Today’s team review is from Georgia, she blogs here https://www.georgiarosebooks.com
Georgia has been reading Burntbridge Boys by John F. Leonard
Sammy Rafferty is past his prime. Having gained notoriety for violence within football where his fearsome reputation came in handy as a player, and an afterlife in management slick with slippery schemes, he now found himself at a ground he’d never heard of. The home of Burntbridge Palmers.
The stadium is decaying, not unlike Bill Stroat, groundsman, and his dog, Auger. Bill assumes Sammy is there as the new gaffer and takes him on a tour.
Through this story there are flashbacks to Sammy’s life as a professional footballer and his time in management where he was taken under the wing of Ray McEvoy and entered a world of dirty dealings and criminal activity. All of which he was paying for now.
I have read several of Leonards books, this being another short one at around 80 pages, and this was just as well written with tight, engaging prose and a way with words I find appealing. It is probably not as fast-paced or filled with horror as some of his others and the focus is on the football but the ins and outs of that made for a great story. Recommended for all with a passion for the game, who like their reading on the darker side and who enjoy good writing.
It’s 1979 and Sammy Rafferty is on the run. From the past. From the police. And, perhaps more importantly, from some rather unfriendly criminal types.
He thinks his football dreams are over, but that might not be the case. He’s run to Burntbridge Lye. A place where dreams don’t always die.
Sammy “the butcher” Rafferty has long since kissed his playing days goodbye. Never kicking a competitive ball again was a hard pill to swallow and he’s not ready for his managerial career to come to an untimely end. The thought of forever being shut out of football makes his heart sink and feet itch.
There isn’t any choice. The cards have been dealt and you have to play the hand you’re given. Sammy grits his teeth and gets on with it. Life settles into monotony and offers only boredom and frustration …until he comes across an old football ground nestled in the back of beyond.
He can almost hear the roar of the crowd as he parks at the gates of the deserted Burntbridge Palmers, a decaying stadium on the outskirts of Bledbrooke Town.
The club that won’t die could be just the place for a man who still has a gleam in his eye. After all, they’re both ghosts that won’t go away.
Burntbridge Boys is about a lot of things.
Horror, for sure. No doubt there. Old school horror, with a twist. A ghost story where the ghosts aren’t really dead.
A fond reminiscence of football, back before football became completely commercialised? Yes, definitely, soccer plays its part. Although, it has to be said, the beautiful game is sometimes less than beautiful in Burntbridge Boys. It can be somewhat ugly and …disturbing. And often more than a game.
Deceit and double-dealing? Yeah, there’s a fair-sized chunk of that.
It might also be about power passed into hands too fragile for the holding. The darkness hidden in human hearts which is best kept hidden and secrets that are better not revealed. Society and its cruel attitudes, before society became an equally dreadful click-driven social media experiment.
You’ll draw your conclusions – that’s one of the joys of reading.
On a more prosaic level, is there such a thing as a football horror story? Let alone one set in the past which wallows in a darkly imagined history of the game.
Who knows? When the Dead Boxes are involved, anything is possible. Such items have always been scary things.
Even in the swinging Sixties and glam-shock punk revolution of the Seventies, they contained a terrifying mix of horror and salvation. Throw the Scaeth Mythos into the mix and stuff gets decidedly multi-dimensional.
There are different realities and the walls which separate them can be paper thin. The tiniest tear can allow horror and madness to bleed through.