Book Review: The Man with Maradona's Shirt
The Man with Maradona’s Shirt by Steve Hodge
Published by Orion
Steve Hodge won eight England Under-21 caps, 24 full England caps and the final Division One Championship with Leeds United in 1992. He enjoyed success with Nottingham Forest, his hometown team, to a level that some of the biggest clubs in England would happily take today.
So it’s unfortunate that he seems somewhat preoccupied about telling everyone how he’s the owner of the shirt Maradona wore when he scored the Hand of God goal (and that other sublime one) against England in the 1986 World Cup. Pictures, a considerable part of a chapter and the title of the book are all given over to how Hodge owns Maradona’s shirt.
Hodge is modest about his achievements but seems happy to skate over the most interesting parts of his life and career. His is an autobiography that has clearly been cobbled together by a number of conversations that Hodge has had with his ghost writer, Rob Jovanovic, and nothing more. Those discussions seem to have been largely typed up and bound verbatim, whether or not what Hodge said was worth tweaking.
It is clear that this was the plan for the book because things are unnecessarily added when they’ve been mentioned a number of times before. For example, a meeting with Geoffrey Boycott, a friend of Brian Clough, after Nottingham Forest played a League Cup match at Huddersfield Town is mentioned three times over the course of ten pages and each time it is introduced as if the reader has never come across the situation. Even more carelessly, on the third occasion Boycott is misspelt.
Similarly, details are mostly vague, presumably because of Hodge’s presumable off-the-cuff chatting. The player’s England career stalled under Graham Taylor and his position at Leeds United became untenable during the 1992-3 season, but Hodge can’t remember how many miles he travelled on one international tour with the international squad around that time. Instead, a limp ‘I don’t know how many miles I’d travelled for no caps but it was a lot’ has to suffice when the inclusion of such a detail in itself is superfluous.
Hodge touches on the edges of football culture in the 1980s and 1990s but, again, fails to go into any depth. He mentions being asked by Brian Clough whether he is gay. Rather than tackle Clough’s flagrant homophobia which he occasionally, unashamedly exhibited, Hodge explained his lack of a girlfriend by describing himself as ‘just a shy lad’ who couldn’t ‘pull a decent-looking bird’. As far as Justin Fashanu is concerned, a chapter is dedicated to him but Hodge goes as far to say that his career at Forest was ‘sad’ but nothing more.
He mentions that a team mate of his at Nottingham Forest and later at Leeds, Lee Chapman, read The Times and that Hodge himself read The Sun. Any detail as to why Chapman’s reading habits were unusual are omitted; the reader is presumably supposed to nod and not question why it was that Chapman’s reading habits were out of the ordinary. A passage which mentions Tottenham’s ‘take-the-piss merchants’ of the early 1990s, Neil Ruddock, Vinny Samways and Paul Gascoigne, is regrettable – Hodge says that he failed to keep up with their ‘wit’. I’m not sure what Gascoigne possesses but it certainly isn’t wit.
Accuracy is sometimes lacking somewhat – Denis Wise is mentioned at one point, as well as Villa Park’s Holt End – and chapters are used rather haphazardly. In one entitled ‘Stuart Pearce – Captain Psycho’, Pearce is barely mentioned; Nottingham Forest’s 1989 Simod Cup victory seems to take priority instead.
It’s a shame that the record of Hodge’s career has not be rewarded with something better. The book does go into some detail attempting to analyse Brian Clough’s character, but as worthwhile as that might be, the place for that is not Hodge’s autobiography.
Some details occasionally delight though. Anything that records that Tony Adams and Lee Dixon sung You’re the One That I Want on England duty is not totally bad…