Pepe. My Autobiography Liverpool Trinity Sport Media, 2011
A Great Book for GMT
BST 2011 is now a distant memory and it is probable that you might be coming back from Liverpool away game on a dark winter Saturday night. Football may be kicking off every Saturday, but winter is never that pleasant in the UK and you might find yourself marooned at a station- let say Crewe for the sake of argument.
You curse your luck. You were promised a connection to Lime Street by someone in a station, somewhere in the UK, but that never really happened. You are stuck on platform twelve with a few gormless pigeons and some drunk teenagers for company, who are looking forward to their night out in Runcorn. The wind whistles through the broken station canopy, and you are perched on the end of a plank of wood that was called a seat in 1981, but called broken scrap in 2011. What are you supposed to do?
You can spend the time trying to find some excitement in the timetable leaflets to Wrexham or Bangor. Looking like a deliriously excited train spotter, you will start to murmur the station names into the night sky, or you can find some solace in this book which is probably one of the best feel-good football books that I have read in a while. Although surreal too, this book is certainly not corny in tone. It is not a reality show “I was born under a cave, but now I am a football megastar” tale. The book will cheer you up, regardless what has happened between 3 and 5pm on a Saturday afternoon, as well as make Crewe station seem the next step to paradise.
This book is honest. It talks about the good games, and the matches that did not go so well. This book also becomes surreal in tone when you start flicking through the pictures in the middle of the book. In addition to the predictable pictures of Reina making draw-dropping saves, mostly in front of the kop, there are some slightly surreal shots of Torres, David Villa, and Reina having dinner with their wives. There is also a picture entitled “one of my best mates: David Villa.” Reina also talks about filling up at a petrol station somewhere on Merseyside. Because of the mystique surrounding today’s top flight footballer, you could believe that these players are today’s real life ‘Transformers’ who do not sleep, eat, have any friends, of have any emotion at all other than a serious desire to score a goal. Petrol comes from their blood rather than a filling station. Do these footballers really lead normal lives?
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In fact, Pepe Reina has led a fairly normal life so far, and he pays tribute to some of the key family and friends within this book. He recognises that he has some breaks on his “journey” but he is never arrogantly suggesting that it is his talent that sent him on his way. There are the tributes to the family including his grandfather, who managed to get see his grandson play his first football games, whilst Pepe was being schooled in all things football at Barcelona’s La Masia academy. There are the tributes to the coaches, whether in Spain or England, but you always get the sense that Reina recognised that he was lucky and fortunate to have these breaks in life, but hard work was needed to achieve what he wanted in the game.
Whilst you read about Reina’s Spanish football education, you start to wonder whether you are reading the reasons why Spain won the World Cup in 2010, and are odds on favourites to be the winners in Euro 2012, whilst England were humiliated against South Africa last year, and why a large amount of people across this island having given up on anything, other than a penalty shoot out and shattered dreams in 2012. Spanish football may be on a crest of a Guinness sized wave, but there seems to be a determined will to work and win, rather than expect football success to rain down like a hot shower. It is an interesting story in a further sense that to a large extent, Reina has been the substitute goalkeeper for the Spanish national side. He takes this fact with commendable grace, and appears to be a key figure to keep the spirits up, and the nerves down, amongst colleagues in readiness of the big games.
Another image that messed with my mind was the idea of Xavi, Alonso, Torres, Villa, Iniesta, and the rest, dining on milk and croissants in Reina’s room in readiness of the big international games. The camaraderie is strong. Could that really happen in planet England? You can read all of these anecdotes, but you should never forget that you are reading with the knowledge about the awe inspiring football that the Spanish team are playing at the moment.
The Liverpool chapters cover the key incidents of the last five years. There is the 2006 FA Cup Final craziness against West Ham, the 2007 European Cup run, and the 2008-2009 title run that nearly ended in ultimate success. There is harsh comment towards the Hicks and Gillett reign at Anfield, in a way that has never quite been said by a first team player. The book ends in hope that the second reign of Dalglish will bring back success to Anfield, and you get a sense, again, that the hope was rushing into Anfield on the 8th January of this year when Dalglish returned to the home dugout for a second time.
This book is one of the more open and honest tones from a player, which has appeared on a book shelf recently. It had the same impression on me like the books from Gerrard and Carragher during the last couple of years. Whilst you are encamped on platform 12 at Crewe, you can reflect on why it seems to be current and ex reds, which have put their name to the best recent biographies.
However, the feel-good nature of the book will help to pass the time, before the 18:25 to Lime Street apologetically chugs through the gloom into the station, with ‘Dolly’ the announcer, expresses her “sincere apologies” for the late running of your service.