The Secret Footballer
We chat to the Secret Footballer as he discusses his life as one of the game's most outspoken voices ahead of the release of his second book 'Tales of the Secret Footballer'
Last Updated: 20/11/13 10:04am
Good morning to you Secret Footballer. I must make it very clear that along with everyone else I'm in the dark with regards your identity, we're speaking through Skype and your voice is being disguised but we are taking it on trust that you really are the Secret Footballer...
Before we get onto your new book, what was the reaction to your first that came out last year?
The first book was written primarily because I wanted to get across a side of football that people wouldn't get to hear. It could only be done through anonymity. Fortunately it seemed to take on a life of its own and went down well, hence the second book. The publisher came back and asked if I would consider writing another one. Here it is.
Have you ever seen any of your team-mates reading the book, your columns online or in the newspapers?
There has been one or two that have had a look and that's led to some awkward moments. You just have to play your best poker face, look as though you know what's going on and move slowly towards the back of the bus.
Is there a concern perhaps you might be unveiled through the jigsaw identification process?
Yeah, I'm sure there is a chance of that happening but that adds its own integrity as well. It gives it a certain level of credence which goes to show the stories are true. They all happened and sometimes you have to take a view that this is going to go some way to identifying me. The fact of that matter is that it's a great story and it lends weight to the whole authenticity of the column and the book.
You're a serial Tweeter - is that important to you?
I think so. In this instant media world that we are now in it is really important. People want to engage and indeed can engage in a way that was not open to them before and they can do it 24 hours a day. You have 24-hour coverage now and people need good content to fill it with. Social media is now offering news channels and broadcasters a lot of their content. It's thanks to footballers, for better or worse, that they have so much to talk about.
I'm not going to spoil the story about frisbee toast in the breakfast room but that's going to take some beating. Are you under more and more pressure to come up with more and more outrageous stories like that one?
There was a certain amount of canvassing that had to be done and a certain amount of begging and borrowing and blackmailing along the way. I really have to say thanks to the footballers who I know that gave up those tales in circumstances that could, and maybe still will, be of detriment to themselves. Fair play to them, they didn't have to do that. It's fairly harmless and innocuous the frisbeeing of toast, it doesn't really land anyone in trouble, but it's just hilarious. It's a side that people still think goes on but aren't sure until you put it down on paper. It's reassuring for people to think there are still some crazy people out there.
There are some interesting chapters in the latest book where you've spoken to various people - a director of football, a coach, an agent - as you look into what you might want to do when your own playing days are over. Were they aware of how the stories they relayed to you were going to be used?
Absolutely, I wouldn't do that to anyone behind their back. They are absolutely aware. There are four huge filing cabinets stuffed with legal documents as testament to how aware they were. Some are obviously a little more cagey than others. The director of footballer in particular gave away some amazing insights that you just wouldn't hear unless you could sit down with him and guarantee his anonymity. He answered some very forthright questions.
There's also a chapter from Mrs Secret Footballer. Presumably she knew all along?
She's put up with a lot. She's a constant source of inspiration and calmness over me. I think out of all my hair brained schemes this is the one where she thought 'well actually, it might just be kind of good therapy for me'. She wrote a really good piece.
I'm sure you're aware there's a website dedicated to unmasking you. Have you had a look at that and had a chuckle at some of the names that have been bandied about?
He's a good guy to be honest with you. He drops in and out of our own website and the team here bounce off him and his team. He's a sound fella. He made it clear from day one that first and foremost he's a huge fan of the articles as they were in The Guardian. He said 'it might be good for you if I do this and it may create a bit of a buzz', and it's certainly done that. He's put together a really cool little website. You can go one of two ways. You can ostracize these people and get the hump or think it's actually quite flattering.
Where does it all end? Will there be another book? Do you have enough stories?
There's a bit of a war with a few publishers for the third book at the moment, which is a good thing for me. It remains to be seen who'll do the third book but there's so much more material - a lot that I haven't touched on. Beyond that, we're already getting offers for the Secret Wag and it's phenomenal...
Is it sometimes frustrating of an evening when you sit down and think 'I've got a really good book out, it's three or four in the high street charts, but I can't tell my mates it's me?'
There are one or two mates that know. I took them out to a restaurant for my birthday and ended up coming to the sad realisation how far I'd come away from my roots, which is one of my favourite chapters and best bits of writing that I've done. As soon as it went out my best friend called me and said 'I know what you've been doing.' There was nothing particularly bad in that chapter but it was a way of expressing how far I'd gone and the people I'd left behind. I was able to get my feet back on the ground and that's what I mean when I'm talking about the therapeutic side. It's good to get things off your chest.