Brought to book: The ultimate guide to life inside 'the bubble'

Since the World Cup finals five current England players have written books about themselves. So what do they reveal about the closeted life of a modern international? Glenn Moore read them all - so you don't have to

Thursday 22 September 2011 04:35

What did England's footballers do in Baden-Baden while the WAGs were out shopping?

To judge from the torrent of words published under their names since returning from the World Cup they must have been poring over their laptops, honing their prose. It was actually their ghost writers, most of whom were in the WAGs hotel at the bottom of the hill, who spent the evenings agonising over clichés and split infinitives. But either way the net result is an unprecedented glut of books, a result of commissions from publishers who, like players, supporters and the media, had fallen for the old canard that, this time, England really were going to win.

More than half of Sven Goran Eriksson's first-choice XI committed to print this summer. Wayne Rooney "wrote" two books. If we disregard David Beckham's latest tome, which is a "how to become a footballer" book, that still leaves five insiders telling us what really goes on inside the England camp. At least as far as their consciences and lawyers will allow.

Here, saving The Independent's readers £100.94 and many mind-numbing hours, is our guide to what is happening inside "the bubble".

BEING WAYNE ROONEY: 'The Big Man is back...'

Rooney's team-mates are often more revealing about Rooney than he is. In his book Rooney denies press reports stating that he said, in the dressing-room before the Sweden game, "The Big Man is back", adding: "That was rubbish. It's not me. I might have faults but I'm not a big head." According to Gerrard, when Rooney was passed fit he "marched back into the Bühlerhöhe [the team hotel], stood in reception and declared, "The Big Man's back!' Typical Wazza!"

Ferdinand adds: "That's what he calls himself, the Big Man. When he's describing himself after games of training he'll go, 'And the Big Man got up at the far post', or 'The Big Man shot at goal'. Funny thing is he is not that big a bloke."

Rooney's confidence and the similarities to Paul Gascoigne in ability and personality are often commented on. Gerrard writes of Rooney in the dressing-room before the Euro 2004 encounter with France: "He was just messing about with the ball, as if he were going out for a Sunday League match... 'Just give me the ball,' he told everyone. 'Give me the ball. I will do it. I want it'."

Rooney, notes Lampard, was in his kit long before anyone else that night, "He couldn't wait ... he was flicking the ball around, banging off the walls and having a laugh - no nerves, no fear."

CLIQUES AND TEAM SPIRIT: 'The best I've ever experienced'

It is an axiom of major tournaments that, according to the team, the team spirit is "the best ever". Wrote Rooney in his annual of this summer: "The spirit in the camp is fantastic, the best I've ever experienced ... there aren't any cliques. Unlike in previous tournaments all the players from different clubs mix happily together and there are no disagreements at all - other than the choice of music on the team bus."

But maybe this only applied to Rooney. Lampard observes: "People by nature hang out with those they know best. For that reason the lads from each club would often sit around and chat or play pool. Wazza, however, would effortlessly glide from Chelsea to Liverpool and Arsenal and everywhere else in between."

HOTEL LIFE: 'Where's the burger bar?'

Hotel life was, in a word, dull. This despite universal appreciation for the FA's no-expense-spared attitude to kitting out team hotels with all manner of amusements. Pool, table tennis (Ferdinand is the king of ping-pong), tennis (Crouch), arcade games such as rally driving, simulated golf, pinball, darts, Pac-man etc.

There was even a players' "comment book". Sample comments, quoted by Cole: "A boss games room but where's the burger bar?" (Rooney); "Not as good as mine at home" (Carragher); "What a pile of shite" (Gerrard). The latter comment, said Cole, "cracked us all up ".

Other pastimes were golf and sunbathing, neither of which interested the hyperactive Rooney. There is also a lot of texting and making of phone calls.

A chef travels with the team but most players' tastes are prosaic. Lampard recalls a Euro 2004 trip to McDonald's: "A great shout by the FA," in which everyone tucks into Big Macs and chips except Phil Neville "on his own by the salad bar with a huge plate of lettuce and vegetables." Each player's room had his photograph on the door (Rooney was in 144, between Gerrard and Lampard) and access to English TV, a computer terminal with games, and an electric toothbrush.

IN THE DRESSING-ROOM: 'Everyone is in their own heads'

The England dressing-room appears to have become a quieter place. Gerrard, on his debut in 2000, writes: "The noise was unbelievable. In the middle of the dressing-room stood Alan Shearer and Tony Adams, whipping up the storm. Changing-rooms are always loud, but Adams and Shearer cranked the volume up to another level. Shearer was getting everyone going, standing there like a warrior preparing for combat, screaming at his fellow soldiers. Adams was going round the room bawling at players individually. He fixed us with a stare and then spat one question in our faces: 'Are you fucking ready for this?' "

Contrast that with the scene Cole describes in the current squad. "No one's head-butting walls or jumping up and down or anything like that. There's more of a quiet focus with this England team. You can tell everyone is in their own heads, mentally gearing themselves up - deep breaths, doing stretches, downing water, just thinking." Ferdinand, notes Cole, always tips a bottle of cold water over his head in the tunnel.

