You’re Booked, Sonny! Footballers’ autobiographies…

Scholesy's name goes in the book... but not by a referee, this time!

Good evening, Bookworms!

During his illustrious 17 year career in the first team at Manchester United, many a “tackle” has seen Paul Scholes’ name go in the book, as we Reds know all too well. However, on Thursday evening, at Selfridges in the Trafford Centre, Scholesy’s name was going into a lot of books and many of us Reds were very chuffed about it! Yes, the Ginger Ninja, midfield maestro and scorer of many, often crucial, goals for the Red Devils, was signing copies of his autobiography, Scholes: My Story.

Largely photographic with commentary by Scholes and also comments about Scholes by many former teammates plus other Old Trafford legends, it reflects how many of us Reds already saw him – as a loyal Red, and a very shy bloke who didn’t want any sort of fuss whatsoever – he just wanted to get on with training, playing matches and then going off home to his wife and children. What you also get in this book, that you didn’t really get the chance to see in his playing days, is the dry wit of the bloke! Commenting on a photo of himself wearing United’s gold and black away kit from around 2002, he wryly notes that he didn’t recall getting any transfer to Wolves! Pointedly, he believes we should play most games in red and white and, if we do need a change due to a colour clash, we should wear white or black on those occasions.

We fans may buy and read many autobiographies because those players are amongst our favourites, but, sadly, many such books are not the greatest works ever committed to print. In fact, some are pretty awful, particularly if they’ve been ghost-written and that “ghost” hasn’t even had their work proof-read! Whoever assisted with the writing of Steve Bruce’s autobiography, Heading For Victory, back in the 90s, didn’t do a very good job at all. I remember reading it and spotting all manner of spelling errors! Definite red card and early bath for whoever ghosted that particular book! Letting your author and your publishing house down is no better than letting your teammates, manager and supporters down! Brucey was our captain when that book came out and someone at Bloomsbury really ought to have given him better service by giving the book a thorough proof-reading before it went to be published! Sports teams, of many kinds, are often reminded of this, and it would do well for book publishers to also bear this in mind for their future publications…

Perfect Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance!

Back to Thursday for a moment, and I was in the queue from around quarter to six until finally meeting Scholesy at around twenty past seven. Just over one and a half hours. 90 minutes plus “Fergie Time”, actually! How apt for meeting a footballer! One of my finest footballer-meeting moments came in October 1995 at the then Nike Shop in the Arndale Centre, when I was 3rd in the queue to meet Eric Cantona! That one wasn’t specifically a book signing, he had been opening the Nike shop and was just signing stuff in general, but one of the things I brought for him to sign was the original French version of his autobiography, Un Rêve Modeste Et Fou, which I’d managed to get that summer while away in Nice. I’d already had my copy of the English version, My Story, signed by King Eric at the start of that year, when I went to The Cliff to watch the lads train and then get autographs afterwards. Another quibble with publishing houses here – why couldn’t you have thought up a more inventive title for the English version of Eric’s book?! When it comes to someone who was a fascinating character on and off the pitch, for the publishing house, Hodder Headline in this instance, to call his book just “My Story” is a very poor do!

It is also a poor do for certain people in the business to pressurise players into bringing books out when they’re young and have hardly won anything yet in the game! Even if they may have won a cup or two, they may yet have other greater things to come later in their careers!  Eric may be excused, somewhat, because he was a fascinating, often controversial, character and much had already happened to him in France to be worthy of a book before retirement, but most players should wait until at least the tail end of their careers or, better still, until after they have hung up their boots, before looking back on their playing days in a book! Actually, I can’t remember which controversy has brought this about, but I am pretty sure Sir Alex Ferguson recently stipulated that Manchester United players should not be bringing books out until they have left or retired! Quite right, Fergie! Frankly, if all players waited until they’d hung up their boots before turning to writing books, I am fairly sure the reputation of footballers’ autobiographies would be greatly improved! Gary Neville waited until this summer, several months after he’d retired, before writing his autobiography, Red, and that was a thoroughly good read!

(Actually, some advice for my fellow Reds: Read Neville’s book and immediately follow it up with Scholesy’s! There’s a good bit of overlapping, obviously, as the two of them have been teammates since being in the youth team and reserves and Scholesy retiring only 4 to 5 months after Red Nev!)

Players often don’t do anything terribly interesting away from football itself and, in many cases, they are not the most educated of people. They have great intelligence on the pitch, knowing how to find a teammate with a pass, how to split a defence, or take a nifty free kick, but they’re not really the brightest lamps on the street, so it really does make sense for them to wait until they’ve achieved a fair few things in their career before writing about it! One of the few players who was an exception to the rule and had a degree to his name was Brian McClair, and his intelligence and dry wit made his autobiography, Odd Man Out, an absolute joy, and an absolute hoot to read! The lad done good, as the grammatically-incorrect cliché goes!

Right, OK, fellow bookworms, you will be relieved to know that I have now got the footballers’ books bit over and done with and have no serious intention of blogging about them as a genre of book in the near or even distant future. If one or two such books come out in the future and are actually worthy of a mention, I will mention them, but I won’t be listing loads of them altogether in a blog entry like this! No, I shall be returning to the matter of blogging about PROPER Books, lol! It’s just that I met one of my heroes on Thursday night and I thought I might as well do a blog about footballers’ autobiographies to get this particular kind of book dealt with!

We’re into stoppage time here, but we’ve had an eventful “match” with books by Paul Scholes, Steve Bruce, two by Eric Cantona, one by Gary Neville and a late one by our sub, Brian McClair! We’ve also had a red card for Bloomsbury Books for ungentlemanly conduct (failing to proof-read Brucey’s book!) and it’s about time I checked my watch and blew the final whistle to call Full Time on this particular blog! Until next time, take care and Happy Reading!

Books mentioned in this blog entry:

  • Scholes: My Story – Paul Scholes
  • Heading For Victory – Steve Bruce
  • Un Rêve Modeste Et Fou – Eric Cantona
  • My Story – Eric Cantona
  • Red – Gary Neville
  • Odd Man Out – Brian McClair
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