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on 29 October 2014
Football has come a long way since the maximum wage was abolished some fifty years ago and indeed since the "sink era" of the eighties. And by and large that's a good thing. You no longer have managers telling players not to choose scampi in fish and chip shops ("not for the likes of us"). And the aggressive backdrop of "working class culture" (never entirely accurate) has been dented by mammon and multiculturalism. It is hard to be a working class hero when you're living it up in Las Vegas or sitting by the swimming pool in Dubai drinking vintage champagne.

Reading this book though, you wonder if the pendulum might have swung a little too far. For example, training only in the morning only cannot be a good thing. The devil makes work for idle hands and if there's a lot of money to spend, it's even worse. Golf is harmless enough (though it's never mentioned in the book), but practising penalty shoot outs might be better, given England's appalling record in that respect. Indeed, as the book states, "money has .......probably contributed to England's repeated failures in major tournaments". The pampered prima donnas seem to struggle against more down to earth opponents.

This book is broad ranging and the chapter on tactics shows that whilst at base football is a simple game, at the top level it is certainly far more complex. The off the pitch life of a Premier League footballer is also covered: with an intrusive press and pestering by the public it is obviously not entirely happy, in spite of the rewards.

An important point to remember is that in spite of a leaven of humour, this is a serious book and by no means entirely a light read, not least on tactics, the work of agents, gambling and depression. It also makes some valid points. As a (former) HR manager, I can identify with his opinion that, "there is no such thing as being paid too much. There are only jobs that pay a salary". In other words, if you can earn more by being a banker, or by playing for Chelsea, well, why don't you? Indeed, there is a lot of truth in the American he quotes when he says, in Britain, if someone succeeds, "ya'll jealous of them. In the States, folks are inspired by success".

In addition the book is balanced: none of the traditional hate campaigns against agents, owners, directors, etc. The moneyed lifestyle he portrays is not particularly attractive, but that's academic for nearly all of us. And having read Venetia Thompson's "Gross Misconduct", it seems that young bankers behave every bit as badly as top footballers.

But it has its flaws. It gets unduly introverted, even stodgy. The blanket of anonymity rather detracts from reality. He can't be too specific. And when towards the end of the book, the author says, "I don't want sympathy", well, I don't think he deserves much, having frittered away millions of pounds on the good life. And I was highly surprised at the end when he says that, "everything football has brought me has been sold off" (largely thanks, it seems, to a huge tax bill). You really wonder why he didn't have a better accountant. Or perhaps he ignored him/her.

The book is interesting enough, but I found Simon Jordan's "Be careful what you Wish for" to be far more enlightening and better written.
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on 26 July 2015
This is a decent book, based around a series of newspaper articles, written by an anonymous footballer who has played in the Premier League, by the end i'd pieced together in my head, who I thought the footballer was and spent a fair bit of time checking some of the incidents against real matches to narrow down the subjects, unfortunately that is something this book does, it makes the reader want to know who wrote it.

Overall the book is a very good read, being anonymous, the writer puts much more vitriol and honesty into his writing about the game, fellow players, managers and the fans, at times he comes across as cocky and arrogant, at others lost in a media hungry world dominated by image and money.

The book is made up of all of the newspaper articles, so at times subjects cross, but many are different and illuminating, comments on fellow players cut deep, details on financial deals are disturbing at times, it makes you less sympathetic to footballers who fall on hard times when their careers end when you read of the money wasted on expensive drink and needless profligacy during their playing days.

Overall this is better than the subsequent books and hasn't been surpassed by others who've tried to jump onto this new genre. A funny, well thought out book which doesn't sit on the fence, like so many books in this genre.
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on 28 August 2012
For a work born of a newspaper column and knocked together in the middle of 2012, this is a very fine book. His prose is classy, engaging and fruitful. He shines a light on a variety of issues in the modern game, and is frank about himself, where he has come from, and what he thinks. I reckon that some of the anecdotes are told to put us off the trail, like " a friend of mine who used to play with Leeds" but the vast majority accumulate to show up contemporary football for what it is. Professional sport is about money and nobody with a talent for this game would turn down the level of remuneration available to those with the skills and ability to attract it. The section on agents is particularly engaging, as they are just middle men meeting a need for supply and managing demand. All are prone to corruption, and its how a system, sport or game responds that matters. An engaging read.
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on 23 January 2013
Much better as Guardian articles than a book. Instructive but what a nasty world modern football is. As with Richard Adams and 'Watership Down' I decided half way through that I didn't much like the 'Secret Footballer'. Not many redeeming features. Even his 'anti-recist' stand sounded synthetic and contrived. 'We' are there to be exploited - unless of course we have status or money like 'owners' or 'managers'. And half the human race is there for his and his pals pleasure i.e. the female half.
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on 16 May 2015
Bought for some light holiday reading.
As someone that thinks that football has lost touch with the fans, this did nothing to help the situation.
Some of the tales, and the section with the views of an agent highlight this.
Not especially well written, nothing really know resting, not really any revelations.
At the end I couldn't care less about the identity of the author, only imagine that he was as poor a footballer as he is an author.
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on 10 December 2012
It seem's that the 'author' is such a secret footballer that that he is pointless. There is nothing in this book that anybody who follows the professional game in this country can't already be aware of.
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on 21 November 2012
Great read! I read this book in one night the writer does a good job of drawing you into his world. The best thing is the human aspect of the protagonist its too easy to demonize footballers because of their income and behavior of the minority. Read this book you will not regret it.
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on 26 July 2013
A collection of interesting articles originally written for The Guardian this book is an intriguing insight into the life and times of a professional footballer. Candid views on all the big football talking points, such as racism in the sport and the value of agents, make for a compelling read. Finishing the book I feel like I know a tiny part of what it would be like to be an adored Soccer God. But the joy is tinged with the intrusion of real-life problems, such as how to deal with illness, or managerial prejudices. The only irritating item being desperately wanting to know just who has laid the football World bare? Whose life have I just shared? I'm sure there are clues in the text, and in the sweeping generalisations of certain events. Sadly I could not decipher them to identify the author, and perhaps have an even greater appreciation of the work he has p
ut before us. Maybe one day we'll know, and the book will resonate even more with the humble fan.
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on 18 July 2014
Enjoyable read and with many insights. By the end, though, I had very little empathy with the secret footballer, despite reading the columns for years. I do hope that this man is brave enough to reveal his identity once he has finished playing football. And by the way, we DO pay your wages, not only through ticket receipts, but through supporting your sponsors ( capitalism), through paying for tv channels that pay enormous amounts to the Football League, especially the Premiership.
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on 31 January 2013
Very repetitive and the writer seems like a deluded unhinged saddo of a character. it confirms the psyche of the majority of top flight players. They come across as unstable, odious morons. A depressing read.
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