There may be a plethora of sports books being released this winter ahead of the festive season, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a punchier publication (and yes, we’re including Mr Fury ) than that of the autobiography of Premier League great Andrew Cole (Andy, to people who don’t know him).
‘Fast Forward’ is a thoroughly enjoyable, by-the-numbers account of the former striker’s life and career in the form of just over 300 swift pages, that makes it almost as easy to dash through as Cole did to English football defences. Cole was a fixture of the Premier League’s most formative years, a potent presence leading the line for two of the biggest rivals in the mid-90s, in first Newcastle United’s gung-ho gang, and then as part of the Manchester United Treble-winners.
Twelve years since finally retiring, lest we forget this is a man who remains the EPL’s third-highest all-time scorer, and required Sir Alex Ferguson to smash the British transfer record to bring him to the Theatre of Dreams in 1995.
It’s a no holds barred affair, with Cole unabashedly describing his perpetual problems with other people throughout his career: a teacher who a young Cole was stopped at the school gates from confronting. George Graham and Pat Rice virtually curtailing Cole’s chances of becoming an Arsenal legend. Going AWOL on Kevin Keegan in the north-east. Teddy Sheringham.
“I was adamant that the problem hadn’t been caused by me,” becomes a recurring theme.
But Cole succeeded not just because of his exceptional natural skill (he infamously hated training), but the abundance of self-confidence he possessed. His fearlessness was clear on the pitch (proven by that enormous goal tally) and away from it. He was unafraid to walk away from Nottingham Forest, Arsenal in his earliest years that could well have led him down a different path. The route trodden led across England to some of the recognisable football sides in the country, arguably reaching his apex when he scored 24 goals as Man Utd claimed the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League.
Importantly Cole’s career crossed the boundary of the more workman-like predecessor of the First Division to the Premier League, but where racism and discrimination raised their ugly heads more prominently, but often without widespread counteracting and condemnation, that needs remembering with a voice as honest and straightforward, no-nonsense as the son of Jamaican immigrants who reached the very highest level of success, and who now reaches the reader as thick and fast as one of his pulsating shots.
Fast Forward - Andrew Cole, The Autobiography, Hodder & Stoughton, £20.