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Among the Thugs

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  5,474 Ratings  ·  501 Reviews
They have names like Barmy Bernie, Daft Donald, and Steamin' Sammy. They like lager (in huge quantities), the Queen, football clubs (especially Manchester United), and themselves. Their dislike encompasses the rest of the known universe, and England's soccer thugs express it in ways that range from mere vandalism to riots that terrorize entire cities. Now Bill Buford, edit ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published June 1st 1993 by Vintage (first published 1990)
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Blake I really don't see him an infiltrator of any sort. He may have been present for a few grisly scenes but he never does more than run to keep up and…moreI really don't see him an infiltrator of any sort. He may have been present for a few grisly scenes but he never does more than run to keep up and then watch with wide eyes, immune from the carnage only because he visually appears to be a fellow supporter.

He's also very sincere with himself and his subjects. Most of the people who spoke to him seem to have done so under some level of anonymity, intentionally keeping their distance, and yet he never represents himself as anything but an interested third party to them - most want him around specifically because they believe he might help them bolster their reputations.

It might be different were he acting like he was some kind of official firm member, or spun a yarn about plunging a broken bottle into the face of a Italian police officer. He isn't self-aggrandizing at all, anywhere - if anything he represents himself as somewhat cowardly, doubtful, and confused by his own motivations before deciding entirely that the scene isn't worth the trouble, and greater insights aren't to be had by spending further time in it. (less)

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Paul Bryant
Nov 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
I'd forgotten about this one. It's hilarious, in a grim kind of way, which is how hilarious should be. Expat American infiltrates the notorious English football hooligan sub-culture of the late 80s/early 90s, you may remember those horrible violent yobs. These were hard nuts like the Inter-City Firm from West Ham who yould beat the daylights out of you and leave you broken, bleeding and barfing in a back alley but always remember to leave a smartly printed business card in one of your pockets sa ...more
Sep 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Jacob, to whom I have already lent it
Recommended to Anders by: jason cons
A stunning work of non-fiction, Among the Thugs chronicles Buford's attempts to understand the English phenomenon of soccer hooliganism by immersing himself into its characters, events, and lifestyles. He starts as an outsider, an American living in London for many years without ever attending a soccer game. Intrigued by the stories of violence and lawlessness the games ignite in the supporters of the teams, he sets out to understand how and why so many young and working-class people are continu ...more

I can say without hesitation that this is the best of the 55 books I’ve read this year. It’s gonzo-style journalism at its very best; funny, horrific, impertinent, robust and insightful by turns; it one-ups Hunter S. Thompson and does for English soccer hooligans what HST did for Hell’s Angels in his classic book on same. It’s not just a read but an overwhelming experience; intensely engaging and memorable. I doubt I’ll ever forget about Mickey and Sammy and Rod and DJ and
Michael Burnam-Fink
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, non-fiction
Among the Thugs stands next The Hell's Angels as an unflinching look at a violent male subculture, in this case the classic English football hooligan of the 1980s. Buford was an American living in England. What he depicts as an idle curiosity about a strange feature of English culture, much sensationalized by the press, became a multiyear sociological study.

It is an undeniable fact that by all conventional measures, attending a football game in England is a terrible way to spend a Saturday after
Apr 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who thinks Europe is perfect
The English disease in all its gory. This book does a wonderful job of reporting and commenting on the horror of soccer crowds. For me, this comes after a six month fascination with soccer violence. There is very little to explain why hooligans do what they do, but what interests me is that this is a problem that seems to effect most western "civilized" nations except the good old U. S. of A. In discussing this issue with a friend, we both expressed surprise. Surprise not in the predictable riot ...more
Dec 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: current-affairs
Bill Buford, an American export to Britain, began an exploration of sports violence after he had the misfortune to take a train that was being systematically destroyed by hundreds of Liverpool soccer team supporters - the police seemingly unable to control the riot, indeed as afraid as the other passengers. There is a particularly savage image of a drunk "supporter," as Buford calls the hooligans, throwing lighted matches on the shoes of a well-to-do businessman riding in first-class, perhaps ho ...more
Dec 01, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
At its finer moments, “Among the Thugs” conveys a powerful and contagious desire for violence. Maybe this is easier to do than I realize—many Hollywood films fill me with bloodlust and I’ve got enough disdain for hooligans to think they deserve one another—but Buford walks a fine line. He’s keenly aware that he could write a jaw-breaking work of pure sadistic voyeurism; but he largely refrains from doing so.

