The Stupid Footballer Is Dead
By Paul McVeigh
If you had asked me a fortnight ago who Paul McVeigh is you would have drawn a total blank.
The closest I'd get to a McVeigh is Stu - Havelock North premier club cricketer and Port Hill premier soccer club goalkeeper/captain.
As it turns out, Paul McVeigh is a former English Premier League soccer professional who also represented his country, Northern Ireland.
Not having seen him play, I will never know how good he was as a midfielder/striker but his book, The Stupid Footballer Is Dead, has left a lasting impression on me.
Besides, the resume of the 36-year-old from Belfast is impressive - 16 years with Tottenham Hotspur, Luton Town, Burnley and Norwich City, including more than 300 appearances, scoring 43 goals.
I wish, as someone growing up, I had read something like the 150-page paperback that comes across frighteningly like a high school textbook but, reassuringly, does leave indelible impressions of life lessons.
While it is preoccupied with soccer, there's nothing stopping teenagers from embarking on any of life's journeys - be it sport or a working career - armed with a few gems from the book.
The man is only 1.68m tall; even I have a few centimetres on him.
He was the shortest bloke on the field, having bigger lads shove him off the ball.
That didn't deter him, though, because he made up for it with agility, dexterity and vision with deft passing.
He's not shy to admit he was devoid of mentality early in his career, nothing going on between his ears as he drew on animal instincts.
McVeigh emphasises how some elite footballers at EPL level can effortlessly execute precision, long-range passes but if asked to explain what their technique is they would be bereft of ideas.
"One of the things that I explain to young players when I mentor them is that although they might have great football potential their knowledge base is very, very low."
Instead of fleecing knowledge from the swag of support staff at the resource-rich clubs, 99 per cent of youngsters tend to adopt a children-avoiding-parents mentality "because there's a culture in football that it is uncool to learn".
At the cusp of breaking into the EPL, he embraced yoga but restricted its routines to home away from the eyes of fellow professionals for fear of ridicule.
He confesses he wasn't the sharpest pencil at school but he did have the foresight to go on to obtain a degree.
Primarily his philosophy is built on the platform of "self-image" that doesn't depend on external praise but listening to an inner voice.
"Most of us don't have a self-image that allows us to achieve what we want," he explains, adding unduly modest self-talk places unhelpful limitations on people.
In McVeigh's world, there are no failures, just feedback and the onus is always on individuals to act on them to enhance their lives.
At a primitive level, it was something as simple as making a choice to do away with fast-food as a young adult or electing to stay in his hotel room rather than playing electronic games with teammates into the wee hours of the morning.
He has a list of who's who "role models" that include Ronaldo, Henry, Wenger, Lampard and Messi and a few he didn't rate or revere for various reasons.
The role models part doesn't sit too comfortably with me because of my undying belief that is not pressure others should be saddled with.
However, like a well-timed cross in the engine room, McVeigh acknowledges his father was his earliest mentor and remains one to this day.
Aptly, in his final chapter he reveals always having a plan for life after soccer.
While the beautiful game remains a passion, he says: "... all of my lessons may have been collected during a career in sport but if I had opted for a different profession - a plumber or a postman, a brain surgeon or a barrister - then I would have collected the same ones."
Anyone, especially youngsters, unable to read this provocatively titled paperback will be poorer for life's lessons.