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Book Review: The Smell of Football by Mick “Baz” Rathbone

“Oh my fucking God no, please, please no. How can that be?” I sank to my knees, barely able to take in the absolute horror of what I had just seen. There it was in bold type, the absolute and undeniable low point of my life – Rathbone: four!

Mick “Baz” Rathbone admits himself in his new book “The Smell of Football” that his career at Blues was inauspicious at best. Whilst he undoubtedly had the talent to play at a high level, the pressures of playing for the club he’d supported as a boy coupled with a touch of over-sensitivity and immaturity that meant he took the banter from the older players personally meant he never fulfilled his potential at St Andrews.

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of his book, and I have to say, it’s a good read. Football was a completely different game back then; pints of milk after training and pints of beer of evening were the norm; cross country runs were the peak of physical training and players weren’t much different from the fans who came to watch them. This is a story of how a working class boy from Sheldon went from shaking in terror at the thought of playing a ball to his idol Trevor Francis, through becoming a small town idol at Blackburn Rovers, gaining friction burns from frequent slide tackles at Deepdale, to becoming the first manager to get his team relegated from the Football League and becoming a highly respected physio at Everton.

I’m afraid us Bluenoses don’t come out smelling of roses in the book. Rathbone is quite candid in saying that he wasn’t very good at Blues, but lays part of the blame at the insults hurled at him from the terraces of St Andrews whilst still a gauche teenager. It’s something worth bearing in mind when hurling insults at the current scapegoat gracing the pitch at Blues; yes, as a fan you have the right to boo any player you wish but that doesn’t mean you should.

Thankfully for Baz, he had happier playing times at Blackburn Rovers, where he enjoyed eight years strutting his stuff at Ewood Park, before he moved onto Preston North End. He talks with fondness about life in the lower leagues, and it all sounds a world removed from the Premier League which is constantly shoved down our throats. At Halifax he became a player cum physio cum assistant manager, and he fondly recounts how much he enjoyed his role there despite there being no money, no facilities and not many fans.

Baz’s career really took off after he became a fully qualified physio, firstly working for Preston North End before following manager David Moyes to Everton, where he worked as the Head of Sports Medicine until the end of the 2010 season. My one criticism of the book is that I’d like to have read more about his physio methodology; particularly as he was such a well-liked and well respected physio – so much so that David Moyes said Baz was his “best ever signing” in 2005.

I’d recommend the book to any fan with an interest in football; Baz might not have rubbed shoulders with too many stars as a player, but his stories of lower league playing are just as enjoyable (if not more so) than reading about glory days in the top flight. I’m hoping to interview Baz at some point in the near future, and I will be holding a new competition to win a copy of his book on this site too.

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7 Responses to “Book Review: The Smell of Football by Mick “Baz” Rathbone”

  • prewarblue says:

    Mick Rathbone was vastly under-rated by Blues fans, not one of the flashy players but one who gave 100% every game [even if some were poor , at least he tried every game]

    I take it your book case is overflowing or will the prize be an unopened copy of his book,not a pre-release one as supplied to you lol

    • almajir says:

      I’m afraid it’s going to be my pre-release copy; I’m not established (or cheeky) enough to ask for a second copy to give away…

      • prewarblue says:

        I THOUGHT IT WAS TO GOOD TO BE TRUE,,,, A BLUENOSE WITH THE PRICE OF A BOOK TO SPARE,,,, RARER THAN A BLUENOSE WHO DONT MOAN ABOUT ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING,AND MOANS IF THERE IS NOTHING TO MOAN ABOUT

        • almajir says:

          You’ll be pleased to know then that the Publishers are kindly sending me another copy so I can raffle off a pristine one. Good, eh?

  • BKS says:

    I WAS PLAYING AGAINST HIM IN THE EARLY 70’S AT SIR WILFRED MARTINEAU SCHOOL,WHERE HE BROKE HIS ANKLE AT A LUNCH TIME KICK ABOUT.

  • Sully says:

    I played with Mick at school he had a big heart he never gave up.
    it hurt me when the blues fans slagged him
    I. Now Live in America and wonder what happend to him?
    As I have not see n him on the Everton bench

  • […] Rathbone: Your chance to ask the questions As you may be aware, I was given the chance to review Mick “Baz” Rathbone’s new book, and as part of it, I’m going to be asking […]


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