x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

I'm Not Really Here: a footballer stopped short of the limit

Paul Lake, a promising young football player for Manchester City two decades ago until his knees gave out, looks back on his short-lived career and his struggle to adapt to life outside the sport.

I'm Not Really Here: A Life of Two Halves
Paul Lake
Century
Dh72
I'm Not Really Here: A Life of Two Halves Paul Lake Century Dh72

The subtitle of Paul Lake's memoir I'm Not Really Here: A Life of Two Halves is remarkably apt. The author was a promising young footballer for Manchester City two decades ago, when the club was cash-strapped and compelled to look towards homegrown talent. Lake was the brightest of City's youthful stars until a succession of injuries forced him into retirement.

The mention of his name is sure to make many middle-aged City fans go weak at the knees - Lake was a wonderful player - and the first half of this book provides a nostalgia-soaked jog through football in another era. Indeed, its early pages are peppered with dressing-room tales and, inevitably, precious little insight.

It is only as Lake's knees give out in 1996 that his feelings unravel. He was "injured, isolated, frustrated and skint", he writes. Life has become easier since, but not that easy. His body remains fragile, prosthetic knees beckon and, when they give out, there is the possibility of spending his old age in a wheelchair. All this acts as a reminder that professional football is not without risk as well as often handsome rewards.