The life of a journeyman footballer is not the most glamourous part of the beautiful game and ex-Hibs, Partick Thistle and Airdrie (amongst others) player David Farrell recounts his tale of sacrifices, fleeting glory and making ends meet in his new book, “Taxi For Farrell: Football Between The Lines“. The question is, though, is it worth a read? Eion Smith finds out…
Taxi drivers are a varied and unique bunch with countless tales to tell and stories of past glories. If you get into a Glasgow cab then you might just encounter David Farrell, a man with no shortage of tales from his days as a professional footballer. From making Mark Hateley see quadruple to a cup final to injuries to a club in severe crisis, it’s safe to say Farrell has experienced his fair share within the beautiful game and some of his stories show the ugly side of the beautiful game.
The question you’re probably asking yourself is the same one I asked myself when I first saw the book – who is David Farrell? A quick Google search reveals he’s a Glaswegian former footballer who was an apprentice at First Division Oxford United in the 1980s before going on to enjoy spells at Hibernian, Partick Thistle, Airdrieonians, Clydebank, Stranraer and Albion Rovers. He also had a journeyman coaching career with spells at Gretna, Clyde, Celtic Nation (a fantastic story within itself), Dundee and Notts County. All rather inauspicious then. So, why does he have a book?
Well, Farrell has parlayed his years of experience in professional football into a rather successful blog called Football From The Inside where, much like in the book, he weaves his way from seemingly nowhere into making a unique point about the psyche of a professional footballer. The insecurity of where your next deal will come from, the sometimes grueling travel days just to provide for your family, the constant hope that you will get to the top – it’s all touched upon by Farrell in his own unique way.
He segments the book into nice time frames which is a refreshing change from many footballer’s books which have a tendency to jump around all over the place at times. There is a sense that you are following Farrell on his journey, experiencing the exciting highs of Hibernian and the frustrating lows of his injury ravaged final seasons, which kept me hooked throughout. It is a fine example of the power of story-telling and that Farrell doesn’t fill this book with details of every single game he played makes this a very, very easy read. I managed to read the 270 odd pages in one go and never once broke stride as Farrell kept his story flowing effortlessly.
And the story is a remarkable one post-Hibernian. The collapse of his relationship with the upper echelons at Partick Thistle is a scarcely believable story. while his spell at Airdrieonians takes in the very sharp fall of the club. The very fragility of football as a business is highlighted and while the fans hurt from seeing their club struggle, it’s amazing to get a behind the scenes look and see how it affects the players and management in a way I’ve certainly never read of before.
This is not a full-blown autobiography however. Farrell delves into a little bit of personal business when he needs to or wants to but it is always in some way or another related to football. His partner Samantha is mentioned a lot as the person that kept the house together and always supported Farrell in his quest to continue his football career on or off the pitch. She is portrayed as the one who has made more sacrifices than anyone for his dreams and there is only admiration coming off the page for her from Farrell. He notes a somewhat selfish nature in his playing days, putting off having children for his career or not moving in with her sooner and seems genuinely keen to let her follow her dreams now out of, at the very least, gratitude. It is a refreshingly honest view from a sportsman and Farrell’s honesty is what makes this book great in my eyes.
Farrell regularly stops his story-telling to share his views on the psychology of a professional footballer from his own experience and it is by far and away some of the best work in the entire book. He regularly talks about footballer’s fragile egos and their selfish nature, not making himself exempt from this either, and criticises when necessary (see the Notts County dressing room) but also challenges misconceptions about footballers.
What I learned most from this book though was that football can be a horribly political and insecure business where one wrong word could spell the end of your career or the loss of respect from teammates. Farrell is especially critical of what he calls the “Largs Mafia” and feels that has hindered his chances of getting more coaching jobs despite some good work he has done at Dundee and Notts County. It is around this section of the book that we begin to see a bit more anger and frustration from Farrell as he discusses his stilted coaching career. This is not a ranting diatribe from a bitter ex-pro that couldn’t quite hack it in the coaching world. Far from it. This is the frustration of a man who hasn’t quite got the rub of the green in certain situations but someone who realises that this is the way the football business is.
You can also feel the frustration as Farrell speaks of his injury woes and struggles. The constant breaking down, the cortisone injections, the pain of just training, the seemingly never-ending padding and strapping, the cajoling of a doctor – it’s all here and all in painstaking detail. Farrell’s frustrations are not only that he was injured regularly but that he continued to sacrifice his body, something he’s still feeling today. It’s a very honest view from Farrell and one that he deserves credit for. He does not shirk from being honest at all about anything not even his own actions and there is a sense of trust that you build with him as the book progresses.
What really shines through however is the glowing terms with which Farrell speaks of his father. A loving authoritarian who was a football nut, Farrell talks at great lengths about his values and work ethic throughout the book which he attributes to his long career in football and almost always loops it back round to his father. I found Farrell’s father to be a loving figure that held a respect and authority that you can tell influenced Farrell almost completely. Farrell’s ethics, morals and work rate are all clearly attributed to his parents and especially his father. His final chapter tribute to his father is the perfect summation of all of his talk about him and you can almost feel Farrell’s emotion as you read each word.
Much like the playing style of David Farrell, Taxi For Farrell: Football Between The Lines is an unfussy, simple book that belies its brilliance. It may be short and you may never have heard of David Farrell but this is a wonderful read for any football fan. We’re all aware to at least some degree of the tough slog professional football can be but Taxi For Farrell: Football Between The Lines lifts the lid on the beautiful game and, as Farrell so brilliantly shows, often it’s not pretty at all. I would absolutely recommend this book to any football fan with its sometimes unbelievable stories, fantastic depth and excellent writing.
‘Taxi For Farrell: Football Between The Lines’ by David Farrell will be published by Teckle Books on 1st November 2015. The book can be bought in all good book stores or from www.tecklebooks.co.uk.