Baz Rathbone is probably the only writer who can turn being sacked by his closest friend in football into a funny story.

But that's just how The Smell of Football 2 opens, the former Everton physio's follow up to his best-selling and accolade-laden The Smell of Football.

And Baz has achieved the rarity of producing a sequel which is even better than the excellent original.

Godfather 2? The Empire Strikes Back? The Smell of Football 2 is subtitled: "The Next 11 Years - and 10 Teams" and it grips you from the opening one word sentence.

What makes the work so memorable is its deft combination of gags and anecdotes with a poignant and familiar thread.

Running through a wonderfully paced and beautifully crafted memoir is a theme which has dominated literature for time immemorial.

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Baz reflects on man's (one man's - his own) perpetual fight to turn back the clock, a poignant battle to remain relevant in a young man's world.

And in a wonderfully uplifting finale, Baz does just that.

You'll have to read the book to discover how.

But first that start which sounds like an end.


"I just got sacked by my best friend (that sounds like a tag line from a Jeremy Kyle show).

"I stumbled down the stairs, shaking my head in disbelief.

"I closed the external door of Everton’s Finch Farm training complex and climbed into my E Class Mercedes.

"My head was spinning. Wow, what a totally unforeseen, unpredictable, shocker that truly was. That was not supposed to happen. In fact, what the hell did just happen?

"My hands are visibly shaking. Calm down, breathe, regain control. That’s better. Count to ten. Fucking hell, count to a million, more like.

"I am in a state of shock.

"When I left my home this morning, for what was destined to be my last working day at the club, I had a completely different scenario in mind.

"This was absolutely not supposed to happen.

"Sit down, relax, deep breathing, regain control. That’s better.

"Pull yourself together, and slowly start to piece together the sequence of events from probably the most traumatic 45 minutes of my entire football career (and I have had a few of them).

"My mobile phone started to ring. It was Marouane Fellaini.

"Well, he can f*** off now, I suppose. I won’t have to worry about him randomly going back to Belgium without permission and getting me in bother with the Boss.

"The Boss? But he’s not the Boss now, is he? Well not my Boss anyway. He’s just David Moyes, or even Dave, or Big Davey, even ‘Moyesy’, now.

"And I suppose that if he is just David Moyes now, then I must just be Mick Rathbone – unemployed Mick Rathbone LOL. That’s what they say now, isn’t it? LOL - laugh out loud. I don’t know whether I should be lolling or not. I never got sacked before, well, except at Halifax.

"Calm down, get a bloody grip. Sit back and recline the seat.

"Switch the radio on, find some soothing music. How ironic: ‘Go Your Own Way’ by Fleetwood Mac!

"And breathe. That’s better. Smell the leather and relax. I love this car. Shit! I suppose the car will be going as well.

"Pull yourself together. Stop rambling.

"How could a plan go so spectacularly wrong?"

What happens next makes for a rollicking read which is even more endearing and entertaining than the original.

But given the success of The Smell of Football, why did Mick 'aka Baz' Rathbone want to attempt a difficult second album?

"I want to be considered a good author - someone who can write a good book," Mick explained, his eyes ablaze with the enthusiasm of a man much younger than his 63 years (a statistic which doesn't concern him any more after an experience with Willie Donachie on the edge of a volcano in Montserrat).

"Someone asked me the other day which book I prefer, and I'm going to say the second one because the sequel is so much harder.

"There are only a handful of sequels which can match the first one and I'm probably prouder of the second one."

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Then in typical Baz Rathbone tradition, he dives into a story straight from the canon of Baz Rathbone anecdotes - about how his outlook on life changed in a dentist's waiting room.

"When I worked at Nottingham Forest I always considered myself to be weak as p*** and basically a moral coward," he added. "But something changed my life.

"I took a lad to the dentist - because obviously a player can't go to the dentist on his own could he? That would be out of the question!

"To be fair he was Spanish and I can speak good Spanish. So I took a player to the dentist and I was sat in the waiting room and there was a magazine which, written on the back, had something which would change my life.

"It said 'bravery is not the absence of fear. It's the ability to overcome that fear.' I realised then I wasn't chickensh*t. I was actually a really brave guy who had overcome all his demons and fears.

"In that 10 minutes waiting for a Spanish guy to get his teeth done I changed my whole perception of my life!"

And Baz decided to relate his experience - his journey (a phrase he hates) - in a follow up work.

"That book was cathartic," he added.

"The experience of "Smell of Football" was amazing. To go into a shop and see your book on sale....

"One time I was away with England Under-17s and we had a camp in Cambridge. We went to see the beautiful architecture .... well, the mall for the lads, then we stopped at a Starbuck's which was next to a massive Waterstone's.

"I went up to the top floor and there it was on a massive table, about 30 copies of my book, and funnily enough right next to it was a similar table with Alex Ferguson's new book!

"The doc took all of his down, put them under a cupboard and put more of mine out!

"I've always been interested in art, literature and history and I've always fancied myself as being able to write a really good book.

"But I thought I had a story to be told as well. The first book was great and brought me great personal satisfaction - but no wealth!

"But those accolades meant so much. For people to say it was well written and that it was like a proper author had written it.

"Then 11 years later I'd been to all those different clubs and experienced all those different things. I started to feel a distance from the new stuff in football.

"And I thought there's a hook for the second book. I spent a lot of time over it because I wanted it to be well received.

