Football autobiographies usually fall into one of three tried and tested categories.
The first is the deliberately controversial ‘tell-all’, the so-called lid-lifter, the ‘inside-scoop’ on an incident or an entire career designed to show another side of the protagonist. These can be entertaining, or they can be ‘My Defence’ by Ashley Cole.
The second is the well-trodden path, the one usually written in conjunction with a cozy journalist friend that follows a standard career progression, high point, low point, higher point arc. Again, these can hold the interest but most offer mere snatches of a life we would like to have known more of. Paul Scholes, I may well be looking at you.
The third is comfortably the most interesting, the most candid and the type that deserve to live long on the shelf after Theo Walcott’s ‘Growing Up Fast’ has been and gone. This is the book where the player opens up fully and talks beyond the usual anecdotes and about life, not just ‘his’ life, but life in general. These are a fascinating look at an individuals attitude having been raised in a game where privilege lives in every trip to their agent’s office, where ‘work’ to them is ‘play’ to us, and where words like ‘overdraft’, ‘bill’ and ‘saving-up’ don’t exist anymore.
And in this third section lives the excellent ‘Thinking Inside The Box’ by Louis Saha.
Saha has decided that his autobiography should not only be a forum for his life story, but also his world-view. In and amongst everything else laid bare we learn about his experiences with the national team, the anguish of persistent injury robbing him of a Champions League final place, the impact his family has had on his life, why Carlos Tevez’s stand on substitution shouldn’t be taken at face value, and even his views on ‘WAG’ culture and managing/encouraging players.
Why this is so effective is when exploring a subject he decides to ask his fellow professionals and former managers their own view as well as discussing his personal opinions. Weaved throughout the story of his life are nuggets of gold from people as varied as Zinédine Zidane, Joleon Lescott, Denis Law and Sir Alex Ferguson, all talking to Saha in a far less guarded way they would approach a journalist. This isn’t just Saha’s story, it’s a look at football today from various viewpoints within the game itself.
What results is fascinating. Saha is dismissed as a nearly man by many but this book will change minds. He is a complex and interesting man whose strength of character comes across throughout. Not afraid of giving equal time to the difficult to relate to subject of the trappings of success, as the way music has influenced his life and changes his emotions, this is a unique autobiography and one that definitely deserves your time and a longer-term place on your bookshelf beyond.
‘Thinking Inside the Box’ is available from Vision Sports Publishing here and comes highly recommended by IBWM