World Book Day: Steve Bruce tackles murder, kidnapping and football

Steve Bruce
Steve Bruce - the man behind fictional football club Leddersford Town

Almost every footballer out there has their own book these days. You know the drill - the obligatory autobiography telling of great victories and what makes them tick on and off the field.

However, plenty of footballers have also ventured deeper into the literary world.

On World Book Day, we take a look at a handful of those players and managers - and one wordsmith in particular - who put pen to paper on something other than a contract or the standard tell-all tale.

Steve Bruce - mystery man

No-one has achieved the cult fame of a trilogy of novels allegedly penned by Newcastle United boss Steve Bruce.

We say "allegedly" because during an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live in 2016, Bruce's son Alex said his father did not write the books, only to later take to Twitter to state that he did, after allexternal-link.

The three books - Striker!, Sweeper! and Defender! - tell the story of Leddersford Town boss Steve Barnes who somehow juggles managing a top football club with solving crimes surrounding murders, kidnappings and missing players.

Over the years the books have generated a fair bit of interest online with reviews aplenty. The 1990s football podcast Quickly Kevin, Will He Score? dedicated three episodes to the novels, allowing comedian Ivo Graham and regular podcast presenters Josh Widdecombe, Michael Marden and Chris Scull to deconstruct the books in minute detail. The episodes proved so popular that the podcast created and began selling Leddersford Town replica shirts and mugs.

"It was a long time ago, and I'm not sure I want to be reminded of how bad they were," author Bruce told Eurosport in 2013.

"Just because I got a GCSE in English, I thought I was going to be the next Dick Francis. It didn't make any contribution at all to anyone's income.

"It became a laughing stock, to be honest. I think they're probably still on the shelves somewhere, and I bet you could probably pick one up for 99p," he added.

Actually, Bruce is very wide of the mark on the price of the books. It seems you can no longer purchase Sweeper! or Defender! However, if you have a spare £1,000 and go to Amazon, Striker! is all yours. Seriously.

The cover of the book Striker! by Steve Bruce
Striker! by Steve Bruce

The big question is, will Bruce dust off his typewriter and begin writing again in the future? He was asked this by Sky Sports in October last yearexternal-link and his answer was as decisive as Steve Barnes cracking a case: "No, have you read them? Go and read them and you'll understand why."

Kids' stuff

Not everyone ventures into the murder mystery genre. There are millions of children's stories to be told and sold - and a number of footballers have dipped into the market.

In 2014, Frank Lampard teamed up with the Premier League and National Literacy Trust to pen a series of books called Frankie's Magic Football.

In Lampard's stories, Frankie comes up against a variety of foes he has to beat at football, including archenemy Diego, who seems to be based on Jose Mourinho.

Theo Walcott also wrote his own series of four children's books starting with T.J. and the Hat-trick, while David Beckham released his own appropriately titled tome The Mystery of the Golden Ball.

It featured fictional footballer Michael Blade who, as well as being "a soccer hero playing in the games of his life", just happened to be "a secret superhero fighting in the battles of his life... for the lives of everyone". Busy boy.

There's still time for someone to snap up the rights and adapt that one into a Hollywood blockbuster.

Until then we'll just have to make do with Harry Potter.

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