The Smell of Football, by Mick Rathbone

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The Independent Culture

The adage "Be careful what you wish for" might have been coined for Mick "Baz" Rathbone.

An ardent Birmingham City fan, he was ecstatic when the club signed him as an apprentice in 1975, but was crippled by lack of confidence when training and then playing for the senior side. He found it physically impossible to pass the ball to his hero Trevor Francis (whose photo still adorned the young left-back's bedroom wall), which understandably hampered his progress.

Moving to Blackburn, then in the old Second Division, he became a crowd favourite, and subsequently spent four happy years at Preston before injury ended his career in 1991. After an ill-fated few years managing Halifax he did a four-year physiotherapy course (before joining Birmingham he had planned to study medicine) and found his metier.

Headhunted by David Moyes, he revelled in his years from 2002-10 as Everton's head of medicine, and proudly reproduces the newspaper cutting in which Moyes says: "Baz is the best signing I have made at the club".

Rathbone plays it for laughs, with plenty of self-deprecatory anecdotes laced with ripe language, but he also makes important points. A constant theme is regret that for all his undoubted talent he played only fleetingly in the top flight.

While acknowledging that his shyness and low self-esteem were largely to blame, he says there was a dark, malicious side to the way young players were treated at Birmingham by the senior squad and coaching staff, and is passionate about the importance of treating players equally and fostering a happy atmosphere.

Thoughtful and funny by turns, Rathbone has a lot to say, and says it very well.

Published by VSP in hardback, £12.99