Sport's steelier stories of players forged in hell ring truer than Golden Balls' hollow chimes

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The Independent Culture

In the Shropshire town of Ludlow yesterday, it was only possible to leave Tesco's without realising David Beckham's latest autobiography, My Side, was finally on sale, if you were Mr Magoo. Hundreds of copies were stacked just inside the exit, the England captain's smouldering eyes following every shopper daring to sidestep him.

I was one such shopper, feinting left and then right to get to the car park without My Side at my side. Although a voracious reader of sports autobiographies, and I admire Beckham's skills, I have less than no interest in how he wooed Posh, and the account of his feud with Sir Alex Ferguson, is just part of Beckham's inexorable self-promotion.

Sadly, cynical exercises like this cast sporting autobiography in a bad light. It was reported yesterday a book is even now being ghost-written on behalf of the Everton prodigy Wayne Rooney. Now, he has already been decreed the most gifted English footballer for a generation - and played his colleagues, including Beckham, off the park in England's labourious win over Liechtenstein on Wednesday - but he isn't even 18. A footballer in nappies during the 1986 World Cup surely has some years to wait before telling his life story.

For many sporting life stories are worth telling and worth reading, and it would be too ironic if (make that when) sales of Beckham's autobiography overtake those of another Old Trafford former favourite, Nobby Stiles. He tells of being bombed by the Luftwaffe, run over by a trolley bus, being suicidal, and suffering a heart attack. Oh, and winning the World Cup. I'm not sure he's ever worn a sarong, but these books can't have everything.

The best have something Beckham's reportedly lacks; substance. I am no fan of the thuggish Roy Keane, but his story had substance, told with passion, as was that of Irish footballer, Niall Quinn. And an England captain in another sport, who rose to prominence at another Old Trafford, wrote one of the most absorbing books of recent years, and cricketer Michael Atherton did it himself.

We shouldn't criticise Beckham for his greater eloquence with his feet than a pen, but what kind of eloquence is needed to tell the marketing men, just occasionally, to **** off?

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