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Only a Game?: The Diary of a Professional Footballer Paperback – 15 Oct 1987

4.3 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; 2Rev Ed edition (15 Oct. 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140102906
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140102901
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 11.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 168,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Eamon Dunphy was a professional footballer in the 1960s and early 1970s, with Manchester United and then mainly Millwall, also winning 23 caps for Ireland. He subsequently wrote columns on both football and current events, presented on radio for several stations including Today FM, Newstalk and RTÉ Radio 1, and regularly appeared as a football analyst on Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ). He has also written a biography of Matt Busby and ghost-wrote the autobiography of Roy Keane. He lives in Dublin, and describes himself as having been "a good player, not a great player".


Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Until recent years there was a scarcity of good writing on football. Anodyne biographies and glossy club histories were pretty much all one could find. However, there was one book that broke the mould of football writing and which has been extremely influential on many of the best books on football today: Eamonn Dunphy's Only A Game.
Dunphy was a much-travelled, hardworking and relatively skilful midfielder. Only A Game is his account, in diary form, of the 1973/4 season at Millwall, then in the old second division. The season began with great optimism as Dunphy, realizing that he had not too many years left in football, saw this as perhaps his final opportunity to achieve something significant in his career. His account of how the season quickly turned sour is compelling, and if the end to the ‘story’ is in some ways unsatisfying it is because this is not a fairytale but a slice of reality.
Throughout it is clear that Dunphy has literary aspirations, and he is indeed a good writer. Above all, however, the book has all the best qualities of a personal diary: honesty, frankness, occasional contradictions, and immediacy. Only A Game provides a particularly fascinating insight into a time when professional footballers earned similar salaries to the rest of us, when the game was not awash with money, glamour and foreign stars, and when the ‘hard men’ ruled and matches frequently descended into muddy pitched battles – in this respect the book has genuine historical value. Dunphy is very good when discussing the nature of his profession, and he brilliantly conveys the unglamorous side to the game. As an antidote to the numerous showbiz biographies of footballers, Only A Game is perfect.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
With Only a Game?, Dunphy made his name and his account has had many imitators, the latest being Tony Cascarino. Nick Hornby also picked up the format for Fever Pitch - installments game by game - from this.
He takes the abortive season he spent with Millwall in 1973 and infuses his account with a career's worth of understanding. How a coach can lose the respect of the team, how the manager is weakened by having to accommodate a captain who is fundamentally uncommitted, how the need to impose oneself undercuts the ability to play to one's potential.
Yes, it's lots about football: the mundane details of training, the changing room, the team bus etc, but the acuity of his observation breathes life into it. Moreover, though his subject is footballers, the book has to say has much about any group you may be part of, any office, any team, any group of people. Why respect comes and goes; how a new entrant changes the dynamics of the group; what it's like to go from being near the end of a career to over the hill, and what it's like never to make it at all.
Dunphy is compelling in his insight, deeply sympathetic in his analysis, and - while flawed as a person - somewhat like Alan Clarke, this attracts you more deeply into what he is saying.
Miles above the standard sports book, this is revered as a classic, and deservedly so. Its wisdom stretches far beyond the football field. Whatever you think about the Keane book, this is well worth reading.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The real strengths of Only a Game? are the level of reflexivity and that Dunphy doesn't pull any punches. The narrative does more than describe a season, but tries to explain and to provide a real insight into the mind and life of a player and a club. Moreover, Dunphy tells it exactly how he sees it and he doesn't spare the blushes of players or coaches. He is scathing about the professionalism of the coaching routines, the facilities, the manager's decisions, how the game was being run by chairmen and directors, players who he felt were not being `true' pros, and forensically picks apart the strengths and weaknesses of opposition teams. He's equally open about his own performances and shortcomings, including his emotional turmoil at being dropped and his frank exchanges with his manager. There are some silences - he never really discusses the role of his family and friends, barely discusses journalists and the role of the media, or the fans. Instead the book very much focuses on the players and coaching staff. Having now read the book, it is easy to see how he sided with Roy Keane in the Saipan affair - Only a Game? details the same frustrations Dunphy had whilst at Millwall as Keane had for the Irish international set-up; and like Keane, Dunphy was obsessed with professionalism. Overall, an interesting book that gives real insight into the beautiful game.
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Format: Paperback
In an age where a Footballer's haircut is front-page news and players endorse everything from Crisps to Hair Growth treatments, this book is a reminder of what foootball is about- hard graft and a love of the game. Eamon Dunphy gives an unbelievably accurate account of life a a professional footballer. As somebody whose cousin plays professional football, I knew that the beautiful game wasn't about sponsorship deals and boot endorsements. No matter how much the sport is sanitised and taken away from the real fans, football is still about blood, sweat and tears. It's easy to forget that pro- footballers are human beings and within a football club there are bound to be personality clashes. I couldn't put this book down. I also recommend 'A strange kind of glory- Sir Matt Busby and Manchester United'. Dunphy is not afraid to speak the truth and honesty shines through in all of his books. Pure class.
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