Left Field by Graeme Le Saux

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Left Field by Graeme Le Saux

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Somewhat different to other footballers of his era Graeme Le Saux tells his story with the help of Oliver Holt. It's possibly more revealing than Le Saux intended, but an interesting read.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: August 2008
Publisher: HarperSport
ISBN: 978-0007225811

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Born and brought up on the idyllic island of Jersey, Graeme Le Saux loved football from an early age and left the island to join Chelsea FC. His time there was far from happy - isolated from other players and branded as being gay simply because he was a Guardian reader, he was transferred to Blackburn Rovers where he flourished under Kenny Dalglish. Not only was he part of the Premiership-winning team he was also the first Channel Islander ever to be capped for England. He returned to Chelsea for a record £5.5m fee but went to Southampton in 2003 for the final two years of his footballing career.

There have been two major negative influences on Le Saux's life. His mother died of breast cancer when he was thirteen whilst he was away at a football camp in Northern France. He still feels guilt about this and it's a theme which runs through the book and which he's never really sorted out in his own mind. He's not really spoken about this before. The other influence was the fact that he was branded as gay, seemingly on the basis that he was a Guardian reader, and had to suffer the insults of his fellow team members, the crowds and the opposing players. The notorious Robbie Fowler incident is well known and even at the time said more about Fowler than it could ever have said about Le Saux, but David Beckham is amongst others who are named, although his representative has denied the allegations elsewhere.

The extent to which these taunts affected Le Saux, who maintains that he has never been gay, is evident from the number of pages devoted to the retelling of the incidents. Shockingly Le Saux says that if a gay footballer was to ask his advice about 'coming out' then he would have to advise against it. That's a dreadful indictment of the players and of the authorities who run football. Racism would seem to have reduced but homosexuality is the last taboo.

For those who think that the life of a professional footballer is pampered it will come as something of a shock to realise how spartan the Chelsea training facilities were before the Abramovich millions brought about some changes. The PFA's in-house magazine might give advice about the best yacht or Miami condo to buy, but the players were still cutting their feet on the tiles in the showers.

Unsettling too is the thought that Blackburn was possibly the last of the 'smaller' clubs who will win the Premiership - for the foreseeable future it's likely to be the prerogative of just a handful of clubs with big money to spend.

Perhaps I've cut my teeth on Tom Bower and Michael Crick whose exposés of the football world are hard-hitting, but there were occasions when Left Field felt more like a payment of old scores. It's not until relatively late in the book that Le Saux tackles the question of the ridiculous (to me) salaries paid to players. Even taking a wider sweep of the lower divisions, average players can be on up to £1 million annually. Set this against the fact that smaller clubs are struggling to survive or going into administration and the unsustainability of the situation is obvious. Exorbitant amounts of television money have been attracted into the sport, but what would happen if this were to disappear? I'd like to have seen these points explored in more depth.

Some autobiographies reveal more than the writer intends and this book certainly falls into that category. I felt that I knew Le Saux better at the end of the book, but unfortunately, I liked him less. He's quick to take offence (walking out on the BBC job), slow to forget a slight and not always aware of his own shortcomings. Sven-Goran Eriksson didn't pick Le Saux for the England squad in 2002 and apparently this was because he 'had a suspect temperament'. Le Saux didn't accept this but goes on to say that it didn't help when Eriksson came to a match when Le Saux was sent off for two bookable offences. I'd have thought that the connection was fairly obvious, but Le Saux has other ideas - Maybe he thought I would have seen through him. Whatever the reason, I will never believe that it was a football issue. Splendid stuff.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending this book to The Bookbag.

For a look at the corruption which would seem to be endemic in football, Bookbag recommends Tom Bower's Broken Dreams.

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Buy Left Field by Graeme Le Saux at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Left Field by Graeme Le Saux at Amazon.com.


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