Scribblers scream blue murder over Lamps' new book deal

Mon, Feb 18, 2013, 00:00

TIPPING POINT:Wow, there are some bitter bastards out there. And not just that vast swathe of trolling humanity that figures the world will grind to a halt unless they record their biliousness for posterity online. No, when it comes to bitterness, there’s nothing quite like the aroma of burning resentment that comes from scribblers scorned.

Frank Lampard knows all about criticism. In fairness he knows all about fawning adulation too, but being a top footballer for a decade and a half means some flak has puffed around his ears, as much for proximity to the loathsome John Terry as anything else. Certainly, only in football could a honed athlete like “Lamps” still have to contend with sniggering digs of “Fat Frankie”.

But even terrace chants about waist-size pale in comparison to the bitterness generated by news that Lampard has signed a deal to write children’s books; five of them apparently over the next couple of years, a commitment most professional writers can only dream of, a comment that presumably can also be applied to the advance.

Apparently Lampard liked telling stories to his kids at bedtime, and apparently they’re so good, the Chelsea star feels it would be good to share them. Admittedly, these views reach us through the prism of the publishers’ PR department, a process designed to add sheen rather than authenticity. But there’s been nothing artificial about some of the spleen that’s greeted this literary coup.

“Your own child is unlikely to give your bedtime story a bad review, and I imagine that when you’re surrounded by fans and sycophants who’d applaud your every bowel movement it can be easy to get a distorted view of things,” sniffed one worthy, and that was understated compared to other stuff.

Some scepticism

Mind you it’s not hard to incubate some scepticism. The record of footballers committing their thoughts to print is mixed. For every Only A Game there are hundreds of battery-produced “My Stories,” including it has to be said a depressingly self-regarding offering from Lampard himself – Totally Frank.

The banality of that offering, and so many other ‘ghosted’ sports biographies, still doesn’t prevent celebrity cheques being written a lot faster than any books. And in terms of exposure, you can see why. So much of the publishing business is tied up in coverage and brand names bring that; not so much feel the quality as the USP. It’s not just football either.

This November is the publication date for a first novel from champion jockey Tony McCoy. It will be a thriller set in the racing world, a la Dick Francis, a champion jockey himself who subsequently defined a genre which has produced more than a few pale imitators, none paler it has to be said than yours truly. Anyway, such a schedule suggests McCoy should be settling down to bash this out right now.

Red Smith, the renowned American sportswriter, described the process as simple – “you just open a vein and bleed” – a colourful and somewhat self-aggrandising exposition hardly backed up by what you’re wading through right now.

Nevertheless, scribbling does demand time if nothing else, and if we are aware of anything on the back of two previous McCoy biographies, it is that the famously focused Antrim man is even more short of time than he is body fat.

With Cheltenham just a few weeks away, the idea that a battered and bruised McCoy will return home to his lettuce leaf and half a tomato and put in a few hours in front of the laptop is as unlikely as John McCririck heading for the sauna.

Much more likely then that it will be somebody else doing the bleeding, kinda like when a boy-band singer decides to express himself – via someone who can actually write a song.

Easy earner

But maybe “Lamps” will be different. Theo Walcott is. Did you know the Arsenal player has already gone down the kids’ books route? Neither did I, and apparently they don’t stink the joint up either. The odds favour Lampard viewing this as another easy earner, and little more. But plenty long-shots come in: Chelsea in last year’s Champions League final for instance. Maybe Frankie is serious.

The traditional scribbler route is to write without pay until someone ponies up. Lampard has been spared that but maybe he’s been toiling away on his own time for years. He has been coming across as a bright, reasonable guy for some time now, a long way removed from those regrettable holiday snaps in Ayia Napa all those years ago. And it’s not as if sidelines are unprecedented in this line. Tolkien wasn’t full time but didn’t do too badly.

But JRR wasn’t a footballer. And it is the excesses of the beautiful game that seem to have produced a sneering dismissal of even the idea that one of its luminaries might want to do something a little different. Like it’s okay to have all the cash, but don’t even think of using your noggin for anything bar heading.

But come on, lighten up, let’s give ‘Lamps’ a chance. He might be serious. And how bad is it that young fellas who’d normally look at reading a book as a duty might be encouraged to take a squint for pleasure? So good on you Frank.

One word of warning, though: just stay away from the gee-gees, you free-loading footballer.

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