Exclusive: deCoubertin Books to publish Ron Atkinson memoir

Ron

I might have my finger firmly pressured on the football book pulse but I don’t get many exclusives, let alone really juicy ones. However, today I can reveal that deCoubertin Books will publish Ron ‘Big Ron’ Atkinson’s autobiography on 15th September and yes, a certain controversial commentating incident may just get a mention or two. As might Dion Dublin, fingers crossed. The Independent’s Tim Rich will be Ron’s sidekick and if the book jacket and title are anything to go by, this book is destined to be a timeless classic. 

Read the full press release below:

deCoubertin Books will publish the memoirs of legendary football manager, Ron Atkinson, this autumn.

Atkinson is one of English football’s most recognisable and popular characters, having been involved in management for a quarter of a century.

He remains the only Englishman to have won major trophies with three different clubs: Manchester United, Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa. At West Bromwich Albion, he was one of the first managers to promote black footballers, including Laurie Cunningham, who went to Real Madrid, Cyrille Regis, who became an England international, and Brendon Batson MBE.

After retiring from management, Ron evolved into one of the most familiar and popular commentators on football. Yet that career came to an end in April 2004 with a single, unguarded comment about the Chelsea defender, Marcel Desailly. Atkinson was labelled a racist and driven from the game he loves.

In The Manager Ron Atkinson delves into the highs and lows of an extraordinary career that took him from non-league football to Old Trafford’s theatre of dreams in the space of seven years. He almost managed two Midlands clubs – Aston Villa and West Brom – to the league title. But behind the familiar image of the bling and one-line quips Ron Atkinson was – and remains – a deep observer of football and footballers.

Ron Atkinson said: ‘I thought this was the right time to be telling the story of my life in football. It began in 1954 when I was a ground staff boy watching in awe as Ferenc Puskas trained in the rain at Molineux when foreign footballers were looked on as alien beings. Football has changed completely and in a sense my career in the story of that change.

‘I wanted to give a proper portrait of the people I have worked with; men like Laurie Cunningham, Bryan Robson, Paul McGrath and Paolo di Canio and those I’ve commentated on, the likes of Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo. I also want to go into not just the fabulous stories from my time managing the likes of Manchester United, Aston Villa and Atletico Madrid but to analyse where they are now.

‘This is also an opportunity to discuss the Marcel Desailly affair and my fight to prove that I am not a racist.

‘I have collaborated with books before but this is my full autobiography, the story of my life.’

deCoubertin Books founder and principal James Corbett said: ‘We’re thrilled to have Ron on board and we hope that his book re-asserts his reputation as one of the finest and most innovative managers of his generation. The book transcends the clichéd version of Ron and shows him as a serious, thoughtful individual with trenchant views on a game he has given so much to.’

Atkinson has collaborated with the Independent’s Tim Rich on the book, which will be published on 15 September. Four signed special limited edition versions of 250 copies commemorating his time at West Brom, Manchester United, Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa will also be available in October.

Sergio Kun Agüero: Born to Rise

Born to Rise: My Story

By Sergio Kun Agüero and Daniel Frescó

Trinity Mirror Sport Media, 2015

Aguero.jpgOn first glance, Born to Rise: My Story looks like classic Christmas football fan fodder. On the cover, Agüero roars out of a football pitch in a plain light blue shirt (Manchester City obviously refused to give image rights), his Elvish tattoo on display. His name is big and central, next to that of his best friend Lionel Messi, who provides a pretty insipid three-page foreword.

However, take a second look, and you notice the size of the book. At 540 pages, Born to Rise is a hefty tome, the football autobiography equivalent of an old-school epic. So what exactly is there to fill all of those pages? The answer is – shock horror – plenty.

But first, a bit of a spoiler: this isn’t really an autobiography, or even a David Winner/Dennis Bergkamp-style fusion. There are first-person Agüero extracts dotted throughout but this is largely a biography written by Argentinian journalist Daniel Frescó.

On the whole, this format is a positive thing, especially for Agüero’s early years in Argentina where Frescó is able to call upon an impressive array of personal and professional sources. 200 pages into the book and ‘Kun’ is still only 13 years-old, excelling in the Independiente youth teams. For British fans, this incredible, pre-City detail is surely a real selling point. Perhaps most interesting of all is the groundbreaking financial/legal relationship between Agüero and the IMG group. And if you feel things are moving too slowly, there are boxes detailing his career highlights (debut, first goal, the Premier League winner against QPR) peppered throughout.

