"Football is not a matter of life and death, it is more important than that."
How to be a footballer
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Peter Crouch, London, Ebury, 2018. ISBN 9781785039768This is just the best, funniest, more readable football biography in years. Peter Crouch’s declared aim is to take the reader inside the crazy world of the ridiculous houses, cars and bizarre tattoos which are essential parts of the life of the modern Premier League footballer. It is a world where crimes against fashion, taste and behaviour norms are accepted and even encouraged.
Fed up with strangers telling him that he is tall, he had a business card printed which he gave to such people. The card said:
• Yes lam tall
• Yes I am 6’7”
• No the weather isn’t different up here
• No I don’t play basketball
• I’m so glad we had this conversation
The book includes chapters on cars, tattoos, clothes, haircuts, houses, music, nights out etc and how you have behave to fit the stereotype of being a modern professional footballer. The book is written with brilliant humour and is a satire on the excesses of the modern player.
One of the best chapters is on cars where he explains how the car is the first status symbol. Here he pokes fun at the players he knows:
1 the one whose sportscar constantly got stuck on the speedbumps;
2 the one who bought a vehicle which was too big to get into the underground garage where the player lived;
3 the one who was transferred from a Spanish club to a Premier League club and who forgot to bring his Porsche.
Crouch also explains that the further forward you play, the more flash your car has to be. Strikers’ cars are always more impressive that defenders’.
The player’s house ought ideally to be mock Tudor, detached, out beyond the orbital motorway but never into the sticks with a bit of land, a swimming pool with concrete paving-stone surrounds, snooker room and bar. Ideally it should also have a large and aggressive dog, and a large and aggressive sports car.
When it comes to clothes, he describes the great conundrum. How can footballers with money, youth and a good body consistently get clothes buying wrong? He recounts his own tale of choosing a sweater in Harrods, finding at the till that it cost £800. Not wanting to lose face he paid without a blink and then hated the garment ever after. The problem was, as he explains, that he should never have been allowed out to shop on his own in the first place “without a wingman or a woman”.
He explains how footballers never need to grow up because the club or the agent does everything for them. Thus it is an unreal, not quite adult existence. Another example is how everyone has their place on the team coach according to their status and that sitting in someone else’s seat or sitting too far forward – or back – are serious offences.
Alongside the satire there are some really interesting sections like his analysis of all the managers he has played under, his experience of playing for England. He also notes that he is often said to have a good touch for a big man – which leaves him wondering why the fact that his foot is a few inches further from his brain than most people’s should make a difference! In a chapter on defenders he names and shames opponents who have committed career threatening fouls on him.
There are some great one-liners:
Steve Bruce, the most incredible nose in British football
Mario Balotelli looks like the gangster penguin in Wallace and Gromit’s The Wrong Trousers when he’s disguised as a rooster with a rubber glove on his head
The book finishes with a reference to Steven Gerrard, who, Crouch suggests, managed to navigate the life of the footballer and get it right, being successful on the field without embarrassing himself off it.
The Verite Sport website is always looking for connections between sport and faith. Crouch’s book includes the following:
“The foreign influx into the British game has changed things a little. There is more pointing at the sky now when running onto the pitch or celebrating a goal, which you’d assume is more to do with where players think heaven might be rather than a love for cumulonimbus or passing jet passengers. Even those who aren’t religious like to narrow the odds sometimes.
“At Portsmouth Linvoy Primus and Darren Moore were committed Christians. They would pray before games, and had a prayer room installed at Fratton Park. And then suddenly Jermain Defoe was joining in, much to the surprise of those of us who had never heard him mention any religious affiliations before. But when you start doing something and goals and success follow, you convince yourself that it might be helping, even if there’s also a chance it’s doing nothing, and before you know it you can’t leave it behind”.
Overall an excellent book.