Reviewed by Rob Sawyer

Football and How to Survive It is the title of the second instalment of Pat Nevin’s memoirs. Its 2021 predecessor, The Accidental Footballer, covered his unplanned move into the professional game with Chelsea (having been spotted as a part-timer at Clyde) and, subsequently Everton. One of Colin Harvey’s four big buys in 1988, Nevin enjoyed many good times at Everton, but found himself at a club in a painful transition, coming up just short in the hunt for silverware. The book concluded with the Scottish forward being overlooked by incoming manager Howard Kendall and making a loan move to Tranmere Rovers permanent in 1992.

The new memoir picks up with the author enjoying the happiest times of his playing career – on a par with his first couple of seasons at Stamford Bridge. Looking back, it seems bizarre that an international player at the peak of his powers was dropping down a division, but the 28-year-old Scot was happily settled with his wife in Chester and found Prenton Park to be a refreshingly happy environment to ply his trade, after the tribulations of his last 18 months with the Toffees. It helped that Rovers were embarking on a remarkable period – getting to brink of promotion to the top flight, twice, and playing a brand of attacking football that would draw neutrals to their Friday night games. 

Pat Nevin at Tranmere Rovers

Pat Nevin at Tranmere Rovers

There was no shortage of Everton connections at Prenton Park – former Toffeeman Johnny Morrissey Jr. played on the opposite flank to Nevin, while the squad was superbly, if eccentrically overseen by Johnny King. A wing-half at Goodison in the 1950s, before becoming a legend across the water, King possessed a sometimes bizarre, but effective, turn of phrase. He also had assembled a formidable unit for minimal outlay – adding ace marksman John Aldridge to the squad in 1991. 

Article continues below video content

This idyl would be broken by illness and death impacting family, friends and a clubmate, and the gradual realisation that his young son Simon was ‘different’ in some way. Getting a diagnosis of autism - and the right support network – for Simon took on (to use Nevin’s phrase) Kafkaesque proportions in those less informed days (spoiler alert: Simon is now happily employed as a bus driver for schoolchildren and follows Hibs. His sister, Lucy is now a doctor). Duped into becoming PFA Chairman, Pat got to see Gordon Taylor’s master-negotiator skills at close quarters (picking up a few tips which would prove useful a few years down the line) and getting to spend a glorious evening with one Edson Arantes Do Nasciminto.

This section of the book covers some ground touched on his Pat’s book – In Ma Head Son, a collaboration between with psychologist George Sik (it transpires that this had been slated to be called Football and How to Survive it) – but goes into more detail and has the benefit of hindsight. As at Everton, a change of manager heralded a falling out of favour – on becoming player-manager John Aldridge sidelined the Scot. A phlegmatic Pat returned to Scotland - a long-held ambition - with Kilmarnock. This brought adjustments and no little success on the pitch, but broken promises and directorial high-handedness – not a rarity in the sport – saw Nevin leave for Motherwell.

Pat Nevin in the 1990s

Left: The Nevin family in 1994; Right: Pat of the Rovers

Nevin family in the 1990s

The Nevins in the late 1990s

An unconventional football career went to a new level when the forward was appointed player-CEO of The Steelmen. An acquaintance had acquired the club and had a ‘project’ - to coin the oft-used phrase - to make Motherwell the third force in Scottish football (behind the omnipotent Auld Firm). It created the interested dynamic of Nevin having the power to fire manager Billy Davies, should he so choose, but he could be dropped from the first team by the manager. By his own admission, the good-natured author - who had never planned to have a life in football – found the ridiculous demands of being a CEO to be to the detriment of family (wife Annabel bringing up the children almost single-handed) and social life (there is little in the way of gig-going – although each chapter title is a nod to his musical tastes). 

Pat Nevin at Everton

With strong values installed by his parents (he is not beyond poking fun at his own earnestness, acknowledging the wit of the ‘St Fxxxxxg Patrick’ insult thrown his way), Nevin admits to being ill-suited to swimming in the shark infested waters of football administration and the media coverage of it. What transpires is a story seen many times – including in this parish of L4. The new owner/benefactor’s bold ambitions would, in time, be ‘recalibrated’, with the financial tap being turned off. Nevin describes the furious round of adjustments, player sales and cutbacks made to please the finance men. It was exhausting, demoralising and ultimately fruitless in keeping Motherwell out of administration. 

The book ends with Nevin, walking away from active involvement in the game – and able to rediscover a better work-life balance through enjoyable work for several media channels. The final passage is a touching tribute to his father, who followed his career everywhere it took Nevin, in England and Scotland.

