It’s not fair that such a shining example of healthy, young humanity should be afflicted by an awful disease like MS, but Tom is not one to sit at home and bemoan his condition. Self-pity is not his style. He’d rather be making use of his abilities and the skills he picked up while studying for his journalism degree, and doing something positive.
The result is What dreams are (not quite) made of: No fame, no fortune just football … and Multiple Sclerosis, Tom’s newly published account of his life in and after football. Naturally, it majors on his time at the Abbey, where he was welcomed at the age of ten having shone in his hometown of Mildenhall. But it will also interest readers in places like Northampton, Leytonstone and Bury (Lancs, not St Edmunds), where he ground out the rest of a career that – thanks to ill fortune, poor management and too many spells on the physio’s table – never achieved what it had promised.
It’s engagingly written – no ghostwriter needed here – and pleasingly frank. If he thinks a training schedule was badly planned and executed, he’ll tell us, and he’ll name the guilty party. And we’re treated to a cutting assessment of the homophobia, sexism, racism and childishness of football dressing room culture of his time – a culture in which Tom never felt comfortable. Let’s hope more enlightened views prevail today.
He’s unflinching in addressing the MS issue and the ramifications for his family. Tom, his wife Chelle and their daughters do not know what the future holds, but it’s certain that, whatever happens, they’ll face it head on and in a positive frame of mind. This most articulate of men has done those who research, work with and live with MS a great service – and given the rest of us, football fans or not, a cracking read.
What Dreams are (Not Quite) Made of: No Fame, No Fortune, Just Football ... and Multiple Sclerosis is published by Vertical Editions (Skipton) at £14.99 (hardback).
One of Cambridge United’s most popular players returned to the Abbey on Saturday, August 6 to tell of the challenges he faced in football and those he is dealing with now.
Tom Youngs, who joined the U’s as a ten-year-old in 1989 and appeared 180 times for the first team between 1997 and 2003, launched his book What Dreams Are (Not Quite) Made Of at a 100 Years of Coconuts Q&A session after the home game against Barnet.
Tom told a packed audience about his multiple sclerosis diagnosis in 2014, and gave an insight into what the future might hold for him. By way of contrast, he delighted his listeners with tales of his career at United, picking out some of his highlights and favourite teammates.
He finished by proclaiming United supporters to be the best he had ever encountered, and assured the audience that playing at the Abbey was an uplifting experience – except for visitors. The crowd could be incredibly loud, he said, and their support gave players an advantage over their opponents. Scoring at the Corona End (he scored 43 times for the U’s) was an incredible experience, he added.
After the Q&A Tom signed copies of his book for a queue that took nearly an hour to die down. Already benefiting from appreciative reviews, the hardcover book retails at £14.99 – watch out for a Coconuts review, coming soon, It can be bought through the usual channels, online and on the high street.
As can be gathered from its subtitle (No Fame, No Fortune, Just Football ... and Multiple Sclerosis), Tom deals with the experience of living with MS as well as the highs and lows of a life in football ("the best job in the world").
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