Author Q&A: The Secret Footballer

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The Secret Footballer’s Guide to the Modern Game: tips and tactics from the ultimate insider
(Faber, £12.99)

There is much speculation about who the anonymous author of the Secret Footballer books is. Here he talks about racism, homophobia and depression in the sport and explains why he’ll never reveal himself.

Why is it important to retain your anonymity?
The lawyers are now advising me that I have libelled so many people in the game that losing my anonymity would probably result in me spending the rest of my life in a courtroom. That is the reality that somebody like me has to reconcile himself with.

Dave Whelan’s was the latest story exposing racism in the Football League. Is it a big problem?
Dave Whelan is a man stuck in a time that many people, thankfully, can no longer remember. I take the point that there are racists in football but they are a minority. It really isn’t as prevalent as people think but there is no doubt that the media, quite rightly, keep stories pertaining to racism in the public eye. That helps, as does the work of the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA).

How ingrained is homophobia in football?
There are players who call each other “gay” almost without giving a second thought to what they are saying. It has become such a throwaway remark in and around the changing-rooms but you very rarely hear of footballers engaging in homophobic behaviour publicly…I think that footballers would feel uncomfortable with a homosexual man in their midst but only because nobody really knows for sure whether that has happened yet.

Has media attention ruined off-pitch antics?

It has certainly put a lid on it. Years ago, we largely got away with anything. These days, everyone is a snitch. It is for the best. Footballers need to get serious when theseason is in progress. Yet I am so glad that I saw it at its peak because it was pretty incredible. We chartered planes and filled them with girls; once, when abroad, we even kidnapped the air stewardesses and the plane couldn’t fly back.

Is depression a big problem among players and does the industry provide enough support for sufferers?
It is a problem. I see more cases in the game every year. Since the season started in August, three players have come to me for advice. All are now on Citalopram. There must be an awful lot of players who have nobody to talk to. The PFA are beginning to look at this issue more seriously now and the amount of contact between the association and players regarding depression has shot up in the last two years.


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