The downside to the format is that at times, Born to Rise feels a little too much like a propaganda piece. Agüero’s controversial departure from Atlético Madrid (he refused to celebrate goals as he tried to force through a transfer) is described in the dry language of a PR document: ‘throughout these times, Sergio left nobody in doubt as to his allegiance towards Atleti, identifying with the club’s values and adopting them as his own, as for him befits such a compliment. Elsewhere, the writing reads like a CV: ‘Kun had learnt to balance the obligations that come with such prominence with being able to enjoy his free time.’

These detours into bland biography aside, Born to Rise is a refreshingly comprehensive look at one of the best footballers in the world, and particularly the rise itself, from dirt pitches in an Argentinian slum to international tournaments and top European league titles. 500-plus pages may seem daunting if not excessive but Agüero’s rags to riches story is certainly worth reading.

Buy it here

You Don’t Know Me, But…

You Don’t Know Me, But: A Footballer’s Life

By Clarke Carlisle

Simon & Schuster, 2014

Along with most of the football-loving population, I have a natural scepticism when it comes to player autobiographies. Like the ‘True Scotsman’, they tend to be all bluster and skirt, with nothing underneath. Messrs Keane and Bellamy aside, few footballers are daring enough to name and shame their fellow professionals, and understandably so. With so many players extending their careers in football through coaching and media work, burning bridges at retirement is to be avoided like the plague. There is, however, another kind of honesty, one that doesn’t play on scandal but instead offers genuine insight into the realities of footballing life. Clarke Carlisle’s You Don’t Know Me, But is a winning example of this. Touching on everything from finances to dressing room politics via addiction, depression and racism, it’s a real breath of fresh air in a fusty genre.

In many ways, Carlisle is an atypical member of the footballing fraternity. He’s won two rounds of Countdown, presented documentaries on racism and depression, and he’s the former Chairman of the PFA. While it’s not the main focus of the book, Clarke’s cerebral side is still given plenty of platform, particularly in ‘Part of the Union’, one of the book’s stand-out chapters. Discussing FIFA’s response to racism, Carlisle argues, ‘There is a disgusting disparity between the sanctions imposed for offences that will cost the governing body money and those that are unethical or immoral.’ He goes on to add, ‘It is not the exclusive remit of black players to fight racism, it is for everyone to fight.’ Carlisle is equally eloquent and forthright on the subject of his own alcohol dependency and depression, brought on by a bad injury at the tender age of 21. ‘I didn’t have the wherewithal to face my responsibilities. From my warped and clouded viewpoint, all I could see was myself.’ Carlisle reflects on his troubled past with the frank assessment of a man who is very aware of his fortunate position.

But in other ways, Carlisle is incredibly typical. As with Tony Cascarino’s Full Time, You Don’t Know Me, But… is written by a footballer who has been through the English leagues, experiencing both great highs and great lows. Blackpool, QPR, Burnley, Preston, Northampton, York City – Carlisle is no superstar and he knows it. In his own words, he’s ‘a kid from Preston, from the humblest of beginnings and with moderate ability’. The modest, unaffected narrative voice is a really appealing feature; for all his more high-brow aspirations, Carlisle is full of the joys of the ‘playground’ banter that brings a team together: ‘It’s incredibly immature, but the whole working environment of football is.’ Whole chapters are dedicated to pranks, fights, preseason tours and Christmas parties. The tone of the book reflects the combination in Carlisle’s character brilliantly, blending his intelligent observations with cruder touches of humour.

The structure of You Don’t Know Me, But… is also a real masterstroke and key to the book’s success. What better way to address the harsh realities of football than by showing a former Premier League player scrapping for a living in the belly of League Two? Carlisle’s present day trials and tribulations, interwoven with flashbacks to a career of success and failure, paint a very powerful portrait of an average football career. Transport, housing, bills; these are still everyday concerns for all but the very top players, and even then, there is always the danger of the good life being whipped out from under your feet when you least expect it.

It seems an odd phrase to use for a footballer’s autobiography, but You Don’t Me, But… is a multi-faceted memoir. In its candid handling of mental health issues, so long a taboo in the macho sporting arena, it’s a significant addition to books by the likes of Sol Campbell, Keith Gillespie and of course Ronald Reng. But Carlisle’s book also addresses some of the key issues of modern football politics and, perhaps most significantly of all, offers everyday details from the largely everyday career of an endearingly everyday footballer.

Buy it here