Usually, a players biography is full of platitudes and repetitions. Not so this one by Fergus Moore whose account is a vivid display of grass roots football in and around London.
According to Arthur Hopcraft “the point about football is that it is not just a sport people take to, like cricket or tennis or running long distances.” Football, he writes “is inherent in the people.” Withdraw it and the symptoms would be more severe than deprival of television. Football, he continues, is not just engrained in the English national psyche, it also engages the personality. While Hopcraft was writing about the top of the football pyramid in England in the 1960s, little has changed since the publication of his book The Football Man in 1968. Moreover, his findings are very true for the lower league game where there hardly is any limelight.
Step forward, Fergus Moore
The biography of Fergus Moore begins at the age of 18 when his club Brentford released him from their youth academy. Disappointed, the young Moore embarked on a journey that has seen him playing within or outside the M25 and he became a household name in the non-league circuit who has only recently turned towards management with the occasional appearance as a player to help his team, Edgware Town FC, out.
The last bottle of a favourite wine – maturing with age, kept on show, never poured.(Moore on Fergus Moore)
His experiences are something that most of us who have played at grass roots level are acquainted with: rotation is normal just because players are not always available and sometimes normal life off the pitch simply prevents them from playing. This is normal and should be kept in mind. As a player he never thought about missing a game and in almost 30 years of playing he never thought this an issue. As a manager however he is suddenly faced with the task of finding a team for the upcoming game less than 48 hours before kickoff. This is a continuing challenge yet not the most grating one. That is a defeat, whether a 1:0 or a 5:0 hammering, Fergus Moore the player and the manager do not take any defeat lightly even though he has suffered a few along the years.
However, he lacks a bit of self reflection here as he himself was culpable of leaving clubs for a better opportunity elsewhere and never spent a thought about the manager who had to rebuild a squad from scratch. When he became a manager himself, he is faced with the same problem yet appears to have learned that this an entirely new phenomenon.
Why is Moore’s book interesting and maybe even important? Despite the profound knowledge about grass roots football, about its problems, its issues and worries, little happens in terms of improvement for the clubs. In fact, quite the opposite is happening. The biggest issue is of course money and the second is money, followed by the state of the pitch and the players available.
The focus of the main stream media is on top class football which is in someway understandable. Yet these are a chosen few players – a minority even – whereas at amateur level there are millions whose stories can be told. In a hundred or so years time, those interested will be able to trace everything about CR7 and Lionel Messi but little about the common club just around the corner and its personell, thus ignoring a beacon of everyday life in many communities across the globe. For that reason alone, a biography like this one has its raison d’être. It is a significant part of the oral history of our societies and our times that simply should not go unnoticed. Just as reports continue to be published about the state of amateur football, this biography is a timely reminder that there is more to football than just the top flight leagues in England and the rest of Europe.
It may not be the best of the writing craft and there are some typos in places that sometimes disrupt the flow of reading. This aside the book is nonetheless a great work by Fergus Moore and his editor Roger Slater. For a better overview, there is a list of clubs Moore has played for over the years at the beginning of the book, which takes a whole page (!) and serves as a guideline to his career.