Life in the bargain basement,
This review is from: Beyond The Boot Camps (Paperback)
This genre of writing about life in the lower divisions probably started with Garry Nelson's two excellent "Left Foot" books. I haven't read Claridge's first book, Tales from the Boot Camps, but this sequel at times reads a bit more like Chris Hargreaves Where's your Caravan? It tells the unusual progress of Claridge's later career, when, after his "first retirement" from playing, he became a player-manager, then a player, then briefly a player- manager again before ending as a player. I haven't heard of anyone who's emulated this, but no doubt some Statto out there can put me right. Along the way he see-sawed wildly through the divisions; "in the space of three months, I had gone from Conference to Championship, then back down through League One to League Two."
Like many sports autobiographies, this is co-written, but not in the usual way. Claridge's co-writer is Ian Ridley, chairman at Weymouth when Claridge was manager. Each chapter has an introduction by Ridley, which provides a fascinating counterpoint to Claridge's version of events. Clearly they are two very different personalities, and Ridley doesn't conceal their professional disagreements, but they have a strong regard for each other. Ridley's chapters also include interview with many other football personalities, notably Dean Windass, who sees Claridge as a bit of a nutter, but (as Ridley says) Windass has "a nice line in pot and kettle comparisons."
On his time as a manager, Claridge pulls few punches about his fiery relationships with two of his other chairmen, Milan Mandaric and Theo Paphitis. He also has a healthy sarcasm for directors who don't understand the game (Len Shackleton would love the story about the director who asked Claridge why he wasn't playing 4-4-3!)
Claridge is frank about the scale of his gambling addiction (one of the scourges of footballers with too much spare cash and too much spare time), but we gather that the main reason he carried on playing so long was for love of the game, not like some famous players who have had to continue to stave off the bailiffs.
There are several amusing anecdotes about life on and off the pitch, not least the occasion when Claridge, reluctantly dragged along to a house of ill fame by a team-mate, "made his excuses and left"!
Fascinating reading for anyone interested in the English professional game; essential for any afficionados of the layers below the Premiership.