Friday 24 January 2020

The writing style may grate but it's far from boring

Any Given Saturday
Any Given Saturday

Dean Goodison - Book review

What first comes to mind when thinking about Shay Given? His stellar international career, his time at Newcastle, his reputation as a fun-loving guy, the fact that he is undersized for a goalkeeper? Maybe all of the above.

But behind the public persona, the Donegal native was driven by one thing, one life-changing event that sent him on his path - the death of his mother Agnes at a horribly young 41 years of age.

As horrific as it is for any child to lose a parent, Given didn't let it finish him. In fact, reading between the lines it seems like it made him a stronger, more determined person, someone that would go on to do his mother proud.

It's a powerful, harrowing start to 'Any Given Saturday', Given's new autobiography. In the first chapter he talk about those last weeks, those final few days and the months that followed as he and his siblings lives changed forever.

The pain of the first chapter lingers at other stages but don't be confused, this is generally a fairly light book in terms of content.

However, after reading for a while (I was over one hundred pages in) the style of writing started to get a familiar feel and not in a good way.

A lot of swearing, repetition, lazy prose. There was a grating sense there and the first thought was to go and inspect the details of the ghost writer. Sure enough, it was a familiar name. Chris Brereton, he of 'Jimmy White: Second Wind' fame. Of course it was.

This book has all the same hallmarks and is written in the same style. It's not quite as wild as White's book as Given is probably a little less of a loose cannon but neither subject come off as well as they might in their own autobiography.

Listen, it's still fine, it's not a complex read and you won't have to fully fire up the brain to take it all in. There are redeeming features, again, like White's book, there are plenty of interesting tales. At times they come thick and fast and it's a fair achievement that Given was able to regurgitate them all.

Nobody could accuse this publication of being boring and both Given and Brereton deserve credit for that. It's written in chronological order, which makes perfect sense. It means that his club and Ireland career is intertwined throughout the book, although separated by chapter breaks.

Like in White's autobiography, there is one nice line by the author, rounding up the longevity of his career he says, 'I came in with pints and parties and I'm going out with pills and Protein shakes' - pretty much sums up sport perfectly in the last 20 years, doesn't it.

This was likely to be a popular present under the Christmas tree yesterday. The Irish national team has left the public glued to the screen on plenty of occasions over the last couple of decades and Given is a common denominator in most of those great game.

People feel like they partly know him and there is, no doubt, an interest to see how their picture of Given and the reality of his persona mesh together. This will, therefore, be a popular gift and purchase amongst fans of the national team.

Yet beyond that, is there a audience? Does the casual sports fan pick this up? It's a tricky one, the style of Brereton will grate with plenty. My best tip; head down to The Book Center, open up a copy somewhere in the middle and read a couple of pages. See how it feels and make a decision from that.

Visit The Book Centre on Wexford's Main Street for the very best selection of sports books.

Wexford People

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