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Tackling My Demons by Stan Collymore with Oliver Holt

Release date: 04th October, 2004
Publisher: Harper Collins

List Price: £18.99
Our Price: £11.39
You Save: £7.6 (40%)
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You have to be very careful with the content of a footballer's 'autobiography'. When entering the literary world, most former and some current players discover a command of the English language that would put Stephen Fry to shame. Indeed, the footballer's newly discovered penchant for marvellously descriptive prose can often make the reader think the 'author' has missed his true calling.

Whatever happened to that bloke who, each time you saw him interviewed after a game, couldn't string a comprehensible sentence together? Following retirement, perhaps he went on a crash course in English literature and now alternates between research at the British Library and writing his next work of literary genius.

In truth, this is not the case which ensures that, so far this year, we have had just one footballing 'autobiography', Gazza-My Story, which has been worth reading. That was until Stan Collymore's Tackling My Demons was published. The common thread which runs between both books is the excellent calibre of the respective ghost writers: Hunter Davies with the footballer previously known as Gazza and Oliver Holt with Stan Collymore.

Not as though Collymore fits comfortably into the stereotypical image of the modern professional footballer. For a start, anyone who listened to Stan summarising on Radio Five Live would know that here was a man with brains, someone who, having clearly done his research, could quickly spot what was happening during a game and suggest tactical changes. Until his sudden departure, Collymore was the radio station's most astute summariser by some distance.

Moreover, Collymore has not simply sat back as his autobiography was being written hoping it would sell on the strength of his name or reputation - he has clearly been involved. His voice is apparent throughout this well-crafted book which is a good thing because he has plenty to reveal about himself.

As a player, Collymore was strong, fast and could score goals. During his formative (some would say best) professional years at Southend and Nottingham Forest, he scored 68 goals in 111 appearances. In 1995, it looked as though the big time beckoned when, with several other clubs chasing, he signed for Liverpool for £8.5m, then a record British fee.

Things kicked off well at Anfield, but despite 35 goals in 81 games, he had moved onto Aston Villa after two season. By his own admission, this is where his career went downhill. Offered to Fulham following a loan spell at the club, Stan comes out with one of those phrases that so endear fans to the modern footballer: "I was on £20,000 a week at Villa and Fulham were only offering me £12,000 a week."

Before long, Collymore had booked himself in to the Priory in an attempt to treat his depression which left him unable to play at all; like Gazza, Stan's story has continued, sometimes infamously, beyond football. Although he claims not to have underachieved, it's fair to say he could have done more as a player. But everyone is a genius with hindsight and playing for Liverpool, Villa and England would represent a pinnacle for most players.

Dark depressions still surface and Collymore admits to suffering from a personality disorder. He is only 33 and now hopes to break into acting; following such an honest exposure in one of the best sporting autobiographies of the year, he deserves to succeed.


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