There was no way I was not going to enjoy this book, as it combines three of my favourite things… Christian faith, football and autobiographies. I remember Gavin well from his playing days but somehow had missed the part of his story after he retired from football.
For the sports fans there is plenty of football background offering a glimpse into the way the system works, as well as background on some of the many other great players that Gavin played with. As ever, there were a large number of people around him, players and managers, who helped shape his career, most notably his father.
Gavin offers an honesty about his faith which seemed to come about so naturally. He focuses on the positives and it is not a book that in any way “dishes the dirt”, which is wholly right. I am sure there were more difficulties and persecution than he is letting on, but he has the good manners and diplomacy to leave it be.
Gavin takes plenty of opportunity to offer his thoughts on how the world can be a better place, especially some of the values he sees as key to his upbringing, that may now be lacking more broadly across society, to its detriment. There are disciplines that create success in the elite sporting world, as well as the Christian faith, that can have such a life-changing impact.
I enjoyed reading about the many players the Gavin played with and against – there were some real characters around in that era. His observations on what made the players great holds a lot of truth – yes, talent, speed and strength are important, but to make a truly great player the physical skills need to be coupled with integrity, determination, resilience and respect.
These traits then carry through to all aspects of life, with lessons learnt on the field being equally valid off the field.
Gavin comes across as being well-balanced, as a footballer as well as an individual. He is humble and full of praise for other players, rarely mentioning his own great achievements or glory moments. He is clear that the glory was not for him, but to God.