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 woisthesecretfootballer.com 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.