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Stan Bowles: The Autobiography

Release date: 17th March, 2009
Publisher: Orion Books

List Price: 8.99
Our Price: 6.99
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For years, football has been awash with tremendously skilful players, highly regarded by commentators and revered by supporters, yet who never really make it to what might be called 'superstar status'.

Few eras had more players falling into this category than the 1970s when men such as Frank Worthington and Tony Curry graced the nation's biggest grounds, their touch and technical ability a joy to behold, even for opposing fans. Some clearly lacked the mental toughness necessary to establish themselves with a major club, others had to contend with a debilitating character flaw, while several played for unfashionable clubs outside of the capital and were never really considered for international honours.

Frank Worthington in particular was an exceptional performer; in his biography, One Hump or Two readers can guess why he remained on the periphery of the England team when others, especially London-based players such as Glen Hoddle, collected dozens of caps.

Worthington reveals how he was perhaps more focused on bedding a string of seventies supermodels, including Miss Barbados and Mandy Rice-Davies. On one occasion, he even managed to seduce a Swedish teenager and her mother.

If partying and womanising proved to be Frank's downfall (failing a medical at Liverpool didn't help), Stan Bowles' inability to establish himself was attributable to his penchant for a placing a bet.

There's an old story of one of his managers saying that if Bowles could pass a betting shop the way he passed the ball, he would have been England's greatest player. Anecdotes and quotes such as this pepper what is an extremely amusing book, now out in paperback having been released a few years ago in hardback.

The tale of how this autobiography was conceived is perhaps indicative of Bowles' football career. Sharing a drink in their local pub, The Rose & Crown in Isleworth, Ralph Allen and John Iona, two good friends, were presented with the idea by the man himself. Late into the night, Stan said, "Hey, do you know, no-one's ever written about me." The trio stood, beers in hand, elbows resting unsteadily on the bar and considered why the former QPR, Bury, Manchester City, Leyton Orient, Nottingham Forest, Crewe and Carlisle forward would make such great copy. Agreement was reached on the spot.

Such spontaneity was an integral part of Stan's game: he could produce a magnificent pass, or sell an outlandish dummy as though it was the most natural thing in the world.

But Stan was ultimately prevented from becoming a legend because he was afflicted with a chronic addiction to gambling which, it is estimated, resulted in him losing £250,000: bear in mind, this was in the Seventies.

Stan Bowles is one of those footballers those of us over forty recall as being outstanding; nonetheless, younger readers will still enjoy this honest account of the days when footballers were given a much freer rein than they have now. However, one wonders whether ridding the game of individuals such as Stan Bowles has resulted in any significant progress, particularly for the national side.


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