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Feed the Goat by Shaun Goater

Release date: 23rd September, 2006
Publisher: Sutton Publishing

List Price: £17.99
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You Save: £6.12 (34%)
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Barely a day goes by without negative stories regarding professional footballers being aired in public, most of which are justified. The public may love the game, but they don't necessarily feel the same way about many of its participants.

Shaun Goater, however, is the antithesis of the modern player. A teetotaller, he was universally admired by team-mates and supporters at each of his clubs for being an honest, hard-working professional who made the most of his abilities. In a career lasting 17 years and spanning eight clubs in every division, he averaged nearly a goal every other game.

Born in Bermuda, Goater acknowledges the influence of the female members of his family, which probably accounts for his modest manner and respect for others. Apart from his mother, his grandmother was a particularly strong role model. "I believe the only difference between Don Corleone and my granny was that if she had ordered a professional hit it would have been with a well-aimed slipper, rather than with a revolver," he says.

By a stroke of luck, he impressed Manchester United while they were on a Caribbean tour and he travelled to England to be part of Alex Ferguson's burgeoning youth academy. Although he didn't make the grade at United, his respect and willingness to work hard were both evident, traits that stood him in good stead throughout a long career.

He joined Rotherham, where he stayed for six years, adapting to the demands of lower league football and becoming a consistent goalscorer. A move to Bristol City followed where his goals (43 in 79 appearances) propelled them towards promotion before he was approached by Manchester City. With one eye on the future, he moved to Manchester again.

It was at Maine Road that Goater's reputation soared. Despite a difficult early relationship with the fans and City falling into the Second Division, he continued scoring goals regularly. Goater, like the rest of the team, plugged on and eventually, with his goals contributing to City's double promotion, a Premiership berth was attained. The fans were won over and the song "Feed the Goat and he will score", the inspiration behind the title of this book, began ringing around grounds throughout the country.

The arrival of Kevin Keegan at Maine Road following City's relegation signalled the beginning of the end for Goater. Despite more than 30 goals in City's Championship season, he believes that Keegan didn't rate him, although a brace of goals against Manchester United confirmed his status as a City cult hero.

Eventually he was sold to Reading, where he had an indifferent time, before ending his career at Southend, helping them to promotion to the First Division in 2005/6. The final match of the season, against his former club Bristol City, was declared Bermuda-themed day. As well as fans of Southend and Bristol City, many Manchester City supporters turned up to hail a great career. The number of current players who may expect to achieve such an accolade could be counted on the fingers of one hand.

Given footballers' poor public image, it is encouraging to read such a heart-warming story. Goater has received an MBE for his services to football in Bermuda and the island has a day named in his honour. Hugely likeable, witty and erudite, Goater is an example of a true gentleman footballer from whom some of our more exalted stars could learn some valuable lessons. They should 'Read the Goat'.

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