Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Life of Two Halves

Before you click off yet another middle-aged rant, this isn't about me. It's actually about a chap you may or may not have heard of by the name of Paul Lake.

Lake is my age - 42. Twenty years ago, he was the captain of one of England's top Premier League team and about to join the full England team, as one of the most gifted players of his generation. But before he became a household name - a Linker or a Shearer - disaster struck. He ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament.

Even back then, this wasn't necessarily the end for a footballer. Technology was there to put these injuries right. But Lake received the wrong treatment and by the time he got the top surgeon, after three failed reconstructions, it was game-over. He finally retired at the age of 27. Indeed had he not stopped then he would probably have been disabled, so damaged was his joint.

I've just been reading Lake's autobiography which is called 'I'm Not Really Here - A Life of Two Halves'. Unlike a lot of soccer players, he wrote it himself, with some help from his wife. It is one of the best things I have read in a while not only because I love the game but because Lake is unsparing in his account of how long-term injury affected him. A couple of years after sustaining the injury, after many operations and curtailed comebacks, Lake succumbed, privately, to a long bout of full-blown clinical depression for which he, thankfully, in the end, received professional help.

Lake's way out of the darkness starts shortly after his career is finally declared to be over. Following a blood-curdling final operation to save the basic structure of his leg, Lake , he talks to his physios, two young women, and both suggest to him that he consider a career in phsiotherapy. Lake is naturally very bright and understands about injury. He decides to give it a go and the rest of the book focuses on his newly rebuilt life as a physio. After several years working with a range of clubs he now has his own practice in Manchester. On top of this he is an Ambassador for Man City because, as a fan and a player, the club has been the focus his life since, at the age of 7, he started going to see them with the local milkman!

The book, overall, is a story of recovery. About what happens when your life doesn't work out like you think it will. It is important to remember that Lake was soft-wired to play football, like an actor has it in their DNA to perform. He had a brief taste of what he could have been - and he was one of the best of his generation, ask anyone who knows football. And then he lost it all, possibly avoidably. His book shows us how we can adjust to a new reality and make our lives work, even when we've been driven to despair.

This sounds like a heavy book. It isn't. For someone of a similar age,like me, also from the the north-west, it is also an amusing journey through shared time. For any reader, it is a really funny - Lake has an eye for anecdote - and there's much here to warm the heart. For all of the difficult feelings Lake was, one way or another, subject to, during his period of injury and illness, the kindness of many people towards him is quite touching. Five years after getting injured, an eternity in football, 25,000 people attended his testimonial - City vs United.

In all, 'I'm Not Really Here' is a book about not about just football but all of life - so take a look if you can. It won't disappoint.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am about to buy this book for my husband's birthday, after reading your blog I think 'I' will be buying it for 'me' as well.