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Scoring: An Expert's Guide by Frank McAvennie

Release date: 26th August, 2003
Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd

List Price: 14.99
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If ever you read those 'Where are the now?' features which focus on the whereabouts of footballers from earlier generations, you will know that they invariably depict black and white match action featuring still recognisable fresh faced players. The accompanying narrative summarises each player's life since he hung up his boots which usually comprises one of the following: coaching, management, an overseas jaunt or else a return to a career prematurely curtailed by the siren call of the beautiful game.

It would not be unusual to see the name Frank McAvennie appear in such a feature - the young Scot who only started playing football seriously at the age of 20 and who effected a move (twice) to West Ham as a result of his extraordinary scoring prowess.

Scoring, the title of McAvennie's autobiography, is the ultimate double entendre and Frank, as the book suggests, is something of an expert on the topic and we're not always talking about the ball hitting the back of the net. This is a pity because the most compelling parts of the book are when McAvennie concentrates on football rather than girls. His description of the 1986 league title run in, when West Ham had a real chance of winning the championship, conjures up a feeling of reader involvement rarely experienced in books published in the immediate aftermath of a campaign.

But McAvennie has had 17 years to consider how best to describe the Hammer's penultimate league game that season against West Brom. The writing here is sharp and atmospheric, ensuring the reader can almost hear a chorus of "I'm forever blowing bubbles". However, Frank's memory lets him down in other areas, such as his goalscoring partnership with Tony Cottee for instance: "We had become the most feared striking partnership in England and some would say that meant the world." There is no mention of how Rush and Dalglish, rampant at Liverpool at the same time, felt about this assertion.

But that is to nitpick because at heart this is an enjoyable read. In between the references to nightclubs, an impressive drinking capacity and the astonishing tales of women who were prepared to do most things for Frank without him even asking, is the story of a footballer who made good at the highest level and who subsequently lost it all. McAvennie's downward spiral is a salutary reminder for today's football millionaires; that he has bounced back and written this readable romp is much to his credit. As he proves in this book, there is far too much to Frank's life than a nostalgic paragraph in a "Where are they now?" feature.


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