My Dream Project

I’ve completed my big project, my book Lost In France. The challenge of marketing and getting it properly out there into the world is my next task on that front.

Where to go for my next project is an interesting one. I’ve started a series on retired athletes that i could ramp up and this is a tempting avenue for me to pursue as it has some crossover with my book and other projects.

In terms of pie in the sky plans, I’d love to write someone else’s book, collaborate with them on something.

Sports autobiographies are a very mixed bag. For every one that’s sensational, Mike Tyson’s is truly unbelievable, there are some that are incredibly tedious or just plainly not representative of the athlete themselves.

The football ones tend to be dull, familiarity and an unwillingness to share any real detail makes them a waste of time. There is one excellent exception that eschews the unwillingness to share.

I Am Zlatan is a great read. Fun, insightful and full of character, you know or believe at least, that this what the man is like. He spares no one, including himself, from his sharp tongue and his achievements in the game give hima  position from which to fire shots at perceived slights.

In some ways, I Am Zlatan is the Bouncing Back of sports books, a Partridgean paean to the author’s own excellence. The difference being of course, that not only is Zlatan Ibrahimovic a real person, his achievements are undeniably impressive.

I was tempted to Partridge-ise my own book, make it a hyperreal version of myself, an embittered athlete who didn’t manage to make the top flight, full of point scoring and ‘needless to say, I had the last laugh’. I couldn’t quite bring myself to do that though, I think that the honest sections about how it feels to be an athlete are the best bits of the book and that an ironic position would trivialise what I have to say.

Irony is a veil in front of us, obscuring our feelings and providing a safety blanket for our emotions and ego. Of course it’s funny, but it gives us an out, away from the truth. Zlatan’s book is obviously a heightened version of himself, an extension of his brand, but it contains enough of a distinctive voice and risky opinions that convince you that there’s truth in there, not just posturing.

The dream way of combining these perspectives would be to find someone who played at the top level, someone who had great potential, someone who squandered their position and ability and who has an existing cult following. Someone with pedigree and a high opinion of themself but without the achievement to back up their bluster.

There is but one man for this treatment.

Nicklas Bendtner.

The man known affectionately by Arsenal fans as TGSTEL (The Greatest Striker That Ever Lived) is known as a waste of promise, a teenage prodigy who fell by the wayside despite having an impressive youth record and stints at top clubs in Arsenal and Juventus. A man who never lived up to his youthful billing and his own pronouncements of greatness.

The thing is, Bendtner has had a successful sporting career all told. He’s played for two great European clubs as well as a host of other respectable names. At Arsenal his goal record actually stands at 1 in every 3 games, a very good strike rate considering that he was a young player, often moved to the wing to accommodate more senior players and never really having a consistent run in the team.

He’s also an established international, playing 81 times for Denmark, leading the line for his country and scoring at a similar rate to his Arsenal days. It’s somewhat amazing that an international athlete can be regarded by fans and supporters as a ‘failure’. He’s played the world’s most competitive sport at the highest level. Most people never get anywhere near his level of achievement.

Bendtner would be a fascinating case study of potential and why success doesn’t necessarily happen for everyone, even the talented. He also seems self aware and not afraid to be honest. A larger than life character, with a sense of humour and an amazing insight into top level professional football, with all its perks and pitfalls, coupled with some genuine honesty. It could be a phenomenal sporting memoir.