Too many books about the careers of footballer’s tend to be pretty sterile affairs, with content that plods through a season-by-season account of their playing days with little in the way of insight or integrity. However, this is certainly not true of David Farrell’s excellent book, Taxi for Farrell – Football between the lines.
Farrell made his name in the Scottish game with a playing career at Hibernian, Partick Thistle, Airdrieonians, Clydebank, Stranraer and Albion Rovers as well as coaching spells (up to the point of writing this book) at Gretna, Dundee, Clyde, Notts County and Celtic Nation.
In terms of the format of the book, the 269 pages open with an introduction which looks at Farrell’s life growing up in Dennistoun and then develops chronologically through four chapters looking at his playing days, a further two detailing his coaching/assistant management spells, closing with a reflective postscript from 2015 and his days on the streets of Glasgow as a taxi driver.
Throughout the book Farrell has a conversational style, undoubtedly influenced by his blog, Football from the Inside, which he began writing in August 2014. In addition though there is an honest and perceptive quality that provides readers with a genuine and gritty insight into the world of football; a game a million miles away from all the hype of the English Premier League.
What is apparent is that from a very young age Farrell only ever wanted to be a footballer, and despite self-doubt regarding his own ability (something which appears to have dogged him at certain points during his career) he was good enough to play for Scotland U18s and earn a contract at then top-flight club Oxford United in England.
Despite not making a first team appearance at Oxford, Farrell returned to Scotland to begin a 16 year career taking in six clubs. During this time as a ‘rugged’ midfielder/defender Farrell suffered with more than his fair share of injuries and details within this book the realities of playing with pain as part and parcel of the game and at clubs where sometimes there was no medical insurance covering the playing staff.
However, despite the struggles that he endured in prolonging his career, Farrell’s love for the game remained unwavering and pragmatically summed it up in the following way; “the higher a point you start off, the longer it will take to fall to the bottom”. Farrell’s career saw him take in the highs of a League Cup Final appearance against Rangers in 1993, to playing in Division Three with Albion Rovers in 2004 to finish his career.
With his playing days over and with his UEFA A coaching licence earned, Farrell looked to stay within the game, but struggled to get opportunities due to not being perceived as a ‘big-name’. His break came when close friend Alex Rae brought Farrell in at Dundee in 2006, but after failing to get the side back into the Scottish top-flight, the pair were sacked after two years.
This section of the book where Farrell has stopped playing has a darker feel to it, as the reality of the difficulty in finding work within the game hits home and the implications for his ability to pay the bills and resultant pressure on his family, is apparent. Farrell is totally open in stating that he was selfish in trying to stay within the game and was aware that he had to seek other work in order to provide for his family to provide some stability. Cabbing in Glasgow seemed to provide the answer.
Indeed in the books postscript, sub-titled Retired? Farrell writing in 2015 states, “If nothing ever came up again in football again I can honestly say that it wouldn’t bother me”. However, it is evident after reading this book that Farrell is a football addict and that the game is in his blood, even though he understands what an unstable and ruthless business it is. With that in mind, it brought a smile to the face on hearing at the start of 2016 that Farrell was once again back in the game as assistant manager at St Mirren working to Alex Rae.
Taxi for Farrell? Not yet. Fingers crossed his football journey has a few more miles yet.