Review365: I Am The Secret Footballer

Nick Miller quite badly wants to know who the Secret Footballer is, but his frustrating anonymity didn't stop him from enjoying his book, titillating tales and all...

Last Updated: 03/09/12 at 16:38 Post Comment

Latest Articles

The PL's Most Improved Defences

2 comments

Southampton top the list but perhaps it's Aston Villa who should get most credit. Their defence is the reason why they are sitting comfortably in mid-table...

Football Managers On TV: Sam Allardyce

11 comments

Garrulous, uncompromising, always fighting his corner, but not without charm if the mood takes him. Sam Allardyce is the Premier League's classic Proper Football Man...

All Articles

I'm one of those intensely irritating people who wants to know how the magic trick is done. I should just sit back and enjoy, appreciating that the secret and mystery is all part of the act, but I can't. I need to know. My problem with needing to know extends to TV shows - for a while I was obsessed with The West Wing, but always found out what happened before the episodes made it from the US to the UK. It's stupid, I know.

You can therefore imagine what I was like reading 'I Am The Secret Footballer', the new book by... well, we're not sure. If you aren't aware of the Secret Footballer, he is a current player who has been writing columns for The Guardian for a couple of years. He claims to have played in the Premier League and at international level, but is now on the way down.

Everyone has their own theories on who the Secret Footballer is - hell, there's a website dedicated to uncovering his identity. This is a slightly pointless pursuit, since Mr Secret Footballer/his editors are smart enough to throw in the odd red herring to his identity, but trying to work out who he was, from every little hint spoiled my enjoyment of the book slightly.

This was of course my own fault, but something that has to be expected. Human nature dictates that when someone says you can't know something, you immediately want to know it. Mr Secret Footballer must surely know that a good portion of his readers will regard this book and indeed his columns for The Guardian as a sleuthing exercise.

And that's a bit of a shame, because 'I Am The Secret Footballer' is a very entertaining read. It's a good mixture of the informative and the titillating, which are basically the two things you could ask for an anonymous 'expose' of the game.

There are tales of excess, of tantrums, of arguments and one particularly racy number involving the wife of an England international doing some things in a swimming pool that swimming pools were not intended for.

One thing the book will not do is dispel many preconceptions about the stuff footballers get up to. The theme of many of the anecdotes seems to be 'You haven't heard the half of it sunshine,' with stories involving Korean knocking shops, extra-marital hoo-hahs and something called a 'champagne war', which apparently involves wealthy young men sending bottles of bubbly to another table of similarly wealthy young men until one side breaks, and realises the bill is too high to pay. All of this is obviously without identifying the parties involved, but Mr SF throws in enough clues here and there that you can take a good guess.

Among the gossip, there is plenty of stuff that you might not know too. Detailed breakdowns of how contracts are worked out and paid, what players say to each other on the pitch and the relationships between players and the press are all discussed. Much of it is fascinating.

It should be said that, if you're of the school of thought that footballers should not complain, that things like depression should not exist for someone so highly-paid and that the monkeys that dance around for our pleasure every Saturday deserve no sympathy, then avoid this book. Mr SF launches defences of and explanations for the amount of money swilling around at the top level of the game, the behaviour of players both on and off the pitch and, perhaps the great taboo in these terms, agents, turning one chapter over to a similarly anonymous agent friend to answer questions.

This might grate, and might come across as self-righteous, and plenty of the arguments can be picked apart or debated, but it's refreshing to read an alternative point of view. The anonymity definitely helps with this, because his points aren't clouded by the 'baggage' and preconceptions that many of us would have for a certain player.

Indeed, the only part of the book I found objectionable was the repetition of the old argument that he, as a footballer, because he has played the game therefore automatically knows more and his opinions are more valid. It's one that we are all familiar with, and one that can be quite easily disproven with a quick viewing of Match of the Day.

The final chapter in particular is revealing, because our man discusses a problem that is hopefully becoming more and more accepted - depression, and how it affected the latter stages of his career. The idea that just because a man is wealthy and successful cannot suffer from this illness has been dispelled by now, but Mr SF lays it out in an incredibly stark manner that, again, is probably only possible and quite as powerful because of his anonymity.

What will be interesting is if he ever reveals his true identity, not only because I (really, really) want to know, but because he claims he wants to continue writing. Will he be able to speak with the same candour? Will he be able to write without upsetting people?

For now, try to enjoy his secrecy and the honesty it brings.


'I Am The Secret Footballer' is published by Guardian Books and is available to buy here.

Nick Miller - follow him on Twitter

Football365 Facebook Fan Page

The Football365 fan page is a great place to meet like minded people, have football related discussions and make new friends.

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

W

e have the personnel. The trick is keeping them fit. Carrick and Blind have missed large chunks of the season, while the defence has been one muddled mess of intermittent stooges, all coming and going at various intervals thus far. We may be just short of title winning quality, but we're half way through. An injury crisis to either of the top two could change things. Optimistic, yes, but not unrealistic.

HarryBoulton
One Point And One Conclusion For United

P

arish is the man to blame for this shambles. Pulis must be chuckling into his left over turkey sandwich. I pray this doesn't mean the Neil Warnock media machine will kick in now and he'll be back on the telly box.

magicfuller
Warnock sacked by Palace

W

e almost found a new way to lose, just when I thought it was getting boring Giroud does that. Although Arsenal are deservedly called 'soft' the entire midfield is out injured. Still must admit MU are managing to win despite a similar raft of absentees. Think the Gunners have good players but poorly coached.

gettalong
Wenger: Giroud deserved red

Latest Photos

Footer 365

Premier League: Sam Allardyce accuses referee of guessing wrongly over disallowed Alex Song goal

Sam Allarydce criticised referee Neil Swarbrick for disallowing a goal after West Ham were defeated 2-1 by Arsenal.

Premier League: Arsene Wenger says Arsenal are showing signs of consistency after West Ham win

Arsene Wenger said Arsenal are heading in the right direction after seeing them hold on for a 2-1 win over West Ham.

Premier League: Newcastle overcome Everton 3-2 thanks to Papiss Cisse, Ayoze Perez and Jack Colback

Newcastle overcame Everton 3-2 at St James' Park thanks to goals from Papiss Cisse, Ayoze Perez and Jack Colback.

Mail Box

Van Gaal's Half-Term Report Card...

One Man United fan isn't happy with the rate the team is progressing under Louis van Gaal, while the mailbox also wishes Liverpool fans a Merry Mid-Table Christmas...

Hang On, Rafa's Success Is No Fluke...

The afternoon mailbox kicks the morning mailbox's arse after claims that Rafa Benitez has fluked his success. Plus, big talk about Liverpool's progress and lots more...

© 2014 British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media property