Sunday, 24 January 2010

#4 Lennie, by Lennie Lawrence with Kevin Brennan (Green Umbrella Publishing)

I should start with a declaration of interest. I know Lennie Lawrence - in that our paths have crossed a few times, not least following the launch of this book - and I also have a fair amount of working knowledge of a good proportion of the events described in his autobiography.

I therefore knew that his career as a football manager has entailed some fascinating moments, not least during his incredible time at Charlton Athletic, where he has hero status in most people's eyes - but this book really doesn't do him justice.

First, some mitigating factors. Lawrence is still employed in the industry, at this time as director of football at Bristol Rovers, so this is no tell-all tale, revealing all sorts of nefarious secrets. It's no surprise that, generally speaking, books by sportsfolk who have not yet reached the end of their careers merely seem to scratch at the surface of the story, rather than reveal all the unseen layers.

The other important note is that the part of the story with which I am quite familiar, his days with Charlton, has been covered in detail elsewhere, in numerous newspaper articles and other books, so it could be argued that there is little more to say. In which case, why write a book?

To tell the full story of his career, and to get the inside story on those events, is the answer, and there is no doubt the plot - a schoolteacher rising to become one of the most respected football coaches in the country by his peers - despite some incredible circumstances beyond his control is compelling, even if you've heard some of it before. It's such a shame it's so badly written.

A previous autobiographical sports book written with the help of journalist Kevin Brennan, Valley of Dreams (HarperSport), told the story of Alan Curbishley's 15 years with Charlton, and was widely considered as being deadeningly dull (again, Curbs is still involved in the sport). Unfortunately, this is worse.

Mistakes abound. Controversial Charlton chairman Mark Hulyer is wrongly called 'Mike' not once, but several times. The historic number of votes the Valley Party polled in the 1990 Greenwich Council elections is, crucially, one out. And throughout the tome the general tone and grammar of the book is far from adequate, never mind far from perfect.

The other issues notwithstanding, a better and more thorough editing process would have led to substantial improvement. It might not have produced a book that lived up to the astonishing feats of a man I admire greatly, but it would have led to a more readable autobiography.

Just for some contrast, here's a link to another review: click here.

So, rating time:

#4 Lennie, by Lennie Lawrence with Kevin Brennan (Green Umbrella Publishing) – 4/10

Next up: The Hell of it All, by Charlie Brooker (Faber and Faber Limited)

  • Click here for the full list of books so far, and their rating
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