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I Am The Secret Footballer: Lifting the Lid on the Beautiful Game Paperback – 23 Aug 2012
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This is better than any turgid football biography on the bookshelves and well worth seeking out (Sunday Business Post)
A recklessly honest read that pairs huilty pleasure gossip with a moral compass, as TSF is force-fed a lifestyle that comes with being a Premier League footballer (Loaded)
Not since the days of the great super-injuctions has the identity of an anonymous sports star cause as much speculation as that surrounding the mysterious author of the Guardian column, The Secret Footballer, which has been running in the paper for the last 18 months (Choice magazine)
A hugely insightful and opinionated commentary on the modern game (Morning Star Online)
The honest truth about professional football, by the Guardian's man inside the game.See all Product description
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Most interesting was his perception of the supporters in the stadium on match day and how there are certain elements of the tactical side of the game that only those who have played at a professional level. Also illuminating was TSF's battle with depression.
The book isn't perfect. Some of the tales of high-rolling footballers behaving poorly get a little tiresome and less shocking as the book goes on; possibly due to repetitive nature of some of them.
I found myself disagreeing with some of the opinions the author has at times but at least they open a debate so I can't complain too much about that.
There is even something of a twist at the end which adds an element of drama.
Overall this is an intelligently considered account of a world which is often beyond even the most ardent football fan's imagination
This book tackles (see what I did there?) important subjects ranging from depression to poor role models, and attempts to explain the reasons why so many footballers find themselves on the wrong end of the spotlight. The (anonymous) author describes the good times with a balance of humour and derision, and lays bare the bad times with a brutal honesty that feels both sincere and tragic. There's some naivety there too, but it is endearing rather than irritating.
I really enjoyed this book, both in written form and on audiobook (Damian Lynch is an amazing narrator), and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in absorbingly-written books on sport, or warts-and-all exposes of the rich and famous.
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.
About 26 pages through the book, I realised that it kept going and it didn't just finish abruptly followed by the rest of the book being excerpts of cringeworthy praise from others about the author. I also noticed that throughout the book there was no mention of wife swapping advice, shop lifting tips for family members, promoting casual racism as a hobby or how to crash other peoples' parties in full Chelsea kit. It was at this point I realised the Secret Footballer was not the man I thought he was. Still I gave the book a good going over, much like John did to Wayne Bridge's ex.
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