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So who is the Secret Footballer? Well there are enough clues in the book to confirm he is not black so that cuts it down to 75% of the remaining players and not foreign and so down to the last 40%. He is articulate and intelligent enough to write an engaging book and so that thins it right down to around 1%. Some names have been suggested, like Graeme Le Saux, who fits all but one of the criteria, Graeme retiring long ago. But the key to the Secret Footballer is he is still writing a column in The Guardian about his experiences and only recently retired and so still close enough to the game to be contemporary although there is no real proof he is a real footballer. This is certainly no ordinary footballer if he is. By process of illumination and the clues in the book by those who know the game the names of Dave Kitson and Danny Murphy came out on top, the ginger that played for Reading and Stoke in the Premier League and the Scouser from Liverpool and Fulham, hardly the brains of Britain. I think its Danny Murphy. Whoever it is the book is good fun and revealing enough on the structure off football and what the players get up to in their spare time and on the pitch to be worth a read, the greedy antics, clichés and actions pretty much what we would expect of top footballers. Because the author is anonymous no one is named in the book to reveal his identity and no libelous stuff going on against anyone playing or managing out there, which would be unfair, mainly for legal reasons. It reads real to me and so I am happy to believe there is an articulate enough player out there to pull this project together. If I was a top footballer I would definitely have come up with something like this.
The book is a quick and easy read (well it is for football fans and players) with 10 concise chapters on things like Mangers, Agents, Fans, Media, Money and bad behavior, each enlivened with inside antics and experiences. Some of it is enlightening, like on how agents operate and their relationships with the clubs, players and managers whilst some of it is infantile and annoying. Did you know a single agent can negotiate for both the club and the player for a move and so get double commission? The author also details how players are selected by clubs and those dream moves are often just the next guy of the list. Clubs employ an agent to find a top left back and end up with a guy 5th on that list because of various reasons, why players are often look indifferent on those press conference holding the shirt with the ‘How did I end up here’ expression, Di maria a great example. The best players aren’t always at the top of those lists and so players snapping up great deals over the club being right for them. I learnt that it’s often the case that an unsettled player under contract will never say he wants to leave as that annuls any severance pay or contract add on’s. It’s the same for the club. The deals are done by agents tapping up the right people so the player can then come out and say he would like to go to Club A from Club B. If Gareth Bales says he hates it in Madrid he and Madrid will lose millions. Also, the SF says never ask for too much when you negotiate with the manager as you will be the first one he sells to reduce the wage bill.
We also learn that 18-24 year olds - if still wanted - must be offered more money than their previous contract to be allowed to leave. This means player’s value never depreciates injured or not. We also learn that at one time the very top players were on parity deals, where they are guaranteed to be the top or equal top wage earner in the club, Rooney’s deal. SO when Di Maria came in then Rooney had to be on the same money. The same as when Bale comes in. I also now know what the ‘undisclosed fee’ is all about. This simply means the club doesn’t want anyone to know how much they paid for a player so a future sale value can’t be depreciated. If Andy Carroll sells for ten million then that’s all he is worth now.
Money in football is the big issue in the game and the super rich secret footballer argues for his piers that they are not greedy, which is hard to believe. He says we are jealous that working-class men are paid so much, the old chestnut. If you bare in mind that Manchester City received the same amount of cash for winning the Premier league in 2011-12 as Burnley will for finishing last this season you can see how quickly the rewards are shooting up, 70% of the £4 billion ending up with the players now. And the money doesn’t stop there as Burnley will receive another £50 million for each of the next three seasons if they remain in the Championship, tempting for some chairmen as reason enough not to push to go back up, certainly the case at Blackpool under the Oysten’s. Our player says that we, too, would take those contract numbers and silly not to. But the point is that the cash could be better redistributed in the game to subsidize ticket prices and strengthen club balance sheets to avoid the 57% of administrations we have seen in the 92 clubs in the last twenty years. It’s simply unsustainable under the current model and a wage cap is desperately needed now. But the money remains in the EPL, Chelsea awarded just 25k in win bonuses when they recently won the League Cup under Jose’s first stint, less than my team Northants pocketed when they won the Twenty20 Final.
On managers it’s more about their weakness and egos that makes for interesting reading. We hear of the best players in the club being dropped or even sold at their peak of form to simply prove a point to the squad who is in control, which seems counter-productive. Brendan Rogers move to dump Gerrard makes no sense and I suspect Steven will be back next year on loan in the EPL the way Lampard did and this more about new UEFA rules restricting how much your squads are worth. I can’t believe Stevie G left because he thinks he will get more games in New York. He was forced out and will jump at the chance to be on loan at Chelsea next season, why he was embarrassed about that nonsense at the Bridge last week.
