Top critical review
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Okay book, doesn't live up to the hype
on 17 November 2007
Paul McGrath tells a searingly honest story, although as you read your way through you realise McGrath himself couldn't possibly have written this alone, without a massive amount of help from his ghostwriter/co-author Vincent Horgan. McGrath describes his corrosive lack of confidence that is still in the process of destroying his life ("Back from the Brink"? Shouldn't the title be "Still on the Brink"? McGrath makes clear in the final chapter he is only beginning to acknowledge his problems, let alone address them.)
It's an interesting story of a flawed man who led a double life, thrilling millions with his football, while hurting many round about him. It's also a story of British society (and the football industry in particular) and its inability to cope with mental illness in general and especially addictive behaviour. The answer is always to cover up for McGrath, dry him out, get him fit enough to play; then dump him out of the game at 38, stuffed knees, screwed up head, and none of the skills to cope.
Having said this, the book is WAY too long at just over 400 pages. McGrath has very little to say in any detail about what went on when he was playing although more about his relationship with different managers and physios. That leaves a lot of time to talk his inner demons, drink, finding drink, evading friends guarding him, and what he did when he was drunk. Even with the best will in the world, when you are reading about him disappearing for the tenth time it is starting to get a bit dull.
He has interesting things to say about the managers but is so absorbed by drinking that he has very little to say about the game. He was hired as a panelist for Match of the Day for tyhe 2002 World Cup (he never made it as he turned up drunk) but on the evidence of the book he does not seem to have been a deep-thinker about the game anyway.
Paul McGrath the man - I really hope it works out for you. "Back from the Brink" the book - ok but no more than that.