Portrait of an Icon started out as an idea to fill a Monday afternoon shift, and a way of Sarah Winterburn agreeing to satisfy my urge to write waffly, navel-gazing prose. The first in the series was on Dennis Bergkamp and published in October 2015, and both Sarah and I had no idea how long the feature would last. I certainly had no notion whatsoever that it would eventually become a book.
The third portrait in the series was Sir Bobby Robson, and I included a link to the Foundation at the bottom of the piece. For those who aren’t aware, the Foundation was set up by Sir Bobby in 2008 after he was diagnosed with cancer for the fifth and final time, and relies completely on third party, volunteer fund-raisers and the incredible generosity of the general public. It’s aim is to fund and find new ways to treat and beat cancer.
Lady Elsie, Bobby’s three sons Paul, Andrew and Mark, trustees, the football community and committed Patrons including Alan Shearer, Niall Quinn, Steve Gibson, Delia Smith and Mick Mills help to continue his wishes today.
In that portrait I mentioned my grandfather, Jack, who was my last direct familial connection to the north east. Jack loved Bobby Robson, using him as the exemplar of decency that he felt had been lost in modern football, with all its bells and whistles. Jack lived less than a mile from the Ramside Hall Hotel in Durham, where Sir Bobby also regularly enjoyed taking lunch. Sadly in June 2015, four months before that portrait went out, Jack passed away.
Something about losing a direct connection to the north east and the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation clicked after that Sir Bobby portrait was published, and pretty much from that point I decided that I wanted it to become a book. It was never my intention to make any money out of the project, but instead create a great product at as low a cost as possible in order to make the Foundation as much money as possible.
I am indebted to my publisher (Ockley Books), illustrators, editors, proofers and printers all agreeing to work for no profit, thus keeping the costs low. I am delighted to say that the book will be sold at £13.99 (plus P&P), and that £10 from every copy is going directly to the Foundation.
The book will also only be sold through the publisher’s website in order to keep costs low. Selling through Amazon (who take their own significant percentage of sale cost) would simply cut too much into the Foundation’s money, and I wasn’t prepared for that to happen.
Portrait of an Icon contains 58 of the greatest names within football’s recent history, every one profiled in their own short chapter. There are eight book-only Portraits (including Pelé, Arrigo Sacchi, Diego Maradona, and Pep Guardiola), a foreword by Jamie Carragher, and illustrations from the likes of Dan Leydon, Steve Welsh, Stan Chow and more.
So is this a begging letter? Yes. Is this a guilt trip? Yes. Portrait of an Icon has taken hundreds of hours of time and effort. It is almost 400 pages and 100,000 words long and looks beautiful. The only organisation or person that make any money out of it is a brilliant charity doing brilliant things.
If you have enjoyed any, some or all of the portraits on Football365 for free over the last two years then I urge you to buy the book and to get friends, family and work colleagues to do the same. We don’t ask you for much other than unending loyalty and occasional patience, but we are asking for this.