On the Bookshelf...

Can't Help Falling in Love

Greg Whitaker

I Can't Help Falling in Love with You offers a personal, heartfelt yet tellingly critical survey of the changing world of football fandom. Greg Whitaker's coming-of-age memoir provides an emotional insight into the modern game from the perspective of a bona fide fanatic who has experienced all the highs and lows of football's last 20 years. Framed through the eyes of a die-hard follower of Hull City AFC and England, it explores the ways in which the global phenomenon of football fandom has developed since the end of the 90s - for better and for worse. By revisiting the most influential matches of his football-supporting life, Whitaker endeavours to explore the changing face of football alongside his own shifting relationship with his passion. Effortlessly documenting social change as he looks back over the decades, he builds a case-study insight into the game's 21st-century zeitgeist. Ultimately, Greg seeks an answer to the troubling question: has our love of football developed into an addiction?

Football is a sport that I love. Can't Help Falling in Love are the memoirs of a Hull City fan. Although not a fan of the club, although I've stood on the terraces at Boothferry Park watching them in their darkest days, the story is about loving your team through the bad days waiting for the good times to come. It's a story Greg tells very well. Even down to those pre match rituals that any fan will have been through. The book resonated with me in a way that only a football fan would understand.

Following any team is hard, unless you support one of the 'elite' teams. Greg is lucky in a way that while he watched his beloved team, they managed to wrestle themselves from the bargain basement of football to the top of the pile. For me it went the other way. His stories of days going away watching Hull, the highs and the lows are great. Sorry you had such an awful experience at Hillsborough. I must have been at that match but for the life of me, I can't remember it, although being hammered are experiences I never forget. I can also only apologise to those supporters of my club, Wednesday, who think they're somehow better than anyone else.

The book awakened my awareness of my own football heritage. I was took for my first match in May 1967 by my Uncle Pete. I remember extraordinarily little of the match except that we beat Arsenal 2-1. It put me on the path to watch the Owls. I remember days at Wembley and Milton Keynes with equal warmth. It's not about who you're playing but the memories it gives. My son and I had season tickets for about eight years at the beginning of the century. Not particularly great years, except 2005, but days I will always remember. That's what football does, gives you a 'family' and memories to cherish. These days I shy away from large crowds, (anxiety issues) but am enjoying the occasional visit to non-league football grounds.

A five star read and a must read for any football fan, regardless of your team. I guarantee you'll find yourself in this book.

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Review by
AJ Steel
April 12, 2023

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