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Review: The Secret Footballer's Guide to the Modern Game - “A footballer who knows his apples”

Thursday 5th May 2016
For fans of football's 'ultimate insider' comes a third serving of tales, titbits and fascinating insight about the Beautiful Game. Though, this time The Secret Footballer has gone tactical, beginning with a premise - “of the 95 per cent of people who love football, only two per cent understand it” - that for the reader can prove uncomfortably true. Everything you thought you knew about football is probably wrong...

An indispensable and forthright 'How to...' guide of sorts for any budding footballer, once again all the questions you wish you could ask are answered – wonder what a professional footballer eats for breakfast? How to win back the ball without tackling? Or how Cristiano Ronaldo gets such a swerve on his free-kicks? Look no further, this book covers all the bases and more.

While, aside from the intriguing anecdotes there are also plenty of statistics and research for the “football geek” in the family, covering a wide range of topics from the cloak and dagger finances behind football bigwigs and branding, to the latest training techniques and technology, and tactics from across the eras revealed with a reverence usually reserved for covert battle plans; The Secret Footballer has his say on all the pressing topics surrounding the modern game.

Don't mistake this effort from Guardian Faber to be anything but brutally honest about all of football's flaws, following in the footsteps of The Secret Footballer's first two cracking contributions to sporting literature. The unnamed protagonist certainly doesn't sit on the fence, with straight-up opinions on Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Luis Suarez, and the eternal Lionel Messi v Ronaldo debate – no stone is left unturned.

It's never easy in any genre to create sequels that do the original work justice, but The Secret Footballer has found a formula that works and, in an ever-changing football landscape - something the author alludes to while contemplating the future of viewing football through 3D virtual reality - there is still plenty of mileage in this double agent's narrative.

All that has enraptured avid fans eager to gobble up every word, from the candid storytelling to a complicity of sorts elicited in the reader by this most secretive of confidantes, remains in this latest offering, as our favourite Secret Footballer gives a glimpse of the everyday sportsman behind the superstar. The charm, of course, lies in the personal touch, so much so that when you emerge from the text it feels as though you've paused a conversation with a friend. Not many self-aware reads can boast that.

While, the clear sub-sections within allow you to dip in and out of any page as you please, making it almost as much of a stand-alone reference book, or a travel guide to the game, as it is a memoir shrouded in mystery.

And, there are plenty more clues for the eagle-eyed as to the hush-hush identity of this scribe of sporting secrets, with the guessing game a unique facet that often acts as a sub-plot of its own whenever another detail is nonchalantly dropped into a passage, stirring up the speculation further as to who could be the familiar face and football expert acting as informer.

Whoever he may be, this is an unmissable read, offering yet another rare sneak-peek into the fine margins in a footballer's life between winning and losing. Be it fitness, diet, psychology or tactical approach - The Secret Footballer's Guide to the Modern Game is all about educating aspiring athletes or intrigued spectators as to how to find their own edge...

The book is published by Guardian Faber and retails for £7.99 and is available from all good booksellers.
Holly Thackeray
Full-time content writer, English Lit grad and long-time Manchester United fan with an affection for Japan and the Azzurri. Also, if you like darts, I definitely belong to the Barney Army ;)

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