Left Foot Forward – Garry Nelson

The sheer amount of dull football autobiographies on the market is staggering, and most are beyond bland and utterly predictable.  Nelson’s effort is different as he never attained the millions or star status, and the book is much the better for that.

A journeyman professional, Nelson played for lower league teams throughout his career but is appreciative of his position in sport, and the wider context of life. He’s aware that he is living a dream many never come close to achieving.

Told in a diary format over a whole year (the 94/95 season), the author finds himself in a precarious position, at the tail end of his career. He isn’t expected to be a first team start, his contract runs out at the end of the year, injuries are a worry, and younger players are challenging for his position.

The fans applauding  the neat one-two, the snap shot going close from twenty-odd yards, don’t stop to consider the man who on a bad night, thinking his first-class career is almost at its end, lies awake at night worrying about his mortgage.

As carpools are set up to get to training and to save the player’s petrol costs , the weighing up of the risks of declaring themselves fit too early after an injury is an all too real and worrying problem, and the wider problems of the sport are discussed, this is a fascinating look back at a sport which has changed so much off the pitch whilst remaining relatively unchanged on it.

These real struggles lets the reader root for our man and he’s a likeable chap to boot.  Throughout the good and bad times, he’s willing to laugh at himself and to be open and honest about his fears for the future.  It’s all very down to earth, and chock full of bad puns and a number of well worn clichés.

Although there is a little sentimentality which pops up here and there, this is primarily a look at an average career, a rather thankless one with brief spells of euphoria.  There is next to no glitz and glamour here, more rainy Tuesday night in Winter type football, which is infinitely more appealing to this reader.

Left Foot Forward is a worthwhile football read, although dated there are still some good insights to be had.  As you would expect it’s not the most well written of books but it doesn’t need to be to convey the precarious nature of a footballer and their career, as well as the often forgotten fact that most are just muddling along like the rest of us with the same fears.

10 Replies to “Left Foot Forward – Garry Nelson”

  1. Well, except for the occasional watching of a baseball game (with some attention) and golf (with total bewilderment) when it’s on to disrupt my news broadcasts, I’m notmuch of a sports fan, so I’ll take your word for the football aspects. But for anyone not a word professional to write, or attempt to write, an autobiography or personal memoir (I guess that’s a redundant phrase) is brave, so kudos to your hero of the moment.

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    1. It’s an admirable and interesting attempt. I will probably pick up the follow up effort soon as well. As I am nothing if not a completest.

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  2. I do suspect I’d find any football autobiography dull!! But the average sportspeople fascinate me – I wonder what it must be like to, say, always come in the middle in athletics, or even worse to always come in last!

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    1. That’s one of the things that intrigued me, Nelson not being a well known name and having won little. He mirrors life for people a lot more than the less interesting and insightful big names do.

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  3. When you’re not uber famous, life on the playing circuit is probably only worthwhile if you love the game. i’m thinking the same goes for any profession that has its high profile “winner” and then all the rest. A labor of love, as they say.

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