Authorial envy isn’t something I’ve ever really suffered from, though occasionally I come across a piece of work so magnificent, it makes me wish I could’ve tackled the story myself.
One such story did exactly that. Rewind to August 2014, Emirates Stadium (or The Grove, as diehards prefer), for the launch of Stuck in a Moment: the Ballad of Paul Vaessen. Having remembered Paul from 1980, when he headed Arsenal into the Cup Winners’ Cup Final with a priceless goal away at Juventus, his name occasionally cropped up in my mind. In days well before the advent of social media, Paul seemed to simply fade away from the world of football, begging the question: what the hell happened to the dark-haired boy from Bermondsey with the world at his feet?
Stuck in a Moment answered my every curiosity in superbly illuminating fashion. From his early days as an apprentice, through his rise to fame and, at times, horrifying descent, this book has it all. In spite of the many inspiring stories of people overcoming addictions, Paul’s, unfortunately, isn’t among them. Tragically, he died before the age of 40, just as he’d predicted, a world away from the pampered excesses of today’s Premiership stars.
What helps makes Stuck in a Moment such a compelling read is author Stewart Taylor’s ability to plant you slap, bang in the middle of Paul’s world, to share his considerable highs and lows; though, sadly, there were far more of the latter beyond Turin.
I briefly explored the possibility of writing a book about Paul, but Stewart had already started work on his story. I can’t imagine anybody doing a better job, with a William Hill Sports Book of the Year longlisting and British Sports Book Awards shortlisting testament to its brilliance, and I gladly settled for a screenplay adaptation, in the hope of bringing Paul’s life to the big screen.
Poignantly, Stuck in a Moment will be republished in paperback on April the 23rd, to coincide with the night that both made and, ultimately, broke Paul. It really is one of the finest stories I’ve ever read and, as one online reviewer so correctly put it: ‘Amazon should add an extra star for books this good’.