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Read All About It..........................................Book Review

THE DOOG (David Harrison and Steve Gordos) (Know The Score books, £18.99)

22-05-2008

Derek Doogan

The biography of former Wolves and Villa star Derek Doogan reviewed by Dave Woodhall.

Derek Dougan was one of the most controversial footballers of all time. Best known for his time with Wolves, he was also a top-class goalscorer with Blackburn, Villa, Peterborough and Leicester and Northern Ireland.

The trouble was, he was just a bit too controversial to be remembered solely for his playing ability. And there’s no doubt Doogan was good - 280 goals in a career spent almost exclusively in the top flight, and still playing there at the age of 37.

Capped 43 times for Northern Ireland in an international career that lasted 15 years and was brought to a premature end because he put football ahead of football politics. By anyone’s standards that’s a career to be proud of, yet it tells only a part of the Derek Dougan story.

The Doog suffers from the same problem as John Peel’s Mangrove of the Marshes; the subject died at an inconvenient time. In Peel’s case this led to a part-autobiography, in the case of The Doog, he left the telling of his story to others. Not that they didn’t make a good job of it, but Dougan’s life would have been the subject of a fascinating autobiography. As it is, much of the tales contained herein remain half-empty.

There’s also the problem of fitting almost fifty years in the public eye into less than 200 pages. Messrs Harrison and Gordos, Wolves supporters and distinguished writers both, do the best they can.

Many of the incidents in Dougan's life are well covered. We read the first in-depth account of his involvement in the car crash which claimed the life of Express & Star reporter Malcolm Williams following Villa's League Cup final success in 1961.

There are accounts of the many managers Dougan fell out with – Joe Mercer and, especially, Bill McGarry amongst them. How his participation in an all-Ireland XI for a friendly with Brazil ended Dougan’s international career. Most controversially, Dougan’s time as Wolves’ chief executive under the Bhattis gets an airing.

For me, this is the most fascinating chapter of his career, as fellow directors of the time attempt the impossible by portraying the brothers in a sympathetic light. Were the Bhattis stitched up by Wolverhampton council because the town fathers didn’t want ‘foreigners’ owning their best-known asset? It’s a fascinating topic and one worthy of a book of its own.

Like his part in the Duncan Edwards Sports Clinic appeal, the authors give Dougan a sympathetic verdict here, and in both episodes he comes over as a man who let his exuberance run away with him. In sharp contrast is the chapter dealing with his relations with Wolves striker John Richards, which ended in the men scarcely on speaking terms. Richards wasn’t the only one to find Dougan a man who made friends and enemies with equal ease. Never was the term ‘likeable rogue’ better employed.

But too much of Dougan’s life is covered in frustratingly brief detail. His role as PFA chairman and his part in the freedom of contract regulations, which were an important part in the transformation of footballers from virtual serfs to staggeringly wealthy celebrities.

His time at Kettering that helped bring about shirt sponsorship being allowed in British football. The dabbling in Northern Ireland politics, work to help former players and a love life that could be charitably described as eventful.

It’s here, but leaves the reader wanting to know more. Maybe there’ll be an extended paperback?

(Know The Score books, £18.99 http://www.knowthescorebooks.com/shop/)
 
DAVE EDITS THE VILLA FANZINE HEROES AND VILLAINS http://www.heroesandvillains.info/discuss/portal.php 
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