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As an Arsenal member, you receive a pack at the beginning of every season. In the 2008/09 season, included in the pack was a paperback copy of Perry Groves autobiography We All Live In A Perry Groves World. I hadn't read it at the time but I packed it up and brought it to Belgium as I knew that I would have a few hours to spare in the evenings. The second that I began reading it, I was addicted.
*About The Author*
Perry Groves was born in East London in 1965 and is a retired footballer. His career started at Colchester aged 16 and he signed for Arsenal Football Club in 1986, spending 6 years at Highbury. He has 2 sons and now lives in East Anglia working as a sports development manager as well as punditing on Arsenal TV and Sky Sports.
John McShane is an associate editor at the Daily Mirror and the Sunday Mirror. He previously worked in Fleet Street reporting on the Middle East conflict, troubles in Northern Ireland and civil war in Africa. He is married with 3 children.
*A Brief Summary Of The Biography*
So what you want to know is what do you read about in this autobiography without giving away too much? You hear about Perry's early years and family life and the beginning of his footballing career at Colchester at the beginning of the book. He goes on to tell us about turning pro and signing for the mighty Arsenal and goes into depth about his time spent at Highbury under George Graham. We hear Perry's view of the massive and memorable game against Liverpool at Anfield where Arsenal won the Championship and he participated as a second half substitute. An amazing feat as they hadn't won there for over 18 years! The book ends with Perry telling us about his final transfer and a career ruining injury at a fairly young age for a footballer.
Before I picked this book up I didn't really know a lot about Perry Groves. He wasn't a player that was around when I started watching football (bit before my time) but I had heard songs at Highbury and at the Emirates. I knew that he was a ginger tin tin look-a-like who was no more than an average (sorry Perry) attacking player but somehow had become an Arsenal cult legend. I read this book in the hope that I could get an insight into why the fans loved him so much then and clearly do so now.
We All Live In A Perry Groves World is a frank and honest recollection of his life from wanting to be a footballer when he was a young lad to joining Colchester at 16 and joining Arsenal to retiring young at Southampton. In this book you read about his rollercoaster of a life which include some massive highs with a few lows chucked in as well. There were times when I sat on my bed laughing hysterically at some of the tales he tells although was actually quite horrified at others. One thing is for sure, he wouldn't have been Arsene Wenger's favourite player if he played a match in the hung-over state he describes in the book, had motorway chases with other football stars and visited brothels!
Whilst reading this book, I realised that I didn't particularly like any of Perry Groves traits. He drinks a lot, sleeps around with lots of women whilst been married, drink drove. Yet somehow, there was something that I did like about him. Perhaps his honesty? Or maybe the fact that he is just normal and has made mistakes like anyone does and doesn't try to hide that fact.
I applaud the co-writer of this book, John McShane, as it is excellently written and there is no doubt in my mind that this is down to him rather than Perry (no offence). It is such an easy book to pick up and breeze through and I think this adds to its success. What I think is done excellently is the way he captures what it is that Perry wants to tell his audience yet puts it in a way that is good to read and probably tones it down a notch or two.
*Would I Recommend This Book?*
I highly recommend We All Live In A Perry Groves World. It is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading from cover to cover. Brutally honest about his footballing and personal life, relationships with colleagues, bosses and women, this book tells us how his life was really like. Although, after reading this and being shocked at some of the things that he got up to, I dread to think about the bits that were censored from the book as I have no doubt there were a few! So if you want to read a book that will tell you what it was really like to be a footballer before the days of silly money and what they got up to then I cannot recommend many books higher than this. Read about the red-headed cult figure well known for wearing tight shorts and you won't regret it.
I don't think you'll find any other footballers books quite as interesting or honest as this one by Perry Groves. But my recommendations if you are looking for a book that will interest you like this did are:
- Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby
- Arsene Wenger: The Biography by Xavier Rivoire
- Psycho: The Autobiography by Stuart Pearce
We All Live In A Perry Groves World is a book that I found to be entertaining, frank and interesting. It was great to read a honest biography by someone who has actually lived and has interesting things to say rather than one released by Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard or (C)Ashley Cole who are still playing football.
You can buy this book in paperback from www.amazon.co.uk for £4.95. I think that it is worth every single penny as it is full of laughs although I didn't pay a thing for mine which makes it even better.
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: John Blake Publishing (1-August-2007)
As a football fan one of my pet hates is current players bringing out their stories...WHY? How can the likes of Rooney, Ferdinand, Cole etc bring out their stories when some are barely a few years into their careers? Well, other than the big cheque dangled by the publisher.
