By Keith Brookman.
As the run up to Christmas begins in earnest, we see the arrival of many publications on our national sport arrive in bookshops all over the country.
Many, of course, are autobiographies of players who have recently hung up their boots and who are household names in the game and the stories they have to tell will sell well at some inflated and ridiculous price only to end up in the bargain bins by the middle of next year.
Whether or not Nick Tanner’s tale goes the same way or not remains to be seen, but his story is well worth reading, not only because of the Rovers chapter in his remarkable football career, but because it is actually a lot different to your standard footballer’s fare.
What makes it more interesting, certainly for me, is that his biographer, former Post rugby correspondent Steve Cotton, verified Nick’s accounts with people he played alongside (without telling Nick he was doing that).
Consequently there are many interesting quotes from the likes of former Rovers players Phil Purnell, Gary Penrice, Andy Reece, Ian Weston and Bobby Gould as well as many of his Liverpool connections, such as Mike Marsh, Phil Thompson, Graeme Souness and a foreword by the great Kenny Dalglish.
Just to refresh your memory, Nick, who had played local football for Bromley Heath and Frampton Rangers before signing for Mangotsfield United, joined Rovers back in 1985 and went on to appear in 107 league games whilst at Eastville.
Liverpool paid £20,000 to take him to Anfield in the summer of 1988 and he went on to appear in 59 games in all competitions for them, with loan spells at Norwich and Swindon along the way.
It’s not the usual blow by blow account of what went on in certain games, either, and his time at grassroots level gets as much of a mention as his time rubbing shoulders with Liverpool’s elite.
Many readers will remember former Bath City secretary Paul Britton, who was a work colleague of Nick’s at British Aerospace and Ralph Miller, his manager at Mangotsfield.
Those local characters, sadly no longer with us, were a big part of his pre-Rovers career and he returned to local football after his Liverpool sojourn and played for Bath City before managing Almondsbury Town, Mangotsfield, Roman Glass St George, Wootton Rovers, Welton Rovers and Winterbourne United.
From the opening chapter through to the last and his battle with drink and depression, Nick has a story worth telling and Steve Cotton has done a great job in telling it like it is and was.
There’s a great deal of humour in there as well, right from the start when Reece accompanies him to Anfield for his medical and tries to convince Dalglish that Liverpool should sign him as well. Needless to say, ‘Reecey’ didn’t get taken on!
From A Field To Anfield is, in its own way, inspirational as it shows that any footballer prepared to work hard, can make it through to the pro ranks and to the very top though I think Nick would be the first to admit that if he were to make the same journey now, some thirty years on, he would have to do things a lot differently!
Nick and some of his former Rovers team mates, including Purnell, Penrice and Steve White, will be at The Mem this Saturday (12;30pm-2:30pm), where he will be selling and signing copies of his book so pop along and meet him and maybe pick up the book as a Christmas present for the football fan in your life/family.