A story of faith, ambition, socialism and a last-place English football club, combining a true story with eternal truths.
English novelist Peace is no stranger to mixing fiction with the football pitch (The Damned UTD, 2006, etc.), and in this volume he tells the story of elegant and elegiac Bill Shankly, the legendary coach of the Liverpool Football Club who took a down-and-out team in a down-and-out town to the top ranks of English football. (You could think of him as a sort of British Joe Torre for the way he's revered by fans.) This book is barely fiction—it's more a fictionalized biography—but it’s a classic story about dedication, redemption and love, all set in a locker room and in football stadiums where tens of thousands, sometimes more, chant and cheer. It's a story about struggle—against wind, rain, snow and mud; against Arsenal Football Club and Sportgemeinschaft Dynamo Dresden and UD Las Palmas; against a tradition of failure; against the limits of athletes and ownership. But it's above all a story of triumph—over other clubs, to be sure, but also over obstacles moral and financial—and a story about passage: one man’s (from the coal mines of Scotland), and one team’s (from the depths of the Second Division to the giddy heights of the First). Across its pages stride some of the greatest names in English sport, unknown on these shores but luminaries in Liverpool—and a cameo appearance by Harold Wilson, the one-time British prime minister. The result is a book to be savored with a cup of tea and a slice of orange—what the Liverpool players have at halftime.
A novel without a single quote in 736 fast-paced pages—but one that might be quoted for decades.