"I didn't want it to be a crap version of the first. So I went to the expense of having it edited and I really like it."

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So will everyone who enjoyed his first - as will new converts to his brisk, breezy writing style - and his inexhaustible fund of laugh out loud (LOL) stories..

But amongst the amusing anecdotes there is pathos, too.

Baz worries about one of his former clubs more than most.

"Everton does concern me," he admitted. "I try not to wear my heart on my sleeve. I never played for Everton but I worked there and I knew on my very first day how big it was. I went in and thought 'I'm at Everton Football Club.'

"Everybody went home in the afternoon and there was just me at Bellefield. The training kit was light blue and I remember going for a run in that little gym with the mirrors.

"I ran 10k and I remember looking in the mirror, and seeing MR on the light blue tracksuit and thinking 'Oh my god! I'm the head physio at EFC and it was almost like a seminal moment in my life to think how far I'd come.

"So I do care very much about Everton. I keep in touch with a lot of people there and I ask all the time what's going on and it's nothing to do with me, except for that I have a lot of love for the club because I worked for them for 11 years. I really like the people there.

"I know it's a cliché that Evertonians are born not manufactured but I'm having that. It's true.

"I never played for them. I played for Birmingham and was born by Birmingham's ground, I was physio for Preston and played 300 games for Blackburn but Everton, I don't know what it is, it's more than a football club. I feel it, you feel it."

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That love shines through in the book.

And on a return to the club after Farhad Moshiri had invested heavily he details exactly how he felt.

"And what of the club itself? It had changed - a lot. Not for the better, in my opinion.

"It had fallen into the trap of becoming a typical modern Premier League club; multi-millionaire owner with a trigger finger, regular managerial changes, investing tens of millions of pounds on players who weren’t significantly better than the ones they already had.

"Anybody who has read my last book, and knows me, knows that I do not like to criticise and do not take cheap shots, but Everton had lost a bit of its soul - a bit of its identity. Probably just like most other top-flight clubs, awash with money.

"The people who shared our table were ecstatic. With tears in his eyes, one of them said to me: ‘Now we finally have the backing to make Everton great again!’

"My reply now seems prophetic. ‘Be careful what you wish for,’ I told him. ‘Everton is already great, and always will be great. You have a club steeped in history, bonded into the local community like no other, and owned by a man who has been a diehard, lifelong, true fan for over 50 years.’ There is a soul and a feel to Everton that I haven’t experienced anywhere else. It is a special club. Almost a religion.

"And now? It’s a modern club, that hires and fires regularly, allowing no possibility of any manager having time to really get to know and understand the place. A seemingly scattergun approach to recruitment, based on the principle that if you keep throwing enough money at it, eventually something great will happen."

It hasn't. Yet.

But there have been great moments - including one wonderful cameo from a man Baz got to know well during his time at Goodison.

"It would be the man - the legend - who replaced him that would become the real story. Step forward Duncan Ferguson! A stroke of genius by the club. The perfect fit. Nobody understands this club like Duncan.

"Cometh the hour, cometh the man (William Shakespeare?).

"And, like the flick of a switch, all the passion, energy, pride, and fury - yes fury - returned.

"Everton FC and everything that it stands for, was reborn - overnight.

"He took over in early December and took five points from three very tough games. He steadied the ship in terms of Premier League survival, but, more importantly, he did it with a style and charisma that nobody else could have.

"He reconnected the club with the fans. He reconnected the club with its employees! He would come into our medical room and chat to the lads. He would sit with us in our restaurant and talk about the good old days - usually linked to taking the p**s out of me.

"He recounted the story of my very first day at the club, back in August 2002; he was working out in the small gym at our old training ground. The players were watching out for my arrival through the large windows. They saw me pull up, on that hot day, dressed in my double faded denim, complete with yellow checked shirt.

"They waited until I had crossed the car park, and was stood, looking extremely tense, in the foyer. Duncan then shouted out (so that I could clearly hear): ‘F***ing hell, lads, have you seen the new physio? It’s Bob the f***ing builder!’

"I remember hearing that exclamation, my knees turning to jelly, and wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into.

"Great days. Great memories.

"I then recounted the story of my very first home game in the Premier League for the club; it was about 15 minutes before the kick-off. The lads were nervous and the dressing room quiet.

"A few of the lads had come over to me and told me they had a few niggles, sore groins, ankles etc - a usual manifestation of those pre-match nerves. Thanks lads.

"One of the foreign lads then told me to keep an eye on him if he goes down - and stays down - because it might be cramp or simple time-wasting.

"Another lad mumbled to me that he felt a bit unwell so keep an eye on him, if he has to go down - and stay down. Another one nodded and informed me that his hamstring felt tight and if it didn’t improve, he would have to go down - and stay down - too.

"F*** me.

"Then Big Dunc stood up, in the middle of the dressing room, and at the top of his voice, and in that impenetrable Scottish brogue - and a clear dig at these wilting violets - issued this unforgettable proclamation: ‘Baz, if I go doon and stay doon, get on as quick as ye can and bring everything ye got, son. Because if Big Dunc stays doon it’s because he’s f***ing deed!’

"Ha ha, a brilliant story, and even better told with my perfect take off of his voice.

"Duncan Ferguson metaphorically put his arms around the kitchen staff, the ground staff, the gatemen, the stewards, and made them all feel important again. He brought the smile back to the club."

The Smell of Football 2 will bring a smile to your face, too.

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