Book Review: From Hobby To Obsession by Darragh MacAnthony
Let’s start by getting a few things out of the way. Firstly, this book is an example of where you have to be brutally honest and say that the proof-reading has been poor and therefore resulted in numerous spelling and grammatical errors slipping through the net into the final published edition. Secondly, the language leaves nothing to the imagination. Having played, watched and written about football over the years, I’m used to the ‘industrial’ nature of it and understand that it is all part of the game, but potential readers should be aware. Lastly, I appreciate that part of the publishing business is to ‘talk-up’ your book, but it really puts enormous pressure on the publisher (The Posh Book Company, in this case) to deliver, when phrases such as, “…this is a remarkable insight…” and describing the book as delivering, “…above all the TRUTH…” are used in their recounting of their first foray into the publishing world.
However, putting all that to one side, what does the reader get from the story of Darragh MacAnthony, Peterborough United FC chairman? Well, the 221 pages are essentially split in four sections. The first 178 pages focus on the six years of involvement MacAnthony has had as chairman of The Posh. There then follows two smaller chapters from current manager Darren Ferguson (13 pages) and Director of Football, Barry Fry (22 pages), who reflect on their time at the club and their views and dealings with the chairman. The book is completed by a small statistical section, focusing on the years of MacAnthony’s reign.
There is no doubt that the book covers an interesting period in the history of Peterborough United and the three promotions, one relegation and managerial comings and goings are all told through the eyes of MacAnthony in a forthright style. The six years are covered at breakneck speed, with the events and language coming at you with machinegun regularity. Whilst the pace does generally engage, there is a feeling at times that some of the stories are rushed, perhaps reflecting a trait of the chairman, who Barry Fry describes as “…impatient…” There is no doubt that MacAnthony has invested a small fortune into Peterborough and personally I admire anyone who takes the gamble of investing in a football club, since it is more often an investment that provides no financial return. Yes, MacAnthony is a businessman and that has allowed him to become chairman, but his love of the game is genuine and it was interesting to read of his knowledge of non-league football. Indeed MacAnthony explains when first arriving at London Road that part of his vision and policy was of finding talent outside of the Football League, developing them and then selling them on for major fees, so enabling the club to be less reliant on his financial input. His other great driver is around producing young talent, with the aims of having, “…one of the best training academies in the Football League…” and “…by 2016 have five or six home grown youth talent in the first eleven…” Manager Darren Ferguson accepts that MacAnthony “…loves being involved: not in the sense that he’s in the dressing room, like a lot of chairman are, but that he wants to know what’s going on and he wants to be appreciated..” It is apparent Ferguson does have a good relationship with his chairman, not least because of their similar desires of wanting to be winners and the fact that they are both strong characters. However, a shared trait of stubbornness led through various events to the parting of the ways in 2009 and the episode is covered quite nicely, as what happened is described from the perspectives of MacAnthony, Fry and Ferguson himself. However the reader is left with a teaser by the Peterborough manager (who returned in 2011) when he states, “…in truth there is so much more I could tell you, but I think we’ll wait until my book hits the shelves…”
At the end I am left with the impression that MacAnthony is a chairman who loves not only his club, but the game in general and is knowledgeable about it in ways that many other people in his position are not. He is a young chairman and has ambition and his plans for the future of The Posh (as outlined in the book) are admirable. However, I am left with a nagging question; that being why did MacAnthony decide to write this book? Whilst his passion and commitment, both financially and personally to the club is evident in the book, so is the image of him as an, at times impatient, unflinching and aggressive individual. Is the man at the helm at London Road, simply portraying himself warts and all? Does he not care how he is viewed? Has the real Darren MacAnthony stood up? No doubt there are interesting times ahead for Peterborough United and their chairman. A case of watch this space.