Following On by Emma John – book review

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We don’t often review cricket books these days because reading about cricket is not generally what we want to do once we’ve finished reading about cricket for the day. King Cricket reader Hoopy read one though and he sent us a review that he later conceded was, “a little harsh in the cold light of day.”

I was born on the 23rd April 1975. By the age of 10 I was obsessed with cricket, by 15 I was a cricket tragic.

And, so, started the 1990s, an age where, as we all know, the England cricket team seemed intent on out-doing its previous woeful performance with yet another shambolic display of top order batting, or bowling wide long hops with the new ball. For some reason, supporting the England cricket team became like being a member of a cult.

Life went on, and in 2005 England won cricket. The upshot of this was that some part of my cricket-ness died. Despite that, for each Christmas and birthday my sister bought me a cricket book. Usually a ghost-written autobiography by some bloke who was younger than me who was cashing in while the going was good.

Skip forward to Christmas 2019, an array of presents is laid before me. One of them is a hardcover book. I know what it is… it’s a bloody cricket book, and I harden my heart to look grateful.

Lo and behold it’s a book called Following On. It’s written by a journalist that I’ve sort of heard of called Emma John and it has a picture of Mike Atherton playing a hook shot on the dust jacket. It’s put to one side with the ‘best uncle’ socks and Lynx gift pack, then I cook dinner.

Boxing Day rolls ‘round and I’m mooching about for something to do, so I pick up ‘the book’. I know I have to read a bit at the beginning, a bit in the middle and a bit at the end so I can fully appraise the gift giver on how much I enjoyed it. Observations like ‘I didn’t realise they couldn’t touch cotton wool after they got the hundred at the GABBA’ always go down well, ‘cos lets face it, they’re never going to read this bollocks.

As I read the preface, I pour a large scotch (well, it was past 9.30 on Boxing Day) and read on. By chapter one I’m utterly intrigued. It would seem that she’s roughly the same age as me, she grew up supporting Middleshire, while I supported Lancasex, but there are similarities in our upbringing – although, she’s undoubtedly posher than me.

The best parts of the book are childhood memories. Interaction with parents and siblings are interesting, but the one defining feature which we share/shared is a complete fascination with Mike Atherton.

I suppose, for some reason, I need to point out that I’m heterosexual. I have never fantasised about walking hand in hand along the promenade in Llandudno with an England cricket capta… stop it, bit of a Lewis Caroll moment there.

Emma John is at pains to point out something very similar. She loved Athers for exactly the same reason I did: he was a tough bastard who could withstand Ambrose, Walsh, Waqar, Wasim, Donald, Pollock and, most importantly, Illingworth.

So, the point of the book is that Emma John interviews her Nineties First XI (and I suspect it was the first 11 that agreed to an interview). The whole premise of the interviews was, ‘you were an international sportsman, why was your team shit?’

Sound good? Well it’s actually not.

The first interview was with Alec Stewart. They were meeting at the Oval and Emma makes a big deal about getting up early, ‘cos she knows Stewey is a stickler for punctuality, so she snags a brew at some café and spills it down her front and then gets lost and then I’m thinking they already made Bridget Jones’ diary.

So then in no particular order we get interviews with Jack Russell at his studio shop where they drink tea; Ramprakash where there’s a great preamble about dancing rather than, y’know, scoring 100 first class centuries. Hick, Caddick, Tufnell, Crawley (who was wearing a cardigan). Basically, sports people should never be interviewed because they are intrinsically self-obsessed and boring.

I’ll leave it at that. The book is okay if you’re interested in a slightly quirky kid (very much like me) growing up with cricket through the Nineties. If you’re after an insight into what it was like to be part of the team then it’s probably best left on the shelf.

16 comments

  1. With glowing reviews like this published on your prestigious site, Yer Maj, probably time to add some Amazon affiliate links? The click-throughs will be rolling in.

    Disclosure: on my not-very-active professional blog, which mostly existed for the purposes of SEO to my services-for-hire page, I have managed to generate some sales from book reviews, and more from “things everyone needs to do to prepare for [whatever], which just so happen to include reading the following books” articles, which probably aren’t so relevant to this site (though if you wish to add some how-to guides, such as “How to bat like Chris Martin”, I’m sure you could find some tenuously linked books/coaching videos/items of cricket training equipment you could link through to). However, I never made anything anywhere near the cost of my web hosting, which is probably a sign I should have found a cheaper host. Unlike your good self, I didn’t even stretch to purchasing a security certificate, which is a sign of just how low my affiliate sales were…

    1. Was this before you had to buy security certificates to keep your website working?

      Can’t wait to discover the next exciting developing in effectively mandatory hosting costs.

      1. Christ, I never thought of click through stuff. Sorry KC, would have made it marginally less harsh, but I read the interviews again and I still stand by what I wrote. The interview with Atherton is OK, although he’s still a bit standoffish.

        As an aside, and I didn’t like to mention this here for fear of being lynched, when Rob Key started at Sky I really didn’t like him. But after the Sky lockdown videos with Nasser and Ian Ward I’ve grown to ‘love’ him again. #justsayin

      2. Doing podcasts where he’s got some longstanding gripe to get off his chest is very much Key’s area.

      3. I was actually born the day before Sachin Tendulkar, which I may have mentioned before, but I rather cling to as the lack of any real attainment in my own life becomes increasingly apparent.

    2. I thought I’d put up with the security warning – did it really matter if the site was officially “not secure” if I didn’t have any payment or comment forms there? Can’t steal your info if I don’t give you any way to give me it. (I had my email address and phone number displayed – at one point I had a WordPress plugin form people could fill in to contact me and it generated an email, but apparently it got hacked and used for sending spam to other people, so I ended up disabling it anyway.) The red triangle of danger in the web browser was probably not the best of looks professionally, but I discovered most of the people who contacted me via my site were flakes anyway. Better quality clients found by advertising elsewhere.

      Your site gets a lot more traffic than mine though so I doubt a spot of affiliate marketing would hurt you. Once you’re all set up it’s pretty easy. If you’re lucky, people click through on your link then buy something else. I might even do the occasional online shop via Yer Maj to compensate for my lack of patreonage.

      1. We do actually have an Amazon affiliate account but we don’t really encourage any of you to buy anything through the links because Amazon are bell-ends.

  2. My birthday is also on the 23 rd April. What are the odds?

    Well, OK the adds are pretty simple to work out,

    1. I actually know 8 people with the same birthday, and given that I probably only know 20 people, it’s a bit weird.

      1. Great review, Hoopy. Chapeau. I was born in 1970, so if I could borrow those fve years you’ve got on me it would be appreciated. An upcoming half century is making me nervous.

    2. In any given cricket match, with two umpires, it is likely (54% chance) that there will be a shared birthday.

  3. Excellent review, Hoopy.

    Emma John’s follow-up book was about Bluegrass, apparently.

    1990s England cricket and Bluegrass music – I’m starting to think that she obsesses about shite things…

    …apart from Middlesex cricket, of course. Great taste, that Emma John, apart from 1990s England cricket and Bluegrass music, obvs.

  4. Thanks for the review, Hoopy, not least because I am pretty sure I had this book in my hand in some bookshop at some point, but decided against it. Looks like I made the right choice.
    On a slightly related note, maybe cricket book reviews should follow the pattern of (professional) cricket match reports and not be allowed to discuss the book itself? So, in the excellent case above, up to the point where Hoopy poured himself a large scotch ….

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