Bees Book Report 1 – 29/6/14

I thought it might be interesting every so often to alert Bees fans to any football books I have read that they might find particularly relevant and interesting.

So here goes:

richard lee

GRADUATION: LIFE LESSONS OF A PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALLER BY RICHARD LEE – Available at Amazon for £9.79 (paperback) or £6.62 (ebook)

There is a long-established viewpoint that goalkeepers, if not mad are totally different from their team mates and Brentford goalkeeper Richard Lee has certainly brought out a book that stands out from the norm.

Using the structure of a diary of a roller-coaster 2010/11 season at Brentford as his framework, Lee provides an acute, revealing and painfully honest account of how it feels to be a professional footballer and the way in which he has transformed his outlook, training and preparation in order to maximise his playing potential.

Lee opens himself up to the reader as an intelligent man quick to question himself and also riddled with fears and self-doubts who is not even a particular fan of the sport in which he makes his living.

Yet he is open and perceptive enough to challenge the traditional preconceptions of life as a footballer and search out and then institute his own methods of preparation and training both his mind and body which result in him producing the best and most consistent form of his life.

But don’t think it was an easy ride. Lee was brought in from Watford as first choice, was dropped before even playing a League game, fought his way back from third to first choice, was the hero of several heart stopping penalty shootouts, suffered the dressing room gobbledy gook of a manager in Andy Scott who he claims was a poor man manager and who was to end up with the sack, and suffered the heartbreak of missing a Wembley final through injury after doing so much to help the team get there.

Don’t feel sorry for Richard though as what comes through loud and clear is his clear analysis and understanding regarding his self-development and growth as a man who is becoming far more comfortable in his own skin and at peace with himself in terms of his occupation and level of achievement.

The book is written clearly and lucidly and is peppered with anecdotes and self-deprecating humour.

Lee is quick to give praise and thanks to the series of mentors who have helped him in his quest

As Gary Player said, “the harder I work the luckier I get” and Richard Lee has worked enormously hard to become the footballer and person that he is.

This book is a unique, uplifting and inspiring read which will live long in the memory due to its difficult subject matter and the honesty with which it was written and it never falls into the trap of becoming preachy or full of jargon.

There is a lot of stuff in here about man-management and how a certain former Bees manager apparently fell very short in this area and Brentford fans will find this insider view fascinating


FAMILY: LIFE, DEATH AND FOOTBALL BY MICHAEL CALVIN – Available at Amazon for £6.99 (paperback) or £4.79 (ebook)

Over thirty-five years ago Hunter Davies broke new ground when he was given total access to Tottenham Hotspur for a season and the result was ¨The Glory Game¨- a true classic in football writing.

I have long been waiting for something as good and Michael Calvin has more than come up with the goods with this well written and insightful insider’s view of Millwall’s promotion season to the Championship in 2010.

So authentic that you can smell the sweat and linament, he has got inside every aspect of the club, both on and off the pitch and truly answered a good reporter’s key questions – Who, What, Why, Where and When.

Brentford fans will be interested to read about “The Guvnors” – the group of experienced players who with the total approval of manager Kenny Jackett ran and policed the dressing room on his behalf and ensured that the players never compromised on their standards or stepped out of line.

They included Andy Frampton, Gary Alexander and Tony Craig and there is much in the book regarding their professionalism and commitment to their team mates.

There is much too about the troubled Lewis Grabban, a youngster who was at the time immature and a fish out of water in an otherwise tight knit dressing room and keen to go his own way and not buy into the group mentality.

This book is a real gem and will open your eyes as to what really goes on every day at a professional football club.

nowhere men

THE NOWHERE MEN BY MICHAEL CALVIN – Available at Amazon for £6.29 (paperback) or £3.49 (ebook)

Amazon currently offer over 15,000 books on football and I am sure that the overwhelming majority are the ghosted memoirs of the latest pampered Premier League brat and originality is hard to come by.

Mike Calvin has been around Fleet Street for many years and has established a reputation for pithy columns that get to the nub of the matter and for his ability to eviscerate cant and hypocrisy.

His previous book “Family”, a year in the life of Millwall took us inside the heart and soul of a football club and made us look at the club in a totally new light.

The book was rightly acclaimed but “The Nowhere Men” is totally different in every way.

Calvin has broken new ground and cast light on a hitherto ignored and unknown segment of the game, the scouts who are responsible for identifying and maintaining the pipeline of young talented players, some as young as the age of six.

He follows a group of scouts and becomes the fly on the wall, recording their conversations, insecurities, fears, whinges and even paranoia as they strive to discover the next potential superstar.

Like most people who spend an inordinate period of their lives working alone on the road and then on their backsides at football matches most scouts are garrulous individuals and their stories are explicit, razor sharp and do not spare the guilty and Calvin is an excellent listener and this book gives them their voice.

There are many footballers including Marcello Trotta who will shrink at the honesty of the withering verdicts of their ability or heart or lack of it and their weaknesses are laid bare by the group of scouts whose job it is to assess em.

Men like the evergreen John Griffin and Mel Johnson are seasoned watchers of the game and able to make detailed assessements of a player’s ability and likelihood to make a living from the game within a few moments of watching them.

You learn to watch the player and not the game itself which apparently is why many managers make poor scouts as they lack the singleminded ness required.

What is amazing is the cavalier fashion in which many scouts are treated, disposed of like old socks when a manager loses his job, working for expenses only and likely victims of the next palace revolution.

Calvin gives them their voice and reveals them as the unsung heroes that they are.

We hear fisherman’s tales of the ones that got away and for all their camaraderie. and sense of togetherness the scouts are competing against eachother and try to pull the wool over their rivals’ eye.

Calvin also lays open the current debate regarding the value of the traditional scout who trusts his eye, experience and judgment when assessing a player and the new breed of performance analysts who follow the Moneyball tradition of using statistics to make their choices.

There is an uneasy relationship between the two and this is a struggle that will continue.

The rich get richer but it is gratifying to read so much in this book about Brentford who are punching way above their weight and are outperforming the bigger boys in the way in which they structure their youth development programme.

The book is 390 pages of pure gold dust, well written, sympathetic and insightful.

This is a totally original book that breaks new ground and it has caused a real stir within the game as well as providing rich entertainment to those who choose to read it.

Please let me know if book reviews are of interest as I have just picked up an account of last season at Dagenham & Redbridge by Lee Price, an avowed Manchester United fan and feature writer for The Sun.

This looks like it might be great fun and I would be happy to share my thoughts on it next week.


2 thoughts on “Bees Book Report 1 – 29/6/14

  1. I’ve read all 3 and all are excellent books.

    Michael Calvin is a journalist that takes time to get to know his subjects and sees through all the nonsense.

    Regardless if you are a Millwall fan or not ‘Family’ is a great insight into that club and the access he had was unprecedented.

    Calvin also treats ‘The Nowhere Men’ with great understanding. Brentford FC figures large in this book with the Academy and how it recruits players via its scouting system.

    Finally, someone who I’ve been lucky enough to get to know through my day job at Brentford FC Community Sports Trust and on match days as presenter of BeesPlayer:MATCH DAY LIVE, Richard Lee.

    He is definitely up there as one of the most intelligent and thoughtful players I have worked with (both via Community and in media). His book ‘Graduation’ (written on a Blackberry phone) is worth reading as Richard opens up about his time at Brentford and not everything was plain sailing.


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