He was an outstanding athlete excelling in cricket where he played at Essex Schoolboy level, which was dominated by those that were being privately educated (it still is). A black working-class boy from east London was as rare as hens teeth in schoolboy cricket. This gives an idea of his excellence. Naturally fast he also ran the 100 and 200 metre races with consummate ease. But football was his passion and also where the money is.
Vince is very intelligent and quickly knew that natural gifts aren’t enough in the professional game. He also had to work hard. His first manager was Malcolm Allison who brought him and a group of other very talented teenagers forward. They were going to be the team of the 80s- the golden generation but Crystal Palace didn’t have the patience to see the project through.
Vince is brutally honest about his failings. Anyone he didn’t respect he had contempt for, which included his Leeds United manager Howard Wilkinson. He entered a drinking culture at Portsmouth and gained habits which are counter-productive for an athlete. He didn’t reach the heights that everyone anticipated in 1976 but he did perform at a very sound level for a long time.
This autobiography is exemplary. It dissects the football culture of the 1970s and 80s; highlights the tragic waste of talent from poor (very poor!) training methods; and the importance of mentors. The 1966 World Cup victory was a fluke the legacy of which was sabotaged by uneducated tyrants posing as managers- this comment includes Alan Ball Vince’s friend.
Why you should buy this book: It’s brutally honest, witty and revelatory about an important era in football.
Why you shouldn’t buy this book: Anyone who cares about football will weep at the drinking culture described in loving detail.