Matt Butler: Trouble sleeping? Here’s Gareth Barry with a bedtime story...

View From The Sofa: Bringing Books to Life, BBC2

Hear about the Premier League footballer who liked books? He'd even coloured some of them in.

Yes, it's an oldie, but a goodie – and although the joke may be hackneyed, it does illustrate that the idea of our country's finest football players enjoying immersing themselves in some Hemingway or Stephen King after training can seem a little far-fetched.

But there is a bit of history when it comes to footballers and books. No, not Joey Barton – following “Nietzsche quotes” on Twitter doesn't count – but there are a good few, such as Theo Walcott, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, who have gone on record to express their love of reading.

And Manchester City's Gareth Barry has become the latest to espouse words – he even told the BBC's Bringing Books to Life: “Reading books is a great thing to do. So grab a book and get reading.”

Which would have been great, but for two things. Firstly, the odds of the target audience being tuned in were remote. Because the show he was guest-starring on was broadcast at four o'clock in the bloody morning. And you can be almost certain that anybody watching TV at that time would not be on the search for sporting role models telling them how useful it is to be able to read. If you are wondering, the other inhabitants of terrestrial telly at that time include a newsreader, Columbo, a medieval artist unearthing religious artefacts in Leicester and a bunch of teleshopping hosts. Not exactly the cool crowd. More the don't-tell-anyone-we're-here mob.

Which is a shame, because the premise of Barry – who was ably assisted by Chelsea Ladies and England striker Eniola Aluko – telling kids (we presume from the surreal title sequence and language used that the show was aimed at insomniac pre-teens) that reading is fun is, on the face of it, commendable.

Aluko, who showed herself to be a bubbly, easy-going presenter, introduced the book – Jamie Johnson: The Kick Off by Dan Freedman – and it was up to Barry to read excerpts while sitting in what looked like a waiting room in the bowels of the Etihad Stadium. So far, so educational.

But the second quibble was that Barry's voice is more 'orse 'n' cart than Orson Welles.

He read out sections which should have been full of high drama, such as this description of a bungled penalty: “ he was falling to the ground he flung his foot towards the ball so desperately, so violently, that his left boot actually fell off his foot. It shot right into the air. Meanwhile the ball that should have flown into the net rolled slowly, painfully towards the goal. It was his worst nightmare.” It looks gripping in print, but sadly, if anybody had been battling to achieve 40 winks in the wee hours, they would have had no trouble nodding off at Barry's stilted monotone.

It may seem churlish to criticise Barry's delivery, especially as he is paid to marshall City's midfield rather than talk about the importance of reading. And the revelation that Barry does not come across as the life and soul of the party will not surprise anybody who has attempted to drag an interesting quote out of the player in a post-match mixed zone.

But surely the point of having high-profile Premier League and England footballers on a show about books is to make reading seem attractive. And there must be a player about who is more engaging than Barry. Mind you, given the time the show was on, maybe they want to keep secret the fact that footballers can read at all.

Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Neil Warnock
football'New' manager for Crystal Palace
REX/Eye Candy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Roger Federer is greeted by Michael Jordan following his victory over Marinko Matosevic
tennisRoger Federer gets Michael Jordan's applause following tweener shot in win over Marinko Matosevic
peopleJustin Bieber accuses paparazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis