Book Review: Where’s your Caravan?
Where’s your Caravan?
By Chris Hargreaves, Published by The Friday Project,
August 2011, £8.99, ISBN: 9780007364145
What next for a lower league footballer upon retirement? A simple enough premise, but too few biographies have tackled the theme with any distinction, so Chris Hargreaves’ recent release, which engages throughout with the realities and emotions of signing off from one’s playing days, is a welcome addition.
An unravelling set of new challenges, the ennui and the odd bout of despair rub shoulders with feelings of regret and nostalgia here, and Hargreaves does well to convey all of this with relative precision. As one might expect from a family man, many of Hargreaves’ reflections are considered from a financial perspective: modest post-retirement pay checks, the excess of the salad years and a failure to invest in bricks and mortar over the seasons all feature strongly.
Interest isn’t limited to such domestic matters, and Hargreaves tries to devote a reasonable section to each of his many former clubs. The account of his early years at Grimsby, where alcohol and unidentified substances play their part in stalling a promising career, stands out in particular. The disruptive dynamic between his group of fun-loving friends and an increasing need to opt for nights in rather than on the Cleethorpes circuit is well developed, as is Hargreaves’ damaging relationship with Town manager Alan Buckley.
Details of his spells at numerous other clubs follow, which is sure to keep plenty of readers happy, but a lack of depth inevitably follows in places. Indeed, potentially revealing anecdotes and events often go unexplored and too many points of interest are merely skimmed over. When his Hereford side take on Brighton in that match, for example, it’s frustrating that Hargreaves fails to recognise an explanation, other than their ‘history and glamour’, when he discusses the media’s partiality towards the Seagulls.
That’s not to say that Hargreaves isn’t capable of insight; at one point he readily challenges the FA for the way that ex-professionals are made to feel inadequate when attempting to break into coaching, and his forthright views on former bosses Buckley and Jim Smith are revealing. Yet, at times, it’s almost as if Hargreaves seems apologetic for actually possessing personal opinions and, rather than offering the kind of insider perspectives that supporters seldom have access to, readers are instead subjected to the same old tired clichés.
Indeed, barn doors, onion bags and the like make unwelcome appearances at points and one senses that Hargreaves might have been advised to take a little longer over his story given that he’ll probably only have a single crack. With finances as they are, however, writing his biography must compete with a wider set of responsibilities in order to provide for his family, so the reader is taken on a scattergun carpet ride through Hargreaves’ most immediate memories.
Yet, the odd lamentably laddish joke aside, Hargreaves cuts a likeable figure and though it might have been presented a little more thoughtfully at points, his story is rich with the type of anecdotes and details that should make it a modest hit at the very least. It may be no Left Foot Forward, but I’d like to think that any right-minded football supporter would opt for this ahead of the gumpf served up by Theo, Ashley and Rio but to name a few.