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Books - Full Time: The Secret Life of Tony Cascarino (2000)
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DetailsTitle: Full Time: The Secret Life of Tony Cascarino
Author: Paul Kimmage
Player Homepage: Tony Cascarino
SynopsisFull Time: the Secret Life of Tony Cascarino is the most praised football autobiography in a very long time. Reviewers' jaws dropped at "the searing honesty ... and the breathless style" (The Saturday Times); The Observer Sport Monthly gasped "It's Angela's Ashes with half-time oranges ... a footballer's autobiography like no other. The most astonishing sports book of the year."
"Autobiography" of course means ghost-written: though told in the first person it was put together by award-winning Irish journalist Paul Kimmage, whose Rough Ride won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award in 1990. Making the book compulsively readable Kimmage structured it brilliantly, guarding the series of secrets that Cascarino reveals so that the reader is tantalised by cryptic glimpses then made to wait until each revelation in turn is suddenly unveiled. What are these secrets? Suffice to say that some are personal, some professional, some minor and quirky, one major enough to generate heated debate in the press. At times the book reads like the confession of a man who's lived with too much guilt for too long.
Throughout, the book maintains a very high standard. It veers towards the blandness for which footballers' autobiographies are famous only when the author is discussing his friends, to whom he is commendably loyal. As for his managers, there are several memorable portraits. In the case of Jack Charlton it's open hero-worship, even when he felt hard done by. Relations with Glenn Hoddle were a very different story. "He was probably the unfunniest man I have ever known. He was also completely besotted with himself ... When you stepped offside with Glenn, there was nothing to do but accept your fate and hope that you returned in the next life as talented and as perfect as him."
"At the end of October we travelled to Switzerland to play Neuchatel in the second round of the UEFA cup...It was one of those awful nights when anything that can go wrong does go wrong; and when I wasn't giving the ball away, I was tripping over myself ... Liam pulled me off early in the second half. We were hammered 5-1 and the fans had a real go as we walked from the pitch. Liam was incensed in the dressing room. His team had played shamefully. His first managerial signing was making a mockery of him.'What the **** is going on, Tony? You were a disaster! I've never seen you play so badly!''Yeah, I dunno ... I just ... I was just crap.'"
ReviewI bought this when it first came out for some reason - and having bought it thought "Why did I do that - just another ex-footballer cashing in - and yer man wasn't that good for us anyway". However over a few months and a few reads my interest in this one increased as the book began to pick up good reviews - and not just from football magazines either. Even the wacky world of the Gaurdian Review got in on it and gave it the thumbs up.
First off. This is not your normal ghostwritten 'autobiography' although there is a large chunk in the middle that might be said to stick to that tired format. It's the beginning and the end sections of this book that really pack the meat. For Celtic, lets face it Cascarino was pretty poor. Liam Brady appeared to buy a mate to have at Celtic when Cascarino became available from Aston Villa and buy him for a FAT fee. And at Celtic he never really did the business before he was traded to Chelsea for Auld Tam Boyd. Reading this book you begin to understand why he never made it at Celtic.
I don't think I've read a book by a professional sportsman who appeared so lacking in self-esteem. This is a warts 'n' all confessional in how Cascarino tried to sort out what he did and why he did it - from labourer to budding £1million player to striking flop to renaissance man in France with Marseille. It also very honestly goes through his divorce and the grief he caused splitting up his family.
There's still a part of me that wants to say "So What! Another lying, shagging philanderer paid too much to do too little", however what redeems this book is exactly the honesty and doubt that makes you do a double take on Cascarino. In the end the book is less about football and more about Tony Cascarino's desire to purge his guilt, about cheating on his wife, about not being Irish enough to play for that country, about allowing his girlfriend to give birth to his child alone and about fears of being inadequate as a footballer.
Read it. It's a bloody good book.
Review by pachucocadaver
Product DetailsPaperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Scribner; New Ed edition (4 Nov 2002)
Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 11.2 x 1.6 cm
Other Reviews(from Not the View,Jim Payne)
Last Christmas I received two books written about two men who played for Celtic and Ireland. One was regarded by those who saw him as being the finest player to have ever played for Celtic, Patsy Gallagher, the other, by many, as one of the worst.
Unfortunately, the one I saw playing was Tony Cascarino.
The statistics of Cascarino's time at Celtic make for grim reading - a mere 4 goals in 30 games - but they give only a hint of his true ineptitude. Signed for a then club record fee of £1.1 million, he demonstrated no obvious footballing attributes in his 6 months at the club.
Probably no player I have ever seen possessed less ability with the ball at his feet. In addition, he was slow, he was out of condition and he made Harald Brattbakk look like Gabriel Batistuta in front of goal. Only Biggins was worse.
A particularly bad performance from big Cas that I recall was one in Antwerp when he missed at least four open goals.
For much of that game he seemed to be trying to kick the ball using only the soles of his boots.
The book chronicling his life, written in collaboration with former Tour De France domestique Paul Kimmage, has been hailed in some quarters as being the best biography (auto or otherwise) of any British or Irish footballer for a generation. That may be damning it with faint praise as these have been for many years as original and memorable as a song by S Club 7 (but without the pretty(ish) girls) but it is far from uninteresting.
What makes it unusual to start off with is that it is a story of a footballer whose career has not been much of a success (although he earned £2.3 million in the process of being not much of a success). More unusually, it is the story of a man who acknowledges his shortcomings both as a player and as a man.
This is someone who played 18 years as a professional footballer in the centre-forward position who can admit that his Achilles heel was the low ball played across his body in front of goal (it's hard not to laugh at this passage).
This is a man who cheated on his wife, doctored his passport to lie about his age, disguised his grey hair and represented Ireland on a record number of occasions without even fulfilling the qualification criteria.
At times the book reads like a confession - and we're talking Timothy Lea here - and at times it is so full of self-loathing that it's positively unsettling.
Even the unexpected Indian summer of his career at Olympique Marseille and then Nancy was played out against a backdrop of duplicity and personal unhappiness.
The parts of the book which are about his life are easily the best thing about the book as his observations on other footballing names are, other than a few paragraphs on Glenn Hoddle, disappointing and not a million miles away from what you would read in a book about - or possibly even by - David Beckham. Cascarino was probably too wrapped up in his own failings to notice much else going on around him.
From a Celtic supporter's point of view there is far too little on his time at the club. I suppose when you think that his time at Celtic was only about 5% of his time in the game that is fair enough, but there's still not much.
His observations on the Old Firm rivalry are, whatever other reviewers might say, tame, if true. More disappointingly, a bizarre incident at Broomfield when he knocked over a policewoman (accidentally) is not mentioned. I can even recall it was the one game when he played well in a Celtic jersey.
The book has been received favourably by other reviewers and in some quarters hailed as one of the best football books ever written. I think that might be stretching things too far as it appears to me to be rather underwritten, but this is a blessed relief after some of the overdone memoirs of recent years (see Ferguson, Alex). It also treats some of the darker episodes of his childhood with less depth than I think they merit.
I have to say that admitting you were a diddy who behaved dreadfully does not necessarily make you admirable nor your autobiography a masterpiece, but if only for its transparent lack of bull it deserves to sell more than most books of its genre.
Sales, however, may be affected by Cascarinos absence from British football since 1994 and, more seriously, because few of the supporters of the three biggest British clubs he played for will remember him with much affection.
I wish the book well but I still wish he'd never played for Celtic.
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