Red or Dead

red-or-dead

Having enjoyed the Damned United so much, this book was on my to read list, and the focus of the Howler Book Club prompted me to pick up a copy.

As a fan of the game, I knew the name of Shankly and of the great Liverpool teams of the 70s adn 80s but not too much more than that. The book educated me on Liverpool in the 1960s, and how Shankly took over a team in the Second Division and built the foundation for the all-conquering side of Paisley. His tenets of hard work, pass and move and team spirit, as well as an intense connection with the fans from both himself and the players were strong elements of the book.

Red or Dead is quite long, coming in at over 700 pages. I got the book in hardcover and it’s pretty hefty. A relatively quick read, the narrator moves the reader through season after season, with short chapters covering pockets of time before the narrator moves on. The style is striking with the repetition of elements (line ups, household chores, pre-season, etc) used through the book. The choice of first person and these repetitive passages are interesting and consume the reader as Liverpool consumes the character of Shankly.

The manager works and works and works and then abruptly leaves. Not knowing the story, I was shocked as Shankly left the club on the verge of immortality. I actually enjoyed the post-Liverpool section more. I felt the narrator was more insightful, more reflective, more philosophical than the manager who was grinding every day, thinking about the next opponent, the next trophy. The continued involvement in the game and the community and the relationships with other clubs was another striking feature of the man’s legacy.

Not sure how to recommend this. If you’re a Liverpool fan, definitely read it. If you’re a soccer nerd, definitely read it. If you neither of those, you might enjoy another book better.

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