I'm Not Really Here, by Paul Lake

 

Carlos Tevez's reluctance to take the pitch for Manchester City will not have impressed Paul Lake, who harboured that ambition since almost before he could walk.

He achieved it, too, progressing through the club's junior ranks to the first team and being talked of as a future England captain. And then it all went horribly wrong. In September 1990, aged 21, in only his third game as skipper, the versatile defender-cum-midfielder ruptured his cruciate ligament. What followed next was a catalogue of mismanagement, failed operations and unsuccessful comebacks until five long years later, after setting an unwanted record by spending more time in rehab at the FA's Lilleshall facility than any other player in history, he was forced to recognise that his footballing career was over. He plunged into a deep depression, and his unsparingly frank account of those dark days forms the core of this book.

He was bitter with City, who he felt had reneged on their commitments and lost interest in him, his marriage had collapsed, and he had no idea what to do next with his life. With the help of therapy, anti-depressive drugs and loyal friends such as Niall Quinn he battled back, becoming a qualified football physio. He says wistfully that his biggest regret is that his injuries don't allow him to play any form of sport, but being welcomed back to City in a new role as a community ambassador seems to have done much to ease the pain. Sadly, the German international goalkeeper Robert Enke found no such solace for his depression, ending his life at the age of 32 by stepping in front of a train in 2009. In A Life Too Short (Yellow Jersey, £16.99), Ronald Reng explores the demons that drove Enke to despair. Two outstanding, if harrowing, stories of what might have been.

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