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Dec 2, 2013

Killa: The Autobiography of Kevin Kilbane

Kevin Kilbane had an admirable if unspectacular career with -- among others -- Wigan, Sunderland, Everton and Ireland.
Kevin Kilbane had an admirable if unspectacular career with -- among others -- Wigan, Sunderland, Everton and Ireland.
Rating:

The publishers have spent the last few weeks telling us what books we should buy for Christmas. There is a slew of showbiz memoirs, a new Bridget Jones, complete with granny pants but minus husband, and more football related stuff than you can shake a stick at. Harry Redknapp and Sir Alex Ferguson's stories caused a bit of controversy and had lots of readers; Kevin Kilbane's will fail on the first count and probably the second as well.

I watched him when he was at Sunderland and agree with his assessment that it never worked for him at The Stadium of Light. He also agrees with me that the principal reason for that was that he wasn't Alan Johnson, a mercurial winger who had fallen out with Peter Reid and who was on a loan tour of the Championship. Kilbane came in, did a job for Sunderland, but moved on -- and that pretty much sums him up.

Starting out at Preston North End, his home town club, he moved on to West Brom, Sunderland and his League career probably peaked at Everton, where his former Preston teammate David Moyes had rescued him from a desperately disappointing season at Sunderland and, after a couple of years, moved him on to Wigan.

After that, there were spells at Hull City, Huddersfield Town, Derby County and Coventry City, where he ended up sporting a beard and where he finished his career after a spat with a Coventry fan who thought it was acceptable to criticise Kilbane by involving his Down's syndrome daughter.

The best part of the book is the way that he tells the story of the birth of Elsie and the struggle that he and his wife had in coming to terms with the fact that she had Down's syndrome. He describes his emotions and feelings which, for a man involved in the macho world of professional football, is not always an easy thing to do.

Since Elsie's birth, he has raised money for the Down's Syndrome Association in both the UK and the Republic of Ireland and he comes across as a thoroughly decent man who would be great company in a pub where he could tell you the ins and outs of life at Sunderland, Everton and in the Irish camp when the Mick McCarthy/Roy Keane spat took place in 2002.

Unfortunately, you don't get much of an insight beyond who said what to whom and how the fans were great. The football side of the book is rather bland and inoffensive and nobody comes in for a great deal of opprobrium from Killa. He looks for the best in everyone and maybe that is not a bad way to lead your life. But it won't sell many books.

As a Sunderland fan, I wholeheartedly agree that his time at The Stadium of Light was disappointing. But he never goes beyond the usual stuff about who was a joker in the dressing room and who were the lads to have a drink with. Why didn't it work out? Was it the coaching? Was it the manager? Was it down to the fact that everything had to go through Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips? He doesn't tell us.

It's the same when he comes to deal with events in Japan. He acts as an observer rather than a commentator. Surely he must have views on what happened -- if he does, they are not in this book.

He comes across as an ordinary guy; life has had its ups and downs for him and he has coped with them pretty well, as have thousands of others. If you want a read that will give you an insight into the characters of Peter Reid, Mick McCarthy, Roy Keane, Giovanni Trapattoni or David Moyes, then this isn't the volume for you.

Nice guy, shame about the book.