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The true story of Mr Unbelievable


It was the kind of moment, were it to occur in a dream, that would have most football commentators waking up in a cold sweat. You are in your position, the action unfolding in front of you, the voice from the studio is cueing you in with news of a major incident in the game... and you haven't a clue what he is talking about.

Of all the tricky spots to be landed with, few could be more embarrassing. Except, that is, if you are Chris Kamara.

If you are Sky Soccer Saturday's roving buffoon it doesn't matter at all.  In fact, it is something almost to relish, as Kamara discovered after presenter Jeff Stelling asked him about the player just sent off in Portsmouth's match against Blackburn earlier this month.

Stelling's information was entirely correct. Pompey's Anthony Vanden Borre had indeed been shown a red card, for a second bookable offence -- only Chris had managed not to notice. Cue raucous laughter from the studio panel.  For Paul Merson, Matt le Tissier and co, it was manna from heaven. If there is fun to be had, they'll have it -- and nothing makes more fun than a classic Kamara gaffe.   The YouTube clip has attracted more than 1.5 million viewings.

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Kamara loves nothing more than a bit of good-humoured banter, even at his own expense, and no one laughed more loudly as Stelling attempted to bring him up to date, although he subsequently explained that there were extenuating circumstances and that an inherent risk of facing camera with your back to the play, especially with driving rain forcing you to find a sheltered spot at the back, is that you will miss some critical incident.

But it is moments like this, as well as his tendency to preface every description with the words 'it's unbelievable, Jeff', that have turned the former journeyman player and moderately successful manager into the cult figure of today.

And now you can not only watch but read all about them, and a good deal more about his life, from his tough upbringing in 1960s Middlesbrough, through his career as a rugged defender and careworn manager to his present status as the star of many an armchair football fan's Saturday afternoon.

Mr Unbelievableis published by HarperCollins and will be in the shops from April 29th.  To order a copy, click on the text link or the illustrated link at the top of this piece.

For more on Chris Kamara and more football, visit The Sports Bookshelf Shop.

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