Understandably, there are only fleeting references to Everton in the pages of the book — Howard Kendall, Duncan Ferguson, John Spencer, Tony Thomas and James McFadden make fleeting appearances — but this eminently readable memoir, gives a wry and illuminating insight into the machinations of the national sport, both on and off the pitch.

Football, and How to Survive it, by Pat Nevin, is published by Monoray. An Audible version is available. Pat is currently doing a tour, speaking about his new book.

Reader Comments (25)

Note: the following content is not moderated or vetted by the site owners at the time of submission. Comments are the responsibility of the poster. Disclaimer ()

Gerry Morrison
1 Posted 16/06/2023 at 19:37:17
I always thought that Pat Nevin was a class act. Glad to hear that he survived being a footballer, and came through it in one piece.
Barry Rathbone
2 Posted 16/06/2023 at 20:02:06
It's like everything in life it's about your own perspective.

Personally speaking, I've always worked on the premise if you have a roof over your head, pay your own way and enjoy reasonable health, you're miles ahead.

Millions on the planet barely exist; we are lucky to live in the west in this age when such attributes are almost a given. Footballers are among the luckiest of them all but don't always get it.

Lee Courtliff
3 Posted 16/06/2023 at 20:03:35
He always reminds me of when I was a kid and first really got into football in 1989.

Everton and Liverpool both brought out new kits that summer, and they'll always be the kits I associate with both clubs as they wore them for the next 2 years. That's a long time when 8-10 years old.

Nevin, for some reason, always takes me back to that time when I was first discovering the game, buying sticker albums and the match used to be on ITV (with a fantastic theme tune that I often listen to on YouTube).

His dinked finish against United in September 1989 was absolutely fantastic and it's one of my earliest memories of the game we love.

Danny O’Neill
4 Posted 16/06/2023 at 20:51:40
I liked Pat Nevin.

A very skillful footballer and at times, a joy to watch.

It's a generation thing, but at the time, I think we saw him and were comparing him with the likes of Trevor Steven.

Similarly, Stuart McCall trying to step into Peter Reid's boots; Neil McDonald into Gary Stevens's.

Seemingly humble person and really good footballer was Nevin.

It may seem harsh, but for that all too brief period, we got used to better.

Good read. Thanks for the post.

Peter Mills
7 Posted 17/06/2023 at 07:32:37
We bought Pat too late, he came into a deteriorating team, and his form suffered following a debilitating illness.

The Pat Nevin who tore us to shreds at Goodison just before Christmas 1984, when we were a rather good team, was some player. But we had a fabulous right-winger at the time.

The first part of Pat's memoirs was a good read, so I shall look forward to part 2.

Ray Roche
8 Posted 17/06/2023 at 08:50:59
Barry @2,

Good post, Barry, it's sometimes easy to forget how lucky we are, compared with people facing unbelievable adversity around the globe.

Modern footballers are so divorced from reality that they can't or don't want to know how detestable some of their antics are to the average fan. Their gurning grids in selfies taken on private jets don't exactly endear them to fans.

I can't imagine Pat Nevin behaving like that were he in his pomp. Decent bloke, reminiscent of Baines in many ways.

Colin Glassar
9 Posted 17/06/2023 at 18:44:02
Fun fact: 99 years ago, the Chicago White Sox played against the New York Giants in an exhibition match at Goodison Park.

Chairman Bill claims to have been the Giants mascot in front of an almost empty stadium.

I love baseball since my time in America. Pity it's on so late over here. Go Mets!

Brendan McLaughlin
10 Posted 17/06/2023 at 18:50:20
Colin #9

So Bill's also lying about his age... the bastard!

Colin Glassar
11 Posted 17/06/2023 at 19:39:32
He’s been lying for years, Brendan.
Clive Rogers
12 Posted 17/06/2023 at 19:44:43
He lies about everything. He’s the Boris Johnson of football.
Neil Copeland
13 Posted 17/06/2023 at 19:59:27
Clive, or perhaps Boris Johnson is the Chairman Bill of politics!
Ray Roche
14 Posted 17/06/2023 at 20:09:00

Is this the same beaut who took the most famous person in the world at that time, Elvis Presley, for a stroll around England's most populated city, London, and no fucker saw them!!!!! 😳🤣

Neil Copeland
15 Posted 17/06/2023 at 20:10:56
Ray, Bill wasn’t that well known then….
Brendan McLaughlin
16 Posted 17/06/2023 at 20:22:16
I seem to remember Elvis playing a bit part in Coronation Street. Elsie Tanner described him as a B59, maybe it was 69, bomber.
Jeff Armstrong
17 Posted 17/06/2023 at 23:06:46
Barry #2 brilliant, Pat Nevin has and continues to have a wonderful life.

