Writing – the journey (Blog 1) – Mike Layton

Having finally retired from the police in 2011, after forty-two years service , little was I to realise the impact that a chance sighting of an email would have on my direction of travel post police-retirement. The email was an enquiry from Robert Endeacott, a published script writer, author, and ardent Leeds United football supporter, who was conducting research in relation to undercover football policing operations in the 1980s. To this day I don’t really know why but I responded to his query and a partnership and friendship was forged which endures to this day. Robert was immediately drawn to the fact that as a Detective Sergeant in the West Midlands Police in 1987 I had conducted the day to day management of what became known as ‘Operation Red Card’ –  an undercover police operation to tackle Birmingham City FCs hooligan element – the ‘Zulu Warriors’. The operation had originally been codenamed ‘Operations Rourkes Drift’ which was a misspelling of the battle of Rorkes Drift in 1879 when around one hundred and fifty British and colonial troops successfully defended the mission statement at Rorkes Drift on the Tugela River, |Natal Province, South Africa against over four thousand native Zulu warriors. The name was eventually changed as it was thought to be too politically sensitive. Cutting a long story short Robert and I went on to collaborate on the creation of a film script based on the Operation. Robert did a great job in putting the story together in a dramatized fashion but unfortunately thus far we have not been able to find someone to take it on – we live in hope! At that stage I thought that the job was done but Robert had other ideas. Whilst on holiday in Kefalonia a year later I got a text from Robert saying that he had just read a newspaper review on another book about football violence and that in his opinion we should get on and write the story of Operation Red Card. The issue that Robert raised  was that to his knowledge there was only one book in existence that had been written from a police perspective whilst all the others were from so-called football hooligans. I discussed it briefly with my wife as we struggled with the blistering heat and sent a text back – ‘yes’. Under Roberts guidance the book developed very quickly. An early decision was made not to identify any of those targeted by name. I was keen not to vilify anyone who had gone on to put violence behind them or to glorify those who had not. When we had got a finished product Robert approached just one publisher and to our amazement Peter Walsh from MILO Publishers had faith in us and took the project on. The rest is history and ‘Hunting The Hooligans’ was published in 2015. On the first day that it appeared on Amazon two very negative reviews quickly appeared which took ages for Amazon to remove. Either the two individuals were quick readers or they just disliked the police. I am fairly sure that given the grammatical content of the reviews that it was the latter. One of the things I have come to understand in writing is there are a few nasty-minded people about who like to do ‘spoiler’ reviews and to be objectionable. My skin is now slightly thicker. The book now enjoys 66 reviews with an overall score of 4.3 stars out of a maximum of 5 stars. ‘Hunting The Hooligans’ is a very factual account of events that took place during the operation. The activities of the ‘villains’ are clearly set out as are the actions of the ‘heroes’ the small band of undercover officers who put themselves in harms way to gather evidence which resulted in many successful prosecutions. It is not a thriller for those who might be looking for an emotional rollercoaster but it does provide a unique insight into the realities of policing. As my first co-written book ‘Hunting The Hooligans’ holds a special place in this chapter of my life. I find writing to be both a cathartic and fulfilling experience and it is so important that we don’t lose our history. The only caveat I said to my wife when I originally agreed to start writing was that if I was going to write one book I would try and write six – so what next then? – ‘Hunting The Hooligans’ is available as an E Book or in paperback in major bookshops or on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0123F2OJY/ #MILO #Football #Violence hunting the hooligans - cover scan

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