We’re delighted to announce the autobiography of former United player and friend of Talk of the Devils John O’Kane.
A technically gifted defender who always seemed to have time on the ball. John was an ever-present in the side that won the FA Youth Cup in 1992 playing alongside the likes of David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Nicky Butt. He stayed in the team the following year as United were runners-up before being picked for the first team’s summer tour of South Africa, following their first league title in 26 years.
John made his debut in a 2-1 League Cup win over Port Vale in September 1994 and became a fringe player for the next three seasons as United won back-to-back league titles and an FA Cup. He witnessed the club’s resurgence at close quarters and played a part in it, notably featuring in a 2-0 FA Cup win at Sheffield United that is remembered for an exquisite Cantona chip and the ‘You can’t win anything with kids’ game, a 3-1 defeat at Aston Villa on the opening day of the 1995/96 season. He also played around a hundred games for the reserves.
After loan spells at Wimbledon, Bury and Bradford City. John left the club in 1998 in search of regular first team football which he found for a while with Everton, playing regularly in Howard Kendall’s side which stayed up on the final day of the 1997/98 season. He later moved on to play for Sam Allardyce at Bolton Wanderers, then Blackpool before finishing his career and rediscovering his love of the game as captain of non-league Hyde United.
In his book Bursting the Bubble: Football, Autism and Me, John gives a fascinating insight into life at United in the nineties – including what it was like sharing a room with David Beckham in digs, incredibly talented players who didn’t make it, training ground initiations and run-ins with Fergie, meeting Nelson Mandela and the impact of Eric Cantona, being subbed after half an hour on his European debut and knowing his time was up, as well as his love for the club and opposition to the Glazer ownership.
He reveals his battles with autism and mental health in a brutally honest account of his life in the game. Going into detail on the unglamourous aspects of being a professional footballer – the regimented lifestyle, what’s it’s like to be frozen out by managers, dealing with pressure, how perceptions can be different to reality and what made him quit the game at the age of 28 – in the same summer his former roommate Beckham signed for Real Madrid.
John describes the relief of leaving football behind and how he found peace and happiness in having a family, whilst working ordinary jobs in the building trade and as a teaching mentor to vulnerable children in the care sector. A world away from the bright lights of Old Trafford.
Featuring contributions from friends, former team-mates and managers. This is the untold story and searingly honest account of the Class of ’92 member who could have gone all the way and battled demons and perceptions to have a career in the game. Achieving far more than most, but who ultimately was destined for a life outside of football.
Bursting the Bubble: Football, Autism and Me is set to be released in September and is now available to pre-order from Empire Publications for £10 as part of a special offer. Link will be posted in the comments below.