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Mick Channon: The Authorised Biography

Release date: 01st May, 2004
Publisher: Highdown

List Price: £18.99
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Mick Channon: The Authorised Biography
By Peter Batt

4SportsBooks price: £13.29 (rrp £18.99)

Although many try, few are blessed with sufficient natural ability and determination to make it to the very top in one sport, never mind two. Up until recently, once their competitive sporting days were over, many ex-pro sportsmen would open a pub while others such as Tom Finney would return to the professions from whence they came. Today, one imagines the recently retired professional sportsman spending the majority of his time keeping an eye on his burgeoning investment or property portfolios.

Even before Mick Channon had ended his enormously successful football career, one which began with Southampton in 1965 and ended with Portsmouth in 1986, he knew he would become a racehorse trainer. Little time had passed before he was to begin making his name in another sport. On 16th February 1988, a horse called Trout Angler became his first winner; last season, he trained 141 winners.

Channon's West Country burr was first evident in the Wiltshire village of Orcheston where young Michael was raised in a council house. With one older brother (John) and a younger (Phillip), photographs of whom are reproduced and acknowledged here, "courtesy of Mrs Betty Channon", the Channon household was as normal as could be expected with three young boys racing around it. The rural idyll and normality itself was shattered when Mick's elder brother John was killed in a freak tractor accident.

Phillip Channon believes his brother's untimely death resulted in Mick developing an ability to concentrate deeply on a raft of different subjects in order to avoid thinking about his brother and is certain that this tunnel vision accounts for his later sporting success on two fronts.

It was as a footballer that Channon first came to the public's attention, although it took a few years before he was to develop the trademark windmill goalscoring celebration routine. The Southampton side he broke into during the 1965/66 season was not universally liked for their style of play. Bill Shankly referred to them as a team of "ale-house brawlers", a description which Channon and his team-mates did their best to live up to with drinking and gambling high on the list of post-match activities.

Within a decade, Channon had suffered the indignity of relegation and the ecstasy of winning the FA Cup against Manchester United in 1976. He had also graduated to the full England side after scoring on his debut against Scotland in 1973.

But horse racing was clearly in Channon's blood and this uplifting meander through his life contains several anecdotal nuggets including the story behind the naming of the horse Morning Reserves; it was the acknowledgement with which the then veteran Channon greeted other players upon his arrival each morning at Portsmouth.

This biography falls into the feelgood category: Channon is a bouncy, full of life character who swears like a trooper, enjoys a bet and who managed to become a racehorse trainer good enough to justify buying the yard of the Queen's former trainer, Major Dick Hern.

In an age of rampant commercialism, it should be noted that Channon refused to accept a penny in payment for this book. Instead, he instructed his publishers to make a donation to charity in lieu of his fee. He may have played for a team of ale-house brawlers, but that's the measure of this champagne geezer - one with a West Country burr.

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