Daniel Gray’s ‘Extra Time’ is a particularly welcome follow up to ‘Saturday 3pm’ at a time when many of us are unable to attend football matches in person.
Gray follows the format of his previous work with short well-crafted chapters about why football is so uniquely special. He reminds us about the shared joys, habits, eccentricities and peculiarities of the game with chapters such as comebacks, not being able to sleep after a night match, being in an empty ground and songs unique to your club.
Gray’s prose-poetry superbly illuminates the many joys of football. “The comeback possesses mystique and charisma. It is talked about in a star-struck wonder, as if the words themselves are garnished by neon lights, and remembered for years. Most of all, it helps to maintain one of the key, monumental tenets of football’s stringent grip on us: hope.”
There are also many amusing aspects associated with football and Gray revels in them, for example, in the chapter on the referee falling over,
“This comic offering is base and slapstick. A man falling over would struggle to muster much more than a titter on a cinema screen. In the street we may try to help him up. However, it makes a football crowd jollier than Santa on laughing gas.”
Gray identifies that it is the small details that are so important to the football experience: local radio commentators; club lottos; the players celebrating a goal in front of you and goalkeepers going forward for corners.
What may appear mundane to non-football lovers for example, match balls on stand roofs, climbing the stairs into the stand and spotting a ground while on holiday are all a significant part of the football fan experience.
Gray understands the importance of football to family and community and his chapter on going to the match with his daughter is especially charming.
“When I took her to her first game, I wasn’t prepared for how much it would move me. To see her push a turnstile was, when your priorities are confused like mine are, more significant than the day she started school. I swear that when my daughter’s eyes met the pitch they were wider and bluer than they had ever been before, as if expanding to fit everything in and effervescing to complement the turf.”
If you enjoyed ‘Saturday 3pm’ you will no doubt enjoy these ‘50 Further Delights’. ‘Extra Time’ provides a timely escape from VAR, Project Big Picture and the like – and would make an ideal Christmas gift for any football fan.
Extra Time – 50 Further Delights of Modern Football by Daniel Gray. Published by Bloomsbury. Price £12.99.
This review first appeared in the December/January 2020/21 edition of Late Tackle magazine.