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With convicted rapist Ched Evans in the news right now there is no better time to read this book. What people haven’t thought about with footballers accused of rape is whether they were set up by criminals to be blackmailed and, maybe, his refusal to pay ended up badly. It’s not impossible. There have been numerous cases of young footballers charged with rape in the news over the last ten years, Nail Ranger of Newcastle United the most recent, and only one of them has ever been convicted, Ched Evans. Did the court make an example of the Sheffield United striker or could the charge have ‘gone away’ if he had paid off the gangsters? According to well know Liverpool crime writer Graham Johnson this type of thing does go on. It’s highly likely he exploited a young girl who had been drinking but young women are as promiscuous and daring as young men are these days and its something society and the law is not prepared to counter.
Some of the stories of gangsters in football in the book have been collaborated by the police and well known in the press, like the threats on Liverpool players Steve Gerrard and Robbie Fowler, whilst others are more conjecture, like the ones around Wayne Rooney and Michal Owen. What is true is high ranking thugs and mobsters are around footballers all the time, be it in security, drinking in the same pubs or just friends and associates. There is a lot of money in the game right now and the sharks are circling for a payday, usually using violence and intimidation to get that cash. One unnamed player in London was paying ten grand a month protection money to avoid a beating in East London, and by people he grew up with and once called friends.
With the Ched Evans cases public opinion seems to be split. Most men think he is not guilty of the offence he was charged with and the girls think he took advantage of here. Blokes say she was willing as much as a girl could be after a night out on the pop, women say men areal the same. Let’s not forget more young women idolize the feckless Katie Price and her fake boob lifestyle than the brave female doctors working with Ebola. They want the WAG lifestyle. The now redacted Rhyl hotel video shows a reasonably sober young lady heading to the room with a pizza in one hand and another United player in the other, that of Clayton McDonald. There was never a claim of rape by the young woman and Evans says the girl consented for him to join in a threesome after receiving a text from McDonald to come and join the party. I’m not sure either way how it played out but it’s so often the case that alcohol is mitigation for women and incriminating for men in these cases. But I do think some young women get blasted so they don’t have to worry so much about those modesty decisions. They can decide in the morning whether it was Yes or No. It’s called emancipation and men and women more equal than we like to think when it comes to being reckless. The complainant contacted the police the next day as she felt her drink had been spiked and she had lost her phone and bag, which she apparently had not, the classic excuse for I drank too much. Evans DNA was not found on the girl. The guys clearly took advantage of that alcohol position and they were gone when she woke up, perhaps the biggest insult. Feminist perked up and said if this WAS just a young woman sleeping with a trophy footballer then why DIDN’T she cash in with the newspaper article? The answer to that maybe the fact the following and rather sick twitter abuse after the event meant the girl had to get a new life and identity and so couldn’t cash in. As far as I am concerned the girl took alcohol, went to the room with a guy and so has to take some of the blame.
So, as far as that goes with the book, I would personally discount third parties involved in this case. The girl had no gang connections. The police decided it was rape after viewing the location of the act and other witness’s testimony. Ched’s rather sad girlfriend stuck by him, clearly wanting to date a footballer to get in the papers to become the revered Wag. But I have no problem with the idea that local crime types send, or approach girls, to pick up footballers to try and blackmail them, especially players in relationships, Rooney in a right pickle with Coleen when he went to that Liverpool brothel to meet grannies.
The author puts meat on the bone on the sex tape scandal as he details his efforts to try and buy the brothel CCTV tape for the News of the World of Wayne Rooney’s antics, and 14 other unnamed footballers and celebrities, and the threats that resulted from ‘local faces’ on the revelations. Some of them wanted the tapes to protect the young Everton star whereas Johnson wanted a lucrative expose. Johnson won the day as his newspaper paid the highest amount, a corruption in its own right, and didn’t name the other 14. When Rooney left for United there was no more protection for him in the city of Liverpool.
The book looks into other infamous cases involving players, played out in the tabloids, some revealed by Johnson, some old news. Most football fans know the story of Steven Gerard being’ leaned on’ not to leave Liverpool for Chelsea as the Scouse gangs that supported Liverpool didn’t want England best midfielder to go anywhere else, one lot threatening to ‘knobble him’. Incredibly, Liverpool FC sent then consultant Kenny Dalgish to talk Gerrard around. Daglish met Gerrard and his agent in a hotel, brining along a known Gangster, some say as ‘insurance’, to make sure he would change his mind. Yes, Kenny Daglish.
Robbie Fowlers contribution to the book was the tale of gangsters threatening his sister, who was a drug addict living in his mansion at the time, a family secret, trying to blackmail him for cash or they would go to the papers with the story. Johnson suggests they were trying to kidnap her when she was pregnant, although the police saying it was probably a car jacking. Some say this was a cover story for Fowlers alleged cocaine habit and involvement with local gangsters, where as others think she was a target.
Straying away from Liverpool we also look into the tale of Mark Ward of West Ham, who, near retirement and broke, decided he quite fancied getting involved in the international cocaine trade, which he was quickly caught for, a property in his name used as a cocaine factory. Or the amazing Leeds United story where desperate owners trying to reduce the wage bill allegedly plotting to dope Michael Duberys drink with drugs so they could sack him so to unload his 25 grand a week salary. It was never proved but odd things were going on at a decadent Leeds United in the 1990s. Even Odder things are going on there now, no doubt Johnson penning his next book on that alone.
