It Oozes Class Like An Essex Night Out – Manchester United Legend Rio Ferdinand’s #2Sides Reviewed
Rio Ferdinand had over a decade at the top of the game with Manchester United, while he also captained England in a career which yielded 81 caps. #2Sides is Ferdinand’s autobiography. We review the defender’s book.
If you are someone that lives by first impressions, you are unlikely to even reach Harry Redknapp’s cliché-bingo foreword. There is the hashtag title, blinged out in silver; there is the 1990s modelling cover photo, Rio Ferdinand looking intense in a navy T-shirt against a pure white background; and there is the hilariously large font, allowing his thoughts to somehow pass the 250-page mark. It all oozes class like an Essex night out.
But persevere because, while there is little groundbreaking about #2Sides, the former Manchester United centre-back is certainly not shying away from the big issues. There is a full chapter on his brother Anton’s racism case, which offers controversial insight into the actions of John Terry, Ashley Cole, Roy Hodgson, Sir Alex Ferguson, the FA and the Kick It Out campaign. While Ferdinand’s personal vs political argument gets a little scrambled in places, he gets his side of the story across and emerges as a man of honour who is ‘still not convinced he [Terry] is a racist or was even being racist’.
The other juicy topic, of course, is David Moyes' disastrous stint as Manchester United manager last season. In a chapter entitled ‘The Nice Guy’, Ferdinand's story is considered and diplomatic and therefore a little difficult to accept as gospel. There is respect for the Scot’s work ethic and ambition but the key problem was ‘the different mentality: Moyes sets us up not to lose whereas we’d been accustomed to playing to win every game’. Although most will focus on a petty complaint about chips, Ferdinand’s talk of mixed messages, unnecessary innovations and a wavering philosophy confirms a number of suspicions.
As annoying as the hashtag is, the title proves remarkably apt. #2Sides is a real showcase for Ferdinand's Jekyll and Hyde make-up. There are interesting, well argued sections on Liverpool’s failure to win the Premier League, Wayne Rooney’s best position, Ferguson’s managerial style, England’s wasted generations and Manchester United’s tactics in both Champions League finals against Barcelona.
Readers will also find pieces on the youth of today, the dangers of retirement and the FA’s ‘reactive rather than proactive’ policy. ‘The Premier League is completely detached from the ideas and the vision of the FA and vice versa’, Ferdinand remarks. He lacks the eloquence to sustain these bigger arguments, so David Winner’s scattergun structure keeps things ticking over nicely.
But Ferdinand being Ferdinand, serious opinion is balanced out by a good old bit of banter (look for the exclamation marks!): ‘If I’d been a striker, you’d never have shut me up. I’d have been box office!’ – #2Sides is littered with the self-confident claims of the full-blooded male.
About Sven-Goran Eriksson’s affair with Faria Alam, Ferdinand makes the Richard Keys-esque remark, ‘I bet he was throwing her all over the gaff!’. He ends his discussion of injuries with, ‘Being the man I am, I coped – no problem!’.
Readers will recognise this Ferdinand from Twitter and that wonderful TV show where he ‘merced’ his England team-mates. Just the other week, Ferdinand was facing an FA charge for a witty comeback to a troll’s abuse.
#2Sides brings together the contrasting elements that make Ferdinand such an engaging but also frustrating character. He has the stature and intelligence to make a real difference in the game, as part of Greg Dyke’s FA Commission, for example. And yet simultaneously, he is building a commercial brand (‘5’), based around a social media image that needs maintaining. As retirement looms, this will be an increasingly difficult balancing act. For now, #2Sides is a comprehensive look at the player, the man, the career. ‘What would you be if you weren’t a footballer?’, ‘What’s on your pre-game playlist?’, ‘Who’s the best player you’ve played with?’ – you’ll find these answers here and many, many more.
For more reviews, follow football book buff Matt Oldfield @OfPitchandPage on Twitter.