I much prefer the tales from a player who has been there, done that, got the sick-stained t-shirt and ideally from an era when footballers weren't pampered, every detail wasn't in the press and they're now not afraid to dish the dirt.
Groves ticks everyone of those boxes. Himself coming through the lower-leagues and by his own admission not the greatest footballer, he worked his way up to the twice-title winning Arsenal side of the late 80's/early 90's. A side that was littered with a drinking culture, characters a plenty and even more tales to tell.
Groves Doesn't hold back on any issue and is brutally honest on every raised story.
An insightful and intellegent writting of memoirs from one of the games true characters. If only all football autobiographies were as funny, honest and not just whipped out to meet the publishers wants.
As its nearly Halloween I couldnt think of a more appropriate book to review. Not because this is particularly haunting or anything, but because theres definitely a ghost around-the bloke who obviously wrote it!
From the little I do know about Perry Groves before I read this enjoyable autobiography was that he probably couldnt even write his name, let alone this hilarious football book that sold surprisingly well over the summer. Therefore at least half the credit should go to co-writer John McShane. The dust cover also bellows plenty of acclaim, The Guardian hack saying its: bloody brilliant, The Telegraph coming back with: A Publishing phenomena. The more erudite Times settled for: Compulsive reading. When the broadsheets like a football book you know its good stuff!
Groves (the ex Arsenal attacking player from the late eighties and early nineties if you didnt know) is a bit of a knob. He says as much in this surprisingly funny and honest biography, which immediately attracts you to it, and to be fair its a better read because of that. Like I say, whether he actually wrote it is a different matter, but its certainly his thoughts on paper, which is all that matters when it comes to sports bigs, like it does for players to do these when they are retired so able to pi** more people off in the game. Who on this planet wants to buy books like Rooney: My story, when the kid is just turned twenty?
As the dressing room prankster at Colchester United, Arsenal (and for about ten minutes, Southampton), Perry always loved his booze, women and a bet or two- in that order. As a member of the notorious Tuesday Club at the Arsenal he was in trouble more than he should have been. In fact he is still a bit of a boozer today, last seen pitching up at these veteran five-aside tournaments with gut and 4-pac in hand.
Reading this book there seems to be few likable qualities to the man. The fact he doesnt list his career achievements at the back of the autobiography-which there were many-and doesnt waste time thanking thousands of people for making him the man he clearly isnt, just telling it like it is, is one of the plusses. Groves is a walking footballing cliché in every way. He is certainly not the most honorable bloke, and definitely a man who isnt worried about his reputation.
The early days
Born a Ginga in rural Suffolk to an Irish dad and Essex mom, he was quickly labeled as the school a gypo, the ethnic minority of 80s East Anglia at the time, as he puts it. Dad was competitive to say the least, saving every shot on the park kick-around with his boy, hitting it just as hard when they swapped around. But dad wanted him to use the talent he had and his tough training tactics paid off in the longer run, a younger Perry playing in older age groups his talent deserved, helping to fast track his career.
Moving through the ranks of Essex football he was soon on the books for Colchester, various schoolboy trials with Wolves and Palace not working out. His starting wage was £16 per week in the early 80s, the same age he debuted, still Colchesters youngest ever debutante, soon inflicting his hubris on the three mangers he was under there, even telling Ipswich cup hero Roger Osborne-on his way down the league ladder-to pass the f**king ball old man, not exactly endearing himself to his team mates at such a young and cocky age. But that was Perry and he reflects that confidence through the book.
His first ever goal for Colchester had Perry scrambling to see his name in the national press, but reported as Tommy Grouse in the News of the World! By 1984 he was a big player for the team and on £150 per week, doing enough good things for George Graham to make the utility forward player his first Arsenal signing, coincidently Perrys club he supported as a kid. In the books pictures and photographs it actually shows the Arsenal contract Perry signed and it lists all the bonuses they can earn. Its quite interesting to see how lucrative those extras are, senior players even picking up win bonuses for being injured and not involved for up to three months. Perry earned 8 grand up front for his 75k move and a £350 per week wage, plus a likewise win bonus, plus £150 for playing in the lesser cups. He also talks about betting on games, as did many of the players, talking about these quirky bets like first throw-in, in the same breath...
The Arsenal player
Arsenal did everything with class, even the players bus having waiter service. Graham installed pride in his team and made them all wear blazers to show that unity. You are playing for The Arsenal now, he would say, an attitude that delivered them trophies and huge success thereafter.
