Making the Grade, by Stan Osborne

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The Independent Culture

The start of Stan Osborne's story follows a path common to many such autobiographies: football-mad youngster from a working-class background makes a name for himself in schools football as a striker, is spotted by scouts and invited to sign as an apprentice for the local club he fervently supports, in his case Everton.

So far, so Wayne Rooney, but Osborne's story has a very different ending. His book's title is ironic, as he did not make the grade as far as Everton were concerned, leaving the club at 18 after two years in 1971, then playing only at semi-pro level. Despite his brusque dismissal by the manager, Harry Catterick – "Right, you can go then. Close the door on your way out" – he says, "However briefly, I'd lived the dream". And his vivid account of those years will grip anyone, Everton fan or not, interested in the way things were.

His prose isn't stylish, but its colloquial immediacy, laced with humour, keeps the narrative bowling along. Given how few young players break into the top flight, it is interesting to note the fate of his fellow apprentices: of a 17-strong squad, six graduated to first-team football at Goodison – two of them played only twice – while another two went on to other League clubs.

Osborne resumed his education, becoming a PE teacher and subsequently a primary school headmaster. On this evidence, his pupils were lucky to have him.

Published in paperback by Legends Publishing, £9.99