lovejoy’s book.
Murray decided that he’d write a book about football, but not like one we’d had before. It would be easy to follow the obvious route he decides to explain in his foreword, so he decided to track down all the stories about football that you probably didn’t know. Yes, it’s done with humour running through almost ever story but it is interesting to cast your eyes over some of the gems that he’s dug up. I know I’m a sad statto who can recite every World Cup winning side, score and host nation, but there were several stories that even I’d never heard of. The greatest comeback of all time being the most marked example but you’ll have to buy the book to find out more.
Yet the book isn’t perfect, several typos appear, but they’re more modest little errors than gargantuan mistakes that litter some other football titles. Yes, some of the stories are quiet well known, such as Edmundo and the drunken monkey, but overall, this is a damn fine little book. Concluding his foreword, Murray promises to write another book in a similar vein if the sales justified it and I hope they do. I for one would like an opportunity to read more of Murray’s work and the humour and wit that he brings to his debut.
Having seen him present Fighting Talk Live in Sheffield, I can attest that I’ve yet to meet anyone who was as polite and friendly to every single person who wanted a chat or an autograph with him and there were hundreds. He signed every autograph, chatted to every fan, had his picture taken countless times. When someone asked if they were keeping him, he simply said “If it wasn’t for you lot, I wouldn’t be here in the first place, I’ll go when you when you’ve all gone.” In fact, the only person who I’ve seen as modest and self-deprecating was Robbie Savage, but that’s another story.
If you think you know your football, or perhaps know someone who thinks they do, I’d recommend you buy them A Random History Of Football. I’d even recommend it to any new converts, through its humour. As a first work in the genre, Murray does a damn fine job and I’ll eagerly be waiting for his next venture in to the field. Funny, interesting and well written, I really enjoyed it, so much so, after reading the first chapter, I read it from cover to cover.