He dips into the mayhem enough to establish his credibility and by highlighting instance
Dec 09, 2011 rated it liked it
As was the case with Heat, Buford is overly conversational (really never a reason to put "I must admit" in writing) and in need of a friend with a red pen. "I didn't need to be told, I was told" might be clever, but it is not reader-friendly writing.

It would have been interesting to read this book in its time, since the Hillsborough disaster changed so much, and for that matter a follow up, even a brief one (in the New Yorker?) would be compelling. Still, although I know it was part of the plan
Jun 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
Note: This is a truncated review due to character limitations. For the full review, please see this link
There are two kinds of violence in Among the Thugs.
The first is the violence we, the reading and civilized public, are supposed to abhor: violence perpetrated by the football (soccer) hooligans.
The second kind of violence is that perpetrated by the police forces against protesters of all stripes, including those football hooligans, American author Bill Buford all but outright states is an enti
Peter Derk
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It takes something willing to go pretty far to call it one of the most intense reads I've ever had. Among The Thugs makes it in there, easy.

The premise is Buford, an American living in the UK, starts following football/soccer. In the late 80's and early 90's, this was not an easy thing to do. This was a violent, crowd-ruled thing.

In one short chapter, Buford talks to a police captain who can't believe that in the States, at a football game, people show up shortly before the game (as opposed to r
Jun 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I originally read Among the Thugs last year, but with a (potentially) lengthy amount of hospital time looming, I decided to return to it, just because it was such a page-turner. Thankfully the hospital visit turned out to only be out-patient surgery (and also thankfully, the surgery went as well as could be hoped). Be this as it were, I still managed to rampage through this book. As my girlfriend will testify, I spend too much time reading about soccer/football (debatable) and other sports (prob ...more
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The grittier version of Fever Pitch . That was on the terraces. This is in the streets around the stadium. Most of all, it's about the crowd as its own being that subsumes individuals.

I just missed the worst of English football violence. But I've been among those crowds on matchday and there is something electric about them. And not always the buzzy-feel-good electric. Sometimes it's the high voltage type that could overheat. Bill Buford captures that feeling and, a little chillingly, sometimes
Vince Tuss
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I wish I would have read this when I first came across it in 1994, but I am glad to have done it now. Along with the senselessness of the English lad football fan, I found a cogent analysis of the Brexit vote. Published in 1990. How little changes.
Chad Statler
Jul 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Bill Buford has done for English soccer hooligans what Hunter S. Thompson did for the Hells Angels. Buford's style is clearly gonzo. He immerses himself into the world and culture of various football firms and their supporters in England. There he observes the violence, drinking, parochialism, and nationalism of some of these supporters.

One scene I thought was interesting was when Buford speaking with a police chief about football violence and the chief seemed incredulous that in the US football
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sociology
I don't know if all of it is factually true, but it was a great reading and gives pointers for further research.
Moira Burke
Feb 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
"Ira Glass recommended this biography of soccer hooligans—erm, football supporters—in England in the 1980s. Buford is an editor for Granta, and so the book reads more like a lengthy New Yorker profile, rather than A Clockwork Orange. Thus, the violence is palatable because it's sheathed in a discussion of group psychology. It's fascinating how men with decent paying jobs revel in freeloading (in fact, being \on the jib\"" while traveling to playoffs implies that the fans not only don't spend mon ...more
Shannon Windham
Oct 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
In the book department, this has been a pretty great year. I have not read that many books but the ones that I did get from cover to cover were all really exceptional books (with the exception of one). This however, is not that exception. Among the Thugs will be a book that wont let me forget it. It kept be gasping for air page by page from the alley chases and bar brawls, laughing out loud from the brilliantly timed interjections of humor, and shrieking to avoid reading another word of its grot ...more
Mar 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Surprise! I really loved this book. Bill Buford, the (American-born) editor of Granta, is a clearly a great bloke. Willing to mix it up, get loathed and rat-arsed, with thugs and hooligans to find out more about the psychology of crowd violence. And how interesting is that? It isn't individual sadism, but group-think gone off. He writes beautifully. His observations are funny, witty, scary, and I think accurate. Soccer thugs apparently like England, The Queen, violence, the Falkland Islands, Mar ...more
Jun 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely stunning work of reportage. Buford immerses himself in the scary, stupid, and bewildering world of soccer hooligans - a task that involves attending a National Front (ie. fascist) disco, consuming vast quantities of greasy pub food with warm lager, and rioting. The vividly drawn characters are dysfunctional and often despicable, but Buford is a fair witness, finding things to like about them as well as detest. He's a witty and sharp writer, keeps the investigation moving, and only ...more
Jun 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Just in time for the World Cup. I always wondered what drove these guys to go crazy and trash the cities they went to soccer games in. Buford, an American, meets up with a few of them in bars near the stadiums. He's in Manchester, the most unruly of the fan clubs live there. He's actually a sociologist who doesn't understand British sports. Americans just go to football games and drink beer and cheer. These guys like to beat each other up. He explores why and what they do. Most of them have dece ...more
Nov 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: sports fans, Bill Buford fans
Only Bill Buford could take subject matter so disturbing and write about it in a way that is both sensitive and compelling. Considering I have virtually no knowledge or interest in sports in general and football (soccer) in particular and am generally squeamish about violence, the fact I found this book such a great read is impressive. Buford offers up several theories for why these "hooligans" who are by and large normal law abiding citizens by day commit unspeakable acts of violence in the nam ...more
Peter Knox
Feb 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2011
Loved the gonzo style immersion journalism into the holy world of soccer hooliganism. Really well written and funny.

