Iwan Roberts has been a cult hero at more clubs than he’s had teeth knocked out be defenders, but only just. His all-action, give-everything-for-the-shirt style has had the terraces from Watford to Leicester and Norwich rocking to the chant of ‘Iwaaan, Iwaaan’.
Now, after 18 years as a professional footballer, this is his diary of his final season with Norwich City – the club where he arrived an overweight ‘waste of money’ and left a ‘living legend’ with a championship medal in his back pocket. And what a season! It’s all here, from the great goals and the missed sitters to the dressing room bust-ups and the celebratory pub crawls. All I Want For Christmas… is an honest and touching insight into the day to day life of a top footballer, but more than that it’s ten months in the company of a great bloke.
“Breezy, candid and surprisingly moving. Proof that good football books don’t have to be complicated, different or focussed on big stars. Sometimes being honest, thoughtful and well written is enough.”
Four Four Two
“It deals with the momentous events of a remarkable season. But most of all it’s about Iwan – and that is reason enough to wallow in every page.”
Mick Dennis, Daily Express
“Read, laugh, cry, enjoy…”
Delia Smith (Norwich City Director)
FOUR FOUR TWO MAGAZINE
***** (four stars out of five)
There is a lot of awful football literature, and diaries of seasons rank pretty highly in the hall of shame. Footballers, after all, live a fairly monotonous existence, plodding through training to matches to training to matches, with the odd injury, run-in with a fan and tedious practical joke thrown in. That is what is remarkable about Iwan Roberts’ chronicle of last season – the thought of what a car-crash of a book it could have been. What if Norwich hadn’t won the Division One championship? What if Roberts’s contract had been renewed? What if he hadn’t gone through the trauma of having a malignant melanoma removed from his arm? But they did, it wasn’t and he did, and the result is a breezy, candid and surprisingly moving account of one of football’s journeymen struggling to come to terms with the fading of the light, his dejection at the ending of his career all the more plangent for being set against Norwich’s end-of-season celebrations. Roberts himself comes out of the book well. If there is a suspicion that he wasn’t quite so understanding of his persistent omission from the team and the eventual decision to let him go as he makes out, there can be no doubting the sincerity of his devotion to his family and his terror at the cancer scare.
One minor act of vengeance on Kevin Muscat aside, this is not a book of revelations – although the amount of alcohol and fast food Roberts gets through is probably enough to make most people feel they lead relatively healthy lives.
But that, perhaps, is the point: this is the ordinary life of an ordinary footballer. As such, it should make most fans feel more sympathetic towards the people whose wages they pay.
It’s proof that good football books don’t have to be complicated, different or focused on big stars. Sometimes, being honest, thoughtful and well-written is enough.
This irrepressible account, in diary form, of Norwich City’s 2003-04 promotion season is a rollicking good read. If it doesn’t make you at least smile, then it’s time to seek counselling. It is aimed at the same audience as Eamon Dunphy’s classic Only A Game? Whether it is as good as that is debatable but it’s certainly knocking on the door.
Gills365 Verdict: ***** (five stars out of five)
All I Want For Christmas… is the fascinating and endearing diary of Norwich City’s Division One Championship-winning season as seen through the eyes of striker Iwan Roberts. It has added significance to Norwich fans as it also turned out to be Iwan’s last season at the club where he had enjoyed seven great years.
Co-written with former editor of FourFourTwo magazine, Karen Buchanan, ‘All I Want For Christmas’ takes you through Iwan’s, and Norwich’s, season in diary form. In these days where we read about Premiership footballers getting involved in all sorts of questionable behaviour, it’s hugely refreshing to read about a bloke who simply loves his job, loves the game and loves his family.
Iwan’s obvious commitment to his profession and his family is a running theme throughout the book, which is why I’m slightly upset at the adverse publicity Iwan has received in the press surrounding this book. Yes, he did admit to stamping on Kevin Muscat, but it was an isolated incident and you have to take those comments in context with the rest of the book. Iwan Roberts is a model professional – to still be comfortably good enough to play Championship-level football at 36, he’d have to be. Unfortunately, the media stories relating to the charges levelled at Iwan suggest that his book may be one written by a footballing thug. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
In the book, we read of Iwan’s dedication to his profession: his disappointment when left out of the team, the delight when he’s in – and the elation when he scores. But this is no big-time Charlie. When he’s not running himself into the ground for his club, he can be found on the touchline of a local park, watching his son play boys’ league football, or in the cinema with his wife and/or his kids. His relationship with the fans comes across as being extremely important to him too.
The book ends on a bittersweet note, with Norwich winning the title, but with the news that Iwan would be leaving the club. By the time you get to the emotional end of the book, you’ll feel a real affinity with Iwan – and are rooting for him to sign off in style.
I finished the book wishing Iwan all the best for his career – and then realised that not only did he find another club to play for, but he found MY club. Having seen ‘Iwan the player’ on the pitch and having now read about ‘Iwan the person’ off it, I can say that I am extremely pleased to say that he is part of my team.
He was clearly deeply sad to leave Norwich, a club that he describes in glowing terms. Norwich comes across as a real family club, where everyone gets on well and works hard together. Now the next chapter in Iwan’s career is at our club, Gillingham. If anyone is in doubt about Iwan Roberts, I strongly suggest you read this book. You’ll be left in no doubt that we have signed genuine quality – both as a player and as a man.