Scottish football doesn’t escape
The main problem with this book is the author, who had good success with unearthing the drug gangs and mobsters of the United Kingdom with books like Powder Wars’, is trying very hard to link those guys to football corruption. He even regurgitates the Mickey Thomas story from the early 1980s and the fake gypsy money. There is no solid connections other than hearsay. I’m sure they tried to run protection rackets to get at players but you also feel the local faces simply wanted to be around the teams they support. This is a tabloid hack writing a football book.
. . . EX, FANG, GORE, HACK, ITCH, JAIL, KILL, LAG, MACE, NOOSE, OATH, PAIN, QUEER, RAT, STOOL, TAIL, UPROAR, VAULT, WELSH, X, YEGG, ZAP*
Oh, the power of language! What do you think, which title sells better: ´Axe´ or ´The Mysterious Disappearance Of The Woodcutter´? Silly question, eh? The brain of readers whose native tongue is English is impressed by short, one syllable words (the Germanic heritage), hence ´Kill Bill´ is just perfect as far as titles go.
Of course ´The Mysterious Disappearance Of The Woodcutter´ will also find its readers, one-syllable titles attract the lovers of hardcore, brutal, ´noir´ thrillers whereas long titles with long words attract the connoisseurs of whodunits to be read sitting in an armchair by the fireside.
I know them all, from pulp fiction´s most famous hero G-man Jerry Cotton to Dame Aggie´s cosy Miss Marple and Hercule Piorot, from Raymond Chandler´s asocial loners to Patricia Cornwell´s Kay Scarpetta with her disgusting job. I started at the age of 14 when a good woman gave me a bag full of dog-eared thrillers (for my confirmation, an odd present indeed, but the one I liked best!), I remember vividly that the bag contained 19 books which I exchanged with friends, for years I always had 19 thrillers at home.
From the beginning I´ve always had to defend my reading matter, first against my mother, later against friends, husband, colleagues, they always thought what I read was ´beneath´ me, embarrassing for an intelligent girl/student/woman, only the fact that I also read high-brow literature saved me from total damnation. I?ll never forget an incident in Italy; once when I was on one of our exchange visits, I had a free afternoon and spent it in the garden of my host family reading a thriller. When an Italian teacher asked me in the evening how I had passed my time and I told her, she was horrified. Only the day before we had had such an intelligent conversation, how could I debase myself so much? To understand her horror one must know that thrillers have no tradition in Italy, only recently Italian authors have started writing in this genre (so she didn´t really know what she was talking about which didn´t hinder her from voicing an opinion, though). I added that the book was written in English and she relaxed, so I was obviously doing something to further my knowledge of the language, nonsense, of course, but I let it be.
How did I defend my reading matter? Well, a top notch thriller is perfectly structured, has impressive fictional characters, portrays a (well researched) section of life vividly, entertains and lets the reader feel suspense, sometimes so much so that they forget everything around them and make them call in sick in order to be able to finish whatever they´ve begun reading. I even know a teacher who didn´t go to school one morning because she had to finish her book (no, not me!) Suspense, thrill, some people need this like a drug, others don´t.
The older I get, the less I need it. I?ve thoroughly thought through the question why I don´t like thrillers as much now as I did once. Thrillers are about blood, gore etc. (see title!) and the question comes to mind why it should be enjoyable to read about such nasty things. Is our every day life too boring, do we need the kick? (Someone told me that it was understandable that Italians had no tradition of writing and reading thrillers, enough horrible things happen in their real lives). Or are we readers of such stuff sick? Why should I know how a serial killer ticks? Chances are I´ll never meet one in real life. The part of the world where I live is not a crime ridden area, so I can´t say I read thrillers to be prepared. I don´t think I want to poke deeper in the psychological back(under)ground, who knows what may come to the surface, heehee!
Crime fiction is not high-brow literature, it is a sibling, but a minor one, quite minor as I´ve finally understood. Whatever is dealt with in a thriller is not as important as the creation of suspense. The human condition is not the subject, if fictitious characters are, say, lonely, loneliness is not the subject, they´re lonely for a purpose so-to-speak. Because of this their plight leaves me cold in the end. Another item is the use of language, even the best specimen, i.e., the thrillers written by authors who know how to use the language well, are simple language-wise if compared to high-brow novels, have to be, because playing with the language, experimenting with it would distract from what a thriller is written for which is, you know it already, suspense.
I used to look out for well written thrillers, now I look out for high-brow literature with a thrilling plot written in a brill style. I won´t wallow in blood any more to the extent I did before, I´ll only read a thriller occasionally if it is set somewhere interesting, as additional background reading material.
Sorry, dear assassins, burglars, cannibals, cheaters, forgers, killers, molesters, poisoners, robbers, stalkers, stranglers, swindlers, torturers and other scum: from now on you will have to assassinate, burgle, chew, cheat, forge, kill, molest, poison, rob, stalk, strangle, swindle and torture without me watching you, your performances don´t satisfy me any more.
*dooyoo didn´t accept the whole title