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'My Life in Pictures' - Andrew Flintoff with Patrick Murphy

On my brother Toby's shelves sit 15 books on Ian Botham, relics of a 1980's childhood

Tanya Aldred

Available in hardback from Orion Books for £16.99 © Orion
The opening chapter
On my brother Toby's shelves sit 15 books on Ian Botham, relics of a 1980's childhood. The first page of the oldest of these, written in 1979, is spent justifying a book about a 23-year-old. Now, 25 years later, Pat Murphy begins My Life in Pictures in exactly the same way - explaining that Freddie "stands out as a genuine individual" and is worthy of biography despite his tender years, and, until recently, unimpressive statistics.
There will be snorts of derision, but Murphy has a point. Long before this summer, one when The Observer ran a story headlined "Flintoff would make world XI", Freddie had been tickling fancies, selling papers and tickets. Murphy obviously likes his subject - Freddie's lows are handled gently, and his highs with a champagne flourish - and his relationships with Steve Harmison, David Lloyd and Michael Vaughan, among others, are nicely plotted. There are hidden gems too - the story of Flintoff beating Michael Atherton at chess is a beauty.
At heart Flintoff is charmingly old-fashioned. He doesn't use the book to slag off team-mates, other than having a small pop at Sourav Ganguly. He admits he listens to Steve Wright's Sunday Love Songs, not what in Murphy-speak is the "cacophonous rubbish" of his England team-mates. He dislikes the disloyalty of football, never wants to play for a club other than Lancashire, and lives with his fiancée and newly-arrived daughter in the Cheshire countryside.
The pictures, all (bar the childhood snaps) by Graham Morris, are great. Freddie is captured miserable, happy, fat, thin and in-between, and, in an iconic portrait, waiting to bat at Colombo. A couple of him training in the hills will make a great bit of advertising for the Bolton Tourist Board. Andrew Flintoff's life has been exciting - though probably not 159 pages exciting. But as my brother loved Botham a decade and a half ago, children love Flintoff now, and will love this. And it will probably be just the first of many.
Rating: 3/5