Book review: On the Road
Published by Speakeasy, with a foreword by Michael Crick, On the Road: A journey through a seasonhas little to do with the music and drugs that inspired Jack Kerouac’s ’50s namesake masterpiece, but if Daniel Harris is to the Glazer-era fan what the American writer was to the Beat Generation then that is praise indeed.
Originally filed as a weekly blog for ESPN Soccernet, On the Road is the story of Harris’ season following Manchester United in England and Europe during 2010/11, with a simple premise: the author attends matches solely away from Old Trafford.
Harris’ smart and witty week-by-week posts take the reader on a journey, often at a tangent, through United’s ultimately unsuccessful season. Although for even hardened United supporters the promise of after-the-fact match reports on an entire season holds little appeal, Harris’ acerbic wit, ability to draw readers into the unfolding drama and intelligent humour make On the Road a worthwhile read.
Catching the headlines, Harris’ account of Sir Alex Ferguson’s role in the Glazer family’s ownership of United is both angry, funny and from the heart. It is also painfully spot on the money.
“When Morrissey declared that he had forgiven Jesus, he was criticised by some for daring to suggest that could possibly be necessary. In similar vein, there’ll doubtless be plenty who’ll criticise me when I say that I haven’t, and will never, forgive Fergie,” writes Harris.
“That heroes always let you down is a cliché for a reason, but even so, you’d have thought that Fergie had racked up sufficient credit to remain one forever. Although Busby status became unobtainable following unsued-upon allegations made in two BBC documentaries – the first based on a biography wriiten by eminent United historian Michael Crick, the second a similarly authoritiative investigation into his agent son Jason – the reported indiscretions are dwarfed by achievements that won him significant slack.
But On the Road is more than a diatribe against Ferguson or the Glazer family, even if its premise is born in the 2005 takeover by the Americans. Harris, who says he had no intention of helping the Glazers pay off their debts, faced the dilemma many supporters confronted in 2005 and once again this summer: how to support your team while withholding custom.
As Harris says, “I retain a large helping of pride in the resistance that we offered. Enough to defeat Murdoch in 1998, although we failed second time around, at least we were savvy enough to realise we were being screwed and bothered enough to try doing something about it.”
On the Road: A journey through a season is available at Amazon.