Now he was an Arsenal player Perry quips that the more you earn and the higher the league ladder you play the more attractive you become to women. 80% of footballers get divorced within three years of retiring because of that contrasting lifestyle before and after, Grooves not even making it a week after he kicked the final ball of his worthy career. It seems footballing wives are there only for the money and glamour and when that runs out, she runs out, the house and maintenance a nice pay-off for all his dalliances, which Perry admits were plenty. His earliest chat up lines where asking pretty girls to be goal posts on the local parks, football very much his first love as a kid.
As you would expect some players didnt get on with the cocky upstart, Charlie Nicholas particularly unimpressed by the noisy ginger. As you would expect he got on with the likes of Adams, Merson and Winterburn, the notorious Tuesday Club. Not only is Perry honest about the players he liked and disliked in his career but he is surprisingly candid about the things he did wrong in his Arsenal career, owing up to a spot of ticket touting an example of. In those days first team players got 25 free tickets for big cup finals and 100 at cost price, most players handing them over a big chunk of their allocation to the notorious Stan Flashman to sell on, Groves earning three grand for his block for the 1984 Littlewoods Cup Final.
Because English clubs were banned from Europe back then the Littlewoods Cup final was a big event, Arsenal eventually beating Liverpool 2-1, their eighth Wembley final in ten years. It was an impressive win because Ian Rush scored the first goal. In the previous 145 games when Rush had scored they hadnt lost, Liverpool finishing in the top two of the league for 19 years straight because of this guy. But not this year.
The biggest match in his Arsenal career was that game, the Friday night when Arsenal stole the championship from Liverpool at Anfield, a place where the Gunners hadnt won for 18 years. George Grahams brave decision to play David OLeary as sweeper seemed to upset Liverpools rhythm. But all Liverpool needed to do was not lose more than 1-0 for their 8th championship in ten years, an unprecedented treble-double on. But we all know what happened and Michael Thomas went down in Arsenal folklore, his last minute winner clipped past the amble Bruce Grobelar, both leaving it late to make critical decisions. It truly was an astonishing match.
Another championship later, Groves and George Grahams careers would come to inglorious ends, Graham for taking bungs, Grooves for playing like he was taking bungs. With players like Limpar and Smith coming in, Groves felt he was their stuntmen, bought on at tricky times in the game to replace them for a good kicking. When Arsenal were playing in the Charity Shield final at Wembley, Groves was playing for the reserves at Wembley F.C in 1993. A 750K move to Southampton didnt work out and an early retirement beckoned when the arhiles snapped, semipro at Altringham for £250 a game his final match.
I had heard good things about this biography as it was an honest and non regretful account of top league player who left the game just as it became big money. In those days at Arsenal it was all about the craic, as well as the winning, this book reflecting just that on a minor 80s Arsenal cult legend. They still sing his songs today at the Emirates. The title of the book one is still the most popular. I think you can work out the tune that goes with it. If Arsenal fans can then Im bloody sure you guys can.
Although one too many apostrophes for my liking here it does read very easily, the longest word being archilles tendon, the heel of any footballers scrawlings. Its funny and revealing, pacey and naughty, the short chapters making it classic holiday reading. At Booker Prize time of the year its always wordy intense books that seem to get short listed, yet its book like this that get purchased and read. Im not remotely suggesting this should win any awards for literal genius but I am saying its books in this style that normal people want to read. Arsenal and sports fans will giggle away for ages and this and already its in my top ten sports book of the year in my particular awards season. Groves may have been a ginger c**t but he has a very funny book awaiting sports fans attentions as the nights close in.
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Published in softback and sold huge amounts
WH SMITHS £7.99 (But have a two for one chart or best seller offer next week for school hols..)
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Perry Groves spent over a decade in the footballing spotlight. Sometimes he was at the top, often he was at the bottom and that's half the reasons the fans loved him so much - and still do. This is the most truthful and hilarious book about professional football you will ever read. Perry Groves was the first signing by the legendary Arsenal manager George Graham, and that unmistakeable figure with his Tin-Tin haircut and cheeky grin was a player in one of the Gunners' greatest sides. Now, he has decided to tell all about his rollercoaster years of booze binges, girl-chasing and gambling sprees. He's a non-stop fund of hilarious anecdotes, recounting top-flight games played with a hangover, 125 mph motorway chases with international stars, visits to a brothel with an England World Cup hero and revealing how one drunken escapade ended with a group of internationals being questioned over an attempted murder charge. This is a unique chance to find out what top-flight footballers really get up to off the field and how they behave when the dressing room door is closed.