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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Exclusive Red News interview with new Utd author Daniel Harris about his new book On The Road

Daniel Harris' On the Road is out now, available via the links below or in most Waterstone's stores, WHSmith in the Greater Manchester area, HMV in Greater Manchester and Oxford Street, and Foyles.

So how does an ex-City lawyer turn into a canny United author?

Well, I’d always wanted to be a writer, and only ended up a City lawyer following an unfortunate confluence of circumstances, mainly post-university poverty and not being sure what I wanted to write. Two years at law school sounded like a good incentive to work that out, if a fucking terrible way of spending two years, so that’s what I did. By the time I was done, I was halfway through writing a novel – out soon, hopefully – and also writing for Redissue, so binned law as soon as I qualified. The last time I left the office was a moment of spectacular ecstasy.

We’ve enjoyed the blogs for Soccernet – how did that come about?

I started freelancing for Soccernet after meeting the boss online (oo-er) on Redissue’s Sanctuary, and he asked me to write a weekly piece, suggesting that the subject be following United around. Funnily enough, that sounded good to me, and I never tired of saying to my girlfriend see you soon love, I’m off to work in Istanbul/Milan/Munich/Bolton etc.

Though success was of but a League Cup kind, it was a season, as ever, of much drama. What do you think went right and wrong?

Right was the start of a meaningful protest against the Glazers, though it appears to have petered out to some degree – the renewal figures that we’ve still not seen will be the best gauge of whether that’s so. On the pitch, the wins over city were the obvious highlights, and it was also nice to see the team’s approach alter a little – the commitment to attack was more evident than in either of the last two seasons, particularly in Europe, with the possible exception of Munich away. Wrong was the refusal to select Rafael regularly, the unnecessary evisceration of Berbatov’s confidence, and the inconsistency of selection that is probably the biggest non-financial reason as to why another league wasn’t won.

History will probably recall events off-field rather than on it, though, with the Green and Gold campaign kicking off, you are obviously well-known for your thoughts on the Glazers, but what are your thoughts on the G&G?

A great idea and starting point, and effective in mobilising protest and attracting media attention. But as long as people continue paying in, it’s hard to see anything changing – the club can be milked for a fair bit yet.

And what do you think happens next?

It’ll depend on how many haven’t renewed. The way the club are scrabbling around, it’s possible there are enough who haven’t to cause them a problem. If they’re still ok, then all we can do is wait for a double-dip recession. And if that doesn’t happen, then we’re stuck with the Glazers until there’s nothing left.

Many an intelligent blog was mystified by some of Fergie’s team selections last year, is that one of the only Achilles heel targets he can be called for?

The most significant criticisms of Fergie have nothing to do with football – the BBC allegations, the horse spunk affair, Coolmore’s 101 questions, the ushering in of the Glazers and subsequent attitude towards United’s support. Selection wise, he’d been getting away with it for the last two seasons, thanks mainly to Ronaldo and with nods towards a good defence and the shiteness of the competition. This time round, with Ronaldo gone and the back four unsettled, there was nothing to mask the endless self-indulgent tinkering, without which we’d have been champions again.

Optimistic or pessimistic for next season?

Despite the impression the blogs may have given some, I’m a natural optimist, so I can see a way we can succeed on the pitch, though only if Fergie fiddles less. Vidic staying is obviously crucial, and with Hernandez looking a player (despite the sky pointing and nickname on shirt having), there may now be a genuine alternative to Rooney – something which would have won us the league last season. The frustration is that we’re not that far off being a very good side – though nowhere near as good as the really great sides of the Fergie era – and a midfield playmaker would make all the difference.

What was the reason to put together this book?

The blogs were doing well in terms of hits and there was a bit of an interest in having them collated, plus it seemed like something that’d be good for the getting of future work.

W e have – or so we’d see it – very few onside United journalists who at least bat for the Red cause, why do you think that is?

As far as I know, there aren’t that many Reds within the presspack. On top of that, criticising United attracts attention, and is an easy way of getting at Fergie for those who don’t like him.

What next, for you, and United?

I’m just finishing my first novel and starting the next, along with a screenplay. Football-wise I’m not sure, but will probably be writing a weekly piece about more general things.

What did you think of the comments made in response to your blog?

I loved them – one morning I woke up to an email from my mum with “you are an arrogant, ignorant muppet” in the subject box. In general, most people were quite nice, but it was far more entertaining to read the angry ones – in particular, it was gratifying to see how incandescent I’d made the city fans who responded. There was one in particular who brightened up almost every week with his ire.

More generally, I’d always have a think about the critical ones and evaluate whether they had a point, but it made more sense to take more notice of the opinions of people I know and trust them to give me honest feedback - most of them havd the advantage of enjoying full literacy. But though it’s funny, it does also feel weird to inspire and then receive bouts of gibbering rage.

Do you have a blog from this season that’s your favourite? And anything you wished you’d blogged about but didn’t?

The one I enjoyed writing the most was probably after the first derby, when the joy was unbounded and it still didn’t seem very much like work. I’d like to have blogged about watching games with my dad. Depending on your standpoint, I’m either highly critical or expect high standards, but I suddenly become all protective when he complains about “your team”, which is what he calls United when they lose.

What did you find easiest about writing the book and what was hardest?

Easiest was getting to vent my opinionated opinions, hardest was having to take notes during games – until then, watching United was the one thing I could do without thinking about writing, recording thoughts and observations. Suddenly, that was no longer so.

RN recommends Harris’ book. He’s fast becoming the Utd author for his generation and whether you agree or disagree with his views on all things M16 0RA you will be provoked and inspired with passion, what supporting Manchester United is all about...