Books Reviews

Book review: Pride: The Inside Story of Derby County in the 21st Century

Pride: The Inside Story of Derby County in the 21st Century by Ryan Hills

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When does a non-fiction book read like a nonsensical piece of fiction, the events contained within so damningly ridiculous that there’s no chance on god’s green turf that they could ever, ever be true?

When it’s a book about the last twenty-five years in the history of Derby County Football Club.

You can see why Ryan Hills would choose to get to work on Pride: The Inside Story of Derby County in the 21st Century, as so, so much has happened since the days when Jim Smith’s Rams became the first Derby side to grace the Pride Park pitch. Derby is a club that’s never been short of a story, plagued as it has been by controversy and bizarre episodes that have left fans and the wider footballing world in utter bemusement. There are scintillating highs that are followed by heartbreaking and almost club-breaking lows, and Ryan Hills does a great job of chronicling them all.

But what lifts this book way, way above the average fan-written footie re-telling of times gone past is the contribution of no less than 70 of the big names involved during the days since Derby left the Baseball Ground in the mid-nineties. Managers, players, former chairmen, physios and backroom staff alike open up with incredible honesty and fantastic personal detail about what went on behind the closed doors of the East Midlands club as they came tantalisingly close to European football, before plummeting out of the Premier League twice, brushing with relegation to the third tier (when that was still a term mostly exclusive to football) and then coming so painfully near to a return to the top flight in successive seasons.

Pride Park Stadium, which became Derby County’s new home in 1997 and has seen over a quarter-century’s worth of drama on and off the pitch since.
(Photo: Getty)

Hills has done a masterful job of getting so many of Derby County’s cast from a quarter-century of high drama to open up and talk with a candidness that is really impressive and makes this book an instant classic, not just as a must-have for any Rams fan, but for those who love a pacily-written and genuinely enjoyable football story told well. This book has more than earned the right to sit alongside the works of the late Gerald Mortimer and Tony Francis’ ‘There Was Some Football, Too’ as a go-to book on the history of DCFC. Not only that, it’s a terrific book in its own right.

For me, I thoroughly enjoyed all the little things I’d forgotten (no matter how painful) along the way, and the fact that I came away with a more positive and less reptilian feeling towards Gary Rowett.

A great book. Up the Rams… please!

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Pride: The Inside Story of Derby County in the 21st Century by Ryan Hills is published by Pitch Publishing.
You can buy a copy of the book directly from their website,

Review originally published on

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