Reviewed by Sandra Scholes
Forget what you remember about football back in the 70s, Richard Staines puts the record straight about how the England B team scored their goals. It certainly wasn’t through the team’s rigorous training and fitness regime – it was through black magic.
Parallel Universe Publications are fond of putting out story anthologies they think readers will enjoy as they are original and, at times funny. This one, like many on their list have a well-rounded sense of humour right down to the cover art of England Coach Vince Grinstead, some footballs that act as chapter breaks and some quotes on the back cover that are hilarious for those who know who Dennis Wheatley, Genesis and Yes are. The stories form part of a collected works that seems to be of instances, moments that deal with what Staines sees as the real history behind the World Cup in 1970 and other major matches several years after.
What I liked about the stories was the fact they initially transported the reader back to the seventies with mentions of Double Diamond, Brut aftershave, fish & chips and, Satan help me, Pan Books of Horror – remember them? I do. Staines has been clever though, he has charted the journey Vince has gone on from glory to failure and back again by the only means necessary to get his B team to victory. In No Such Thing as a Friendly, Vince takes us through what really happened on the 14th June 1970 while the England “A” team were in Mexico during the World Cup. While the “A” team are living it up in civilized country, the “B” team are in Goboya, an island on the coast of South America with barely a cold pint in sight. A Game of Two Halves has Vince tell the true story of what happened on April 1974 in a match between the USSR Representative XI and their team. Just in case there was any problem winning, they decide to make sure the “B” team are up to the challenge. Here, Vince puts the black into magic. The Ref’s Decision is Final sees Vince down on his luck, his job lost and he is drowning his sorrows in The Smuggler’s Arms. Here, Sir James Bassingron-Smythe makes him an offer he can’t refuse – to take the “B” team back to glory against the Scots. Get Your Fritz Out For the Lads carries on from the previous story where the Scots had smashed the windows of their coach and roll up to a spooky old mansion, hoping to phone for help. It’s one of the best clichés in horror, and one which Richard handles very well.
With a series of comedy horror stories laced with black magic dabbling and fun japes, he has also added the pop culture references of the times. It is a must read for those who remember the good old times of football.