Interview: Luke Williamson

I Had A Wheelbarrow: Luke Williamsons take on the 2009/10 season.Local author Luke Williamson recently had his first book “I Had A Wheelbarrow” published.

The tome is Luke’s retelling of the events at Notts County during the 2009/10 season. The book has been busy picking up favourable reviews across the board and has just achieved it’s second print run.

I figured i would take the chance to quiz Luke about the reception the book has received, about plans for a possible follow up, and his take on the current events at Meadow Lane. And right at the end, see how to be in with a chance of winning a signed copy of the book!

First off, thanks for taking the time out for a few questions! How did the idea for your book come about?

Well I’ve always been keen on writing. For much of my twenties I spent writing music and was also editor and writer for a Sixties Mod fanzine called Rattle ‘n’ Roll. But my main interest and obsession has always been football.

I’d been considering doing something from the view point of a fan for a year or two and no sooner had I decided to document the 2009/10 season, Sven showed up thanks to the Munto lot and before I knew it there was potentially a big story on the card that may appeal to more than just your average Notts fan.

Who did you speak to during the course of writing the book? Any big names at the club?

Well initially speaking to anyone well known was impossible. Under Munto and then Trembling, all request and communications with the club were met with a defiant silence. But within days of Ray Trew taking over I was welcomed behind the scenes and given opportunities to speak with some of those involved in the story.

Ray and Jim Rodwell welcomed me to the board room during the Macclesfield game on a cold Tuesday night and that has to be my highlight from a ‘meeting people’ sort of angle.

Derek Pavis and John Mounteney were very gracious and warm guys. It was a honour to talk with them. And then later that evening I briefly met the Gaffer Steve Cotterill for the first time.

In the months that followed I interviewed John Thompson and Steve Cotterill. This was down to press officer Ralph Shepherd who was extremely helpful and supportive of the whole project. And then I had the privilege to have dinner with Colin Slater towards the end of the campaign which is something I’ll always have a fond memory of.

The most important people I met were those in the stands though. Without them, football would not be what it is. And without them, my book would serve no purpose. I enjoyed some very random away trips during the season and met some people who I will always remember thanks to the story they helped me to document.

How much fun was it reflecting on such an amazing season? Were you ever concerned that there’d be some huge moments you might actually forget?

Somehow, I managed to piece it all together. How I am not sure. I was worried that I perhaps did not dip into the Munto side of things enough or perhaps missed off important news items during the year. But I soon realised that I was not trying to tell those stories. I was trying to tell my story. So the less I tried to remember, the easier it became.

I did the majority of the work during the season before I had a ‘lost month’ with the World Cup. After that? Well then the memories were a bit harder to document but I was motivated with the support of my publisher.

Which part of the book did you most have fun writing?

I’m not sure if fun is the right word but the parts I am most fond of are the bits between games where I open up about my own life and what was happening with me away from Notts County.

As a football fan, the truth is you are never totally away from your club. There is always a part of you thinking about football or anticipating the next game and sometimes it can teach you a hard lesson in your private life. But I am proud of those parts of the book as I think it takes a very honest and genuine sort of person to dissect their own character and faults. And to then put that in writing takes a bit of guts too.

And which were the hardest parts? Any instances of writers block perhaps?

Some chapters were very tough if truth be told but I did not feel like I could omit them. The toughest parts though were describing the big wins where we racked up four or five goals. After a while a goal being described in text can become much the same. And once a game was won, it felt like I had less to talk about from an emotional point of view.

I prefer the chapters where Notts won in the last minute or messed up away from home if truth be told. We are a glutton for punishment though at Notts aren’t we?

How happy have you been with the books reception so far? You must be delighted to have already hit your second print run?

So far I must say I have been delighted. The feedback has been positive and some fans have really been complimentary on the way I re-told the story. I have bits that reading back I was unhappy with but I’ve spoke to some seasoned writers and I have been told that they are things you learn with each project you do.

Any plans for a sequel? The past season would certainly make for an interesting follow-up at least?

The amount of people who have asked whether I have penned “And The Wheel Fell Off” with regards to the League One campaign is unbelievable. I wish I had but if truth be told, I was still tweaking and finishing the first book come February and March of the 2010/11 season. It is a regret that I didn’t work harder during the summer last year but once again, it is a lesson learnt.

With those lessons learnt then, is it something you’ll keep in the back of your mind to do in the future perhaps? Was writing this book an experience you’d like to repeat again? Has the idea even been come up with your publisher?

It is certainly something I am set to repeat but whether or not it is a follow up to “I Had A Wheelbarrow” or whether it is something totally different is not yet certain. I have several different ideas I am working on and I am also currently in the process of writing a script for a football based drama so I am trying to keep it to one thing at a time really rather than spreading myself.

I am trying to work out what I think I can make the biggest success out of really. The ambition is to write a few books though and there is a biography I am pretty keen on writing if a former Notts man would be interested in it. No more on that at present though.

What was your take on the past season? If you did write a second book, what do you think the highlights would be?

Well I think in some ways the season just gone would have made a more interesting story. But whether or not the club would have been as happy with the product I am not sure. That is not to say I disagree with decisions that were made but I think most of us felt negative in the days after our FA Cup defeat at Man City because from then, it really went downhill.

I remember receiving some information on the morning of Paul Ince’s sacking that today was likely to be the day that he’d be relieved from First Team duties. I spent the lunch time writing a blog about his reign and that was the first time I recall thinking how good a book about 2010/11 could have been.

Looking back now, I am amazed I stayed as positive as I did through the bad days. If 2009/10’s most popular phrase was “As long as Sven is here”, then 2010/11’s was “We’ll be safe. We’re too good to go down”. It is quiet scary how close we came to heading back to League Two. The decision to bring in Allen was nothing short of a masterstroke.

Obviously happy with the appointment then. What did you think of the job Mad Dog did during his few games in charge?

Absolutely delighted with the appointment and the job he did in a short amount of time. Did he do much different on the pitch? Not really. But it’s the impact he had in the players mindset that really turned things around. The players had been knocked so often during the season by the press, Paul Ince and even our own fans. No wonder they got to a point where they couldn’t perform. It can be so hard to get out of a rut once you are in it.

It takes a real motivator to changes things and fortunately we appear to have a man who is something of a master in that. I like his approach and his openess which happens to mirror the honestly with which Ray and Jim give us so all in all, I am happy going into next season. Time to start believing once again I reckon.

You can order your copy of “I Had A Wheelbarrow” from the book’s official site, or you can contact Luke via Twitter. Or alternatively, you can win a signed copy of the book, simply by registering at The Notts Blog here. All members registered by the big kick-off on August 6th will be entered into a draw for the book, the winner being notified that morning! Good luck!

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