Cricket: Honesty Is Whiteside's Best Policy; BOOK REVIEWS

The Birmingham Post (England), August 21, 2007 | Go to article overview

Cricket: Honesty Is Whiteside's Best Policy; BOOK REVIEWS


Determined

By Norman Whiteside Headline Publishing

4sportsbooks.co.uk price: pounds 11.38, saving 40% on rrp.

A mention of Norman Whiteside's name still invokes rage in some circles, genuine warmth in others. This mould-defining man-boy, Manchester United's youngest player since Duncan Edwards, the youngest-ever player to appear in the World Cup finals has chosen his autobiography's title well, for he would welcome both accolade and anger alike.

As actor James Nesbitt says in his foreword, even at the age of 20 "but looking 35" 'Big Norman' was feared, although what makes this book such a terrific read are not tales of punch-ups or drunken binges, but its searing honesty.

This is evident from the first page, which opens with a 26-year-old Norman hiding beneath his duvet, crying. We start at the pivotal moment in his life, the point at which his football career has formally ended and, given the details of pain incurred and operations endured that follow, it's a wonder he made it this far.

Nevertheless, after admitting his career was finished, the cathartic effect upon the Belfast man was almost immediate. "My pride meant that I had to show I could pick up the pieces," he says, "The only problem was, I didn't have a clue how I was going to do it."

Big Norm had always had some inkling his career may not run for another decade; accordingly, he became a regular attendee at close-season coaching schools where he gained an impressive number of football-related qualifications.

However, even after breaking free of his duvet-clutching stupor, he realised that he was ill-suited to coaching. Instead, inspired by Jim McGregor and Les Holm, physiotherapists at Manchester United and Everton respectively, and in whose company he had spent a disproportionate amount of time, Whiteside decided to start a new career focusing on football's medical side.

The problem was, he had no formal academic qualifications. And so, adopting the type of approach that endeared him to United fans, the fearless (if a tad embarrassed) Whiteside signed up to take his GCSEs at South Trafford College.

Attending college as a famous mature student was not easy, although to his credit, Whiteside stuck with it. Eventually, he was to sit A-levels and ultimately graduated with a degree in podiatric medicine, each step of his academic career tackled with the same intensity he once reserved for a visit to Anfield.

Readers might be surprised to learn that at one stage, Liverpool were interested in him as a triallist, although when Manchester United's scouts learned of their rivals' attention, a scout was immediately dispatched to Belfast to sign young Norman up. …

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