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Return of the Busby Babes

A novel by

An ailing football team are taken over by the ghosts of the legendary Busby Babes with surprising results. This light, humorous tale of the hapless 2004 Albion Rovers football team, suddenly possessed by the spirits of eight of the Busby Babes, killed in the Munich air disaster in 1958. Imagine Field of Dreams, but with bad football in place of baseball, set in Coatbridge.
Bailey Bloggs, survivor of the same air disaster, is wracked with guilt by the fact. In his anguish, he becomes obsessed with the useless and nearly bankrupt Rovers following media publicity after the team's miraculous escape from a skiing accident. Certain that the survivors have become possessed by the spirits of the eight dead Manchester United players, he attempts to convince them likewise.

Matt, the manager, has his own theories when the previously inept team begin storming their way up the Scottish league, and into Europe. Convinced his statue of Padre Pio, a stigmata-suffering priest, is responsible for their change of fortune, the statue becomes a shrine to the team and supporters.

Vengeful greyhounds, exorcism, corrupt businessmen, the slimiest, nastiest man of the cloth you'll meet in a long time, hard-to-convince players whose idea of preparing for a game is a couple of tins of superlager in the changing room beforehand, all intermingle in this refreshing take on the football novel.

Parts of it reads like a heroic story from a boys' comic, but this adds to the gentle innocence of the book.

Descriptions of the actual matches are particularly evocative. Dillon mills among the players, crowd, corrupt management and itinerant greyhounds to create a real feeling of being there. You can smell the pies and hear the chants, particularly in the scene where Jimbo is about to take a penalty against Celtic and his girlfriend, Ingrid, runs on to give him a good luck kiss, to chants of "Who's the slutbag, who's the slutbag, who's the slutbag on the pitch?"

The characters are likeable and well drawn, by way of flashbacks that give insight into early motivations, fears and disappointments. Such intense use of flashback could be confusing, but Dillon flits from different times and characters, using repetition as an anchor. There are no chapters as such, but each section starts with a repeated paragraph from a previous section, a technique that is very effective in prolonging the reader's expectations.

The book is full of urban myths Dillon subsequently takes as his own giving it a realistic grounding despite its other-worldly theme. It is also crammed full of colourful metaphors, and laugh-out-loud observations: "Jimbo's bird's got a face on her like a bulldog licking the pish off a jaggy thistle", "It's an old-fashioned pub. It doesn't sell drugs".

He can also be touchingly accurate on the human condition, such as his description of Bailey's addiction to sorrow: "It's a bit like when you probe a rotten tooth with a toothpick. While you're doing it the pain's bearable. It's only when you try to ignore it, it's insufferable."

Return of the Busby Babes is not as challenging as Dillon's earlier books, but none-the-less, refreshingly innocent and unpretentious.

Used availability for Des Dillon's Return of the Busby Babes

See all available used copies of this book at Abebooks UK or Abebooks US

Paperback Editions

December 2011 : UK Paperback
Title: Return Of The Busby Babes
Author(s): Des Dillon
ISBN: 1-4710-0928-9 / 978-1-4710-0928-0 (UK edition)
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   

July 2011 : USA Paperback
Title: Return of the Busby Babes: The worst football team in the world are possessed by the ghosts of the Busby Babes - the consequences are supernatural
Author(s): Des Dillon
ISBN: 1-4565-3989-2 / 978-1-4565-3989-4 (USA edition)
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   

January 2000 : UK Paperback
Title: Return of the Busby Babes
Author(s): Des Dillon
ISBN: 0-7472-7173-9 / 978-0-7472-7173-4 (UK edition)
Publisher: Headline Review
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   

Kindle Editions

December 2010 : USA, Canada, UK Kindle edition
Title: Return Of The Busby Babes
Author(s): Des Dillon
Publisher: Des Dillon
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   

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