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King John: The Autobiography of John Charles

Release date: 26th August, 2003
Publisher: Headline

List Price: £18.99
Our Price: £13.29
You Save: £5.7 (30%)
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The appropriateness of the comments made on the inside dust cover of this book are uncanny. John Charles' remarkable story, it says, "should be required reading for every millionaire footballer", an observation with which it is difficult to disagree.

Perhaps British football's finest ever export, a man still revered in Italy where he won three championships inside five years at Juventus, presents a unique tale which will provoke the reader to reflect on how different things are today. After digesting this book, underpinned as it is with the morality of a different age, it is difficult not to draw comparisons with the modern game and its tawdry ways.

The Premier League in particular is now a multi-million pound venture, a self contained industry which appears to nurture violence, cheating and irresponsibility. Today defeat is always someone else's fault; the blame always lies elsewhere, suggesting that football does indeed reflect modern life. John Charles' story, and it is one of footballing success, provides as sharp a contrast with the behaviour of the modern player as it is possible to imagine.

Throughout his career, the 'Gentle Giant' was never once booked nor sent off, yet he competed as a forward and a defender in what was undoubtedly then the world's toughest domestic league as well as winning 38 caps for Wales, scoring 15 goals in the process. In Italy he became footballer of the year and averaged around a goal a game playing for Juventus. Little wonder he is still referred to as Il Buono Gigante.

Towards the end of the book, the author reflects: "If I had been born thirty years later, I would have been worth a million at least. But what is the point of worrying about what might have been? I was not complaining then and I am not complaining now." The passage comes from perhaps the book's most poignant section where Charles provides details of a series of failed business ventures and worse, but he is not a bitter man and is grateful for the free seat which Leeds United reserve for him at Elland Road.

As for the modern player, Charles believes that they often hold their clubs to ransom: "Players deserve to be well paidÖbut not to the extent that they bankrupt the club that is employing them." The real value of this book is that it makes you wonder whether many of the current crop of top flight players will heed or even understand the words of the big man before it is too late.

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