Review of I am the Secret Footballer and Tales from the Secret Footballer


So this is technically a review of two books; “I am the Secret Footballer” and “Tales from the Secret Footballer”. Since they are both written by the same mysterious author (cough* almost certainly Dave Kitson *cough) and both are dealing with the exact same subject matter I am going to review them together. Essentially, “I am the Secret Footballer” and “Tales from the Secret Footballer” are almost completely interchangeable and to review one is to review the other.

Years ago after reading the fantastic “All Too Human” by George Stephanopoulos I remember reading an amazon review that felt the book wasn’t very good and could simply be reduced to the machine chewing up and spitting out Stephanopoulos causing his retirement from the White House due to ill-health.

In my opinion this is a huge injustice to what is a great political memoir that actually gave me an insight into what its like to serve as an advisor to the President of the United States but it applies very nicely to “I am the Secret Footballer” and “Tales from the Secret Footballer”

To explain why I feel this it is best to start with the titular authors own words with a lenghty(ish) quotation that can serve as a manifesto for the books.

If you want to know the truth about how modern football works the “only way you would ever find out the answers to many of these questions is to read a book that was written in anonymity by a player who has played at the highest level. In this book, I will try to explain how football really works, away from the prying eyes of the outside, by drawing on my own experiences. Many of the stories I shouldn’t be telling you about . But I will.”

Essentially then the Secret Footballer (TSF) is promising to give us an insight into the truth behind how football works.

For a sports and football fan like myself this is like manna from heaven. I’d love to get the unvarnished account of how such and such player felt as they went onto the pitch for this relegation clash or what there opinion was on another star player.

TSF feels able to do this because, he is anonymous. In fact his very anonymity is an implicit promise to go further than any standard autobiography. The thing is thought this anonymity removes context and ultimately robs his revelations of all interest. Due to the self-imposed anonimity TSF can’t say I was playing for this club at this time we were fighting relegation and had a must win match against Manchester United coming up and whilst this was going on the dressing room was feeling this way. To do this would rumble the secret.

As a result the discussion about football become “lads” stories about how this group of players got pissed and did something stupid. The thing is though other than the budget and potentially media attention these escapades aren’t qualitatively different to stuff any fresher at university does. In fact, perhaps because of the money, they are much less imaginative. Furthermore, I don’t really care about stories like this even if the TSF is occasionally quite amusing.

If this was all that happened then TSF would be an average and forgettable quick read. Where it moves beyond this and I begin to get exasperated though is in the depressing almost whiney tone that TSF’s anonymity allows him to wallow in.

On the one had the TSF opens up that he has battled depression and this opening up is entirely commendable. I have no problem with sportspeople (or anybody else) suffering from depression. By putting his experiences in such stark terms TSF has undoubtedly moved the cause of accepting mental illness further forward and this is a good thing.

In terms of writing an anonymous book though having a depressed slightly embittered author does not make for the best read.

You see TSF is very much out of love with the professional game. He hates it. He has seen how players, coaches, chairmen and agents are driven by cash and he finds it all distasteful. It is after all in this environment that he began suffered depression it is understandable that he doesn’t like it.

TSF then vents his spleen at any number of things especially the fans. Fans don’t know what goes on and are abusive and nasty to him. I understand why he finds people chanting nasty things at him distasteful it cannot be a nice experience I can also happily say it is not something I have ever felt the need to do at a football match.

Because, the author is anonymous though these grievances become a moaney tirade which due to his anonymity he cannot be called on. Furthermore, since has essentially (in my mind) proven that Dave Kitson is TSF some of his claims about what a great player was are fairly hilarious.

If a professional footballer like Ronaldo, Gareth Bale or Alex Bruce gave this woe is me soliloquy he would be told to sit down and shut up because, when you get down to it footballers train for two hours a day, play two games a week and are paid an amount of money that isn’t a good allocation of resources for society as a whole. It is an incredibly easy life especially given how sheltered and pamper footballers are.

TSF doesn’t acknowledge this aspect however and as such his constant Debbie Downer statements about the beautiful game get tiring very quickly.

The TSF’s claim to reveal the truth about football never quite happens and ultimately the whole TSF persona is essentially a very clever marketing technique. Had TSF put out the exact same book in his own name (lets set side issues of libel for now) the level of interest would have been tiny by comparison.

In the end I enjoyed about half of each book before the moaning became too much. Since I got each book on the kindle daily deal for 99p this didn’t bother me at all. If I had paid full price however, I wouldn’t be happy.

As it is if you are interested in sports I would recommend reading one of these books provided you can get it on the cheap. Otherwise avoid or just read a column on his website.

Review of Silkworm by Robert Galbraith AKA J K Rowling (Obligatory SPOILER KLAXON)

silkwormSo this is the second book of the Cormoran Strike detective novels written by J K Rowling under the nom de plume Robert Galbraith.

