Bryan Cooney, Sunday Herald
No matter how detailed and forensic the writer, it’s almost impossible to complete an autobiography without making some unpardonable omissions.
These faux-pas take up residence in your conscience and persecute the hell out of you. For this reason, I am signing up to this admirable project, intent on righting a grievous wrong.
After 66 fiery and fluctuating years on this planet, I decided to commit my lifestory to history. Thus, Fingerprints of a Football Rascal was recently released on Amazon Kindle.
It’s a (hopefully colourful) melange of my career in sports journalism – from being a racing sub-editor on the Press & Journal, Aberdeen, to becoming head of sport at the Daily Mail in London.
It chronicles the mayhem of my young life: the wild drinking and aberrant escapades precipitated by the lunatic lotion; the driven nature of my (almost) alcohol-free later life. The narrative is punctuated by my associations – and disagreements – with some of the sport’s biggest names.
Now, Eddie Thomson wasn’t what you call a major name, but he was a leviathan for all that. I met him up in Aberdeen, where he played for the local professional football team. I was working for the Scottish Sun at the time.
We became friends, which might have been considered a dangerous game for him to play considering I was an ambitious journalist, hungry for revelation. If the word ruthless had been attached to me, it would not have contravened the trades descriptions act.
Eddie’s brand of ruthlessness was normally confined to the field of play. One day, he phoned to say he’d had a contretemps with one of the Dons’ youngsters in training. Irving Allan, I believe, was his name.
The said Allan allegedly had pushed the ball through Eddie’s legs a couple of times, and had been advised that this was an impertinent act not to be tolerated again.
Allan, apparently, eschewed the warning and essayed a third nutmeg. Retribution arrived instantly: he was punched to the ground by his humiliated opponent. The latter was sent off the field by the then manager, Jimmy Bonthrone, and went away to consider his future.
He later downloaded his disaffection to me. I rewarded this confidence by splashing the story all over the back page of The Sun. Memory insists that Eddie was not best pleased. It was not prudent to displease him.
He was too big to carry grudges, however. Not long afterwards, I was attending a grab-a-granny session at the local Palace ballroom. My affection attached itself to a lady who was being squired by an infamous local hard man.
It was an illogical act and the lack of logic was quickly demonstrated. Her beau intimated that he was going to take me apart in a manner depicted in Wild West saloons.
That he did not owed everything to my friend Eddie Thomson. He stepped in front of me to form an impromptu human shield. The aggressor was told that he would have to negotiate a way around Eddie if he wanted to reach me.
The thug, being aware of the footballer’s impressively macho reputation, backed off respectfully. And, having lost at least a stone in perspiration, I thanked my saviour profusely and went off to renew my search for a more accommodating partner.
Eddie Thomson emigrated to Australia when his skills began to wane, and he both coached and managed the emergent Australian national team. We met briefly when he came to this country on business. His hair had turned fashionably grey, but his friendly demeanour was still in place.
He died from Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2003.
I met many footballers and managers during my career but never attempted to form close associations with any of them, as I implicitly believed that it would be hypocritical to befriend someone whom you would surely disappoint one day.
Eddie Thomson taught me that. He was my friend. I only regret I forgot to remember that fact when it most mattered.
Bryan’s autobiography, Fingerprints of a Football Rascal, is available on Kindle here