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: “...as 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.

Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect