Fields of Dreams: Grounds that football forgot but the fans never will

Chris Arnot

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From the publisher:

'As the game evolves into a plaything of oligarchs, plutocrats and foreign billionaires, driven by the need to leverage their debt, monetise their customers and maximize their naming rights, here's a book that reminds us football is about community, history - and people. Of course it's about so many evocative places, but this is a work with fans at its heart.' - Nick Harris, Mail on Sunday

The Fields of Dreams are not as idyllic as they sound. They are the grounds that football forgot but the fans never will.  Chris Arnot, author of the acclaimed Britain’s Lost Cricket Grounds, has travelled from the south coast to Wearside, Swansea Bay to the Humber Estuary to garner the memories of supporters whose loyalties were forged on crumbling terraces and on rickety stands, closer to pubs and chip shops than to motorway junctions and Drive Thru’ McDonald’s. 

 Players lived in or near the communities they represented. They were not multi-millionaires and the stadiums they played in were usually named after districts, streets or local landmarks rather than commercial sponsors. Football was not part of a corporate package that included conferencing facilities, party venues, executive restaurants, fitness centres and casinos.

 The Art Deco grandeur of Highbury’s East Stand was a suitably elevated gateway to watching the aristocrats that Arsenal became in the 1930s. In the 1970s, the Baseball Ground in Derby was a brown ale stadium that offered champagne football on a quagmire of a pitch. Over many decades the ‘Roker roar’ was synonymous with Sunderland, Maine Road loomed over the terraced side streets of Manchester’s Moss Side and the menacing terraces of the old Den provided a raucous ‘welcome’ to away fans brave enough to visit Millwall FC.    

Those one-time homes of football are comparatively quiet now in winter as well as summer, on Saturdays as well as Sundays and midweek evenings. They are covered by homes of a different kind – luxury apartments in one case and more mundane developments on the others.  All that’s left are plaques or statues, street names or sculptures to commemorate sites that once set passions aflame.       

This book offers not so much sepia-tinged nostalgia as a shared history, red in tooth and claw.   It will appeal to those who may appreciate luxuriating in grander surroundings, but who still feel the tug of their roots, despite the discomfort, the disgusting toilets and the danger sometimes posed by hooliganism and questionable safety standards.  They prefer to remember the camaraderie; the moments of magic that transformed a humdrum Saturday or a chilly, floodlit evening; the unlikely victories against seemingly impregnable opponents; the chance to say ‘I was there.’ 


Stepbeach Press
30 x 24 cm
160 pages
November 2012