Now, here’s a thing….. football! I confess that I have always loved football, playing it and watching it. As a boy it filled a lot of my waking hours. As a teenager I got the same Christmas present every year – a new pair of boots.
When it comes to football I am a very conservative traditionalist (Why after having a rule for 160+ years that says a kick-off must go forward did they change it a couple of years ago to say it could go backwards?
I am also a nostalgist (perhaps all football fans my age are). Many years ago the DJ John Peel wrote about an advert he had seen for the (then) new Premier League, with contrasting photos to illustrate the changing face of football – one sepia-toned full of hard-faced men wearing flat caps and jackets and ties and smoking cigarettes (almost certainly full-strength Woodbines!), the other a brightly dressed family of four all smiles. Peel said he preferred the old one and I think I agree with him. Wooden stands, open terraces and muddy pitches!
Despite my Dad supporting the more successful and glamorous Nottingham Forest I grew up supporting ‘poor relations’ Notts County, and have been doing ever since. Not much to write home about over the years – the odd success but mostly doom and gloom, culminating in being relegated out of the English League two seasons ago and failing to get back (just) this season.
But one period of bright success was during the 1970’s when there were two or three promotions up the league. The captain and star player was Don Masson. After six years he went to play for (then) top tier QPR and also played for Scotland, missing a crucial penalty in the 1978 World Cup finals (penalties were always his weak spot). He returned later on for a second spell, also successful, and clocked up over 400 appearances in total.
Some years later, David McVay (someone I played against at school) became a journalist and wrote a book about his time as a professional with Notts – ‘Steak… Diana Ross, the story of a ‘football nobody’. Don Masson came out of it very badly. Although clearly the best player and captain, he was not a nice person, often ripping his team-mates to shreds and belittling them and their abilities. He was known as ‘Masson the merciless’ and, despite his talent, many were glad to see him leave.
However, when writing about reunions etc McVay hinted at Masson being a somewhat changed character. Divorced and re-married he seemed to have mellowed somewhat.
So, imagine my delight when, looking at the Notts County website, I saw advertised the Don Masson autobiography with the following blurb…
‘Still Saying Sorry, due out in October…, is the compelling story of a man still haunted by the fact that he missed a penalty against Peru in 1978, playing for Scotland in the World Cup Finals in Argentina.
Most of all, it deals with his epic achievements in three spells at Meadow Lane, (where) ….Masson had become the first player ever to captain the same club to three promotions.
This brutally honest autobiography deals full on with what he describes as the “horrible” side of his character, and how personal tragedy and becoming a Christian drastically changed his life.
A footballing hero, with a horrible side to his character, whose life was changed drastically by becoming a Christian! Needless to say, my order is in!