Friday 18 October 2019

Book review: Re-living that key penalty save, 25 years afterwards

The Last Line by Packie Bonner
The Last Line by Packie Bonner

Dean Goodison

It's 25 years since, arguably, the greatest moment in Irish soccer history. That summer's day back in 1990, when Packie Bonner dived low to his right to stop Daniel Timofte's spot-kick from hitting the net and someone sent David O'Leary up after him to stroke home the winning penalty, will never be forgotten by those who lived through it.

Nowadays, if the same situation was to arise, such is the need to instantly cash-in on success, the hero goalkeeper could probably have got that inevitable autobiography out on the shelves before the winning penalty rippled the rigging.

It took the big man from Donegal all of a quarter of a century to bring the country his story. Of course, the drama against Romania is the lede but 'The Last Line' tells a complete history of the man from childhood to now.

Those who followed the career of the former Celtic shot-stopper will know him to be one of the good guys, an affable alternative to today's pampered, willowy superstars. Well, the content of this publication will not surprise that audience.

It's all very nice, as right from the start the homely nature of Bonner comes across. The man is about family and he tells wonderfully heart-warming stories of his childhood, right through to the tales of his own kids.

There are several really amazing stories in the publication to that extent. One of the most surprising surrounds his father-in-law, Tommy; what an incredible individual he seems to be. Although you'll have to read the book to find out more, it's well worth it.

There really is no controversy here. This is not someone with an axe to grind against all and sundry. There are moments of controversy touched upon but there's nothing ground-breaking, nobody is thrown under the bus.

It's just not the man's style and his restraint must be respected when others are only too keen to use perceived sleights to create ludicrous newspaper headlines in an attempt to advance their book sales. The two moments that could have given the red-tops headlines are the sections when Bonner deals with Saipan and when he talks about the end of his almost decade-long relationship with the F.A.I.

Without doubt Bonner's feelings on the Keane saga make interesting reading but that's about all it does, as he doesn't tell us anything about the man that the reader didn't know already. He's circumspect on his break-up with the F.A.I., having signed a confidentiality agreement, and he seems quite happy to skirt the issue.

Like all of Jack Charlton's players, Bonner has a few cracking stories about the former national team boss that he rates as the best manager he played under. One story to look out for is the tale about the couple that got more than they bargained for back at Italia '90.

There is plenty here for the Celtic fan too. Indeed, most of the on-the-field memories come from Bonner's successful 17 years with the Parkhead club. The great cup final wins, the league successes, they are all discussed in detail in this 350-odd page offering.

Who would buy this book? Probably almost everyone in the land. Bonner was always the 'Daniel O'Donnell' of the Irish set-up, the housewives' favourite, and that popularity will surely be re-awakened with this hearty, nice and relaxed offering.

Irish sports fans in general will enjoy this book as it gives the complete back story on one of this state's sporting heroes. For Irish soccer fans there are few players more iconic than Bonner and that's why 'The Last Line' will rightly find itself in many a Christmas stocking.

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