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"Lord, I don't ask that I should win, but please, please don't let me finish behind Akabusi."

Innocent Egbunike's prayer at the 1988 Olympics

A greater glory

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Gavin Peacock, Fearn: Christian Focus Publications, 2021, ISBN 978-1-5271-0679-6

I am often asked to recommend a Christian sports autobiography and have struggled to think of a good recent one. I will struggle no more! Gavin Peacock’s A greater glory is as good a sports autobiography as I have read – and I have read and reviewed quite a few.

Early in the book the author sets out his intentions: “It’s my story: a memorial of the life of a boy from the south east of England in Kent, who lived a schoolboy dream of a becoming a professional footballer and went on to another dream career as a BBC commentator, but gave it all up for church ministry; a story which takes you all the way from the pitch to the pulpit”.

The book gives a real insight into the life of a footballer - 16 different addresses over an 18-year playing career for seven clubs. The first chapter, about playing in the 1994 FA Cup Final, is written in such a vivid manner that one could almost feel that one is on the pitch with him.

His insights into playing under Kevin Keegan, Harry Rednapp, Ossie Ardiles, Glenn Hoddle and Jim Smith are really interesting for anyone who follows football. He describes well the thrill and challenges of captaining Chelsea, QPR and Newcastle.

He also lifts the lid on BBC Match of the Day, describing the process and how much work goes into a 1-minute clip to highlight a tactical issue during a game.

Having become a Christian when he met some Christian young people who “displayed a life and joy that I did not have”, he addresses the issue of whether being a Christian is compatible with playing competitive professional football, stressing the importance of not letting your identity become tied to your football performance. He writes about how to be a Christian in the limelight as a footballer, learning from an interview which resulted in an embarrassing newspaper headline: “Why I can never be one of the lads”.

Finally, I declare an interest. I have known Gavin for nearly 30 years seeing him play for all his clubs but Charlton Athletic. It has been a joy to watch him develop from being a young player to the point of playing for a top Premier League Club to developing a career as a pundit on BBC TV to becoming a pastor. For all that, I am convinced that my judgment is sound – an important and thoughtful book, which is an easy read.

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