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In Review: The First Guvnors

Filed: Monday, 10th July 2000
By: Graeme Howlett

Micky Smith (Smudge Publishing)
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'But that was not enough. On to the tube. If you have seen a mob of 1000 odd skinheads running along a road all dressed much the same it can be a frightening sight. Into the tube gates we rushed. No one ever paid on the tube, and what inspector was going to challenge a mob like this? On the train the usual knees up mother brown, with the whole carriage full of skinheads jumping up and down, the train rocking from side to side. Mile End and all out, talk of going to Euston and finding more Man.Utd or any other fan that was around. I called it a day, we had done them again.'

With the current showbiz climate of football in this country it's easy to forget how different it all used to be. Micky Smith's gritty book The First Guvnors brings it all flooding vividly back. Back to the days when mob rule and the ICF in particular were in full effect both inside and outside the grounds of English football. Back to the days when the hooligan was king, and the result off the field was just as important - if not more so - than that on it.

The First Guvnors centres on the period 1967-76, from the emergence of yob culture to the time when the author probably decided wisely to call it a day and emigrate to Australia.

It's a book written from the perspective of a West Ham supporter, but don't let this put you off if you support another team - it's not a boastful list of 'what we did to who', but an unbiased account of the many battles and conflicts that took place between the rival sets of supporters at the time. Although the violence is perhaps glorified in places, this is by no means the authors main intention; you're left with plenty of evidence of the damage - both personal and social - caused by the events depicted.

The author writes as he speaks; there's no fancy grammar involved and you almost feel as if you're there with Micky as he tells the story.

All in all The First Guvnors is a fascinating insight into a chapter of our history that many people may well want to consign firmly to the past, but nevertheless it is part of the history of following football in this country, and a damn good read. Fully recommended.

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