Football Autobiographies (1 Viewer)


The Jackal
Jan 14, 2005
If you are planning to give a book or two this Christmas, there is plenty of choice. Too much. Because the price of such gems as The Italian Job, by Gianluca Vialli and Gabriele Marchotti, is the surrounding dross. As a general rule, I'd advise you to avoid anything purporting to be written by a current big-name player. Although Steven Gerrard's autobiography rattles along, it is an isolated exception. Those of his England team-mates, Ashley Cole and Rio Ferdinand, are worse than worthless — they irritate to no purpose, like muzak — and Frank Lampard's so numbingly dull I had two fillings and a crown done while reading it.

This is not to criticise Lampard, by the way. It is just that he and his collaborator, Ian McGarry of The Sun, are too smart to let slip anything that might affect the Chelsea midfielder's reputation as a nice guy and model professional (in this sense Cole and Ferdinand have slightly less to lose). Anyway, burrow through to Vialli. The celebrated striker, late of Sampdoria, Juventus and Chelsea, and his journalist friend have taken the trouble to interview Jose Mourinho, Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Marcello Lippi (who has won the World Cup since the book came out), Sven-Goran Eriksson (who hasn't) and Fabio Capello on a ''journey to the heart of two great footballing cultures".

One difference between English and Italian football lies in attitudes to what we call "cheating" or "going down a bit too easily" or dismiss with (and this is my favourite, especially when uttered by people who have forgotten what momentum feels like) ''there was minimal contact". Vialli quotes Mourinho: ''You are pushed to behave differently here, you don't really have a choice. If you cheat you have no chance of being admired. Even your own supporters will dislike you. So what do you do? Well, the way is not to be stupid, but not to cheat either. If there is a foul, you have to fall. But if there is no contact, stay on your feet. I call it 'helping the referee to make a decision'. That's not cheating." Absolutely. But Mourinho the referee's friend and helper? In this context there are useful passages on Machiavelli, with whose attitudes some of Mourinho's can legitimately be compared: that the end justifies the means, notably.

If you want candour, step down a few divisions to Weymouth in the time of Ian Ridley, football correspondent of The Mail On Sunday and chairman of his home-town club for a couple of recent years. Floodlit Dreams: How To Save A Football Club is his best-written book yet (and that is saying something, for Ridley was also responsible for Tony Adams's Addicted. It is a warm and witty tale of how a supporter can be true to his emotional legacy. In this case, Ridley was honouring the memory of his father, just as Gary Imlach did in My Father And Other Working Class Heroes, another beautifully written book which is about the former Nottingham Forest winger Stewart Imlach.

Nor, if you like a writer to be a writer, could you find a football book much better than the concluder of Colin Shindler's Mancunian trilogy, George Best and 21 Others. This describes the 1964 FA Youth Cup semi-final between United and City and how the tender aspirants (Best included) have been treated by life. Shindler is brilliant. In the spring of 1964, he writes, a Forward City group was formed: ''Its initial meeting in the Lesser Free Trade Hall attracted a crowd of 500, with a further 400 locked outside in Peter Street. Fortunately, despite the fierce passions exhibited, there was no Orator Hunt to provoke a revival of the Peterloo Massacre, which had taken place on the same spot in 1819. City's massacres in 1964 were restricted to heavy home defeats by Sunderland and Grimsby Town."

Possibly the best young player ever to learn his trade in Manchester was Duncan Edwards and he is compared with Wayne Rooney in The Boy Wonders, by our own Colin Malam. This is another good read, particularly strong on the differences between then — Edwards died of injuries sustained in the Munich air crash of 1958 — and now. He quotes the former United player and manager Wilf McGuinness on Edwards: ''He was a nice guy, but when he did say something you'd look at him and you'd think 'Well, I'm not going to argue with him!'." Remind you of anyone? Yet look at a picture of Edwards tying up his laces in The Best Of Charles Buchan's Football Monthly and you wonder if anyone with such a sweet smile could hurt a fly. Players did seem more fresh-faced and earnest in those days (this superb compilation, edited by Simon Inglis, covers the Fifties and Sixties) and we, growing up, saw them in colour for the first time. It was a wonderful magazine that, like the fathers of Ian Ridley and Gary Imlach, helped us to fall in love with football.

Now try a bit of Rio Ferdinand, an anecdote about his visit to the lavatory while waiting for the FA to confirm his eight-month ban for missing a drug test in 2004: ''A large figure loomed into view at the next urinal. 'All right, how you doing?' he asked. I couldn't believe it. It was the FA's prosecuting lawyer, Mark Gay, the man who tried to get me banned for two years. He wasn't just having a piss, he seemed to be taking the piss too. 'How was I doing?' I thought. 'F****** terrific.' I wanted to put the geezer through the wall." And to think he had the collaboration of another proper journalist from The Sun, Shaun Custis.

But most of the current wave of ''autobiographies" are infected with this yobbish guff. It brooks no argument other than subjective instinct, which may chill those of us brought up to assume certain distinctions between the human and animal worlds.

Gerrard: My Autobiography, Bantam, £18.99. Rio: My Story, headline, £18.99. Ashley Cole: My Defence, headline, £18.99. The Italian Job, Bantam, £17.99. Floodlit Dreams, Simon & Schuster, £12.99. My Father And Other Working Class Heroes, Yellow Jersey, £15.99. George Best and 21 Others, headline, £7.99. The Best Of Charles Buchan's Football Monthly, English Heritage, £16.99. The Boy Wonders, Highdown, £16.99.

PS: Over the next week or two, we shall look at more books. Meanwhile, I've made a little pile of the Ferdinand/Cole genre and left them out and shall be interested to see if the dustbin men are willing to take them.:lol2:

By Patrick Barclay


Is there anybody who read anyone of those books or any similar ones that are recommended??


Day Walker
Jul 28, 2003
i will try to look up the Vialli book, sounds interesting
is there any autobiographies of Italian players that were translated to english?


The Real MC
Jul 30, 2006
i read the italian job. It just points out the main differences between the english style and italian style and other factors. i give it 3 on 5

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