In June 1976 Tony Currie left Sheffield United to join Leeds United, ending an eight-year association with the Bramall Lane club. It says much about the talent, esteem and regard of the player during his time in the red and white part of the Steel City, that 38 years later, in September 2014, as part of the club’s 125th Anniversary celebrations, ‘TC’ as he was affectionally nicknamed by the Blades faithful, was named Sheffield United’s Greatest Ever Player. Indeed, at the other two clubs where he played the majority of his career, Leeds United and QPR, Currie was also a fans favourite, one of a creative generation of players such as, Stan Bowles, Charlie George, Alan Hudson, Rodney Marsh, Duncan McKenzie and Frank Worthington, who entertained the footballing public during the 1970s and early 1980s.
Imperfect 10: The Man Behind the Magic, by Currie and former Sheffield United media manager Tony Pack, tells the story of the Blades legend both on and off the pitch. The book title is in itself interesting to analyse, with it reflecting the contrast of Currie the player and his flamboyant on-field persona and that of his shyness and struggles away from playing and in his domestic life. Quite simply, the perfect No: 10 (the numbered shirt most associated with Currie’s playing days) on the field, but an imperfect character away from it.
In terms of the football side of the book, readers are taken through Currie’s career from being released as an apprentice at Chelsea, and his first professional contract at Watford in 1967, to his final days in a brief stint as player/manager at non-league Goole Town in 1987, taking in Watford, Sheffield United, Leeds United, QPR, as well as his 13 England U23 appearances and 17 full International caps.
That Currie was most comfortable on the pitch, is readily apparent as he recalls his playing time with warmth, acknowledging and praising many of those that he played alongside. Indeed, his only real criticism of anybody within the game, is reserved for ex-Leeds United and England manager, the late Don Revie. Currie was very much part of Sir Alf Ramsey’s final squads, including playing in the infamous 1-1 draw with Poland at Wembley in 1973 which saw England fail to qualify for the 1974 Worlds Cup Finals. However, when Revie took charge of the Three Lions, flair players such as Currie were very much marginalised, with organisation, and work-rate favoured by the manager, meaning Currie earned just a solitary cap under Revie. However, with Ron Greenwood’s appointment in 1977, Currie returned to the fold, appearing ten times, including a standout performance in a 1-1 draw against Brazil in 1978. Alongside his 17 England caps, Currie won two promotions with Sheffield United, reached two League Cup Semi-Finals with Leeds United and played in the 1981-82 FA Cup Final with QPR, losing 1-0 in a replay, scant reward for a man of his talents.
However, against the background of his playing career, Currie reveals the struggles he had to deal with and still does to this day. For this there is much to credit co-author Andy Pack for, in being able to be trusted enough to extract and reveal the inner turmoil and dark parts of Currie’s life as his career ended against a background of divorce, depression, increasing isolation, drinking and money problems. However, you feel that Pack would have had to work hard to get the story he wanted as at just 239 pages, this is a short book compared to most biographies/autobiographies, which leads at times to certain events seemingly skimmed over and covered too quickly.
Despite this, Currie is very open in being very critical of himself, whether detailing his inability to be authoritative, for instance in wage negotiations during his playing time, describing his crippling shyness and nervousness away from his playing days, or the reasoning behind not seeking professional help now and in the past. What is evident though is the part that Sheffield as a city and United as a club did to bring Currie back from the brink in getting him back on his feet, starting with a testimonial game in 1986 which drew over 20,000 to Bramall Lane. Since then, Currie has worked at the club in various roles, beginning in 1988 on the Football in the Community scheme, later becoming a Director and in recent years as a Club Ambassador. Currie’s place in the Blades history was further cemented in 2018 when the South Stand was named the Tony Currie Stand – not bad for a lad from London, who has earned a special place in the hearts of those who call Bramall Lane home.
(Publisher: Vertical Editions. November 2021. Hardback: 239 pages)