The Secret Player, by Anonymous
Sunday 18 August 2013
First the Secret Olympian, then the Secret Footballer, and now the Secret Player; Anonymous is a busy author these days. The promise of such books is to give us explosive insider's dope, but what emerges here instead is a rather bleak view of the "beautiful game".
To be sure, there are plenty of tales of boozing, birding, gambling and footballers' "pranks" – these last being almost universally unoriginal and unfunny, involving alcohol, excrement or the cutting-up of designer clothing. But there are few beans that haven't been spilled before, and no names are revealed.
More interest, whether by accident or design, lies in Mr Anonymous's exposure of the mindset of today's top footballers. Loyalty to club or country counts for little; money is all. Premier League players have little time for the FA Cup because the financial rewards are paltry compared with their earnings from League or European competition.
You might think that they crave trophies, but according to the author most agree with the manager who told him: "Every payslip is a trophy". He details a scam whereby players feign injury towards the end of a game to allow their mates on the subs' bench to earn appearance money, which at his club is £6,000 the minute you step on to the pitch. As for international honours, he claims it is common for players to declare themselves unfit for duty in order not to risk getting crocked and thereby prejudicing their club earnings.
Does the big money make them happy? Rarely, says the author. In his case he has suffered from depression, but taken great pains to conceal it from his club, instead seeking treatment privately, for fear they might think it would affect his form and jettison him.
So who is this jaundiced Secret Player? Unless he is deliberately misleading us, he offers plenty of clues: he has played at senior level for England, and in all four League divisions; he is big, white and operates in a central role; and he is not from London or Manchester, but is probably a northerner, if the use of words such as "mither" is anything to go by. Whoever he is, you worry for him. And his Premier League colleagues.
Published in trade paperback by Headline, £13.99
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