All positions covered, from a brutally honest full back to the ultimate outsiders
SOCCER: Running Through Walls by Dave Langan with Trevor Keane and Alan Conway. (DB Publishing) “As well as dealing with the injuries, the drinking, the gambling, the poor decisions and the marriage breakdowns not to mention missing out on my children’s lives, one of the toughest parts of my life came about six years ago when I was left homeless and living in the basement of the town hall.”
So begins chapter nine of Dave Langan’s remarkable biography, a book that chronicles pretty much all of these misfortunes over the course of its 180 or so pages.
Langan recalls the ups and many downs of his life and career with humility and almost brutal honesty.
Those fans who saw him play for Derby, Birmingham City or Ireland remember the fierce commitment with which Langan devoted himself to the cause. What few appreciated, though, was the anguish being endured by a man who fought an increasingly uphill battle with drink and depression from the time in the early ’80s when injury started to seriously hamper his playing career.
His personal life more or less disintegrated and he ended up living and working, as a registered disabled person, for the council in the town where he had last played professionally. The people of Peterborough had not, he observes in one of his more frank admissions, seen the best of him and he found himself on the receiving end of both abuse and violence in the years that followed his retirement.
There are, of course, echoes here of Paul McGrath’s story but without the career highs; Birmingham City signed Langan in 1980 when he was fit and still on the way up, gave him £200 a week plus £50 for actually playing.
A couple of decent years at Oxford aside, it was mainly downhill from there and despite some help from supporters (including, to their considerable credit, his ghost-writers here and Vincent Hogan of the Irish Independent) in recent years, there is, sadly, no real sense at the end of this difficult tale that the former full-back is by any means out of the woods yet.
La Roja – A Journey through Spanish Football, by Jimmy Burns(Simon and Schuster) and El Clasico: Barcelona v Real Madrid, Football’s Greatest Rivalry by Richard Fitzpatrick(Bloomsbury). It’s been another good year for Spanish football with the national team becoming the first ever to win three straight major tournament titles. Atletico Madrid won the Europa League meanwhile, and Barcelona somehow continued to be the side almost every other aspires to being despite winning nothing much at all.
That might just mean that you have already had your fill of Xavi and co but if not, then it’s been a good year on the book front too.