The tunnel, before big clubs matches, is often the scene of intimidation but, running on to the pitch ahead of the quarter-final with Portugal, Rooney found himself next to Cristiano Ronaldo. It was rumoured that Ronaldo attempted to wind up Rooney. The truth, Rooney writes, was more prosaic. "He asked me if I'd heard where Quinton Fortune [who had been released by Manchester United] was going. I said no, did he know where he was going? ... We said good luck to each other, then the game began."

ERIKSSON UNCOVERED: 'He makes you feel important'

Forget what you may have seen in the various serialisations, one aspect is clear from all the books. The players liked and respected Sven Goran Eriksson. Since he is no longer England manager they have nothing to gain from affirming this but, to a man, they do. "He has a way of dealing with people which makes you feel important even if events suggest otherwise," writes Lampard.

One reason is his support of them when the infamous strike threat was made after Ferdinand was suspended for missing his drug test. It is clear some players, notably the Manchester United core led by Gary Neville, were prepared to strike but many others, including Gerrard, had grave misgivings. Eriksson was also admired for his consensus approach to determining tactics. One caveat. None thought Theo Walcott's inclusion a good idea.

Steve McClaren is a peripheral figure, but his appointment as Eriksson's successor, is, unsurprisingly, praised - even if his surname is misspelt (McLaren) more often than not in Cole's book.

QUIZTIME: Ex-girlfriends, drugs, cars

The life of a modern footballer can be read in the indexes. Which books have these entries? 1. Ex-girlfriend selling story 2. Shoplifting incident 3. Investment portfolio 4. Fighting at party incident 5. Brothel incident 6. Drugs allegation 7. Trashing of hotel room incident 8. Meeting Prince William 9. Cars 10. Clubs, night (six entries) 11. Pepsi contract 12. Gambling.

Answers: Lampard: 1, 6, 11; Gerrard: 2, 6, 7; Rooney: 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 12; Ferdinand: 9, 10, 12

BUYER'S GUIDE: Are any worth the money?

Cole's book is by far the worst. Rooney's autobiography is ponderous, but his annual is good value for the 10-year-old Rooney fan. The others are decently written, but of limited interest to other clubs' fans. Gerrard's is the best.

'My Defence' by Ashley Cole and Steve Dennis (Headline, £18.99); 'Rio: My Story' by Rio Ferdinand and Shaun Custis (Headline, £18.99); 'Gerrard: My Autobiography' by Steven Gerrard with Henry Winter & Paul Joyce (Bantam Press, £18.99); 'Totally Frank: My Autobiography' by Frank Lampard and Ian McGarry (HarperSport, £18.99); 'My Story So Far' by Wayne Rooney and Hunter Davies (HarperSport, £17.99); 'Rooney: My Official 2007 Annual' edited by Chris Hunt (HarperSport, £6.99).

Anatomy of a publishing disaster

Spurred by England's triumphs in rugby and cricket, some of Britain's major publishers gambled that England's footballers would excel at the World Cup but the five players' autobiographies released since the flop in Germany are destined to be commercial duds, according to a well-placed industry insider.

"I doubt that any will make much profit, if any," said the literary agent, who has brokered numerous deals for world-famous names but requested anonymity on this touchy subject. "Even allowing for serialisation rights, which is a significant part of the calculations during commissioning, there could be heavy losses all round."

Of the memoirs in question, by Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand and Ashley Cole, only Gerrard's My Autobiography has shown any signs of health in the shops, selling some 65,000 copies and twice topping the hardback non-fiction lists since 1 September.

"It's the best written," said the insider, "but it's also the most honest and thoughtful, and Gerrard arguably has the greatest respect of the public. But all the books suffer because they're by young men with limited achievements, certainly with England, who have little to say that we don't already know. They don't transcend their sport in the same way David Beckham does, and there's little market beyond club affiliation, and even that's limited."

Rooney is being paid £5m for a five-book deal, while Ferdinand is thought to have got £1m, Gerrard about £500,000, Cole £250,000 and Lampard an unknown six-figure sum. With the publishers' take amounting to "a few pounds" per copy, massive sales are needed for decent payback. Two or three thousand sales a week for Rooney and the others is way short.

"The basis for the gamble was when England won the rugby union World Cup and the cricketers won The Ashes, players' books went through the roof," says the agent.

Martin Johnson sold almost 250,000 hardback copies of his book within months of release, as did Andrew Flintoff. Jonny Wilkinson also hit six figures.

"But they were widely popular winners, and [the] England [football team] weren't," says the agent. In his opinion, Cole was unwise to write his tome in a sniping way. "It's made him a laughing stock. Instead of being a thoughtful defence of his position, which might actually have been achieved with a couple of well-placed interviews with sympathetic newspapers, it's made him look like an idiot," the agent added.

Nick Harris

Same old story England players flop in the booksale charts

STEVEN GERRARD (Bantam) Published: 1 Sep. Sales: 65,000. Amazon chart: 20

WAYNE ROONEY (Harper Sport) Published: 27 Jul Sales: 31,000. Amazon chart: 1,038

FRANK LAMPARD (Harper Sport) Published: 4 Aug. Sales: 21,000. Amazon chart: 393

RIO FERDINAND (Headline) Published: 21 Sep. Sales: 8,000. Amazon chart: 302

ASHLEY COLE (Headline) Published: 21 Sep. Sales: 5,000. Amazon chart: 2,181

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