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I'm Not Really Here Paperback – 2 Aug 2012
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"His tale is one of incredible neglect, which makes for fascinating reading on a sporting, but mostly human level." (The Sports Diaries)
"Best football autobiography ever? Unquestionably" (Metro)
"It's the best book I've read for a long time....Beautifully, powerfully written, it is particularly raw and unsparing..." (Oliver Holt The Mirror)
"...an astounding football autobiography." (The Guardian)
"I'd be frightened to put a price on his head these days ... Paul was as good a young player as I've ever worked with." (Howard Kendall)
A Sunday Times Bestseller. The extraordinary memoir of ex-Manchester City player Paul Lake.See all Product description
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This is one of the best football biographies I have read in a long time. Written alongside his wife Joanne, it’s a story told with warmth, modesty and intelligence, that really gets beneath the surface of being a professional footballer and illustrates the nightmare of dealing with chronic injuries and not realising your full potential.
From his football obsessed childhood growing up in the 70s, to winning the Smiths Crisps Six-a-side tournament at Wembley in 1980, through to his YTS with Manchester City in 1985 and eventually captaining the club, and then making appearances for England at the U-21 a B levels. We see the many qualities and achievements of Lake's early career and how it was brought crashing down on that day in 1990 when he ruptured his ACL, which would trigger a cycle of gruelling operations and stunted comebacks.
There is some really nice writing in here, and it’s not just limited to football patter like, “Possessing a sweet left foot that could have rewired the back of a television.” Which is entertaining, but there is some really heartfelt and eloquent writing elsewhere too. We learn of the importance that music played in his life, not only does he visit places like the Hacienda and other pubs and clubs for the music, but each chapter is named after songs by Mancunian bands and artists.
There are plenty of interesting colour photos in here, which capture some of the highlights well. There are many memorable stories too, Lake recalls one story of coming in at half time during a game against Bournemouth and City were 3-0 up, the manager decides to bring in comedian Eddie Large (a big City fan) to do the half time talk, he does so resorting to a number of impressions for each player. They went out for the second half and the game finished 3-3.
On another occasion after a weekend defeat, his then manager Howard Kendall, came into mid-week training and treated his players to some crates of beer, saying, “Let’s just forget Saturday’s game. Have a couple of beers on me, and let’s crack on till the end of the season, eh?” It’s hard imagining Alex Ferguson or many other top managers reacting in such a way. “He was, without question, the best boss I ever had.” Is how he describes his feelings for the late Howard Kendall.
His recollections around many of the bigger and higher profile names at the time made for good reading. People like Bryan Robson, Paul Ince and Gazza come out particularly well. Also when he is recovering at Lilleshall he befriended fellow injured professionals like Ally McCoist, Ian Durrant, Alan Shearer, John Barnes and Vinnie Jones, with some highly amusing results.
Lake also recounts the appalling and humiliating treatment he endured at the hands of the then chairman. Apparently the staff shredded all of his medical notes too, claiming that, “They didn’t make any sense.” His recurring injuries and various setbacks eventually lead to “the triple whammy of insomnia, inertia and amnesia.” and a punishing spell of depression.
This is a moving, inspirational and hugely enjoyable read, which comfortably sits up there with not just the best football biographies, but the stronger and more memorable sporting memoirs too. This is another one of those books that proves that there are plenty of footballing biographies out there that have the right measure of quality, substance and readability.
As a Liverpool fan, I've heard of Paul Lake but didn't know much about the player who pretty much had it all in the palm of his hands - and then had what would have been an amazing footballing career cut cruelly short. This isn't your standard bull*h*t story - boy does well, earns hundreds of thousands of pounds a week, wins a few trophies and now wants to cash in even more.
This is an emotional rollercoaster of a story about a player who was Man City's captain and likely would have been England captain too - but for a knee injury that was misdiagnosed and then mistreated. Time after time after time again. You live and breathe Paul's career on every page - he doesn't hold back. His happiness and joy when it was going well, and then the depression and effects following years of rehabilitation, surgeries, comebacks (repeatedly) and, finally, the inevitable decision to hang up his boots.
Here's a player who genuinely wanted to play for his boyhood club, who wasn't motivated by money or the riches of the modern game. It's one hell of a book and you're left feeling that Paul hasn't come to terms with how his career ended - particularly as he's seen his friends and other players suffer similar injuries and gone on to be successful footballers. It makes for an emotional and riveting tale.
Lakey has just missed out on Bobby Robson's England World Cup squad, but his development as a player and leader had seem him elevated to the captaincy. I was living in Germany, but a summer trip home meant I could watch City in their first two games of that new season. A 1-3 loss at Paul Gascoigne's Spurs flattered the home team, followed by a tense 1-0 home win against Everton the following week. Lake had been excellent in both games, and it seemed certain he would be part of City's and England's future. Then...
This book, co-authored by Lake's wife Jo, charts his development as a footballer and a young man, and then, the pivotal moment in the third game of that 1990 season, when he injured his knee against Aston Villa. At this point, a promising career starts to disintegrate, as Lake takes his first unsuspecting steps on the slippery slope towards loss - of a career, and ultimately, of his physical and mental well-being. Older City fans will find echoes of Colin Bell's story in Lake's efforts to recover from serious injury compounded by indifferent rehabilitation efforts and support from the club, but the difference seems to me to be that players from the earlier eras of the game would not have been as honest with both their readers, and themselves, about the emotional cost and effect on their mental health. The Lakes bravely take on the stigma of depression and crisis, and the story is the more powerful for that.
As fans, we yearn for the Happy Ending. Lake's story to date has one, due to his hard work and the support of his family and the professionals looking after his physical and mental rehabilitation, and the seismic changes at the club that had employed and then discarded him. The fans never forgot, and for them, Lakey's story should temper those feelings of loss when it was clear we'd never see him on the pitch again. This is the modern football autobiography.
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