The Silence Of The Stands by Daniel Gray @d_gray_writer @BloomsburySport #bookreview #nonfiction

Happy Tuesday everyone! Today I’m sharing my thoughts on Daniel Gray’s The Silence Of The Stands.

My thanks to Bloomsbury Sport for my e-copy of The Silence Of The Stands which I received through Netgalley.

The Blurb

The Durham City midfielder wore the resigned look of a man trying to find a jar of harissa in Farmfoods. Up front for Jarrow, a centre-forward darted around frenetically, as if chasing a kite during a hurricane…

When football disappeared in March 2020, writer and broadcaster Daniel Gray used its absence to reflect on everything the game meant to him. That bred a pledge: whenever and wherever fans were allowed to return, he would be there.

The Silence of the Stands is the result of that pledge: a joyous travelogue documenting a precarious season, in which behind-closed-doors matches and travel restrictions combined to make trips to Kendal and Workington seem impossibly exotic. Offering a poignant peek at a surreal age and a slab of social history from the two-metre-distanced tea bar queue, this is the moving, heartfelt and surprisingly uplifting story of a unique season that no one wishes to repeat.

What Did I Think?

“Thinking backwards through my journey, …, the tenacity and resilience of our love for the game stood out.”

Gray is a football addict! When the pandemic hit and football matches were abandoned, he was missing something in this life (as were many other football fans). The pre-match rituals, the post match analysis over a pint, catching Final Score and Match of The Day. The weekends had such a different outlook for those passionate fans.

His blow by blow account of matches were like reading the transcript of the radio commentary. In the midst of the year of discontent and lockdowns, Gray shines a spotlight on the clubs, grounds and matches that would be lucky to get a mention on Final Score, let alone in depth commentary. With the majority of his match attendance being across the North West of England, he gives a wee history lesson to the club as well a guide of his journey from station to ground.

“The whole team celebrated, and a resonant, sustained cheer that the men of 1909 and 1911 would have been humbled by flew from the mouths of travellers in yellow and black scarves.”

His attendance of his first professional game as restriction lifting was being tested was interesting. The sheer desperation to get a seat in the Riverside a 1 in 34 allocation against all other season ticket holders. The elation of succeeding in getting the golden ticket to see a professional game. The shock of hot water and soap in the men’s toilets – never heard of in normal circumstances

I have to say, the mention of my favourite manager in this book brought a smile to my face. A book with a nod of the great Brian Clough can’t be bad! When Gray headed to Lancaster, I had to do a bit of map surfing of the city (yes Lancaster is a city) as I’d forgotten where the ground was and really didn’t know there was a museum (my student brains had other things in mind)! But in the process, I saw a city that had changed beyond recognition in the period since I’d studied there! Other than the Queen Victoria statue in Dalton Square!

The match between Rothbury and Forest Hall in the Team Valley Carpets Combination Cup was an entertaining read. Armstrong Park sounds an interesting ground and the idea of the linesmen being a pair of substitute players is reminiscent to my eldest’s first friendly where one of the opposition’s dad was the ref!

This is not a pandemic book as you’d think but it’s the impact of covid on one football fan and how he dealt with the inability to got to his regular football fixtures. I really liked reading Gray’s experience of his return to match attendance. I’ll admit it wasn’t the most uplifting of books (not unexpected given the period of football we’re talking about) but Gray did add bouts of humour to his narrative which had such a life defining backdrop. He was bang on the nose when he wrote:

It was a remarkable season. May there never be another like it.”

Who Is Daniel Gray?

Daniel Gray is the author of ‘Extra Time: 50 Further Delights of Modern Football‘, ‘Saturday, 3pm: 50 Eternal Delights of Modern Football‘ and ‘Black Boots and Football Pinks: 50 Lost Wonders of the Beautiful Game‘. He has also written seven other books on football, politics, literature, history and travel. His recent work has included screenwriting for the BBC, presenting social history on television, and writing across a number of national titles. He is the Editor of Nutmeg magazine and hosts the When Saturday Comes podcast.


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