Big Chiv: My Goals in Life is the new autobiography of Tottenham legend Martin Chivers. The former England striker tells his life story to former NME journalist and longtime Spurs fan Paolo Hewitt, for whom Chivers was a boyhood idol.
The story starts in Southampton, where Chivers grew up, learned to play football and eventually signed for the local club.
Chivers soon broke into the Southampton team and scored plenty of goals in the second division, which alerted Tottenham to his presence.
Spurs signed Chivers for £125,000 and in doing so, broke the existing transfer record. This is where the story gets really interesting for Tottenham fans, as it profiles Chivers career at Spurs and tells the tale of his difficult relationship with Bill Nicholson.
For those younger Tottenham fans amongst us, who can’t remember Nicholson’s time in charge, it’s easy to think of him as a kindly old man. In truth, Bill Nick was as tough as old boots and stood for no nonsense from his players.
The main source of tension between Chivers and Nicholson was the fact that the management didn’t feel that the gifted striker was aggressive enough and questioned his work rate. Nicholson and his coach Eddie Bailey made life hell for Chivers, in a bid to rile him into a response.
That wasn’t the laid-back Chivers’ style though and tensions grew, even during the period after Chivers returned from a serious injury, to score goals galore at Spurs and become one of the most feared marksmen in Europe.
The book gives a balanced view of Chivers and Nicholson’s disagreements. Though Chivers felt at the time that Nicholson was too hard on him, he later grew to understand why he did it, even if you still don’t get the impression that Chivers necessarily thinks that he was handled in the right way.
It also includes a brief interview with Eddie Bailey, who gives his verdict on Chivers. It’s interesting that Bailey claims that: “What he wouldn’t do – and what drove us crazy – is take the bayonet into the den.” In using a military term to describe Chivers’ faults, he highlights what must have been a major problem at the time. Nicholson and Bailey both served in the second World War and so their attitudes must have been at odds with the relaxed vibe of the late sixties/early seventies.
Happily, the relationship between Chivers and Nicholson ended on a high. After Nicholson had resigned from Tottenham and Chivers had signed for the Swiss team Servitte, the two became friends. Perhaps because Chivers never had the acceptance of Nicholson as a player, he was more inclined to continue to seek it after their respective careers at Spurs had ended. That Bill Nick was happy to extend the hand of friendship at this time, proved to Chivers that the years of abuse were nothing personal. You don’t get to become a managerial legend without upsetting a few people.
The book highlights a successful period in the club’s history and there are some very entertaining anecdotes involving the likes of Jimmy Greaves, Mike England and Alan Gilzean. This was an era when football wasn’t as professional as it is today and footballers were not nearly so well remunerated. It would do a few of the modern players a favour to read this book and see how lucky there are. I don’t suppose that there are many professional footballers who would these days devote their afternoons to a decorating business, as Chivers and a pal did whilst playing for Southampton.
In terms of style, the book doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. It’s an easy read and tells the story of Chivers’ life in an orthodox fashion, but praise must go to Paolo Hewitt for digging deep and getting Martin to be frank, open and self-analytical. It is this that elevates Big Chiv above many similar biographies.
The final chapter is devoted to Bill Nicholson and his death in 2004. The book ends with the speech that Chivers delivered at Nicholson’s memorial service at White Hart Lane in 2004. I’m sure that I wasn’t the only Spurs fan to read those words with a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye.
Buy Big Chiv: My Goals in Life here at almost half of the recommended retail price.