Book Review – Hinterlands: Travels Around England’s Non-League Football Grounds

Book Review – Hinterlands: Travels Around England’s Non-League Football Grounds

By Steve Johnson.

Little else arrests the eye more than nostalgic football drawings, and the cover of Hinterlands: Travels around England’s non-league football grounds, is a wonderful mixture of old programme and retro comic style drawings, which immediately evokes a sense of romance and sentimentality which is much missed in the modern game.

Recently published, Hinterlands is a gloriously reminiscent poetry collection that explores the often-hidden world of non-league football, bringing to the fore the people, the experiences and the eccentricities of leagues far removed from the monied giants.

The poems go much deeper than the surface level of the game itself.  The match is often secondary to the local characters and the community that the football club brings.  Beyond this, Towers also shares his observations on nature, time, and the general reflections on life, which one so often drifts into when sat alone.

There is a rich melancholy resonance to such images as Pontefract Collieries’ dilapidated ground set between the decaying colliery and the new housing development, and the fans who take more interest in the Mickleover Sports programme shop than actually watching the game.

Each poem is accompanied by Raphael Achache’s illustrations which complement and enhance the atmosphere.  There is also a note of the final score, and a brief direction guide about getting to the stadium, which lends the feel of a travelogue.  These tiny details really help the book feel not only more substantial but a true love letter to the game.

Hinterlands has a timeless feel, it’s a poignant book with plenty to muse on. The reader visits obscure places and teams – sometimes even the locals don’t know where the ground is – but will always be reminded of the way fellow fans everywhere are bound together by love of football, passion undimmed, Identity and belonging.

There has never been a better time to get to local games, support the grassroots scene, and appreciate the character of and immediacy of the non-league in all its glory.