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In Review: Congratulations - You Have Just Met the ICF

Filed: Thursday, 25th April 2002
By: Graeme Howlett

Cass Pennant (John Blake Publishing)
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From the moment you first pick up the latest offering from Cass Pennant and cop the menacing stare of the legendary big Bill Gardner on the front cover, the tone for this moody, broody look back to the heady days of the Inter City Firm is well and truly set.

And for the first time (that this writer is aware of) the main faces are finally named (and shamed?) in black and white with a full expose of some of their more legendary exploits which took place during the years of the notorious firm.

It's all in here; from the events of the Harry Cripps testimonial in '72 to the Birmingham 'riot' of '84 right through to the (inevitable) demise of the firm in the late 80's, many stories - both well known and previously undocumented - are vividly brought back to life by a series of frank admissions from the top boys of the time; the likes of Gardner, Brett Tidman, Andy Swallow and author Pennant reveal their sides of the stories which are fast becoming folklore around London's East End.

Although the second tome Pennant has penned, this is by no means a sequel to the first, simply entitled 'Cass'. Whereas that concentrated on the life story of the former nightclub doorman and only briefly touched on matters ICF, this is exclusively dedicated to the firm that once spread fear across the length and breadth of Britain - West Ham's notorious hooligan following, the Inter City Firm.

Refreshingly it's not all bravado and boast; even the likes of Pennant and Gardner, ruthless fighting machines in their day are not afraid to admit that they took a good hiding from time to time, which tends to make it all a little more believable for those sceptical from the outset.

What you get for your hard-earned is nonetheless a riveting read, straight from the horses mouth - whatever your sentiments regarding the hoolie scene which seems to split opinion even today, some 20 or so years on from the firm's heyday.

Indeed, it's hard not to feel a sense of old fashioned East End pride when you read some of the stories, looking back knowing that these lads were not just the scourge of England, but of Europe as well. The last time our football team could lay claim to that prize was almost forty years ago - and then albeit rather more briefly.

Upon attempting to purchase this book (from one of the larger retail chain stores in the City) this writer was advised to wait until the following week before doing so, as Pennant himself would be in the shop to personally sign copies.

The irony of the situation didn't pass unnoticed. Whereas once shops just like these would have boarded their windows in anticipation of the arrival of Pennant and his ilk, these days those very same 'erberts who were reviled, hunted and harassed by the establishment are being positively encouraged to come in for a cosy chat with the customers.

It's a funny old world we live in ....

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