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Archive for February 2012

Book Review: The Didi Man


Tuesday, February 21, 2012 by

First off, a confession: I don't like biographies.  In particular, I don't like player biographies.  Too often they're pretentious, ego-massaging,bank account boosting exercises in self-promotion that offer little in the way of genuine insight.  Unless, of course, you consider tales of lads' nights out or those of puerile banter as falling under the category of insightful.

It is for this reason that I tend to avoid biographies especially those of players I like. Because just as it is said that you should not meet your heroes for fear that reality tarnishes the image that you might have built of them, so too (perhaps even more so) biographies because you might realise just what sort of person they are.

So it was with something approaching reluctance that I approached Didi Hamann's biography.  As a player, Hamann wasn't as visible as Robbie Fowler or Steven Gerrard but that didn't mean he went by unnoticed.  Particularly when he didn't play, as happened in the 2005 Champions League final, when the team clearly missed the defensive balance he brought to the side.

The fans certainly appreciated him and the feeling was mutual: when his career was over, Hamann opted to stay on Merseyside rather than return to Germany.  So there was a lot to like about him, and that was something that I didn't want to ruin.

Thankfully, there was no need to worry.  Hamann does talk about the people he met at Liverpool as well as recount some very colourful stories of his time in England.  He certainly confirms the rumours of him being at the heart of most pranks that took place at Melwood. But there's also a lot of thought here.

Unlike many others, he underlines the importance of Gerard Houllier in restoring Liverpool's status as a top side. He might not always have agreed with him, and he states this, yet he still manages to talk repeatedly about what was good about the French manager.  You're left in no doubt that certain aspects of Houllier's management style will be adopted by Hamann himself.

His analysis of the problems of the English national team is among the most incisive I've read, one that should be picked up by those at the FA.  There's his appreciation and admiration of Giovanni Trapattoni, who won him over by his desire to teach irrespective of whether the players in front of him where first teamers or reserves with little chance of making it.

Most of all, there's his wonderful assessment of Rafa Benitez whom Hamann ultimately defines as a genius.

And whilst the tales of his pranks are admittedly funny, the real entertainment is provided by the strength and clarity of these views in a book that will leave you not only with a greater knowledge of Didi Hamann as a player and a man but also with the ability to better appreciate the game of football.

Full disclosure: a review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.