The Ghosts of Inchmery Road
Sometimes, after a night match, once the crowds and players have gone and the floodlights snap off, they come out once more: swaying crowds on the terraces looking on expectantly, silently applauding at long-gone players in oversized shirts and shorts, passing and running, chasing the ball across the pitch. People, for whom it meant just as much as it does to us today. They dissolve back into darkness. Then the nightwatchman starts on his rounds.
The nightwatchman (or woman) guards not just the football ground but also the soul of the club that is at the heart of the town, and has done so for a century or more. They preserve and tell the stories that make the club more than just a football team on the road to nowhere: stories of deaths and births, of tragedy and joy echoing down the years – the ghosts of the past that will never leave this sacred place. Charlie Truckle's tenure is coming to an end – what will happen to the Town's legacy then?
Mat Guy, author of Barcelona to Buckie Thistle, Minnows United: Adventures at the Fringes of the Beautiful Game, and Another Bloody Saturday, turns his pen to fiction in one of the best novels with a football theme you'll read. The story threads of four main characters are deftly woven together, and it is a boat – the Stanley B – itself a survivor, at the centre. They all share a love of the game and its power as a diversion from the harsher realities of life. Forget Fever Pitch, The Lives of Stanley B gets to the heart of why football matters – written by an author who properly understands the game.
“Throughout the book Guy’s writing has a poetic quality, with his depictions of the Lakes, and nature in general, painting wonderful pictures for the reader... football plays its part too. Guy’s obvious knowledge and love of the beautiful game evident in his depiction of football at all levels and echoing its importance in the lives of the central characters. The descriptions of the ritual of attending games are incredibly authentic as is the recognition by Guy that being absorbed by the action on the pitch can provide respite from the pressures of everyday life. Life is indeed a journey and Guy uses football as the metaphor in Stanley B to wonderfully travel it.”
The Lives of Stanley B
Who was Tom Maskell? Could he really have made it to the top? Where is he now?
This is the boat that inspired one of the main threads of the story.