Friday 23 August 2019

Unfulfilled potential a common theme in Walsh's career

Walshy: Wouldn't It Be Good
Walshy: Wouldn't It Be Good

Dave Devereux - book review

Forthright Sky Sports soccer pundit Paul Walsh was instantly recognisable in his playing days with his long flowing locks and his cavalier style on the pitch.

The former Charlton, Luton Town, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Portsmouth and Manchester City man was an energetic, skillful and pacy striker and was popular with fans, but in the main his autobiography, 'Walshy: Wouldn't It Be Good', is a tale of missed opportunities, over-indulgence, bad luck and untimely injuries.

We learn how he burned his bridges with the England international side by choosing to go on a pre-season tour with his new club, Liverpool, ahead of playing in the European Under-21 final, something which senior international manager Bobby Robson appeared to take great exception to.

Poor choices such as this blighted his career, from drinking sessions to fighting, to resentment towards those in authority and occasional brushes with the law.

One of the most insightful aspects of the book came from his injury-ravaged time at Liverpool and to hear just how backward the medical facilities were at the Anfield club.

Given that they were kings of Europe at the time, it's difficult to fathom that they were a step or two down from Charlton and Luton Town in terms of what was available on the treatment table, and there seemed to be a hardman attitude that was prevalent at the club - if you suffered a knock you were expected to get on with it or risk being labelled a soft sissy.

The book gives the reader an insight into the drinking culture that was widespread in English football in the 1980s and early '90s. When you read that top dogs Liverpool stopped for fish and chips on the way home from an away game and washed it down with a few crates of lager, you can appreciate how different things were back then.

Most of the stories of debauchery stem from his time at Spurs when he found himself single again and living out of a hotel room, and unsurprisingly Paul Gascoigne features in a lot of the mischievous adventures. In fact, somewhat disappointingly, there's probably more focus on Gazza's antics than his own.

After arriving on the scene with a bang as a 16-year-old at Charlton, Walsh made a real name for himself at Luton Town which saw him crowned P.F.A. Young Player of the Year, leading to a dream move to Liverpool.

After a promising start at Anfield he endured more bad times than good, a pattern that plagued his up and down career. Walsh moved on to Spurs with the hope that a fresh challenge would get the best out of him, but football took a back seat as his drinking and lifestyle spiralled out of control.

From chapter to chapter you're waiting for an upturn in his fortunes but a fresh obstacle always seemed to come along to kick him in the proverbials. Even when he dropped down a division to ply his trade with Portsmouth and things seemed to be looking up, he was struck down with a virus but thankfully did go on to be voted the club's player of the year - at last a silver lining.

When reflecting on his time at Spurs he said: 'We never reached the heights we were capable of because we should have been challenging for the title with the squad we had. Maybe we ran on 70-80%, occasionally raising our standards higher and blowing teams away, but mostly never fulfilling our true potential'.

He could well have used the same words to sum up his rollercoaster career and indeed autobiography, which is an easy and entertaining read but never quite hits you like a hurricane.

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