The title of this book really refers to a love of football itself. So while Hunter Davies, Hunt to his friends, grew up with Carlisle United, adopted Tottenham Hotspur on moving to the capital and has not only a Spurs season ticket but a share of an Arsenal one too. It's an obsession with the game in general, rather than the more usual devotion to one team, which permeates The Fan.
The Fan takes us through the last seven seasons of football, from England's parks on Sunday mornings via the Football League, Premier League, La Liga and Europe to the major summer tournaments of recent years. Taken from Davies' football column in The New Statesman, the short anecdotal nature of each chapter makes it very easy to read and digest. Whether it be fans' trials, tribulations or triumphs, they are recounted, from dodging the wife in order to watch a League Cup match in peace to the unbridled joy of Munich in 2000, or concern over the more serious issues facing football. Because the author's love of football overrides the usual bias associated with us supporters, the opinions are expressed with a remarkable objectivity and no little humour.
Reading the diary-entry like pieces with the benefit of hindsight proves both amusing and interesting. Enabling the reader to scoff at some of Hunt's woeful football predictions (England to do well at Euro 2000, anyone?), while pondering and fretting about some of the off-field developments Davies brings to our attention. Whether they be the well-worn but still relevant subject of the treatment of fans by clubs, or his concerns over a cult of young men with too little education and too much disposable income that seems to have come home to roost this season like never before.
For the Watford fan there is an opposition description of a wonderful sunny day in Carlisle in 1997 that focuses on a certain Allan Smart rather than the victors that afternoon. Light-heartedly, we can nod in agreement as he reprimands Barry Davies's commentary while rejoicing in Big Ron's use of the English language. I can't say I agree with his assessment of Atkinson as a commentator but there is no doubting his contribution to the dialect of 'football-speak.' Yet, what I found most amusing was the "Groundhog Day" qualities of Hunt's first visit to Spurs each season. Every year Davies makes his return to London to find that his journey to White Hart Lane takes longer, the price of everything from his season ticket to his cup of tea has risen, his favourite player has been sold and his nauseating neighbours in the stands are already chanting for Francis/Gross/Graham/Hoddle/TheNextMug to get the bullet. All too familiar to those of us 'blessed' with friends who support Spurs.
Hunter Davies' The Fan is easy reading about football and being a fan with a conscience. There are elements of watching football, on TV or at the ground, which will make a connection with supporters on several levels.
For those interested in reading The Fan it can found on the Pomona website at www.pomonauk.com.