Date: 7th November 2010 at 8:04pm
Written by:

Hoolifan: 30 Years of Hurt – Martin King & Martin Knight

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Hoolifan is the story of one man, Martin King, and his experiences spanning three decades with the country’s foremost soccer gang. Chelsea have always been at the cutting edge of football violence, and King himself was at the heart of the evolving Chelsea mob for some 30 years. From his first visit to a football ground in the early 1960s, he charts his development from a rattle-waving child through to a fully fledged member of the notorious Chelsea Shed in the 1970s and finally to his exploits as a key player in the most feared football gang of the 1980s and 1990s – the so-called Chelsea Headhunters.

King describes the leading characters of the various eras, not just from Chelsea but from across the country. He also records every clash, ambush and act of revenge in vivid detail, as well as the camaraderie and style of this most infamous soccer gang. This is not just another book on the well-trodden subject of football hooliganism, as, unlike so many authors, Martin King makes no attempt to distance himself from the violence and leaves readers to draw their own conclusions. At times provocative, often humorous and always honest, Hoolifan places the phenomenon of football hooliganism in its true social context.


If you were either too young or too scared to watch football at the Bridge and away with the Blue and White Army in the dark days of hooliganism, but always wanted to know what it was like, and why Chelsea has the fiercest reputation of all the hooligan firms, then this is the best book written about the subject by a country mile. Entertaining, informative, thought provoking and above all honest. Essential reading, and yet again, someone else we should get on the show!

Martin King first went to see a football match in the early 1960s at White Hart Lane. Immediately hooked, he soon became an avid Chelsea fan, or as the title of his book suggests, a Hoolifan, as over the years he became one of Chelsea’s “top boys”, a ringleader in orchestrating the violence on the terraces and city streets which made Chelsea so notorious throughout the 1970s and early 1980s.

This is a tough and compelling account of how, according to King, football violence was and always has been, part of the fabric of male, working-class life. Page after page describes the adventures of King and the Chelsea fans as they follow Chelsea across the country, taking “ends” (the area of the ground usually reserved exclusively for the home team’s fans) and engaging in organised fights, often on a terrifying and brutal scale. There are some wonderful sections on the vagaries of football fashion throughout the 70s and 80s and the cameraderie which unites the guild-like groups of fans is evoked with great skill. But King is often too quick to hide behind claims that innocents were never hurt in the violence he actively pursued and that the media has blown the problem out of all proportion. Nevertheless Hoolifan raises some uneasy and still unresolved questions about the nature of football violence. –Jerry Brotton