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on 31 August 2012
This is both a gripping and a deeply frustrating book.

In terms of its aim of lifting the lid on the hidden world of football it's very good and better probably than every Premier League autobiography. It's far most honest and open than is the case with almost everything else written from within football. There's much here on the shenanigans, the money, the mindset of players, their relationships with people outside football and about the playing of the game itself. Every fan will learn something from it.

But, in terms of trying to understand the secret footballer himself, the book is deeply frustrating. It's not so much the fact that he's anonymous but that so much of the detail is left out.

He talks a lot about money and about figures but at the same time is vague enough that you don't really understand whether he's very rich from his investments or broke from his tax bill (or both). Understanding the trajectory and nature of his career is impossible because he, understandably, doesn't give too much away in order to protect his anonymity. This means understanding quite where he's coming from is very difficult, as is understanding why he suffers from depression.

Indeed, building up some sympathy for the writer is almost impossible. He comes over as rather arrogant but I guess that's inevitable with any highly-paid, high-profile elite athlete. He seems to see himself as both an insider and an outsider within football culture but how that affects his relationship with his teammates is never as explicit as it might have been. His wife is virtually absent from the book, despite the talk about the impact of home life on performances. You get the sense that while he might not want fans to know who he is, his identity within the game isn't a secret. For all the discussion of his wages and his depression, he's holding back.

This is shame because there was the potential here for the best book ever written about football. It could have been a very open autobiography that told us everything about his personality, his life and the game itself. That was never going to happen though because he's still playing and wants to stay in the game.

What he's given us is very good but it leaves the reader with as many questions as answers. He's just had to leave too much out in order to protect his identity and, presumably, his reputation within the game.
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on 22 August 2012
The concept is great, an anonymous top flight footballer telling it as it really is without fear or favour and this is certainly an insider's view bit it falls a little bit short for me as it tantalises but in many cases fails to deliver.

I appreciate that the content needs to be tailored in such a way as to protect the author's identity but this means that it reads as too generic rather than specific with not enough names mentioned.

Robby Savage and Ashley Cole might take exception to the vilification they receive but they are in the minority with too much waffle and generalities.

I understand that his Guardian columns are far more hard hitting and I shall certainly be seeking them out from now on but I found this book ultimately frustrating rather than the insider's guide I was expecting and hoping for.
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on 25 August 2012
Let me get this out there to begin with - i'm a big football fan and as such have no agenda against the game or the players or people within it. This book does indeed provide some interesting points that I either didn't know or hadn't thought about, for example on the tactics side, or to do with managers.

However if "TSF" is supposed to be one of the more rounded, popular and intelligent footballers, then it pains me to say that most of the stereotypes about the modern day player (which ironically this book partially intends to dispell) are correct. The guy comes across as egotistical, macho (e.g. when he writes about the time that a manager threw a tray at another player's head and if that had been at him he would of course have returned it even harder), and out of touch with reality (ripping up thousands of pounds worth of money like it was nothing to show some upper class folk at the races that it meant nothing to them and that therefore they could behave as antisocial as the like).

He is no doubt a little more well read than many of his colleagues, but whether it is as a product of environment, or just that he is an arrogant sod, unfortunately the more I read the less I liked him.

The book itself (and this maybe harsh given that he is not a writer) is poorly written and jumps around from idea to idea. The longer chapter is dedicated to an agent defending the public view of him (again this maybe harsh as he had some interesting insights but it was just far too long).

I would only recommend this book if you really have time to kill and only then to really skim read it. As another reviewer says he is so generic there is not really anything that controversial. In fact I could probably pick out half an A4 side of quotes and insights and you would have the best of this "book".
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on 23 August 2012
In this book a professional footballer, in the English premier league, recounts his experiences in a frank and engaging style. The book draws together material from 18 months of columns in the Guardian newspaper. It digs into a lot of the questions that fascinate fans: What makes a good manager? How do players perceive fans? Are footballers overpaid? (Maybe no surprise that he thinks not.) How has money changed the game? What does it mean to be a role model? Why doesn't the game deal better with racism?

