on 29 July 2014
This review is from my website thesportsbookreview dot com
In recent years the tragic tales of German goalkeeper Robert Enke, told wonderfully in the acclaimed book A Life Too Short, and Welsh national manager Gary Speed have brought more focus on the problem of depression, and specifically depression amongst elite sportsmen which in some cases culminated in suicide. But their sorry tales are nothing new unfortunately.
In late 1985 former Scottish international left back and member of the Scotland 1974 World Cup squad Erich Schaedler took his own life with a shotgun in the woods near his Scottish Borders home. Or at least that is how it appeared, though no definitive answers have ever been found, and some family and friend are not so sure.
At the time his career was winding down but he was still playing for Dumbarton, though it was with Hibernian that he made his name and was synonymous with, alongside a four year stint at Dundee.
This book, by The Scotsman Sports Editor Colin Leslie, reads as a fitting eulogy to what was clearly a popular and well liked man with repeated glowing testimonies from family, friends and colleagues (playing and management) alike. Schaedler’s loss was clearly felt deeply by those who knew him well, and also by those who followed the Scottish game. The son of a German Prisoner of War who had stayed on in Scotland once the war was over, Erich comes across as a decent but tough man.
As a player he was a fitness obsessive and appeared indestructible at times as one of the fittest and hardest players in Scotland. He took great care to keep at peak fitness and put in the extra hours of training that mark the super fit out from the rest. He was also hard. Hard hitting and hard tackling as one teammate once reflected ‘Would YOU want to play against Erich?’ But teammate and opponent alike always considered him fair and never felt he overstepped the mark, though never shying away from a contest – ‘Erich didn’t do friendlies.’ His physical strength and power, and a personality that was slightly different to the rest, marked him out as not like the typical footballer but he was always a popular part of the group and was a genial and well loved character off the pitch too.
Like a movie that you know the ending to all along, when reading this you struggle to avoid the inevitable conclusion of a young man taking his own life. Even from the early chapters of the book, which carry us chronologically through his life and career, various quotes frequently end up talking of their shock and disbelief at how Erich’s life ended.
While this keeps the sorry ending always in the readers mind, those parts of the testimonies could perhaps all have been held over to the final chapters which naturally focus on that. Having them scattered throughout on the one hand demonstrates time and again the warmth and esteem in which Erich was held, but also at a stage in the book when you should be glorying in his rise to prominence you are often being reminded of the ultimate conclusion. To be fair though, the frequency isn’t so much as to take away from the picture being painted, but it was enough for me to notice.
And yet what brings the book to life, and brings Erich’s achievements and personality shining through on page after page, are those numerous quotes and testimonies from many of the people who knew him best. His terrific professional attitude to training is exemplified by one incident when an early coach chose to clatter Erich as a means of demonstrating that the cinder pitch used by their opponents wouldn’t injure them. ‘He knew fine well that Erich could handle it and he wouldn’t complain, and nor would he harbour any grudge,’ recalled another player of the incident. Such examples of this outlook litter the chapters of this book.
His never quit attitude and unwillingness to accept a cause was lost was encapsulated in his role in Hibernian’s 7th goal of a 7-0 rout of their city rivals Hearts. “The seventh and final goal is the moment many Hibs supporters remember Erich for best. If you could boil down to one single moment, something that typified the Schaedler spirit, then this was it.” A seemingly lost cause, and unwillingness to give it up, a crunching tackle. That was Erich Schaedler. That his life ended the way it did was as tragic as it was unfathomable.
on 12 December 2013
I haven't finished this yet,it's enjoyable but the author
skims over a lot of detail,such as he'll say a certain player joined
the club but doesn't tell you which club he was signed from and
he'll give the result of games without any detail.I'd prefer him to
evoke the seventies in his writing and much more detail-maybe
it's just me?
on 18 November 2013
Beautifully written book. Those who knew Schaedler best - respected players and coaches - join his family in opening their hearts about this hard working, talented player, his career and his mysterious and tragic death. Anyone who enjoys Scottish football and sports biographies will love this book.