Award-winning sports writer Michael Calvin turned up for the first day of pre-season training at Millwall FC and 333 days later he sat among the subs at Wembley.
Intimate and compelling, Calvin's book vividly portrays players and management as family men, close to their roots: 'We're playing for the people who hate their jobs, who'd love our lives.'
Forget the glitz of the Premier League - this is the beautiful game in all its raucus glory, essential reading for anyone whom football is a way of life.
*Award-winning author of The Nowhere Men and Living on the Volcano is back to complete his football trilogy with a new book that tells the inside story of becoming a professional footballer.*
“What’s your dream, son?”
A six year-old boy, head bowed, mumbles the eternal answer: “Be a footballer….” Steadman Scott, football’s most unlikely talent scout, smiles indulgently, and takes him in from the street. He knows the odds. Only 180 of the 1.5 million boys who play organised youth football in England will become a Premier League pro. That’s a success rate of 0.012 per cent.
How and why do the favoured few make it? What separates the good from the great? Who should they trust – the coach, the agent or their parents?
Michael Calvin provides the answers on a journey from non-league grounds to hermetically sealed Premier League palaces, via gang-controlled sink estates and the England team’s inner sanctum. He interviews decision makers, behavioural specialists, football agents and leading coaches. He shares the hopes and fears of players and their parents. He exposes bullying and a black economy in which children are commodities, but remains true to the dream.
*SHORTLISTED FOR THE WILLIAM HILL SPORTS BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD 2015*
A man punches the wall in a strategic show of anger. Another complains he has become a stranger to those he loves. A third relies on “my three a day: coffee, Nurofen and a bottle of wine.” Yet another admits he is an oddity, who would prefer to be working in cricket. A fifth describes his professional life as “a circus”. These are football managers, live and uncut. Arsene Wenger likens the job to “living on a volcano: any day may be your last”. He speaks with the authority of being the longest serving manager in the English game, having been at Arsenal for 17 years. The average lifespan of a Football League manager is 17 months. Fifty three managers, across all four Divisions, were sacked, or resigned, in the 2012-13 season. There were fifty seven managerial changes in the 2013-14 season. What makes these men tick? They are familiar figures, who rarely offer anything more than a glimpse into their personal and professional lives. What shapes them? How and why do they do their job? Award-winning writer Michael Calvin provides the answers.
Insecurity is a unifying factor, but managers at different levels face different sets of problems. Depending on their status, they are dealing with multi-millionaires, or mortgage slaves. Living on the Volcano charts the progress of more than 20 managers, in different circumstances and in different phases of their career. Some, like Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez, are at the peak of their profession. Others, like Chris Hughton, Brian McDermott and Gary Waddock, have been sacked, and are seeking a way back into the game. They offer a unique insight into a trade which is prone to superficial judgement and savage swings in fortune. Management requires ruthlessness and empathy, idealism and cunning. Stories overlap, experiences intermingle, and myths are exposed.
Winner of The Times British Sports Book Award 2014.
A fascinating insight into the enclosed world of football scouts in the UK
A teenaged boy plays football in a suburban park. His name is Raheem Sterling. The call is made: “Get down here quick. This is something special”.
Another boy is 8, going on 28. His name is Jack Wilshere. The referee, an Arsenal scout, spirits him away from Luton Town.
A young goalkeeper struggles on loan at Cheltenham Town in League Two. His name is Jack Butland. Within months he will be playing for England.
Welcome to football’s hidden tribe. Scouts are everywhere yet nowhere, faceless and nameless, despite making the informed decisions worth millions. Award-winning sportswriter Michael Calvin opens up their hidden world, examining their disconnected lifestyles, petty betrayals and unconsidered professionalism of men who spend long, lonely hours on the road.
Michael Calvin is one of the UK’s most versatile sportswriters, having worked in more than 80 countries, covering seven summer Olympics, and six World Cup finals. He was named Sportswriter of the Year for his despatches as a crew member in a round the world yacht race, and has twice been named Sports Reporter of the Year. He is currently chief sports writer with the Independent on Sunday, and has held similar positions at the Daily Telegraph, Times and Mail on Sunday. His last book, Family: Life Death and Football, was shortlisted in the 2011 Sports Book Awards. It was a critically-acclaimed study of a season embedded at Millwall, one of English football’s most notorious clubs.