"Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play…it is war minus the shooting."
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Peter Schmeichel, London, Hodder and Stoughton, 2021. ISBN 9781529354096I read this book with great interest, having been in the stadium at a number of the big games described in the book.
The book charts the career of Peter Schmeichel through Brondby. Manchester United, Sporting, Aston Villa and Manchester City. At 400 pages it is a bit long with too much detail in places.
The most interesting aspects are the inside story of the Manchester United team which dominated English football in that era. His own self-assessment and his analysis of others is a fascinating read. Of himself he says: “my biggest strengths included concentration and alertness. I was always ready. In most games Manchester United dominated, but – especially because we played with risk – there would always be one or two moments I suddenly had to be at my highest level of focus and physical preparedness”.
Gary Neville, he describes as: “a big player because of his mentality more than his ability”. On Eric Cantona: “One of Eric’s biggest contributions was demonstrating what the job of a footballer should be. He infused a culture that you can actually improve your skills”. Ole Gunner Solskjaer was “the best finisher I ever saw”. His analysis of modern Premier League goalkeepers is excellent.
He suggests that Sir Alex Ferguson’s greatest asset was recruitment “What Fergie was really good at – and he did it again in summer of 1993 when he recruited Roy Keane – was understanding exactly what a team needed and finding not just the right player but the right type: someone independent, strongminded, who could stand up for themselves whatever the circumstances”. He also refers Sir Alex’s his ability to keep squad players happy.
Schmeichel admits that leaving Manchester United in 1999 was a big mistake: “It was wrong me, wrong for the club, as simple as that”.
His approach to penalty shoot-outs was fascinating. He had no interest in knowing where a player usually put a penalty. “I made my picks: (1) left, (2) (3) right, (4) left, (5) left. That was which way I would be diving for their penalties. With shoot-outs, I always decided it like that. May work for other keepers, but for me research on the opposition takers is pointless”.
He is very honest about the challenges of retiring: “every day twenty, twenty-five years, you have a strict schedule: training ground first thing, breakfast, treatment, training at 10.30…try replacing that overnight. I started going to the driving range every day at exactly the same time I would have gone to on the dot. I began lining up golf games…Nothing will replace being a footballer. Nothing ever; ever, ever, ever”.
A very interesting, well written book.