Booker to a T…

The Roar’s Alan Wares reviews ‘Ooh-Ahh – The Bob Booker Story’ by Greville Waterman – a funny, open and sometimes uncomfortable look into the life of the Albion’s long-time Assistant Manager.

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There was a moment during ‘An Evening With Booker & McGhee’ recently where Bob stopped himself halfway through a point he was making by pondering ‘… it feels funny, even after all these years, to call him ‘Mark’ rather than ‘gaffer’…’ McGhee, with customary lightning speed, responded ‘no, don’t call me Mark…” McGhee disarmed a potentially over-revealing moment with fine diplomacy. Booker’s unnecessary pause sought to highlight the deference, even 12 years on, in which he holds McGhee.

It was a similar recurring theme which I came across as I read through Greville Waterman’s excellent ‘Ooh-Aah – The Bob Booker Story’. Added to this is the fact that Booker, former assistant manager at the Albion under six different managers, feels humbled and grateful to have worked with each and every one of them.

Booker started his playing career at Brentford, before a surprise Indian summer was offered to him by Dave Bassett at Sheffield United. He gained legendary status at Bramall Lane; there’s a hospitality box bearing his name there. He returned to Brentford where injury finally put paid to any hopes of continuing his playing career beyond the age of 35. He joined the Albion as assistant manager in 2000.

It’s very tempting as a Brighton fan to flick through the Brentford and Sheffield United pages, and catch up with the juicy bits from his days at Withdean. To do this would be to undermine the very essence of the story, and render the reasons behind Booker’s longevity here meaningless.

We all know Booker to be a gentle giant, a clown Prince, the good cop in the rough-tough partnerships. What Waterman’s book does is to get to the heart of his subject’s personality, and to reveal what makes him tick. On so many pages, in amongst from the professionalism, the courtesy and the humour is the vulnerability, the self-doubt and the anxiety of a man who, by his own words, doesn’t feel he deserves the accolades.

Booker instead treats everyone he feels helped him along the way – family, friends and colleagues – with such good grace and courtesy. In the book, Waterman deals with the ups and downs skilfully, and with care without lingering on the worries for too long. He wants the book to be a celebration; we all do. And it is.

Booker ultimately feels very proud of his career – and so he should. If there’s one thing you’ll take from this book it’s that no matter how highly you respected, appreciated and acknowledged what Bob Booker brought to Brighton & Hove Albion during the noughties, you’ll love him even more after you’ve finished reading it.

‘Ooh-Aah – The Bob Booker Story’ by Greville Waterman is published by Bennion Kearny and is available for £12.99 from Amazon and from City Books, Western Road, Hove.

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