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Burksey by Peter Morfoot

Release date: 01st August, 2006
Publisher: Know the Score Books Ltd

List Price: £9.99
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Parody and satire have long been the preferred tools of those who seek to expose the haughtiest politicians and their cosseted, unreal worlds. Within five minutes, most of us could assemble a list of career politicians who consider themselves so important that they're in danger of disappearing to where the sun don't shine. Reasonably enough, this makes them fair game for the satirist.

For decades, however, sport and sportsmen were different - a breed for whom honest endeavour and Corinthian spirit were natural bed-mates. But money has succeeded in corrupting sport and its participants, as recent stories emanating from the Tour de France and horse racing have once again shown.

Nowhere, though, have vast quantities of money had such a corrupting influence than in the world of football. It's for this reason that Peter Morfoot's Burksey is a book that works on two levels. First, it is very, very funny, but it also parodies the game so effectively, that it makes the reader appreciate just how arrogant and bumptious some of its participants really are.

Satire works by going to extremes, something which Morfoot continually does to great effect. His book opens with self-styled 'football god' Steve Burkes playing for Sporting Meridien in the European Champions Champions Cup, "the new League and Knockout competition for Europe's super elite clubs, sponsored by Oiloco." The club is bankrolled by shady billionaire Grady Speerman and managed by Ron Atkinson who has returned to football following "five thousand hours of counselling."

Before the game starts, there is a compulsory one minute's silence. In Morfoot's not-quite-so-far-fetched world, however, this is the "Memorial Minute Slot, sponsored by Krispy Korn Krunchies plc."

Having set the tone, Morfoot has plenty of material from which he develops his theme, making liberal use of well-know clichÈs and football-speak. For example, when Burksey is being interviewed, he invariably prefaces his response with "As I said", when of course, he didn't. In print, we realise how ridiculous such a reply looks, yet when we watch a genuine TV interview, it washes over us.

Morfoot is not averse to sprinkling thinly-veiled social comment too. For example, nothing is Burksey's fault, from his earliest schooldays to matchday performances and he certainly cannot be blamed for his subsequent jail term.

At its heart though, this is an hilarious tale of Steve Burkes' football career - starting at Huddersfield, where Frank Worthington offers advice in Elvis-style rhymes, before moving on to Tottenham where he teams up with Chris Waddle. Playing against Nottingham Forest, he manages a run-in with Brian Clough and eventually transfers to Manchester United where he takes credit for scoring the goal (which Mark Robbins actually scored) and keeping Sir Alex Ferguson in a job.

Burksey's England call-up inevitably follows, after which his transfer to Italy is almost a foregone conclusion; the chapter describing his time in Italy, 'La Dodgy Vita', is as funny as anything you will read.

Naturally enough, the book is littered with details of Burksey's lurid bedroom romps, drug-taking, alcohol consumption, counselling and rehab - and this is while he's still playing.

The fact that Burksey's exploits are so believable is what makes Morfoot's lampooning so amusing. The Roman poet Juvenal wrote, "It's hard not to write satire" and at each turn, this book offers satire, caricature and parody, sometimes without even realising. This tale of two halves is also a tale of our times which manages to expose football's haughtiness - besides, any book that opens with two disclaimers (one from the publisher, another from the author) has to be worth reading.

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