Tim Sansom can’t decide what book to ask Santa for this year, can you recommend one? If so, let him – and us – know here.
I OFTEN wonder whether Santa follows the goings on in English football from his present factory in Lapland. For Christmas 2006, I decided to take the plunge and ask Santa for some sports biographies and decided to choose work from Steven Gerrard and Amir Khan. This was a new departure for me and the request was viewed by relative suspicion from family and friends.
My friends were suspicious. There was a feeling amongst some of them for someone like me, who was into his second year of PhD study, that I should be reading Dostoevsky and Dickens and not waste my time with ‘œhere today, gone tomorrow’ sports stars. It was weird to see the intellectual snobbishness coming out from some mates who professed to be sports fans.
I chose Amir Khan, because I believe (and still believe) that he is a fantastic role model for today’s youth as well as community relations. I did not listen to the questioning about why I was choosing someone who had only been in the national consciousness for two years, and had achieved his first notable success in 2004. I thought that Khan would have a story to tell, and I wanted to read it.
I chose Steven Gerrard, because I rated the player for his football ability, his behaviour on the pitch, his love of his hometown team, and the fact that he is the same age as me. Every time I look at Steven Gerrard, I think what could have been if I had really applied myself on the games field.
To my delight, I received the two books for Christmas Day, and as soon as the obligatory duties of family visits were finished for another year, I tore myself away from the never ending supply of salted peanuts, mince pies, and various bears to get stuck into these books. I wanted to prove to my family and friends that you can read sports biographies and enjoy them too.
I managed to finish the Amir Khan Tone in less than a week. For someone who knows little about boxing, I learnt a little bit more (and the stress is on ‘œlittle’) about this sport that has one of the worst images of them all. Page and pages seemed to be devoted to Khan’s lifestyle around Bolton, and it was pleasant to read. Unlike in some biographies, Khan actually acknowledged that other people have been alive whilst he developed into a championship boxer.
2007 had hardly begun before I was onto Steven Gerrard’s tone, and that was far more interesting. Before you had even got passed the first page of Chapter One, you got a sense that this book was going to be more than just an arrogant tale of bling, money and excess. No one would ever believe this, apart from my Liverpool supporting friends, but this book was one of the most interesting tones that I have ever read.
You got a sense that Liverpool Football Club meant more to Steven Gerrard than a means of getting paid. The book was not a collection of various matches, and the account of the 2005 Champion League Final was written in a truly captivating way. These particular chapters offered an interesting diversion from a train journey between Ipswich to Leicester.
So this was a hit and a miss regarding celebrity biographies. Khan’s was ok but not captivating. Gerrard’s was interesting, and exciting, but both books did not make me hate both sportsmen, which was not quite the same with Ashley Cole’s My Defence; arguably one of the worst sports books that I have ever read.
I wonder whether I should ask for Jamie Carragher’s biography this year. My Liverpool mates have said that this is a must-read book, and I can find out more about one of the key Liverpool figures of the last decade. Non-Liverpool mates argue that this book is a total waste of time. During the snatched minutes that I spend in various railway station newsagents across the UK, I have been trying to get a sense of this book, but get drawn to the pictures in the middle spine.
If I do not get Carragher’s memoirs, should I get my hands on the biographies of Robbie Fowler or Ian Rush? I have also skimmed the pages of Robbie Fowler’s tone, and I have found the book to be interesting and shocking, but has anything been straightforward with Robbie Fowler? I have also seen Steven Gerrard’s My Captain’s Book Secrets: Secrets behind the Armband, and wonder whether I should invest in a fairly decent book but am mostly full of pictures.
I am waiting for Fernando Torres’ My Story, or Daniel Agger’s From Within There is a decent argument that sport biographies are only interesting when the player, manager, chairman or pundit has left the game or ultimately passed on. The biographies of Bill Shankly or Bob Paisley are well worth the read, but would a biography of Paisley have been as interesting if the book had been published in 1976?
I do not know whether to speculate on sport biographies or sports books in general. I would never invest in five volumes of Wayne Rooney’s autobiography, but I struck gold with Gerrard’s biography in 2006. Will I be as successful in 2008? Any advice would be welcomed.
What do you think? Suggest a book for Tim here. Here’s some we recommend.