The fact that the author's identity isn't given has only added to the intrigue and interest around the columns, and that continues now with the book. There has been lots of speculation about who it is, and part of me wonders if it is in fact one person - or even a current player. But the inside knowledge is there for all to see, and part of the fun is using the evidence to try and work out who the author might be.

At times, despite the fact that there's a fair amount of gossip, I'd have liked more specifics. Still, this is a good read, which fans of the game will want to devour.
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on 27 August 2012
I've been reading The Secret Footballer's column in The Guardian for the last couple of seasons and enjoy it hugely. It's always the first thing I read on a Saturday morning, and has the advantage of being topical because he tends to write about issues that have come up in the professional game in the preceding week. Therefore, and let's get it out of the way immediately, the thing that did disappoint me slightly was the cut-and-paste nature of some of the chapters which had simply been lifted straight from the columns.

Having said that, despite what some of the other reviewers have said, I really enjoyed the book. He is very clearly a different cut to the majority of professional sportspeople and that comes out in his ability to construct a sentence, provide insight and make the reader laugh. Although the chapter focussing on 'Bad Behaviour' was at times puerile and toe-curling and will re-enforce much of the disdain that footballers are held in, it painted a picture.

Britain is still, whatever some will say, a deeply divided and class-obsessed nation and TSF's journey was brilliantly chronicled from council estate to ridiculously over-appointed mansion. The passage about his birthday celebration with some of his oldest friends was (Psueds Corner Alert!) written with genuine pathos. He had become a different person and there was real pain in his writing. Earlier in the book, he covers his time as a young professional the contrast between where he started and the 'Money' chapter is stark and, again I don't mind saying it, insightful.

It doesn't set out to be a seminal piece of sporting literature. It's not 'Beyond a Boundary', 'The Fight' or 'Moneyball' but it is a good read.
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on 11 March 2016
The book is an absorbing read for anyone who follows football. It didn't take me very long to read it as some of the stories of TSF's career are incredibly interesting and do leave you wanting more.

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
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on 28 August 2012
For a work born of a newspaper column and knocked together in the middle of 2012, this is a very fine book. His prose is classy, engaging and fruitful. He shines a light on a variety of issues in the modern game, and is frank about himself, where he has come from, and what he thinks. I reckon that some of the anecdotes are told to put us off the trail, like " a friend of mine who used to play with Leeds" but the vast majority accumulate to show up contemporary football for what it is. Professional sport is about money and nobody with a talent for this game would turn down the level of remuneration available to those with the skills and ability to attract it. The section on agents is particularly engaging, as they are just middle men meeting a need for supply and managing demand. All are prone to corruption, and its how a system, sport or game responds that matters. An engaging read.
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on 23 January 2013
Much better as Guardian articles than a book. Instructive but what a nasty world modern football is. As with Richard Adams and 'Watership Down' I decided half way through that I didn't much like the 'Secret Footballer'. Not many redeeming features. Even his 'anti-recist' stand sounded synthetic and contrived. 'We' are there to be exploited - unless of course we have status or money like 'owners' or 'managers'. And half the human race is there for his and his pals pleasure i.e. the female half.
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on 16 May 2015
Bought for some light holiday reading.
As someone that thinks that football has lost touch with the fans, this did nothing to help the situation.
Some of the tales, and the section with the views of an agent highlight this.
Not especially well written, nothing really know resting, not really any revelations.
At the end I couldn't care less about the identity of the author, only imagine that he was as poor a footballer as he is an author.
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on 22 January 2013
I have been a lifelong football supporter of one of the top clubs and greatly enjoy the skills of the modern game. I was expecting this book to tell me some interesting behind the scene facts about the game, but it didn't. Its mostly annoying tittle tattle. If you want to know about a very lucky individual who has been born with a talent and a willingness to work hard to develop it to become a top level professional footballer, but who has been unable to live sensibly with the riches and opportunities the life provides despite his obvious intelligence, then you may enjoy this book. I presume he remains anonymous because he is embarrassed by the profligate waste of the money he earned.
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