Wayne Rooney releases his first autobiography but as Taylor Parkes reports it's little more than a book aimed at children
Monday morning, primary school. It’s time to write up what you did over the weekend. Everyone remembers the drill: “I went to the pub with my mum and dad. I had a coke and some crisps. It was good.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Wayne Rooney’s million-pound autobiography is like a Monday morning report of his entire life. You half expect to see a tick, in red pen, at the end of every paragraph. Here’s his assessment of the Beckhams’ pre-World Cup party: “The meal was good. It began with soup, can’t remember what sort, and then chicken. Gordon Ramsay did the cooking. There was pudding, but I didn’t have any. I enjoyed it.” It’s phenomenal stuff. After a few chapters, you want to put your legs into your mouth.
Hunter Davies, anointed ghostwriter, is a talented man; his casual style and superb eye for detail make The Glory Game, a fly-on-the-wall account of Spurs’ 1971-72 season, arguably the best football book of all. His skill with reported speech – chiselling inarticulate burblings into something coherent and readable – is not in doubt, but to say that it’s stretched to the limit here would be an under- statement. Few autobiographies can have felt less like they were actually written by their subject, perhaps because few can have been based on such poor source material. It’s not that Wayne is stupid, it’s that he appears to have no thoughts of any kind whatsoever.
Interviewers often have to “lead” untalkative subjects. You might ask, for instance, whether someone has a problem with playing up front on their own, and a shake of their head becomes a statement: “I don’t have a problem with playing up front on my own.” What’s unusual about My Story So Far is that the entire book seems to be made up of these paraphrased grunts, reworkings of the original question posing as proffered opinion. Occasionally, as in the dull chapter on the Manchester United dressing room, Davies gives up, and seems to transcribe his tape almost verbatim. “Longest time in the shower? Rio and Louis. Working on their lovely hair? I suppose.”
There are insights into Rooney’s character here, but they’re relentlessly trivial, or at best mildly amusing (he proposed to Coleen, £13,000 ring and all, on the forecourt of a petrol station). What does come across is that his image as bloody-jawed British bulldog is a myth. The real Rooney is – as if we couldn’t have guessed – a simple, shy lad who’s only interested in football, his iPod, curries, Corrie and Coleen. In other words, he’s boring. Nothing much happened in his early life and, like many young people, he has little time for the past anyway. He’s not even sure if his family are Irish (perhaps Liverpool is full of pale, redheaded people with Irish names who come from somewhere else).
In fact, we probably learn more about Coleen than her burly beau – certainly, the fact that she scooped 11 GCSEs will come as a surprise to many. “We’re just an ordinary couple,” Wazza protests, though apparently it can sometimes be hard to do ordinary things, like “going to Asda” (this is one ordinary couple who keep their sponsors in mind).
As has been widely reported, the book is less than complimentary about David Moyes, but this has been overplayed. Moyes is simply the only person Wayne has ever met who he’s prepared to criticise, which makes the complaints look harsher than they really are. There’s no verbal stomp in the knackers.
My Story So Far is aimed primarily at children – swearing is rare (and in the case of very rude words, censored), nothing salacious is included and the print is extremely large. The sad thing is that this seems to have less to do with demographics than the fundamentally childlike brain of the modern footballer.
From WSC 235 September 2006. What was happening this month