Stumbling around a United forum, I came across a thread by a fan full of piss and vinegar having a go at a piece he had written just after the Leeds game in January. Having read it myself I was in agreement with the guy who started the thread so picking up his book, On The Road: A Journey Through A Season I was already apprehensive.
But now I have read it I can tell you now I have reneged on my initial thoughts.
The book which was originally a collection of blog posts tells the story of United’s 09/10 season as seen through Harris’ eyes and whilst the title suggests it speaks of just the away games, Harris offers his opinion on the season as a whole as well as a number of other matters including the Glazers and the debt they have saddled the club with (he excellently paraphrases Verbal Kint from Usual Suspects claiming ‘the greatest trick the debt ever pulled was convincing the world it didn’t exist)..
One thing that immediately endeared me to the book was Harris’ humour, I found myself sniggering a number of times throughout an example being when speaking of Obertan he said:
‘In the last couple of weeks, the now-fit Gabriel Obertan has excelled as well, showing physical strength, the ability to play off both feet and a sharp footballing brain – unsurprising given the size of his head.’
But it isn’t just humour on a serious level his analysis of the season will be interesting to readers on so many levels. Many of us are quick to spend our money on season review DVDs but the book provides a personal edge to what is quite a robotic depiction of the 10 months in which we fret, we shout with frustration and scream with joy.
Of course the season wasn’t the best of seasons as we ended up with just the Carling Cup and the book conveys this but at times I feel Harris criticisms are a tad excessive, a case in point being the chapter on the Leeds FA Cup defeat that sparked the thread that alerted me to the Harris. In the chapter Harris offers his opinion on Sir Alex’s role in the club being taken over and whilst his argument is well presented, me being in ‘top red’ mode immediately took offence to a criticism of Sir Alex which in itself is foolish as nobody is beyond criticism. The good thing about this of course is the fact that he does indeed speak his mind rather than follow the familiar pattern of conformity to appear ‘a proper red’.
The book’s strength lies in how personal it is, everyone that reads it will find something that they can relate to. For me one of the things is when he speaks of having to justify his support from the club despite not being from Manchester, something I’m all too familiar with.
The book is well written and brought back a deluge of memories from events that at 22 I should remember but don’t due to the fact I have a memory like a sieve, it will provoke arguments as some will agree with some of his stances whilst some won’t and in reality that’s what we expect from reading material as if we aren’t challenged and provoked then what have we wasted our time reading for?
Having finished it any lingering apprehension I had when I first picked up the book dissipated as it felt that I had read the work of a pal rather than an unfamiliar writer, something strengthened when I actually corresponded with Harris.
I enjoyed the book wholeheartedly and would definitely recommend it for yourself or even as a present for others.