Book Review: Pat Nevin’s happy accident

PAT NEVIN was a terrific player in his prime; skilful, cheeky and determined, and he also seemed to have a great attitude. He was far from the stereotypical one-dimensional footballer and this made him very much a child of his time. He was an 80s man if ever there was one, in his dress sense, his interests and his awareness.

Nevin’s autobiography, The Accidental Footballer, underlines what a fascinating and curious character he has always been. He wasn’t like any of his peers, he was eclectic in his tastes, notably his music, and dressed at the cutting edge. He must have seemed strange to his team-mates, but he’s still around today – in demand, talking sense and always coming across with intelligent views.

His book highlights everything we might have expected about Nevin. He was relatively unknown when he signed for Chelsea, although for Clyde, he was obviously highly-prized. As it turned out, Ken Bates proved to be a tougher negotiator than the Glasgow club’s Mr Dunn and Chelsea paid just £ 90,000 when Clyde were looking for half a million.

Nevin effectively replaced a Chelsea favourite in Clive Walker, announcing his arrival in a 4-0 drubbing of much-fancied Newcastle United, leaving half their team sprawling as he slalomed his way from one end of the Stamford Bridge pitch to the other.

You get the feeling Nevin’s Chelsea career might have produced more, but something went wrong across a decent squad in the mid-to-late 1980s and when, in 1988, Chelsea were relegated, he had already decided it was time to move on. It seemed the club also felt it was right to monetise their asset. It was nothing short of criminal that he did not get included in the 1986 Scotland World Cup squad, unfortunate that he never did win a major trophy, but Nevin rarely failed to entertain. Ironically, his greatest thrill seemed to be been making friends with John Peel, the legendary DJ, demonstrating that football may not have been the most compelling aspect of his life.

Football biographies are invariably disappointing, but Pat Nevin’s story is somewhat unique, refreshing and revealing. It’s an absolute must read.

The Accidental Footballer by Pat Nevin is published by Monoray.