What Hunter S. Thompson did for 1960s motorcycle gangs, Bill Buford here does for 1980s English soccer fan culture and it's well worth reading if that interests you as it did me.

A New Yorker writer, Buford is the straight man to the crazy brutal violent world around him and he tells how he got sucked in only to emerge lucky to keep his life. Lots of wonderful story telling around
Jun 19, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: tpl
The book is very well written and fascinating in parts. It suffers because it is really two books, an up-close and personal account of soccer hooliganism and an examination of crowds and crowd violence. The two rarely mesh into one narrative. The book also suffers because, after years of spending time with the hooligans, Buford has gotten sick and tired of them, understandably. But since he's no longer interested in the topic, it's hard for the readers to stay involved. The book is definitely wo ...more
Marco Pavan
Jan 15, 2017 rated it liked it
I have overall liked the book. It provides tons of insights about crowd violence and how hooliganism developed in the U.K. And in other areas of the world (but mostly U.K. ) and most important why it developed and what patterns followed

He reason for the 3 stars is that the prose is at time clumsy and some digressions are way too long.

I was personally hoping to find crazier stories but this remains a good book to read nonetheless
Feb 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book provided me with my weekly dose of gratuitous violence, similar I suppose to the chair-throwing on Jerry Springer or, better yet, an episode of pro wrestling! I can't really say that I learned that much from reading this other than to completely avoid public transportation in London on a match day, lest the train/bus I'm riding be hijacked by drunken, angry louts that want to beat me silly because I made the mistake of looking at them.
Martha Moffett
Jan 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This was, as promised, an unnerving book. Buford joined these fans, mostly working-class British men, young to middle age, who congregated at football games and, crowd-empowered, unleashed violence on all around them. Makes me think about the vicarious pleasure I get from watching pro football here--on my TV, and safely at home.
Jun 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In 2006, after their team was knocked out of the World Cup, I saw a rioting Swiss football crowd beat up the opposing team's supporters (they moved on to people of color after some time) and destroy property. I now understand why my friends were concerned for our safety. Next time, I will make sure to run away from violent crowds as fast as I can.
Jun 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant, in-depth narrative that is at times very difficult to read. There were times I actually had to put this down and walk away, a sure sign of a book with impact. Buford takes the edge off the violence with a dry, well-timed sense of humor. Highly recommended, even for Americans unfamiliar with the history of English football culture.
Apr 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
fascinating look at english football thugs. author travels with them in their scary drunken world.. author has since moved to nyc, writes for a big mag there and has apprenticed himself to rural Italian chefs and butchers.
Vel Veeter
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cbr-9
This book is so great. Bill Buford goes to write about soccer hooligans in England in the 1980s and gets accepted into their core. He doesn’t write in a sympathetic or like he’s “gone native” but he definitely clearly seeks to understand and explain. He also clearly has an affection for various individuals he meets along the way, lies in approval of white supremacy England National Fronters, and finds himself glad to see his “friends” when he gets separated in one of the worst soccer riots in th ...more
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Bill Buford is an American author and journalist.
Buford is the author of the books:
Among the Thugs and Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany.
More about Bill Buford
“The crowd is not us. It never is.” 7 likes
“All this intelligent and careful work revealed a man of great forethought. Yet you could see in Mr. Wicks's eyes--as he stood in the shade of the terminal awning, all that tweed and education waving to us, as one by one each bus pulled out for the noisy drive into the city--that he had failed.” 1 likes
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