PO Box 306, Glasgow, G21 2AE, Scotland
Full Time: The Secret Life of Tony Cascarino by Tony Cascarino and Paul Kimmage; Simon & Schuster; £9.99
Last Christmas I received two books written about two men who played for Celtic and Ireland. One was regarded by those who saw him as being the finest player to have ever played for Celtic (Patsy Gallagher), the other, by many, as one of the worst.
Unfortunately, the one I saw playing was Tony Cascarino.
The statistics of Cascarino's time at Celtic make for grim reading - a mere 4 goals in 30 games - but they give only a hint of his true ineptitude. Signed for a then club record fee of £1.1 million, he demonstrated no obvious footballing attributes in his 6 months at the club.
Probably no player I have ever seen possessed less ability with the ball at his feet. In addition, he was slow, he was out of condition and he made Harald Brattbakk look like Gabriel Batistuta in front of goal. Only Biggins was worse.
A particularly bad performance from big Cas that I recall was one in Antwerp when he missed at least four open goals. For much of that game he seemed to be trying to kick the ball using only the soles of his boots.
The book chronicling his life, written in collaboration with former Tour De France domestique Paul Kimmage, has been hailed in some quarters as being the best biography (auto or otherwise) of any British or Irish footballer for a generation. That may be damning it with faint praise as these have been for many years as original and memorable as a song by S Club 7 (but without the pretty(ish) girls) but it is far from uninteresting.
What makes it unusual to start off with is that it is a story of a footballer whose career has not been much of a success (although he earned £2.3 million in the process of being not much of a success). More unusually, it is the story of a man who acknowledges his shortcomings both as a player and as a man.
This is someone who played 18 years as a professional footballer in the centre-forward position who can admit that his Achilles heel was the low ball played across his body in front of goal (it's hard not to laugh at this passage).
This is a man who cheated on his wife, doctored his passport to lie about his age, disguised his grey hair and represented Ireland on a record number of occasions without even fulfilling the qualification criteria.
At times the book reads like a confession - and we're talking Timothy Lea here - and at times it is so full of self-loathing that it's positively unsettling.
Even the unexpected Indian summer of his career at Olympique Marseille and then Nancy was played out against a backdrop of duplicity and personal unhappiness.
The parts of the book which are about his life are easily the best thing about the book as his observations on other footballing names are, other than a few paragraphs on Glenn Hoddle, disappointing and not a million miles away from what you would read in a book about - or possibly even by - David Beckham. Cascarino was probably too wrapped up in his own failings to notice much else going on around him.
From a Celtic supporter's point of view there is far too little on his time at the club. I suppose when you think that his time at Celtic was only about 5% of his time in the game that is fair enough, but there's still not much.
His observations on the Old Firm rivalry are, whatever other reviewers might say, tame, if true. More disappointingly, a bizarre incident at Broomfield when he knocked over a policewoman (accidentally) is not mentioned. I can even recall it was the one game when he played well in a Celtic jersey.
The book has been received favourably by other reviewers and in some quarters hailed as one of the best football books ever written. I think that might be stretching things too far as it appears to me to be rather underwritten, but this is a blessed relief after some of the overdone memoirs of recent years ( see Ferguson, Alex).
It also treats some of the darker episodes of his childhood with less depth than I think they merit.
I have to say that admitting you were a diddy who behaved dreadfully does not necessarily make you admirable nor your autobiography a masterpiece, but if only for its transparent lack of bull it deserves to sell more than most books of its genre.
Sales, however, may be affected by Cascarinos absence from British football since 1994 and, more seriously, because few of the supporters of the three biggest British clubs he played for will remember him with much affection.
I wish the book well but I still wish he'd never played for Celtic.
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