Pat Nevin’s memoir is a tremendously entertaining read. The former Chelsea, Everton and Tranmere Rovers footballer, writer and broadcaster wasn’t the typical professional footballer – he loved playing the game – but wanted a career as a teacher and had many outside interests. His win bonuses went on records, attending gigs, theatre, movies, galleries and travelling.
The memoir is focussed primarily in the 1980s and 90s before the advent of the Premier League. Nevin’s working class background in Glasgow and his Socialist principles and concern for others are evident throughout.
Nevin is an outsider, unorthodox and obsessed with alternative music. He forms a close friendship with the DJ John Peel and like Peel, he closely follows the careers of bands like Joy Division, Simple Minds, Orange Juice and the Cocteau Twins. Nevin is more likely to do an interview with the New Musical Express than a football magazine.
There are many illuminating stories and humorous anecdotes, for example when he moves to Everton and buys a house in Chester, he is offered opera tickets for a Pavarotti concert by an Everton fan who turns out to be a burglar. Later he is asked,
“How are you enjoying 23 Elizabeth Crescent in Chester? I have told all the lads not to visit and, by the way, your alarm systemis rubbish.” ‘Welcome to Liverpool!’
Nevin doesn’t conform to the typical drinking culture of the period and at Everton he was often at loggerheads with the manager Howard Kendall.
‘ …I felt it was incumbent on every player to be in the best condition he could be in, to provide the best performances for people who had paid good money and invested so much time, effort and emotion. Surely if a professional sportsperson you should be able to hold back from abusing alcohol, at least during the week?’
Nevin’s working class work ethic and commitment to his sport/craft mean that he is sometimes at odds with some of his colleagues. He acknowledges his tirelessly worthy side when he is voluntarily working for the PFA.
When he leaves Everton, he has the option of a lucrative move to Galatasaray but in typical Nevin fashion he takes a step down to enjoy his football at Tranmere Rovers.
This is a refreshing and joyful story of someone who didn’t want to be a professional footballer but just wanted to play football. Nevin successfully managed to enjoy the benefits of the profession without suffering the pitfalls. Despite all the money and attention in the modern game he still believes that it is possible to do this and cites Juan Mata as a great example.
The Accidental Footballer by Pat Nevin. Published by Monoray. Price £20.
This review first appeared in the August/September 2021 edition of Late Tackle magazine.