Hampson's account of paralysis and Jimmy Savile makes late entry for book of year

 

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

The organisers of the annual William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award, to be announced tomorrow, were greeted with a chorus of protest at the omission from this year's longlist of the much-acclaimed Engage: The Fall And Rise Of Matt Hampson by Paul Kimmage. It seems to have been more cock-up than conspiracy – the entry was in fact never received – but in an unprecedented move the judges called it into the shortlist, increasing the finalists to seven.

Coincidently, Racing Through The Dark, another tale of despair followed by redemption, is tagged "The Fall and Rise of David Millar", as the Scottish cyclist explains what led him to doping. But there was sadly no reprieve for German international goalkeeper Robert Enke, who stepped in front of a train at the age of 32, or for John Tarrant, the Ghost Runner, who died at 42.

Into The Arena questions whether bullfighting is a sport at all; in Spain, the reports appear on the arts pages of newspapers. No such problems with Dave Roberts' nostalgic football memoir, or Patrick Collins' sharply affectionate account of time spent with supporters.

Engage is the firm favourite, but if all favourites won, William Hill would have gone out of business years ago. Here is a potted guideto the shortlist.

32 Programmes

By Dave Roberts

People like anoraky football books, so here's mine. When we moved to the States, the missus decreed that I could take only 32 of the 1,134 match-day programmes I'd amassed since my first game (Fulhamv Man United, 5 September 1964, if you're asking). Tough or what? But it was good to recall Bromley putting 10 past the Civil Service in 1971 and of course it gave me a chance to riff about my life: girlfriends won and lost, crap jobs – you know the kind of thing. If Nick Hornby can win the William Hill, why not me?

Into The Arena

By Alexander Fiske-Harrison

Is bullfighting cruel? Hard to tell, and since I'm an Oxford graduate, if I don't know then you've got no chance. But it seems a jolly wheeze to spend a year in Spain training to be a matador. The locals are amazed an Englishman has the cojones, but I win them over with my astonishing progress and ability to make amusing puns in Spanish. They all like me. They think I have great talent. I think I have great talent. The bull probably does too, before I kill him. "You did well, Alex," says my good friend the famous matador Cayetano Ordonez. He is right, of course. Un abrazo, amigo.

Engage

By Paul Kimmage

Whooooooosh... whooooooosh... I'm Matt Hampson. That's the sound of the ventilator keeping me alive. I hear it every four seconds. I can't breathe by myself. I've been paralysed since I broke my neck in 2005 practising with the England Under-21 rugby team. The worst was lying in hospital, being patronised by that annoying bastard Jimmy Savile. The RFU were pretty rubbish too, but my Leicester team-mates have been fantastic, and I've got a lot of things going on in my life now. I asked Paul Kimmage to tell my story, and I think he's done a cracking job.

 

A Life Too Short

By Ronald Reng

Robert Enke was the goalkeeper for Germany and captain of Hannover when he stepped in front of a train in 2009. He suffered from depression – it was his third serious bout in six years – and always had difficulty dealing with responsibility. He said in his diaries the illness came "quickly and unexpectedly". What drove him to suicide remains unexplained and family and friends are haunted by the thought they could somehow have prevented it.

Racing Through The Dark

By David Millar

If you'd told me when I started my professional cycling career that I'd end up doping, I'd have said you were mad. I was the biggest advocate of racing just on "bread and water". But I did it. I could blame loneliness, or the pressure as a 22-year-old team leader to get results, or anger at losing to "dirty" riders, but I won't. It was my responsibility. I confessed all when I was arrested in France, then spent nearly 12 months of my two-year ban getting drunk. Now I'm clean, still racing at 34, trying to help rid the sport of drug cheats.

Among The Fans

By Patrick Collins

For decades I've been privileged to be paid to watch the world's biggest sporting events from the best seats in the house. But you can lose touch with the grass roots, so I stepped down from the press box to spend a year with the supporters. Great fun it was, too, for the most part, whether at a point-to-point in Sussex, a rugby international at Twickenham or the dogs at Crayford, although I could have done without cricket's Barmy Army or boorish baying at the darts. I'm a lucky man but I never take it for granted.

The Ghost Runner

By Bill Jones

Banned for life in 1952 by the Amateur Athletic Association for having received £17 for one fight as an 18-year-old boxer, John Tarrant refused to go quietly. He would hover at the start of marathons before suddenly stripping down to his running kit and joining the race with no number. In 1958 the AAA relented, though his dream of competing at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome evaporated when he was told that he was allowed to run in Britain but not for Britain. However, Tarrant kept on going, setting world records at 40 and 100 miles before dying of stomach cancer in 1975.

Comments