Book Review: Red Card Roy

Posted by on Jan 9, 2014 in Uncategorized | No Comments
Book Review: Red Card Roy
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Red Card Roy
by Roy McDonough
Published by Vision Sports Publishing
2012, £12.99

Despite being present at hundreds of lower league games throughout the 1980s and 1990s, I don’t actually recall seeing Roy McDonough play in the flesh although it’s highly unlikely that I didn’t, the picaresque striker having notched up over 650 appearances in both league and non-league between 1976 and 1994 and having enjoyed a successful spell as manager of Colchester United, taking the Essex team back into the Football League after relegation to the fifth tier as well as an FA Trophy victory over Witton Albion.

Curiously, McDonough is feted in another corner of southern East Anglia too — his spell at Southend United saw him voted as one of the fans’ all time cult heroes in a BBC poll for Football Focus conducted in the Noughties. For the record, the Solihull born scrapper was also thus recognised by Colchester supporters.

His Red Card Roy is a no holds barred read that conjures up an era where we know alcohol was an essential lubricant in our national sport and at times, the main purpose of the volume would seem to be to provide a claim that McDonough drunk larger and better than some of his more famous peers.

So this is far from a serious mea culpa in the light of Tony Adams’ Addicted and indeed, McDonough casts doubt on the true prodigiousness of the Arsenal and England defender’s imbibing even if his abilities as a defender are praised. A recent highlight of Issue 11 of the Blizzard saw Dion Fanning analyse the drinking culture present in the Irish game and Giovanni Trapattoni’s assessment that it seems ingrained in the culture. Judging by this autobiography expertly ghost written by Bernie Friend, the English can give the Emerald Islers a full run for their money.

While current Newport County boss Justin Edinburgh might experience quiet, albeit embarrassed satisfaction at the revelation of his imposing physical attributes described in the book, others may be less pleased. Kerry Andrew charted the unexpected rivalry between Colchester United and Wycombe Wanderers for us in a post in 2012 and McDonough’s managerial rutting with Martin O’Neill forms a centrepiece of the volume — with the managerial credentials of the future League Cup and three time Scottish Premier League champion dismissed in a far less subtle way than Frank Heaven supplied in our Sacred Cows series.

Well-known figures such as Steve Whitton and Perry Groves are depicted on marathon drinking sessions in the pubs and clubs of Colchester, Howard Kendall is named as the leader of the drinking club at Birmingham City (this was before his Championships at Everton) and various players — Vinnie Jones most notably — are billed as being ‘nancy boys’ in comparison to McDonough himself, a whole hearted striker who holds the record for sendings-off in football at 22 – hence the title of the book.

As well as the drinking (McDonough’s ‘party piece’ is to drink a pint of Stella in seven seconds flat while standing on his head), there is little contrition about a sustained spell of ‘success’ in the bedroom with many a tale of conquests and more and there is a convincing case made that with greater focus and dedication, this could have been the biography of a much more famous player — McDonough was rejected by Aston Villa as a youngster, played top flight football at St Andrews and was on the books at Chelsea. At the time, the west London club was at a low ebb indeed and the young forward was consigned in insalubrious digs in Hayes while failing to make a first team appearance.

So if you haven’t already, you may begin to suspect that this book comes across as the rantings of a man who has fully enjoyed his career (as well as the drinking) but with an axe to grind and who has used the opportunity to aim pot shots at those who have gone on to become more successful, a book with few Road to Damascus apologetics and with aggression, boastfulness and philandering running through it like veins through a stick of rock. That will be for you to decide.

Rob Langham
Rob Langham is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 50 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, Futbolgrad and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.

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