I'm sure he realises it but 2 books in 2 years is stretching it!

Don Alexander
18 Posted 17/06/2023 at 00:01:49
To me, Nevin, is now well worth listening to but when he played for us he was of such very slight build that he had a helluva lot going against him in the already developing football mania for athleticism, pace and physical stature in preference to football ability.

Reminiscing, he was nowhere even close to the blindingly brilliant winger Jimmy "Jinky" Johnson who plied his trade to Celtic and Scotland in the late '60s/early '70s. He was mesmeric, and so much so that having skinned his opposing full-back once, he would linger on the ball long enough for said full-back to regain his feet before skinning him again.

Unlike Pat though, he was utterly bonkers off the pitch.

Larry O'Hara
19 Posted 18/06/2023 at 15:10:53
Don (18).

I'm afraid my image of Nevin is beating two players and then ending up where he started. Can't say I find his lightweight commentary fawning to the media favourites interesting either…

Mark Murphy
20 Posted 20/06/2023 at 11:37:01
My image of Nevin is him being blatantly fouled at Anfield in the first of the three FA Cup games that included the 4-4. He was chopped down in the box and, as usual at that place, nothing was given.

In the end, justice was served but it cost me an arm and a leg to get to the replays from London! Amazingly in those days, I could get derby tickets quite easily.

Dave Abrahams
21 Posted 20/06/2023 at 12:00:22
Mark (20),

You can see parts of that game on YouTube. It's amazing how the referee didn't award the penalty, even more amazing he refereed that 4-4 draw in the second game. We won the third game after Dalgliesh had thrown his hand in the day after the second game.

I can't think of that referee's name, he never had a dad I know that much!!

Peter Mills
22 Posted 20/06/2023 at 12:47:15
Dave #21, it was Neil Midgeley, who became a good friend to our family a little while after those games.

I never did let him forget that non-penalty at Anfield, though.

Dave Abrahams
23 Posted 20/06/2023 at 12:59:14
Peter (22), thanks for that reminder, Peter.

You never let him in to your house, did you, Peter!!

Peter Mills
24 Posted 20/06/2023 at 13:29:21
He would have been welcome any time, Dave, he was a very nice, generous man. You would have enjoyed his company, and he would have expected and embraced the insults you would have handed out!

He passed away a couple of years ago.

Dave Abrahams
25 Posted 20/06/2023 at 13:46:46
Peter (24),

l know you so I take your word that I would have enjoyed Neil's company, he has passed away so it's too late to tell him he was a very lucky man that night, before the second game. Coming from the Park End parking lot, my mate recognised him and ran towards him giving him loads on the way. I knew my mate, an Everton fanatic, and I ran behind him and stopped him from getting physical with him. I had to drag him away from the referee who quickly ran the few yards to the gate that let him into the ground.

I hope Neil made a good act of contrition after that Anfield performance. He cheated us in that game but, after 40 years or so, I think it's time to forgive and forget!

John McFarlane Snr
26 Posted 20/06/2023 at 16:15:19
Hi Mark [20],

Everton played Liverpool four times between 9 and 27 February 1991, the first a League fixture, a 3-1 defeat, the second, a 0-0 FA Cup clash, and the third game was the 4-4 draw, followed by the 1-0 victory for Everton.

I was present at all four games, and I can add a little more regarding the Pat Nevin non-penalty, he had been denied 'two' penalty awards in the first two games, being fouled each time by Gary Ablett, both offences committed at the Anfield Road End.

Frank Sheppard
27 Posted 03/07/2023 at 06:19:31
The first book “The Accidental Footballer” is a wonderful read, with enough anecdotes in it to keep an after-dinner speaker in business for years. The anecdotes about his time at Everton include:

● Kendall too pissed to complete a team sheet,
● Extra shooting practice against Big Nev, and Big Nev being unbeatable, without actually using his hands.
● An evening with Morrissey (yes Moz of the Smiths) and Norman Whiteside.

A wonderful football read, by a wonderful footballer.

Add Your Comments

In order to post a comment, you need to be logged in as a registered user of the site.

» Log in now

Or Sign up as a ToffeeWeb Member — it's free, takes just a few minutes and will allow you to post your comments on articles and Talking Points submissions across the site.

How to get rid of these ads and support TW

, placement: 'Below Article Thumbnails', target_type: 'mix' });