At the age of eight, Stuart Clarke and his brother created a full-size football pitch in the field behind their Hertfordshire home. It was to ignite a lifelong passion for the game and a fascination with the spaces in which it is played.
Twenty years later-- following Hillsborough--Clarke began a project for the Football Trust that was to become the landmark touring exhibition "The Homes of Football".
Out of a simple commitment to chronicle the changing face of football in the intervening years, he has produced a wonderful body of work, balancing narrative and technique in the creation of images that are both resonant and surprising.
From the 98 World Cup final, to Ullswater United vs Langwathby played in the shadows of a Lakeland Fell, this is Clarke's photographic love letter to the greatest game, and to the fans who, like him, invest their own childhood dreams every Saturday, whether playing or watching.
Plenty of use is made of the book's full-colour large format. The fold-out panoramas-- whole match day stadiums from end to end encompassed in a single frame--are uniquely detailed and evocative.
The pick of this treasure chest: Savour Gary McCallister's missed penalty for Scotland vs England in Euro 96 in glossy fold-out glory; Wembley in the instant of holding its breath; Seaman sprawling; Shearer and Hendry, aloof, hands on hips in the centre circle; the sun glinting off McCallister's head as he stares forever in disbelief.
This is wonderful stuff. --Alex Hankin
Ex-"Time Out" photographer Stuart Clarke's book offers a photographic record of the changing face of football in the 1990s, with over 100 colour photographs taken in and around stadiums across the country.