Book Review: Clive Allen – Up Front with James Olley
A career in football is hard enough to achieve on your own, but when you are from a football family, then the pressure must be immense. For Clive Allen, that must have been monumental, with his father, Les, part of the Tottenham Hotspur’s team that did the ‘double’ in winning the First Division title and FA Cup in 1960/61, and a younger brother, Bradley and two cousins, Martin and Paul, who also went on to have professional careers in the game.
Clive though played for 17 years at home and abroad, scoring 49 goals in all competitions during the 1986/87 campaign and as a result claimed both the Professional Footballers’ Association Men’s Players’ Player of the Year and Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year, earned five senior caps for England and finished with a scoring ratio of a goal in every two games.
And in Up Front, the majority of the book looks at this journey from his professional playing days as a teenager at QPR, chronologically following his career, including his Million Pound transfer to Arsenal (where he failed to make a first-team appearance), taking in his time at Crystal Palace, a second spell at QPR, Spurs, Bordeaux, Manchester City, Chelsea, West Ham United, Millwall and Carlisle United. Also, included is his time coaching at Spurs and stepping in as caretaker manager at White Hart Lane in both 2007 and 2008, his media career and his single season as a kicker in American Football (NFL Europe) for the London Monarchs in 1997. As such these are fairly traditional biographical content, but make interesting reading, nonetheless, with some honest opinions of certain situations and characters he came across in his football life.
Indeed, the title Up Front seems an apt choice working as it does on two levels. Firstly reflecting Clive Allen’s playing position, leading the line as a forward, and secondly in the phrases definition of someone who is ‘up front’ in being, bold, honest, and frank.
These qualities come to the fore and where the book shows real insight is with respect to Allen’s relationship with his famous father Les. Indeed, the book begins and ends with the pair being presented to the Spurs faithful as part of the celebrations to mark the final fixture at the ‘old’ White Hart Lane and leaves the reader in no doubt as to the significance of Clive’s view of his father, “I’m grateful for his guidance but pained by his parenting.” This seems to pervade the book, with the regret and the damage their uneasy relationship has caused, always appearing to be there under the surface. Further, James Olley who worked with Allen on this book, is able to extract a real sense of the much-travelled ex-strikers character, a man who hated losing, typified by the bust-up Allen had with Arsene Wenger and which appears not to have been resolved to this day, and despite all his success, still wonders ‘what might have been’ if he had scored on his England debut. In some ways the book is an interesting for what it implies and doesn’t say, as that which it does.
(deCoubertin Books, October 2019. Hardcover 300pp)