Paul Lake was Manchester born, a City fan from birth. His footballing talent was spotted at a young age and, in 1983, he signed coveted schoolboy forms for City. Only a short time later he was handed the team captaincy.
An international career soon beckoned and, after turning out for the England under-21 and B teams, he received a call-up to the England training camp for Italia '90. Earmarked as an England captain in the making, Paul became a target for top clubs like Manchester United, Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool, but he always stayed loyal to his beloved club, deeming Maine Road the spiritual home at which his destiny lay.
But then, in September 1990, disaster struck. Paul ruptured his cruciate ligament; sustaining the worst possible injury that a footballer can suffer. And so began his nightmare.
Neglected, ignored and misunderstood by his club after a succession of failed operations, Paul's career began to fall apart. Watching from the sidelines as similarly injured players regained their fitness, he spiralled into a prolonged bout of severe depression. With an enforced retirement from the game he adored, the death of his father and the collapse of his marriage, Paul was left a broken man.
Set against a turning point in English football, I'm Not Really Here is the powerful story of love and loss and the cruel, irreparable damage of injury; of determination, spirit and resilience and of unfulfilled potential and broken dreams.
His tale is one of incredible neglect, which makes for fascinating reading on a sporting, but mostly human level.
Best football autobiography ever? Unquestionably
It's the best book I've read for a long time....Beautifully, powerfully written, it is particularly raw and unsparing...
...an astounding football autobiography.
I'd be frightened to put a price on his head these days ... Paul was as good a young player as I've ever worked with.