Football, Faith and Me
by Linvoy Primus with Peter Jeffs
Reviewed by Matthew Brown
From WSC 252 February 2008
The autobiographies of footballers tend to be much the same: the humble beginnings and boyhood dreams, the youth-team triumphs and early rejections, the lower-league obscurity and later successes. This one is no different, tracing the ups and downs of Linvoy Primus’s life story from his east London childhood to rejection by Charlton to the comings and goings of form, injury, managers and team-mates as he slowly moved up the ranks from Barnet to Reading to Portsmouth.
These books also tend to focus on one characteristic of the subject that makes him stand out: Peter Crouch’s height, for example, or Paul McGrath’s boozing. It’s the player’s brand, the book’s selling point. For Linvoy Primus, it’s his Faith (capital F). According to the blurb, his conversion to Christianity after he had joined Portsmouth “transformed” him from a man of “disillusionment, lack of self belief and rejections” into “a top Premiership player”.
This book is his testimony, if you like, the tale of how God “saved” the nervous young Primus from self-doubt and insecurity, converting him into a man of “new confidence and assurance”. “I wanted to tell people of the changes that have happened in my life because of God’s power,” he writes. “Of how God has lifted me up and taken me to new levels of performance and consistency in my career.”
What’s more – this being the evangelical type of Christianity – he wants us to know that God can do the same for us, “that what’s happened to me can happen to anyone who accepts God into their lives”. Which is great, just pass the Bible and fetch my boots.
No doubt believers will be swept along by it, and Pompey fans, too, as the prayer-and-healing stuff is interspersed with a chronological account of Portsmouth’s Harry Redknapp-inspired clamber from the foot of the Championship to Premiership security.
Unfortunately, whether you go along with Primus’s Bible-bashing or not, the book fails to be the inspirational tome it’s cracked up to be, largely because it’s written in a sometimes ungrammatical and often ponderous style. Occasionally Transformed reads as if the ghost writer has simply transcribed his tapes and left it at that. The book is also full of cliches, and not just the football stuff – there’s a (not so) “amazing” recovery from injury, for example, and other rather unconvincing incidents of “God’s healing” and the “power of prayer”.
That said, Primus does come over as one of football’s less self-centred characters, a man largely unconcerned about the usual obsessions with celebrity and materialism. He must be one of the few Premier League players to spend his close season doing charity work in India and Africa.
Clearly, he’s also a hard-working, determined and loyal footballer, who likes to prove his doubters wrong. I tend to think that’s where his real strength lies, but I guess it depends what you believe.