Book of the Week

John Bentley - My Story By John Bentley, with Neil Squires Andre Deutsch pounds 16.99
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The Independent Online
NOBODY WHO has spent any time in the company of John Bentley will have expected him to be nominated for a Nobel Prize for discretion and genteel good taste.

Nobody will be disappointed. In an autobiography rather more hard-hitting than the latter stages of his playing career, he fearlessly tackles subjects like Ellery Hanley's flatulence, Maurice Lindsay's halitosis and, less controversially, Rob Andrew's complete lack of rugby ability.

Bentley's career started and finished in rugby union with his rugby league in the middle like the meat in a sandwich. Indeed, he could always claim to be a hybrid of the two games, with the bristling, in-your-face physicality of league welded to the boozed-up off-field culture of pre- professional union.

One of the charms of this book is that he describes his own many and various excesses like the bobby that he once was, filling in a charge sheet. His descriptions of some of his discoveries on the vice patrol in Leeds' public toilets are not for the faint-hearted, by the way.

He does not spare anyone. Hanley's anti-social problems he blames on his fruit-based diet and also throws in this thought: "I was staggered when he was given the Great Britain coaching job and later the St Helens position because he wasn't the brightest of lads."

And he respects Hanley compared to the other Leeds luminary of the time, Garry Schofield, whom he paints as a manipulative prima donna.

Bentley might have signed for Wigan rather than Leeds had it not been for Lindsay's bad breath overwhelming him at a secret meeting with the then Wigan chairman in his Merc at a motorway services.

And then there is Andrew, who signed and then discarded Bentley on his return to rugby union. "This might sound an odd observation of a man who won 71 caps for England - Rob was a crap footballer. His passing under pressure was hopeless... Have you ever seen him create something out of nothing?"

Come on, Bentos, don't play the diplomat all your life. Tell us what you really think.

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