I’m a big Harry Potter fan and I really enjoyed the first book Cuckoo’s Calling. I like to think that had I read Cuckoo’s Calling before Galbraith was unmasked I would have suspected something because, Rowling’s distinctive writing style is very evident throughout both books.

On to the book then. Silkworm picks up some months after the events of Cuckoo’s Calling. Strike’s financial pressures have lessened somewhat and Robin is now working full time as his secretary/detective.

Strike however is unfulfilled at spending his time trailing philanderers and divorcees and finds himself compelled to dive into the search for missing writer Owen Quine. To no reader’s surprise Quine turns up brutally murdered and now Strike is investigating a murder.

Overall, I have conflicted feelings about the mystery hook in Silkworm.

On the one hand I don’t think it is as good as the locked room mystery in the first book. The murder takes a long time to occur and a lot of the intrigue centers on who had access to the manuscript and when. This just isn’t as tense and gripping as the events of book one and without a single scene to keep track of the list of suspects seems rather diffuse.

It is possible that some of the reason why I think this though is because, Rowling pulled her favourite trick of hiding a crucial detail in plain sight early on and I missed it.

So what I’m saying is my opinion might have been swayed by the annoyance of falling for the same thing that Rowling has done numerous times in her other books (believe it or not but as a child reading Potter I tended to pick up on these things so I guess I’m getting dumber).

If the murder mystery is solid but unspectacular however this is more than made up for by the characters.

The character’s relationship troubles, friendships, likes and dislikes are realistic and each character in the book from a put upon waitress to the murder suspects feels like a real person.  When you compare this to the cut and paste 2D characters in the critically lauded “The Shadow of the Wind” you really get a sense of why Rowling/Galbraith’s books are so good and enjoyable.

Silkworm isn’t a classic but it is a very readable novel. Furthermore, the slow reveal of character back story offers some truly great possibilities for murder and mayhem in later books. I would recommend this book and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Review of Edge of Tomorrow (SPOILER KLAXON)

So In keeping with my quest to populate this blog with nothing but the most up to date of morsels of film entertainment I bring to you my review of the Edge of the Tomorrow which is still hanging in there on the big screen.

When I first saw the trailer for “Edge of Tomorrow” I dismissed the film as being firmly in the “do not see” camp. The trailer was poor and Tom Cruise films tend to be far more miss than hit.

How did I end up writing this review then?

A large amount of the reason was word of mouth buzz. People kept telling me it was very good.

The clincher though was when I learnt that Tom Cruises character (Cage) is initially at least an incompetent jerk. Typically, with your big stars they play the same perfect character everytime. There may be a token flaw like alcoholism or (the good old standby) they just caring too damn much but in reality they are just playing the same perfect protagonist every time. Or if they are Nicolas Cage the same crazy protagonist every time.

Edge of Tomorrow doesn’t fall into this trap though. Cruise’s character is a liar and a coward. He ends up on the frontlines very much against his will and spends the first quarter of the film attempting the wriggle out of it.

This then sets up what is the key strength of the film Cage’s character arch in which he actually grows and changes throughout the film.

Combine this character arch with a well written script and action/CGI that borrows heavily from sci-fi classics like “Dune”, “Final Fantasy 7”, “The Matrix” and “Starship Troopers” and you have a winner.

In truth there is nothing ground breaking about Edge of Tomorrow but it does what it does very well with minimal saccharine Hollywood rubbish. Plus any film that heartlessly and brutally executes Tom Cruise over and over again is a winner in my book.

I’ve seen most of the big sci-fi/blockbuster releases this year and I would say that Edge of Tomorrow is better than any of them. Do you agree? Vote for you favourite below.

Review of Sunderland : A Club Transformed by Jonathan Wilson

sunderlandThis isn’t a long book and yet it took me three or four months to finish it (that should kinda tell you everything) and to be honest if I hadn’t been left on a broken down train with nothing else to read on a my kindle I doubt I would have ever bothered.

I picked up the book on the reputation of the author and out of the desire to get some sort of inside view of Roy Keane’s tenure at the Stadium of Light. Keane afterall took Sunderland from the relegation zone to Champions in less then a season. Couple that story with Keane’s notorious personality and there should be the makings of a good book.

I was hoping it would be something along the lines of Daniel Taylor’s “This is the one”. For that book Taylor was clearly covering Manchester United in real time and giving the presses view of the action. It was well written, exciting and had interesting football related insights. In short it was everything one might want in a football related book.

In “Sunderland : A Club Transformed” there is none of that. There are lots of dull match reports you could get online and little insight beyond that of the blog of a casual fan (yes I do see the potential for hypocrisy and/or irony). Instead much of the book is taken up with dull teenageresque prognostications about the role of football in a post-industrial society and “fun” facts about the city of Sunderland.

A real disappointment. Avoid unless you want to know that for much of the last 60 years Sunderland was the biggest city in Europe without a cinema. Spoiler alert at the end of the book it is revealed that in 2004 Sunderland finally got a cinema of its own!