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Over the last twelve months, United fans have been very fortunate that there have been so many new books and collections of writing about the club and all things related. The digital age has opened a new gateway for publishing content and encouraged people who wouldn’t have previously seen such a project through, to do so.
One such collection of short(ish) memories has just become available on Kindle – Red Matters. Giles Oakley has watched and supported United for over 50 years and now put a lot of what his eyes have seen, into 19 engrossing chapters. Whilst many of the stories focus on football from a completely different era, one gets a clear insight into the mark Cantona left on the club – with no fewer than four chapters referencing him very strongly in one way or another.
Giles’ earliest recollections may even surprise you – there’s an assumption that before the football bubble burst in the early 90s the vast majority of fans supported their local sides. Yet, there are heaps of references to United having supporters far beyond Manchester, even in the 1950s. Colin Blaney’s book, Grafters, credits United’s loyal London support and now Giles too makes references to being a United fan based often 200 miles from Manchester in his youth.
Even so, it doesn’t discredit his writing one bit. Few of us today will have been alive to have seen what he did and that’s why these tales are so special. You can easily find a book or look up on Google if you wanted to learn about Law or Charlton but the details in the stories that Giles shares are staggering. He’s able to recall easily forgettable facts and mix them with the emotions he felt at the time so you’re able to relate to what he’s remembering as if it was something that you witnessed take place yesterday.
Each chapter is split into a series of sub-chapters, often no longer than a side of A4 but it’s these passages that make the book complete. For example, a chapter dedicated to West Ham hosting United in 1960 purposely gets side-tracked into a serious of paragraphs about West Ham’s bold formation back then and how United would go on to learn from it and eventually benefit. The constant diverging from the point would usually be something to criticise but in this case, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
This isn’t a controversy-free piece of writing though. Giles hasn’t set out to please everyone or agree with everything that’s gone before. There’s a chapter dedicated to people referring to United as “Man U” and he doesn’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with another respected Red’s opinion from the same era – that said, he’s certainly not rude in disagreeing. A topic of such needless controversy today is finally given some real historical context – the findings may indeed come as a shock.
Upon finishing reading the book, you’ll be hard pushed to feel that you’ve either learnt nothing or not enjoyed it. Given the tragedy and success that the club endured in the 50s and 60s there’s a lot that’s been said and written about the club in that time period already but Giles has added a new layer of knowledge to what already exists and focused heavily on telling the stories of some of the lesser known names such as Gaskell and Scanlon.
Pat (Paddy) Crerand has written the foreword for the book. If he can’t sell it to you, no one can:
“It always staggers me when I speak to my sons or grandsons about Manchester United, and they speak with knowledge of things that happened long before they were born. It’s amazing and it serves to remind me of just how important the history of the club is to the fans, and when you look at it, the history of Manchester United is incredible.”
“Success, tragedy, gifted players, great managers… it’s a club whose tale is unlike any other.”
“It’s amazing how important a football club is to lots of people”
And, most poignantly:
“There’s no limit to the amount of knowledge and stories people want to hear about Manchester United, and people like Giles help to quench that incredible thirst.”
The book, Red Matters, is written by Giles Oakley and has been published by The Republik of Mancunia. It’s available on Kindle and to download it, visit Amazon UK, Amazon US, or search “Red Matters Giles Oakley” on your country’s Amazon site.