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Left Foot Forward, by Garry Nelson

Posted on August 22, 2011 by samh

Left Foot Forward: A Year in the Life of a Journeyman Footballer, by Garry Nelson and Anthony Fowles (1995)

Written in diary format, this book chronicles Charlton Athletic’s mediocre season of 1994/1995.

Though on the front cover it credits Nelson as sole author, it is actually co-authored by Anthony Fowles. But unlike the ever-increasing mass of ghosted biographies cramming the high street shelves, this hardly matters as Left Foot Forward shows absolutely no inconsistencies in style. In fact, Nelson’s personality comes through so strongly it is hard to discern the specific contribution of the co-author. It is perhaps lucky that 1994-1995 was such a poor season for Charlton, as it allows Nelson to explore more than just the often shallow nature of success, and also more than just football. Bad results usually end his diary entries as mere afterthoughts, mirroring their actual importance in Nelson’s life. And that is arguably the subject of the book: Nelson’s family, money, home and travel concerns figure in his story more than the game of football itself. Football is revealed as a tough job with minimal security, without the glamour and high wages so commonly reported in the papers. In this book, as in most great sporting literature, the game is the backdrop, and not the focal point; a personal story is told, raising issues that just happen to connect with football, but could quite easily apply to people plying other trades.

The 1994/1995 season was an eventful one. Fashanu and Grobbelaar were accused of match-fixing, Cantona showed his mastery of the martial arts, Paul Merson revealed his drug addiction, George Graham accepted a bung and English fascists rioted at Landsdowne Road. It was a bumper year for the tabloids.

Nelson assesses these events and the media reaction to them; his discussions are refreshing in their sensible sophistication. One wishes that there were more sane figures like him among today’s hysterical media and football worlds.

Buy this book from Amazon

Also recommended: Left Foot in the Grave, by Garry Nelson (1997)

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