by Shaun Goater with David Clayton
Reviewed by Ian Farrell
From WSC 240 February 2007
Even by the pitifully low standards of footballers’ autobiographies, the idiocy, rampant arrogance, incredible greed and delusions of persecution on show in certain recent examples have been truly demoralising. With this in mind, the timing couldn’t be better for a salt-of-the-earth journeyman to restore our faith and show the way forward with humility and good humour. Feed the Goat is halfway there.
As a national hero in his native Bermuda, Shaun Goater has been well used to the star treatment and so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by the high opinion he has of his own abilities or the casual but pronounced look-after-number-one streak that shows itself at times. Nevertheless, it’s a little disappointing to find him addressing his departure from cash-strapped Rotherham with the line “the Bosman ruling had just come in, which was good for me…”, or to see that he had no qualms about leaving Bristol City for greener pastures right in the middle of a vital promotion run-in. Even more depressingly, the cool reception he gets on his first return to Rotherham sees him trot out the “booing is a compliment” nonsense much beloved by the Premiership’s top deluded scumbags.
It may put a dent in his nice-guy image, but the honesty of the prose makes for interesting reading. Despite his friendly nature, the book is conspicuously lacking in the usual false bonhomie and many of his team-mates are referred to by their surnames only, rather than the standard diminutives. They certainly aren’t immune from criticism, either, and one of the recurring themes is the highly competitive Goater proclaiming himself to be unimpressed by whichever new signing is threatening his place in the team.
The story starts out with his matriarchal upbringing in a Bermuda and takes us through his carefree footballing development, scholarship in America and on to his big break at Manchester United, where ruthless professionalism and northern weather make for a shock to the system.
From there it’s the subsequent career restart at smaller clubs, before turning to his happiest times at Manchester City. The years as a Maine Road cult hero are the main focus of the book and City fans the principal target market, which helps to explain why descriptions of his time at United are refreshingly free of all that “boyhood dream” stuff. Lee Sharpe and Norman Whiteside come out of it well, but other than that, Steve Bruce attempts to humiliate him, the coaching staff give him no encouragement and Ferguson threatens to throw him out of the club unless he kicks his unacceptable habit of “smiling”.
Despite the occasional self-absorption and paranoia (more than once he feels picked on by his coaches and the chapter detailing his departure from City is entitled “Keegan Gets His Wish”), Feed the Goat is a heart-warming and amusing – if sometimes factually inaccurate – story, detailing an unlikely rise from difficult circumstances. It is not hard to see why he has been a popular figure, well liked by fans at most of his clubs, and readers will likely feel the same. Especially if they’ve read the Ashley Cole book.