Running with the Firm – a book review

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While waiting at the airport for our recent flight to Lanzarote, both Hubby and I decided to buy something to read. Now I am a voracious reader and will read absolutely anything within read so my choices were fairly standard for me. Basically the thickest book I could find and if it is on offer then even better. However, hubby is not quite so keen on reading and a book really has to grab his attention for him to pick it up and look at it, let alone buy it! So when he saw Running With The Firm by James Bannon he picked it up along with another footballing book which I also read and will review in a separate post.

He has long been fascinated by the football hooliganism of the eighties and although not part of it himself, he remembers being at games when it has all kicked off.

He read the book and passed it over to me, telling me that he had enjoyed it but it had left him feeling a little discomfited. He thought I might enjoy it, but he wasn’t sure. So, while lying by the pool on the one day it was warm I dipped into this book.

The book starts by outlining an episode in a pub where he and a colleague are denounced as Old Bill and asking  themselves the question ‘just how are they going to get out of this?’ this is answered later in the book.

After explaining how the author became a policeman in the first instance and then how he was offered the opportunity to join an undercover unit, the book goes on to detail the lack of support and resources the team had to battle with, the various matches as a Millwall fan (I hesitate to use the word supporter) they attend and how well he becomes assimilated into the environment as a part of the Millwall gang.

It details how it took over his life to the extent that he lost his girlfriend, drank too much, got perhaps  certainly too drawn in to what was going on, and how he justified it to himself and his colleagues who were also undercover.

While I recognise that this was to a certain extent inevitable, there were elements of the book that disturbed me greatly. The violence is not graphically described, but is present and not shied away from. There are elements of almost glee in describing his exploits for example: ” I had got off on the events of the day, and for a while I had forgotten who I was and why I was there. Was I Jim the hooligan or Jim the undercover cop? I pushed it to the back of my mind.  But I was without doubt enjoying myself.   Maybe a little too much.”

To be fair to the author, he does go into detail about the way that games were policed as well, and how some forces didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory, and they did report situations where things were handled badly and in some cases wrongly

” We wrote our statements out over the next two hours. None of us held back in our comments as to the way in which the police officers on duty had conducted themselves. They were an absolute disgrace.” .

What left me feeling most disconcerted was the implication that the team would write their statements together to make sure that their version of events tallied.

The author also sheds some light on how easy it can be to get dragged in further than originally planned, for instance he meets someone whom he falls in love with, but decides he cannot take it any further.

All in all, this is an interesting read for a football supporter who can remember the bad days of the eighties. The reasons behind why we are now under scrutiny as football fans at away games. The reason for the filming, the segregation of fans. The language used is as you would expect, explicit, and that doesn’t take away from the content. There are moments of humour, and moments of pathos. After all, who doesn’t need to go to their Mum and Dad for a bit of TLC every now and again?

The author is now an ex-policeman (rather unsuprisingly) and has become an actor and author. Would I read another one of his books? yes I would, if only to see if he has more than one story to tell.

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