Living in the South Wales valleys, I'm all too familiar with the hardship and pain people face when the factories close and the villages are left to rot and waste away. This isn't the most cheerful novel - it's subject matter is gritty and honest. But what it delivers is a unique description of how football and a team spirit can help enthuse a dying community, to give people a sense of purpose - and somehow ease the pain of everyday living.
He has seen the way she watched the streets as they drove through the Iron Towns, a place she could not believe existed. England was a disappointment to her, she had thought of it as a land of kings and queens, country cottages and hedgerows and winding lanes. And it is that. But what she saw was the rust and the people, his people, shuffling up the Anvil Yards pavements.
She'd visited Russia as a student during the days of the collapse, she'd say the names of the towns to him, show him photos, Baikalsk and Vydrino, and a place called Asbest, named for asbestos, the worst place on earth she'd said, and then shown him photos from her dissertation, and there was something in the look in people's faces, he wanted to tell her that he knew them, these people.