Dean Perretta: Robert, can you talk about your forthcoming new book entitled “ Cockney Reds: The Story of Manchester United’s Southern Army” and the general creative process from the infancy to the final stages for this much-awaited release?
Robert Cleur: It was a project me and some of the older Cockney Reds wanted to get off the ground for some years. We knew our story needed to be told, it was something missing from the catalogue of past hooligan history told through books, but we were concerned about the effect on our families when the details of what we did came out and any possible comeback from the authorities. Those times have passed and in autumn 2016 a Cockney Red called Joe happened to meet author Steve Little and chatted about our idea. Steve (Little) agreed to work with us and over the next two and a half years we put together the story, trawling our memories, with many Cockney Reds chipping in with individual tales from the 60s to the present day.
We agreed my story would be the central thread, with a largely chronological selection of key events, woven in with a large number of other contributors. Steve and I would meet weekly to set out the basic story and to that we added the comments from others either via individual or group meetings and by email or Skype. Some Cockney Reds were concerned they might be exposed as violent thugs, criminals even, and had their careers to worry about and the possible effect on their families, so a few withdrew. Others did not wish to become involved from the start. Some of our lads, like The Ghost, have incredible memories and were able to provide Steve with very detailed accounts of events stretching back over half a century. Much background information is also available online to add to almost every story.
All that was left once we got underway with the project was to find a publisher. Steve suggested Milo Books who specialise in sports books and whose principal, Peter Walsh, had written his own book over twenty years ago on hooliganism. Thankfully he agreed to take us on.