The Bromley Boys: The True Story of Supporting the Worst Football Club in Britain, Paperback Book

The Bromley Boys: The True Story of Supporting the Worst Football Club in Britain Paperback

5 out of 5 (1 rating)


'I loved it ...extremely funny. A must-read for anyone who loves football.' Peter Crouch In the late 1960s, in the warm glow of England winning the World Cup, Dave Roberts, like most teenage boys his age, was football mad.

There was just one difference: rather than supporting the likes of Arsenal or Manchester United, Dave's team of choice was the ever so slightly less glamorous Bromley Football Club - one of the last genuinely amateur football teams left, fighting for survival in the lowest non-league division.

This book is the story of Bromley's worst ever season.

It is a funny and heart-warming tale of football at the very bottom: Dave turns up to each match with his football boots in his bag, just in case the team are a player short; the crowd is always announced as 400 as no-one can be bothered to count; the team ship so many goals that in one match, the taunting opposition fans actually lose count of the score.

It's easy being a football fan when your team are always winning.

The Bromley Boys is the touching true story about supporting a club through thin and even thinner: proof that the more your team may lose on the pitch, the more there is to gain on the terraces.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 256 pages, No illustrations
  • Publisher: Pavilion Books
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Biography: sport
  • ISBN: 9781906032241



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Reading Dave Roberts' book about the worst season imaginable in any football fan's life set me thinking about football fans in general, and I've come to the conclusion that there is pretty much a hierarchy of madness involved.The largest group for any club is the fans-in-name. Those thousands of people who regard themselves as followers of a specific club, yet never go to the games, might catch them on the TV, might be able to tell you who managed them a decade ago, yet will be able to name the current Man United squad without blinking. Their not-turning-upness isn't financial or opportunity driven, it simply wouldn't cross their minds to go. There are obvious examples - the 365 million fans Manchester United regularly claim, or the 400,000 strong Toon Army who are apparently ready to lynch the Cockernee Mafia as I write this review.The next group are the fair weather fans. These are the ones that go to the matches but only when things are going well, or if life hasn't got in the way. They go when there are internationals playing in their team and they go when there is a cup run to enjoy, or if Beckham/Ronaldo/Robinio/Owen/This Month's Starlet is visiting and gracing their pitch with his golden hooves. They might have a season ticket this year, but will see how they feel next season when its compared to the joys of Homebase, and naturally, they wouldn't dream of going away.The third level are the hardcore fans. It can be difficult to tell these from the fair weather crew a lot of the time, as you need to be there often enough to recognise the faces (and the thousand yard stare), but these are the ones that turn up rain or shine and whoever the opposition is or however bad things look. Using Newcastle as an example again, you might think given their current 'plight' that the 48-50,000 fans they've been getting recently would be classed as their hardcore, but I remember the pre-Keegan 90/91 season and 14,774 for a home game against West Brom not being the worst of their attendances - they only mustered 10,004 against Oxford - so I guess that means they have 40,000 fans of the fair weather variety. Not exactly their reputation these days. The Toon Army filling their ranks with weekend warriors.The fourth level though is beyond hardcore. These are the ones that live through their football team and see it influence their every decision in, to the outside world, probably quite worrying ways. They have many names; geeks, nerds, saddos, take your pick, often spend a lot of time alone and take a masochistic delight in compiling failure filled scrapbooks - and believe me, they always have scrapbooks - dedicated to recording the direst of performances. They live for the moments of unexpected relief a win, draw, goal, corner or abandonment can bring from the excruciating torment they put themselves through. They very very rarely are, or biblically know, girls.Dave Roberts' book tells the story of one such fanatic, himself, during what by even the standards of most useless football teams was an appalling season. Dave's team is Bromley FC, who in 1969 when the book is set, were one of the few truly amateur non-league football clubs left, and who seemed to be intent on being universally regarded as the worst. Playing in the lowest of the amateur leagues the book follows a season beginning full of frantic hope and expectation with a friendly against West Ham, before rapidly going downhill as the reality of players being useless, unfit, missing, visiting friends abroad or generally lacking interest begins to take hold.As an illustration of what it means to be a football fan of a lower league side, The Bromley Boys catches the mood and the salty reality perfectly, and there are enough cultural references to keep sixties watchers interested too, without moving into Nick Hornby territory where the football becomes the backdrop rather than the centerpiece of the obsession. The chairman/announcer/programme seller and selector will be familiar to anybody that has inhabited a tiny pond and brushed against a self appointed small fish, and each person (and I have to stop myself describing them as characters, remembering that this is all true) is perfectly depicted without what would be an easy lapse into caricature. Young Dave himself naturally takes centre stage and as an adolescent obsessive no detail or fact is too small or meaningless to escape his rapt attention, regardless of the reality being that apart from him and three or four friends, not even the players seem particularly interested.The thing that impressed me most about the writing of the book is the way in which Roberts captures the essential truth of what being a football fan really is. It isn't a quest for glory or even a fear of failure that drives you on, that is par for the course, instead it is the ability to change your perspective on what counts as success over the course of a season. This is something that Roberts does smoothly and gradually, from the early season 'we're going to win the league' until the end of the season after a record-winning losing streak where a 4-1 defeat can be seen as a moral victory, as 'they put 8 past us last time'. The essential optimism despite being well aware of the reality of the situation is of course what keeps all us supporters of lesser teams going. We live in hope even when we will be the first to tell you that it is hopeless. I also loved the obsession (I know I keep using the word) that sees Dave being so aware of the merchandise, that the introduction of rosettes is a major event. This rang particularly true for a Brummie boy who used to beg his parents to stop outside the West Brom club shop every Sunday night on the way to visit family, just so I could peer without any real hope through the security grill at the leatherette autograph books and blue and white striped pencils.Generally, it is refreshing to read a football book who's appeal isn't limited to 'your tribe', and as a story of adolescent boys, their obsessions and logic, Roberts writes with a wry wit and gentle love for his younger self. It is highly entertaining and despite the end of the season providing no surprises for anybody other than young Dave himself, it is beautifully handled.If you are a football fan, this is a must read as you will see at least a little of yourself, and certainly recognise those around you. If you know or live with a football fan, they will love you for buying them this as a Christmas present. It'll be useful to read on the coach to that Boxing Day away game, and you will, if nothing else, realise that your lot aren't quite as bad as you may believe.

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