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In Review: Match Fixer

Filed: Wednesday, 17th February 2010
By: Staff Writer

Neil Humphreys
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"The smaller Chinese guy grabbed Chris' arm just above the elbow. He hated being touched. You're not in Dagenham now Chris, he reminded himself."

Match Fixer is the first fictional work from Dagenham-born author Neil Humpreys, who lived in the Far East from the mid 90s until three years ago when he upped sticks once again and left for Australia, from where he penned his latest tome.

Having spent so long in Singapore he is perfectly equipped to pen this sordid tale of drugs and debauchery which, whilst on the slightly short side at under 300 pages is an engrossing tale that centres around the kelong (ie corrupt) S-League (this is however reflected in the price, with Amazon currently offering the book for just 5.90 at time of writing).

Chris Osbourne is a West Ham United youth academy product who failed to make the grade in the Premier League. Following a brief, unsuccessful stint with Melbourne Victory in Australia's A-League he ends up in Singapore playing for the fictional Raffles Rangers FC in an attempt to kickstart his floundering career - where he inadvertantly becomes embroiled in a tale of illegal gambling, bent bookies and bribery.

Led astray by his duplicitous colleagues and girlfriend Yati, the naive Osbourne's stay in Singapore quickly turns into a nightmare as he is forced into a choice of keeping his peers onside (and his legs intact) or compromising his integrity - all of which makes for a thrilling climax as the end of the S-League season approaches with his team in pole position to win the title.

The book, although fictional, contains many very real characters; Osbourne's favourite footballer is former team mate Carlos Tevez, whilst David Beckham is often mentioned as a ex-opponent of the odious Danny 'The Spear' Spearman, a fat, bloated, cocaine-snorting former professional footballer who made his name in the lower echelons of the Football League before finding fame as a TV pundit in the Far East.

Indeed there are many references to the Irons - not surprising given that Humpreys grew up around the area (his brother Nick is a teacher in Chadwell Heath, according to the author's Wikipedia entry). Even (the fictional) ex-England full back Trevor Bonds, who turns up to assist Spearman with his soccer schools is clearly a reference to two of United's favourite sons.

Regardless of whether you are a Hammers fan or not (and chances are that you will be if you're reading this review!) Match Fixer is a great little read well worthy of the RRP, let alone Amazon's reduced price which makes it a virtual steal.

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