Magazine article The Spectator

A Man and a Month

Magazine article The Spectator

A Man and a Month

Article excerpt

BOOKS written by sportsmen about their careers are usually, in the words of Brian Glanville, that brilliant chronicler of football, no more than `disingenuous ghosted pap'. You could never accuse Brian of writing pap. He was fearless in his denunciation of the second-rate but, at the same time, he celebrated all that was worth celebrating. And he knew what he was talking about, too, which helps.

As it happens, one prominent sportsman has recently brought out a book about his career, and another is about to. Roy Keane, the Manchester United midfielder, entrusted the writing of his autobiography to Eamonn Dunphy, who, like Keane, used to play for the Irish team. Dunphy has a reputation for swimming against the tide and, in that respect, Keane chose the right man. The book's revelations have been splashed all over the back pages and Keane is richer, though not wiser. His confession that he deliberately sought revenge on an opponent, Alf-Inge Haaland, may yet bring civil and possibly criminal charges.

The other sportsman is a different man altogether. Michael Atherton's father was on Manchester United's books as a young man before he went into teaching, but Atherton jnr played cricket for a living after leaving Cambridge in 1989 with a 2:1 in history. `Revenge is not a word I understand,' he says of Keane's confessions. What a withering dismissal that is. It amounts to telling Keane: `Oh do grow up, you silly little boy.'

Sadly, football attracts lots of silly boys. One of them, a journalist called Mick Dennis, is barely out of short trousers, it seems. Referring to Atherton's book, he wrote that it was tamer than Keane's, `like the game he plays'. Oh I don't know, lad. Atherton played 115 Test matches, captaining England in 54 of them. He opened the innings and took on the fastest, most intimidating bowlers in the world without complaint, even though he spent ten years combating a chronic back injury that often left him immobile and eventually ended his career at the comparatively young age of 33. …

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