New review of Where’s Sailor Jack? : ‘‘…romantic, poignant, and extremely funny, exactly what I want from a family saga.’ – Stephen Carver, Blot the Skrip and Jar It

Archives: Bolton Wanderers

Bolton Wanderers

I’m here to apologise for the delay in publishing No Precedent, the midquel of Where’s Sailor Jack. There are two principal reasons for this delay, both relating to the year starting in the summer of 2019. What happens in this year was not going to be critical to the plot. But the uncertainty surrounding Brexit is no longer ignorable. The elevation of Boris may mean that we won’t die wondering, but I think I’d better hang on to see if we do all die as a consequence!
But far worse than this is the fate of Bolton Wanderers. As readers will know, Bob is a Blackpool supporter and his friend Richard a Wanderers fan. Some have asked me which of the two teams do I as author support. Delighted as I am that Blackpool, my birthplace, seem to be thriving under new ownership, I am a diehard Wanderer and have been since January 3, 1953 when my Dad first took me to Burnden Park. We beat Blackpool 4-0. The ongoing ownership problems at Bolton are causing worried days, sleepless nights and writer’s block. I hit the Bolton News tab several times a day. I look for the their football writer’s tweets, the excellent Marc Iles, many times a day. Bolton is a massive part of my identity, a Lancashire town in a forced marriage with Manchester. I’ll never forget the day the great Nat Lofthouse signed my copy of Goals Galore, his autobiography, when I was about eleven. “Ee, I’ll sign that,” he said.
My Granddad was Head Gardener at Sharples Hall, Bolton and my Dad was brought up there. He supported Wanderers from the mid twenties till his death in 1998. We went down from the Premier League that season at Chelsea. I was there, knowing Dad was dying of cancer. I went straight back to his house after the game. “We’re down, Dad,” I said, not knowing if he could hear. There was a loud grunt from the depths of his soul. He died a few days later.
We were soon back in the Premier League at Chelsea. One each and a few minutes to go, Henrik Pedersen slammed in a low cross from the left, John Terry couldn’t sort his feet out and he put it in his own net. At least that’s what the papers said. I know that Dad nicked in front of him. and slotted it in.
Dad had the great days of the Charles Foweraker’s twenties, we both had the fine years of Bill Ridding’s fifties, and I shared Big Sam’s noughties with my sons. To lose Wanderers now would be like being buried alive. Not only in the interests of my novel, but to make sense of my identity, I pray to the Almighty, and plead with the Administrators to save my club.


Seeing all the footage from the past shown on television since Corbyn’s accession, I’ve realised that I have a character trait which prevents me from ever being on the extremes of politics. I’d never be able to chant at a protest rally. Admittedly, it’s pretty unlikely that I’d ever be seen at such an event, disliking as I do the right’s greed and the left’s sanctimony. Before I had the luxury of my own web page and the consequent capacity to write blogs that no-one ever reads, I would have satisfied myself with describing the nature of my complaint to a bored wife and family over tea, or supper if I have to acknowledge how middle-class I’ve become. (Supper when I was a kid was a banana sandwich before I went to bed, tea was the cooked meal at about half past five and dinner was the revolting mess of lumpy mash, stringy beef and overcooked cabbage served at school every day for the thirteen years I went. The puds were terrific though. Before I went to school, lunch was the mid-morning snack also referred to as baggin.)
I consider myself the archetypical north Englishman, though maybe I’m not. I’ve been following Bolton Wanderers since late 1952, shouting advice and encouragement but the one time I joined in with “Bolton, Bolton, Bolton…” I felt acutely embarrassed. When the habitual and deafening “We’re the one and only Wanderers” is bellowed ad nauseam, particularly in the Wolves game, I want to stick my fingers in my ears. I could manage a round of “Oh Lanky, Lanky, Lanky, Lanky, Lanky, Lanky, Lancashire” at Lords back in the day when the other sixteen counties played each other to see who met Lancashire in the Gillette Final but then that had a semblance of a tune. I can say, or even sing if the organist pitches low enough, the responses in church without thinking that I’ve given up on my identity and free will, perhaps because they have the advantage of being in sixteenth century English. I’m less happy with modern English responses. I could never chant either “Marxist Morons” or “Tory scum”.
Delusionally, I like to think it’s because I’m in the yeoman tradition, deciding things for myself. So I’ll be available to defend the country if really needed but once it’s over, I’ll go back home to my family. People often wonder how to define what is liberal. My rule is simple. When you chant, you’re not being one.
It’s a while since I blogged. I’ve no idea if there’s anyone reading me. If you are, please use the link to Twitter or Facebook on my home page and let me know.