Reviewed by David Savage
Running with the Firm: My Double Life as an Undercover Hooligan by James Bannon is the shocking true story of how policeman James Bannon (the author) spent 2 years undercover and infiltrated “The Bushwackers”, the notorious and violent football hooligans associated with Millwall football club in the 1980s. In 1995 a film called I.D. was released telling the story but was so shocking and violent no one was sure if it was fact or fiction. James Bannon, the man behind the film based on the true story has written his account of the true events of his life as an undercover football hooligan.
In the 1980s football hooliganism was rife and Millwall were notorious for its violent gang of supporters “The Bushwackers”. The government and police decided on a crackdown and the young, ambitious probationer policeman was selected for undercover duty to infiltrate and find the “generals” involved in football violence.
James Bannon has entered a very dangerous world of football violence where newcomers were not welcomed lightly. Running with the Firm is his story of how he painstaking got in with the gang eventually working his way up the ladder to meet the top boys and become one of them.
The story tells of his intense and dangerous journey where the violence at times was more important than the football and how he was starting to enjoy his job a little too much in his hunt for evidence to bring down the gangs. He was making friends with the hooligans and while outside of football they may have been decent people, on match days the need for extreme and unnecessary violence took over making Millwall one of the most feared football gangs in English football history.
The book also shows how police actions up and down the country actually contributed and made the violence worse and at times either started it themselves with their over the top tactics or by allowing the violence to happen without stopping it.
Overall, a well-written read showing the devastating the impact of football hooligans and their extreme violence all for the fact someone supported a different football team. The inabilities, inactions and actions of the police forces making the trouble worse and the effect undercover police work has with the stress on friendships and relationships at home and how it can take over your life. A disturbing look into the violent lives of the hooligans and the policeman charged with preventing it and the effect it has on the people around them.
Whether you have any interest in football or not this book is definitely worth a read. Is filled with violence, friendships, sadness and some humour.
I grew up 5 minutes walk from The Boleyn Ground, home of West Ham United – fierce rivals of Millwall and have seen the damage caused by football violence so I found this to be a very insighful book and interesting read.
Would highly recommend!
RRP: £9.99 (Paperback) / £2.99 (Kindle)
Available to buy from Amazon here.