Review: Tales From The Boot Camps

Tales From The Boot Camps
Tales From The Boot Camps by Steve Claridge
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not a great book by any stretch of the imagination and if you’re not into football you’d probably struggle to give it two stars, so why did I give it three? Well, I was cursed, in my early twenties by visiting St Andrews football ground in the mid nineties where I saw Steve Claridge play for Birmingham City. This had a profound impact upon my life changing me from someone who would occasionally watch the England football team into someone who actually followed a team in the football league, I became a Birmingham City supporter (which I still am) and a huge fan of Steve Claridge our maverick striker. Steve has lead a very interesting life from being taken on, and then let go, as an apprentice at Portsmouth to scoring the winning goal in the cup for Leicester City. He has scored in every division of the English game, gone through periods of despair and joy in equal measure but has remained an affable character that no one will say a bad word about. The book is co-written with Ian Ridley and this is where I think the book fails. Ridley is a sports writer, not someone I’m familiar with but he writes in a succinct, matter of fact way akin to what you’d find in the sports pages of any of the UK’s broadsheets. Steve has lead an incredibly interesting life and has enough peculiarities to keep a psychiatry conference going for months and yet Ridley makes it sound dull. The book alternates between Ridley explaining a part of Claridge’s life and then in the following chapter Claridge telling you about it in his own words. For me this just doesn’t work. I found myself constantly having flashes of deja vu. It could have been a much better book if it was delivered as a whole rather than two halves. Ridley should have taken Claridges story and woven a compelling narrative from it because there’s tons of great stuff in there, rotten turkeys for Christmas bonuses, punching mangers, blowing £5000 at the bookies in an afternoon and arguing with Barry Fry. Still, pushing this to one side for a moment I think this book gives you a great insight into the life of a typical footballer, not the million pound plus stars of the Premier league, although Claridge did play there with Leicester but the majority of guys that struggle to make ends meet in the lower leagues and maybe, like Steve, flog fruit and veg from the back of their cars to make ends meet. I would strongly suggest that any young man thinking of embarking upon a career in football read this book, it just might change their mind but I doubt it.

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