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Released in 2006, for me this book marked a total change in cricket biographies and not one I particularly like. In the past at the end of a distinguished career and following a few years to really think about their achievements and place in the game, great players released Autobiographies, this along with about 6 other books was released after Englands first ashes victory for a number of years in 2005, despite the odd controversial comment about players still in the game, Flintoff hasn´t had enough of a life to justify an autobiography yet, we miss his later problems with injury, further ashes failures and the pedalo incident in this book, I also feel it would be interesting now to hear his views when he isn´t quite as close to the situation or the players, what will he do with his future, how will life without playing cricket affect him. Unfortunately, despite being a nice guy and a good cricketer, this reads like a boys own adventure rather than a frank, intelligent read similar to Shane Warne´s outstanding Autobiography. We learn that Flintoff was nicknamed Freddie, that he has always had problems with his size, that his injuries often relate to his bulk and size and that he has a constant fight with injuries and has celebrity mates in Ricky Hatton, David Beckham etc. The best bits are when he concentrates on talking about his cricket, as Flintoff is clearly a smart cookie and a player with the potential to be a coach, but this dwells too much on the facile and needless elements of his career. I like the guy but I feel this follows the footballer stereotype of writing about a life before it has really matured, with Botham, Warne, Waugh etc we get the chance to understand what life away from Cricket means to them, similar with Atherton and Hussain but this book is too soon and feels dated because of it, lost in the mid 2000´s, a further book would now be pointless as Flintoff hasn´t really moved on from the Ashes win apart from being a team captain on some needless Sky One quiz. The book is available in paperback for 6.69 on Amazon and a lot less on Marketplace, it is needlessly 336 pages long, over half of this is padding and whilst it is good to know what Flintoff thinks of the Indian captain or Murali Muralitharan or Shane Warne, or Pietersen, it would be more interesting to hear those views now from an utterly new perspective. This isn´t a good book and has opened the door for ridiculous autobiographies like the 22 year old Alistair Cook´s and marked a sad day in cricket journalism for me.
I have met Andrew Flintoff twice, both times when I was writing a piece for Northamptonshire Cricket Club. The first occasion was quick banter in the car park, whilst the other was asking some proper questions at a 50 over game against Lancashire at Northampton which would be his only domestic game in 2006 because of his England central contract commitments and his lucrative benefit year, raking it in after his Ashes heroics the year before. I asked him some stuff between the innings and he mumbled some laddish answers and then was gone. But the real let down was his refusal to sign autographs for the kids after that only game. He stayed in the dressing room having a beer and then got his driver to park the car around the back so to dodge the kids and do a quick exit, some swanky benefit gig more important. At the start of the year to help boost his bumper benefit Freddie said he would give half the money he raised to charity if he passed one million quid, which he easily did, but failed to give the other half to charity, by all accounts, accounts yet to be inspected as the tabloid press have yet to turn on the boozy all-rounder. If we fail in the Ashes I think they will. He can be a bit immature and certainly tired of the Botham comparison, a rare cricketer who can get test hundreds and five wicket hauls. But he never did get near Bothams records as injuries and booze continue to curtail his career, similar demons for the likes of Steve Harmisons and Mathew Hoggard. The northern bowlers just love to go on the lash and party and only this week Freddie once again missed the plane after a late night, although having him wander through a field of poppies at Flanders is perhaps not a good idea with a week to go to the Ashes. But he's 31 now and as Freddie says in his book:' I got one not out in my first ever innings as a schoolboy and I would take that now', his form that woeful of late with the bat as the Ashes arrived. You can never question his heart with the ball but it's that bravado on wanting to be the man with that same ball that has worn away most of his cartridge and tendons, this, his last Ashes series in England for me. The greedy ECB play too much international cricket to keep their salaries high and the broken down Flintoff is the result. -The early years- There's not much about his childhood in the book other than an honest northern working-class upbringing and strong parenting, his dad a decent club cricketer in the Lancashire leagues...Freddie getting into the game that way, soon rising through the ranks of the various age groups and then a trail and second eleven contracts with Lancashire. He was also rising through the England age groups at the same time, at 17 that early talk of him being the next Botham. In the Under 13s he played alongside Phillip and Gary Neville, no less, both England class cricketers back in the 80s. Considering Freddie's often brainless behaviour he was also Preston schools chess champion when he was aged just eleven! The beer began to flow on second team games for Lancashire, the game very different back then, Freddie recalling Ronnie Irani and Ian Austin rolling a barrel on to the team coach as they headed to a game down south, something Freddie could match Botham at. But it would be runs and wickets that would go down well with the Lancashire members, not ale, Flintoff showing his credentials early by taking 34 runs off one over at Surrey in a first-class game, still a world record. That form would earn him his England cap at just 20, a one-day international his prize after three straight hundreds in the championship. But his test career didn't start so well under club and England captain Michael Atherton, a pair at Headingly against the Springboks and two more ducks in the same summer. His poor fitness and love of the ale was blamed for the run of poor scores and he was returned to county cricket, his coach, tough Aussie Bobby Simpson, also less than impressed with his off field activities, calling him a c**t to his face in his office for a one word motivation session on how not to waste an immense talent. But in 2004 it began to click for England and Fintoff as they won series after series, including a record seven straight test wins for England during the double slaughter of New Zealand and the West Indies, culminating in that amazing 2005 Ashes series, hence this book. When Glen McGrath stood on the ball and missed the second test it completely changed the series and the rest is history, Pietersen and Flintoff the hero's amongst many. Intriguingly KP is hardly mentioned in the book, the tension between the two well documented, Flintoff believed to be behind Pietersen downfall as England captain. -The Conclusion- Never buy books from prominent sportsmen under 30 years of age and still playing, this even worse than Monty Panesars seminal drudge. Understandably books were rushed out after that dramatic 2005 Ashes series to cash in but that doesn't mean they were going to be any good. I personally read it to get an insight into Flintoff as part of my work but it's not worth more than a reference point to people who love the game, strictly only for cricket fans. I can not think of one single reason for biography fans in general to buy this. The bulk of the book is statistics and match information over any intelligent comment or gossip, Flintoff 'bigging himself up' at every opportunity. Its match after match, injury after injury, filler after filler...For some reason I have never been fan of Freddie and this book is another reason why. What's charismatic and brave for some people in their sports hero's is yobbish and bigheaded to me and by reading this book I was hoping to change that. That was not the case, this a very lame cricket biography if you consider the image and achievements of the man.