There is some interesting stuff on bad behavior with tales of betting, sex, champagne and those notorious club Christmas parties. The riskiest story here is the suggestion that an extremely well known player’s wife jumped into the swimming pool and applied a sexual act below the Plimsole Line to another well known player while his very well known wife was snoozing on the sunbed. It’s not a great leap of faith to work out who it was. Our author in the book is also very clear that the Wags target the money as well as the football players and happy to let them play around to keep that lifestyle and the walk in shoe wardrobes, which is all rather sad. We also hear about early betting scams where players placed bets through third parties on which side who would get the first throw in. Because most teams chose to play towards the away end when they win the toss then there’s a 75% chance that would happen and so straight from the kick off player A hoofs it into the crowd. Watch out for that one as they are still doing it.
The media gets a prod or two for not knowing what they are on about but also a pat on the back for aiding players when they need to move on or have a grievance. As The Secret Footballer is part of the media now I suppose some duplicity there. I was surprised that pundits only get between £500-£1000 pounds to be on the BBC commentaries, bearing in mind Gary linekar is on over £1 million for Match of the Day. Indeed Linekar was paid £75,000 for his weekly ghost written column in The Telegraph. I got £75 for mine.
Where this book loses integrity is by not tackling the games hidden corruptions like more serious gambling and drug abuse as well as bent agents and club owners. Harry Redknapp was bang to rights for taking payments to buy and move players on but nothing happened. We are talking six figure sums going into Monte Carlo and Swiss accounts here. This stuff is covered up by the EPL in my opinion to protect the brand and sponsors. I would have loved to get a sniff of that in the book. There is no mention of the bung culture or players smoking weed or doing cocaine or taking sports enhancing drugs here. That would have got very interesting. The idea just two guys in the history of the Premier League have taken stimulants is absurd, as it is just 12 guys have smoked weed. This stuff is too damaging to the game if it got out and so probably hidden by the clubs and their lawyers. English Rugby Union has managed to hide steroid abuse as the players get bigger and bigger at younger and younger ages every year, yet the more working-class Rugby League has been littered with steroid cases. It makes no sense that one code is clean and the other isn’t. We await The Secret Rugby player book on that one. And what about all the honey traps and sexual assault claims that see mostly black players accused of rape but never to be charged yet the unscrupulous young women that make the disingenuous claims get off scot free. There are very few football fans out there that feel Chad Evans got a fair trial.
Where the book does work, at least, is it has some sort of inside opinion and exposure on a lucrative game the fan has been completely excluded from any sort of interaction with. Twitter is about it and they now live behind gated communities and cower in their houses to avoid contact with fans and the general public. About three years ago Liverpool did a behind the scenes series on the club and although very controlled and sterile, because we have no idea what goes on, what little we did learn proved very revealing. Who knew Brendan Rogers had a six foot self portrait of himself in his front room? Well, you kinda thought he might.
I am the secret footballer is taken from the Guardian column of the same name. Written by a professional footballer who has played in the Premier League, it details the life of a professional player, from the dissatisfaction with the man on the street shouting abuse or telling a professional how to play the game or discussions on the failures of some named footballers as people.
It is an interesting and eloquent book, but some of the words and phrases feel as though they've been thrown in there to make this writer appear smarter than your average footballer. The book is broken into chapters and is basically a collection of the Guardian columns compiled in print.
I bought the book on Amazon for my kindle for 99p and read it in an evening, it is an easy read for football fans as many of the names and stories are ones you'll remember, I did spend much of the book wondering who the footballer and it is easy to work out as he provides slightly too much detail on a couple of occasions and eagle eyed google browsers will be able to find exactly the same quotes in an interview with a reasonably famous former premier league player.
Knowing who the writer was has clouded my view of the book a little, as having watched him on numerous occasions I do think he overplays his own ability somewhat, as the book portrays him as someone with huge natural talent, from watching the player, that never appeared obvious.
The book has interesting sections on life as a player, the fame, the fortune, managing the press, jealousy of other players and the rivalries that can occur. John Terry and Ashley Cole don't come out of it wonderfully, nor do many others, however, this isn't a book for score settling its a tale of a player who has fallen out of love with the game and wants to share his dissatisfaction with others.
There are interesting accounts of depression and managing the slippery slope of dropping down the career ladder at a young age, the player clearly has talent as a writer and could continue as this or a pundit. Although he had a reasonably decent season last year so will probably continue to play at a lower level until his enthusiasm pushes him back up or he finds something else to occupy him.
I enjoyed the book and came away feeling less enamoured with the game and particularly the money, but still fascinated by the sport. I would recommend this to all football fans, it is a well written book with a decent and varied line of stories, many of the characters aren't named but are obvious to many, while others are and detailed to a degree they perhaps wouldn't like to be.
This is a slightly higher brow tale than most football autobiographies out there and anonymity obviously provides the player with more freedom to say what he truly feels, the book is better for this and is a really enjoyable read.