Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A journalist immerses himself in the violent world of English football hooliganism.


"Among the Thugs" by Bill Buford is a gripping and thought-provoking non-fiction book that delves into the world of football hooliganism in England during the 1980s. Buford, an American journalist, provides a firsthand account of the violence, tribalism, and mayhem that characterized the subculture of English football supporters. Through his immersive experiences, Buford offers readers a compelling insight into the psychology and behavior of the hooligans, ultimately shedding light on broader societal issues. This summary will provide a comprehensive overview of the book's plot, characters, themes, and key insights.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview and Setting

The book is set against the backdrop of English football culture in the 1980s, a time when hooliganism was rampant and football matches often descended into chaos and violence. Buford immerses himself in the world of these hooligans, following the supporters of various football clubs as they engage in brawls, riots, and acts of vandalism. Through his firsthand experiences, Buford seeks to understand the motivations and dynamics driving the behavior of these individuals.

Main Characters

Bill BufordThe author and narrator of the book, an American journalist who immerses himself in the world of English hooliganism
Various HooligansA diverse cast of football supporters from different clubs, each with their own unique personalities and backgrounds

Story Points Over Chapters

Chapter 1: Introduction to Football Hooliganism

In the opening chapters, Buford provides an overview of the history and culture of football hooliganism in England, setting the stage for his immersive exploration of the subject.

Chapter 2: The Tribal Mentality

Buford delves into the tribal mentality that drives hooliganism, exploring the sense of identity and belonging that supporters derive from their allegiance to football clubs.

Chapter 3: Violence and Aggression

The author witnesses and experiences firsthand the raw violence and aggression that permeate the world of football hooliganism, painting a vivid and unsettling portrait of the subculture.

Chapter 4: Camaraderie and Loyalty

Buford explores the deep bonds of camaraderie and loyalty that exist among hooligans, shedding light on the complex social dynamics within these groups.

Chapter 5: Confronting the Dark Side

As the narrative progresses, Buford confronts the darker aspects of hooliganism, grappling with the moral and ethical implications of his immersion in this world.

Chapter 6: Reflection and Insight

The author reflects on his experiences and gains deeper insights into the underlying factors driving hooligan behavior, offering a nuanced analysis of the societal issues at play.

Main Events

  1. Football Matches and Clashes: Buford accompanies various groups of hooligans to football matches, witnessing clashes between rival supporters and the ensuing violence.
  2. Street Confrontations: The book portrays numerous instances of street confrontations and brawls between rival hooligan firms, often leading to brutal altercations.
  3. Arrests and Legal Consequences: Buford documents the legal repercussions faced by hooligans, shedding light on the cycle of violence and law enforcement.

Themes and Insights


  1. Tribalism and Identity: The book explores the powerful influence of tribalism and group identity, particularly within the context of football fandom.
  2. Violence and Aggression: Buford delves into the roots of violence and aggression, examining how these behaviors manifest within the hooligan subculture.
  3. Camaraderie and Loyalty: The themes of camaraderie and loyalty are central to the narrative, revealing the deep bonds that unite hooligan groups.


  • Societal Dysfunction: Buford's insights shed light on the broader societal dysfunction that underlies football hooliganism, prompting readers to consider the root causes of such behavior.
  • Psychological Dynamics: The book offers valuable insights into the psychological dynamics of group behavior, providing a nuanced understanding of the hooligan mindset.
  • Ethical Dilemmas: Buford's introspective analysis raises ethical dilemmas and moral questions, challenging readers to consider the complexities of his immersion in the world of hooliganism.

Reader's Takeaway

"Among the Thugs" offers readers a harrowing yet compelling journey into the heart of English football hooliganism, presenting a nuanced and unflinching portrayal of a subculture defined by violence, tribalism, and camaraderie. Through Buford's immersive narrative and introspective insights, readers are challenged to confront uncomfortable truths about societal dysfunction and human behavior, ultimately prompting deep reflection on the complexities of identity, loyalty, and aggression.


In conclusion, "Among the Thugs" stands as a powerful and evocative exploration of a subculture shrouded in violence and tribalism. Buford's narrative offers a rare and unfiltered glimpse into the world of football hooliganism, compelling readers to grapple with profound themes and insights. Through the author's immersive experiences and introspective analysis, the book leaves a lasting impression, provoking thoughtful contemplation of the darker facets of human nature and societal dynamics.

Among the Thugs FAQ

  1. What is 'Among the Thugs' about?

    Among the Thugs is a non-fiction book by Bill Buford that explores the world of football hooliganism in England during the 1980s. Buford delves into the mindset and behavior of the violent football fans, providing a firsthand account of the culture of violence and aggression.

  2. Who is the author of 'Among the Thugs'?

    The author of 'Among the Thugs' is Bill Buford, an American author and journalist known for his work in non-fiction writing. He spent years immersing himself in the world of football hooliganism to write this book.

  3. Is 'Among the Thugs' a work of fiction or non-fiction?

    'Among the Thugs' is a work of non-fiction. It is based on the author's experiences and observations while spending time with violent football fans in England.

  4. What makes 'Among the Thugs' unique?

    What makes 'Among the Thugs' unique is its raw and unflinching portrayal of the culture of football hooliganism. Bill Buford provides a firsthand account of the violence and aggression, offering insight into the psychology of the thugs.

  5. Who would enjoy reading 'Among the Thugs'?

    Readers interested in sociology, sports culture, and true crime would likely find 'Among the Thugs' to be a compelling and eye-opening read. It offers a deep dive into a subculture that is often misunderstood.