Since the horrors of Hillsborough and the rebranding of English football under the Premier League logo, the culture of the game has changed dramatically. Football has moved away from the gritty, working man’s game it once was, with players being required to be hyper-drilled athletes, smooth and inoffensive in front of the cameras, in case they accidentally say something that could affect one of the club’s sponsors. This has resulted in an interesting contradiction – there’s never been more ways to interact with players, and learn about their lives, but the truth is often hidden away behind a glass-sheet of superficial perfection.
While of course the game itself is the main draw, getting inside the head of the players we admire, understanding how they push themselves to the levels they do, and what their lives away from the pitch are like, are also more than a little intriguing.
Around two years ago, a footballer began sharing stories of his playing career in a weekly column in The Guardian. To avoid repurcussions, not to mention offending his team-mates and family, this column was published anonymously, under the name of The Secret Footballer.
Last month saw the publication of the player’s autobiography, I Am The Secret Footballer.