Book review: Articles of Faith, by Russell Brand

HarperCollins £15.99****

I WANTED not to like this book – or at least to disapprove, in the strongest terms, of the cynicism and sheer laziness inherent in Russell Brand recycling his old newspaper columns on football, and re-packaging them in this glossy, hardback book, clearly designed to dupe an unsuspecting granny into buying an easy and unimaginative Christmas present for young Johnny.

Well, thanks to Sachs-gate, that probably ain't gonna 'appen, as Russell 'imself might put it. And so, one wonders – what with elderly relatives and half the rest of the population alienated – who now will buy Brand's warblings on football?

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But the fact is this: Brand's columns on football are an acquired taste – and if you have acquired it, they are wonderful. They are gloriously freewheeling, eccentric, unrestrained; and above all, they are original. You will not hear another voice like Brand's in the sports pages.

He refers to Fernando Torres as a "handsome devil"; suggests that Neil Warnock could be "poised in a circle of stone, stinking of chicken's blood, spewing white-eyed incantations and clutching a buckled dolly of Julien Faubert"; observes that Avram Grant "looks like Herman Munster's butler"; and calls Martin Jol "that big, lovely, bald Honey Monster of a man."

The genius in many of Brand's apparently off-beat observations is that they work on several levels, and fly off into uncharted, comedy or innuendo-rich territory.

He sums up the haplessness of Steve McClaren's reign as England manager thus: "I may as well rail against my cat for his inability to cook authentic Thai food." And he questions the role of the director of football – discussing Damien Comolli at Spurs – imagining Comolli telling Jol: "Don't mind me, I'll just be here directing the football."

Why, asks Brand, doesn't Comolli "just turn up at first team training sessions and stick Post-its on Martin's back reading 'I want my Mummy' or put cards in phone boxes with his mobile number and 'I will bend over for cash' written on them."

OK, so some of Brand's flights of fancy are too fanciful. His punctuation would drive Lynne Truss potty, and some of his material is, inevitably, dated.

There is a pointless and nauseatingly chummy 'conversation' between Brand and David Baddiel apparently conducted purely for this book, which includes a dissection of Scottish attitudes towards the English. Brand's analysis of this is far more sophisticated than Baddiel's, who can't get over the fact that every time he's in Scotland "some c*** will shout 'C***' at me."

Yet – if you have acquired the taste – there is much to enjoy as Brand brings fresh insight to the irrational yet fundamental state of being a football fan, following a team (West Ham), and falling for Jose Mourinho.