BOOK OF THE WEEK; World according to Boy from Barlinnie

George Graham: The Glory and the Grief by George Graham (Andre Deutsch, pounds 15.99)
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The Independent Online
George Graham's autobiography has been described as "an honest account of the workings of a football club." How honest it is is a matter of opinion.

Graham's account of how he came into possession of pounds 425,500 cash in unsolicited gifts from Rune Hauge is at odds with the Premiership inquiry's version. His assertion that he did not believe they were linked to the now infamous transfers of John Jensen and Pal Lydersen stretches credulity - in each case Graham received about 50 per cent of the Norwegian agent's profit shortly after the deal had been completed. Graham insists the monies were gifts and is clearly annoyed that he ever passed the money to Arsenal - while admitting he did so on the best legal advice. He is bitter about the curt manner of his dismissal, yet seems more annoyed at missing out on the pounds 1m pay-off he had negotiated to depart, than the actual departure.

This is not to dispute Graham's love affair with Arsenal. The book opens with an invitation to a tour of his study - "a shrine to Arsenal". Co- written with Jimmy Greaves' ghost, Norman Giller, it is readable with some good tales. The best come from his early playing days with a lively Chelsea side. It was a time, he is keen to inform us in a chapter headed "Bridge of Thighs", when "Gorgeous George" was something of a lad with the lassies.

There are few other revelations. Graham claims the notorious Highbury wage structure was imposed by the board, not by him. He also says he turned down Andrei Kanchelskis because he could not see him playing in the same team as Anders Limpar. Perhaps Joe Royle could explain.

The Boy from Barlinnie, as he likes to refer to himself, had a hard, but largely happy upbringing. The loss of his father and a sister to tuberculosis illustrates the poverty he grew up in. He notes himself that his heavy spending on clothes reflected his childhood deprivations, it probably shaped his appreciation of financial reward as well.

The football chapters are better than average, instead of a deathly blow- by-blow record he offers us his coaching notes to describe Arsenal's European Cup-Winners' Cup triumph and takes us behind the scenes for the '89 championship denouement at Anfield. Those successes underline his managerial ability. He appears to derive more satisfaction from coaching than he did from playing. Being banned has hurt.

Next month is the anniversary of his dismissal by Arsenal. In July he will be able to work in football again. Graham believes he was a scapegoat, he is certainly unfortunate to be the inquiry's only victim. However, given that he is likely to become an influential figure once more it is a shame the mood of his book is one of self-righteous anger, rather than contrition.



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