Monday 19 August 2019

Howard saves his most gripping info for off-field events

Book review

Tim Howard: The Keeper
Tim Howard: The Keeper

Dean Goodison

The FIFA World Cup has made heroes and villains for decades and the 2014 edition was no exception. Yet, it's an unusual hero that's the focus of this week's book review. It's an especially strange one because the game that propelled him to the spotlight is one that his side lost.

Regardless of the result against Belgium in the last 16 of the World Cup, Tim Howard became a household name in the United States. He was on Letterman, he was on Jimmy Kimmel, on Jimmy Fallon, all those sometimes cringe, sometimes chuckle American late night talk shows.

Howard was on those television programmes because he made 15 saves in a losing effort against the Europeans. Fifteen saves. Now, to the normal European soccer fan the '15 saves' means nothing. Your team's stopper can make 30 routine saves and a howler, and all anyone will remember is the one he coughed up.

On the contrary, the only thing Americans seem to love more than a military flyover during 'The Star Spangled Banner' is a juicy list of statistics to go with their heavy sports diet. It's the perfect storm of 'the stat' and the 'gallant loser' that brought about Howard's autobiography, unimaginatively titled 'The Keeper'.

Unsurprisingly, this publication is heavily Americanised. The random Evertonian that wanders into their nearest book shop and picks up 'The Keeper' might end up a little exasperated. Howard, however, knows that his audience comes on the back of the World Cup and targets the right demographic.

The way the book is framed is a little different from the normal autobiography. Howard doesn't just use the paragraph to break up sections of words, he uses it to completely abandon what he was talking about and jump into something completely different.

It's quite a clever approach. With the content not exactly filled with classic battles, it keeps the reader's attention because you never quite know where the former Manchester United goalkeeper will take you next. While mentioning the Old Trafford side, Howard clearly respects the club, having been a starter for a while, but it's far from all positive. In fact, there's an interesting few paragraphs about a bust-up between Roy Keane and Alex Ferguson that will pique the interest of United fans.

One thing that Howard does that never sits well as a reader is use direct quotes from events that happened over a decade ago. It's highly unlikely these conversations were recorded so it's hard to digest them without having doubts about their validity.

There are a few themes running through the book and one of them is Howard's battle with Tourette Syndrome. His work to help children suffering with this affliction is heart-warming and some of the stories he tells about the people he helped really keep the book alive.

Without being facetious, the most gripping story in the publication is actually about the break-up of Howard's marriage. There's nothing salacious about the whole affair but it is fascinating to see how two people, going along so serenely, can just be ripped apart so easily.

Overall, the average sports fan can't really go wrong with this book. It's easy reading without the professional highs and lows that a big sports star can bring. It will hold your attention without leaving you wide-mouthed.

This is certainly one for the handful of Everton fans out there. Having spent nearly a decade at Goodison Park, it's unsurprising that half the book is based around those years. Indeed, Howard even reveals which team he despises more, Liverpool F.C. or the Mexico national side - the answer can be found in 'The Keeper'.

Wexford People

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