This book is a remarkable addition to the sports biography/autobiography genre and is on most "best soccer books" lists. It's Tony's story told to Paul Kimmage so it is besides the point, but one could perhaps call it either a bio or autobio. Cascarino was a very good player but certainly is not generally looked at as one of the greats of the game say in the same way, we might see a book on Cristiano Ronaldo, Steven Gerrard, Pele or David Beckham. It may well be that he is an easier personality for the average reader to relate to. Tony Cascarino served the Ireland National Soccer Team however very well. He had an up and down career in the United Kingdom, played well for the most part at Gillingham and Millwall, spotty at Aston Villa and Chelsea but could not repeat that playing in Scotland at Celtic where indeed he underachieved. Health factors enter into the picture as well as the competitive nature of the game. Though earning 88 caps for Ireland by the end of his career, he found his professional career on the decline in Great Britain, so as a late bloomer in the '90s, he made a move to France where he did excel playing for Marseilles and later AS Nancy.
What sets this bio apart from others is Cascarino's frank talk on his career and personal issues, marriage and fidelity, pain killing medicines, becoming an aging player which at times can be funny when he talks about such things as using hair color. But don't worry, there really is not anything in here that might raise one's eyebrows, it's not a seedy story but rather innocent, largely humorous and only the facts on this player who at times, had a bit of a vagabond existence. For the record, his "infidelity" involved him meeting and eventually marrying a younger woman. His first wife with whom he had children with was from Great Britain, Tony is a London product after all. The thing is, is in some ways, it makes sense, life in France for Tony was a total rebirth and in that, not condoning it, he ended up meeting another woman.
I find it intriguing that Cascarino really did come up a bit the hard way and with a few breaks here and there. He once got a trial at Arsenal where hundreds of other youngsters were trying out the same day. Some chance, huh?? So, 'Casc' played in the very lower leagues of England, the Kent League, one that is basically off the chart and seems to be a largely local, maybe even semi-pro recreational type of league but with a bit of happenstance he made it up to Gillingham. Still, not quite up there with the Manchester Uniteds, so I admire him for the career he constructed and his persistency. His "other career" as a hairdresser was when he was uncertain as to his future and makes for more fun reading.
Cascarino played for the Ireland team that made the quarterfinals in the 1990 World Cup. This is interesting as well along with many other matches, qualifying matches and his relationship with 'Gaffer' ( Manager) Jack Charlton and other Irish players. 'Casc' got 88 caps playing for Ireland from 1985 to 1999; really a long international career. This book bounds with fine insights into that career too. Unfortunately, Cascarino was injured during the 1994 World Cup held in the USA so there was no playing time for him here, all the same, he spends some holiday time in Florida that summer. Perhaps, that would have really upped the total amount of international 'caps' (games) he played for Ireland if we had not been denied seeing him due to injury in the 1994 USA World Cup. So insightful are Kimmage and Cascarino that they discuss how Cascarino once roomed with a big name high salaried player from Ireland, Stapleton and basically poor Tony was slighted being treated in a condescending snobbish manner that would anger many and the reader can surely relate to Cascarino. There are other stories like this. One might pause on reflection on the Roy Keane/2002 Ireland team debacle leading up to the World Cup but that is another player and issue, yet, for all intents and purposes, it's always rubbed me the wrong way how Roy Keane, the "world class player" treated his team. For all this type of malarky, it is rewarding to read how Cascarino became a real ace over in France and this was not until 1994 and he began his professional career in 1981, quite a lapse of years showing what a late bloomer he was before reaching surely some of the best form of his career, he scored 61 goals in 84 games for Olympique Marseilles one of the France's perennial best and one time European Champion and later on at (AS) Nancy. The fact is, Cascarino could have even continued his playing for years to come, granted, with an aching body but he signed a contract for a lower level team that in the end, was a contract he did not feel like fullfilling once into the season and after properly reneging on it, called it a day on his career.
And lastly what is always talked about concerning Cascarino, was whether he was really legitimately a bona-fide "Irishman"? I've never found any problem with this at all. But one can read on the ins and outs on the issues of his "Irish" heritage. As this book abounds in humor, it is interesting to read that 'Casc' was not awarded an Irish passport early in his career but once well into playing internationally, was given one with flying colors by the Irish government. The Fifa rules had changed making it mandatory for all players to have a passport for the country they played for. Though this might sound a bit odd, consider that an American of Irish heritage could qualify for playing for the Republic of Ireland and all the same would need to gain an Irish passport following the international soccer body FIFA's rules. Obviously Cascarino is an Italian surname and he was born in England. Even some profiles on him do not make it clear as to how he was able to qualify for Irish citizenship. Cascarino's grand father was Irish according to his own logic and that's good enough for me. Elsewhere, there seems to be little question that he was eligible for the team. I just know I saw him on the pitch in a green jersey. Cascarino, Paul McGrath, Patrick Bonner, Steve Staunton and more, Tony was part of a great international team.
Now, one can find his views of the game, sometimes controversial at the Timesonline news site as a pundit. The co-author of this book Paul Kimmage of course, is a famous writer in his own right, the author of the "tell-all"Rough Ride: Behind the Wheel With a Pro Cyclist. That book has no relation to this story except Kimmage's writing style suits the whole smooth, fast-moving, honest and interesting style we read in this book.