Penguin: What were the circumstances surrounding the writing of Fever Pitch?
Nick: There was literate fan journalism about football and I felt that Fever Pitch reflected that culture. When I was talking to publishers and agents about it they told me no chance, trying to sell a football book. I think the view at the time was that as fans didn’t even buy the hopeless, ghosted, football autobiographies, they couldn’t understand what chance they would have with another sort of book. But I think they were looking at things the wrong way round. There was a market and an appetite for a better book about football, but there was still resistance within publishing.
P: What were your hopes or ambitions for Fever Pitch as you wrote it?
N: I hoped it would chime with people who followed a team seriously. I suspect that anyone who writes a book has two levels of ambition – the modest and the grandiose. I saw no reason why the book shouldn’t appeal to lots of people, of different ages and genders and class. But of course you never seriously think that they’re actually going to buy it!
P: In the book you do talk a bit about how football has been a kind of glue with people. Tell us something about your teaching experience and the way you related to the kids through popular culture.
N: I have always listened to a lot of pop music and I have always watched football, so you think, how hard can this be? But of course kids just presume that you know nothing about what they’re interested in, and even if you do know something you start to feel kind of phoney. I can remember when I was on teaching practice, saying to this kid “I’m an Arsenal fan”, and he just looked at me with complete contempt, as if my job automatically ruled me out from being able to go.
P: I suppose kids do want to feel that there is territory that is theirs, and they just don’t want adults coming into it.
N: There was a clear generation gap between me and my parents, and really in the last twenty or thirty years there are two or three generations that have grown up completely within popular culture. So you’re listening to the same stuff as your kids, which I think must be quite uncomfortable for them.
P: There are quite a lot of class issues in Fever Pitch that are both buried but also rather explicitly dealt with.
N: There’s been this thing, probably ever since Fever Pitch, about how the middle classes have colonised football and that this is a completely new phenomenon. I think if you were middle class you were certainly aware of it in football stadiums in the seventies, but I can remember talking to Tony Parsons about it, and he said “Who do they think has been sitting up in those seats for the last sixty years?” I think that the media tries to re-invent problems every 5 or 6 years and I think they’ve probably always been within football. But I think the class issue was important to address in Fever Pitch in a way that it wasn’t in High Fidelity