In Where It Hurts (Paperback edition)

In Where It Hurts (Paperback edition)

My Autobiography

Paperback Edition

By Bryan Gunn

Foreword by Sir Alex Ferguson

RRP: £7.99
Online shop price: £6.49

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ISBN: 1905326238

Format: Paperback

Pages: 368pp

Size: B Format

Weight: 420grammes

Illustrations: 32pp full colour

Published: May 2007

Broken bones, studs in the face, a seized back – as a goalkeeping legend with Aberdeen, Norwich City, Hibernian and Scotland, Bryan Gunn knew all about pain. But nothing could prepare him for the discovery that his one year-old daughter Francesca was critically ill with leukaemia.

In Where it Hurts is the candid and moving story of Bryan Gunn’s life. From a tough upbringing in the far north of Scotland, and an apprenticeship under Alex Ferguson at Aberdeen (which included regular babysitting duties for ‘the boss’), to a spectacular career at Norwich City, and a spell as Scotland’s number 1, on the pitch his career was a triumph.

Off it his world was shattered by the tragedy of losing Francesca in 1992, but her memory lives proudly on through the phenomenal success of Bryan Gunn’s Appeal, which has now raised more than £800,000 for pioneering child leukaemia projects.

In Where it Hurts is a compelling and emotional story, sometimes painful to read but often hilariously funny, that goes beyond the average football autobiography. It is the story of a great footballer, and a remarkable man.

“Shot through with sharp humour and astute observation.”
The Independent

“Most goalkeepers’ autobiographies are a dreary chronology of their saves and mistakes, but Bryan Gunn’s is different. With his new book it is the reader who will feel like dropping everything."
The Sunday Herald

“Gripping and moving… merits a place on the bookshelves of any football aficionado.”


“Shot through with sharp humour and astute observation.”
The Independent, October 2006


The Independent

October 2006

Author of a different kind of football book: Fighting back with the Gunns

In his memories of a distinguished career the goalkeeper recalls family tragedy, professional triumph and how he once flattened Fergie but lived to tell the tale

By Phil Shaw

With a surname like Bryan Gunn's, the temptation to indulge in wordplay with the title for your autobiography must be strong. We should be thankful the former Scotland goalkeeper's new book is not called Said and Gunn, Son of a Gunn or Gunny: Shooting From the Lip. There again, had he chosen something reflecting one of his myriad anecdotes, it could have been I was Alex Ferguson's Teenage Babysitter or even How to Flatten Fergie and Live.

Instead, Gunn and his publishers settled on In Where It Hurts. At first glance the title serves neatly, if unambitiously, for what the reader may assume is a collection of tales about plunging bravely among the studs of attackers, which, of course, the 6ft 2in Highlander did in around 600 matches, the vast majority for the club he now serves in the unusual role of ambassador, Norwich City.

In this story, however, the hurt referred to is the kind that cuts like a knife rather than the disappointment of defeat. But then the terms that define the key threads in the plot frequently cross over into a sporting context. Tragedy, for example. To Gunn and his wife, Susan, the concept does not include the Rob Ulla-thorne back-pass that bobbled over his foot, Paul Robinson-style, to gift Ipswich a goal. Rather it is epitomised by the death of their daughter, Francesca, before she had turned three.

Or courage. That is represented here not by the way Gunn put behind him an error-strewn Scotland debut, a 3-1 defeat by Egypt with his parents watching, but by the manner in which the family rebuilt their lives while raising epic sums for research into leukaemia, the disease that took Francesca. And though there are footballing fightbacks within its pages, resilience and defiance are nowhere better manifested than by Susan's emergence as an artist of international standing.

Which may make Gunn's literary offering sound somewhat worthy, if not dull. Like the man, though, it is shot through with sharp humour and astute observation. After chatting with him in the Norwich players' bar over high-class fish-cake and chips - well, this is Delia Smith's club - one senses these qualities were formed during an association with Sir Alex Ferguson which continues to be cordial into its third decade.

"I was his first choice at Aberdeen," explains Gunn. "But as babysitter, not goalie, unfortunately. Jim Leighton was No 1. On Saturday nights Fergie would come into the dressing-room and say, 'Right, who's sitting for me?' The others magically melted away. Being a naïve boy from Thurso, new to the big city, I got roped in.

"After a few weeks, I actually looked forward to it. Fergie paid me a tenner and his wife fed me. I also got on well with his boys, Darren, Jason and Mark. We played snooker or football. And I still had my night out on the town on the Sunday."

The relationship survived the frustration of playing the occasional big game and immediately making way for Leighton again, not to mention the night he floored Ferguson. It was 1983 and Gunn was on the bench in Gothenberg as Aberdeen beat Real Madrid to win the Cup-Winners' Cup. As the Scottish contingent leapt out on to the rain-lashed cinder track at the end, his outstretched arms sent the gaffer flying into a puddle.

"Me and Jim always suffered Fergie's elbows and kicks in training - his way of toughening us up - so that was payback time," says Gunn impishly. "I was picturing the new car I was going to buy with my bonus. As I ran on to the pitch I was thinking, 'A Ford Cortina! Yessssss!'"

The year of 1986 proved a life-changing one for Gunn, the first of a few over the next decade, and for Ferguson. In the space of a month, one left for Norwich, the other to Manchester United. "One of the last things Fergie said as I was leaving was 'You sure you want to go?' I've often wondered whether he meant 'If you don't, I'll come back for you in a month'; or maybe 'I'll be taking Jim to United and you can be No 1 here'."

Chris Woods had left Norfolk for Rangers, creating a vacancy for which Ferguson recommended Gunn. He was nursing a hangover from his leaving party when his new manager, Ken Brown, collected him and drove him, to his dismay, to West Ham to play for the reserves. From that inauspicious start, he became an integral part of the most successful side in Norwich's history.

"It was a gamble for me and the club, but although Fergie had told me to set my sights higher than Norwich, I didn't need to. We finished fifth, then fourth, and third in the first year of the Premier League, which took us into Europe where we went on to beat Bayern Munich."

Gunn remembers the 1992-93 season for more than just the results. While on a lads' holiday four years earlier, he had met Susan, then a 22-year-old with her own bridal-design business in Bolton. He proposed within 48 hours and Francesca was born two months before he went to the 1990 World Cup in Italy, again as back-up to Leighton.

"We had a charmed life," explains Gunn, using another expression often applied to his trade. "Then Francesca became ill. There was a game in the autumn of '92 at Chelsea where we were two down and won 3-2. Susan brought her to watch and I had a lovely photo taken with her on the pitch. But she was very poorly and getting worse.

"Soon after that we lost 7-1 at Blackburn. The team stayed in a bleak hotel and it rained endlessly. I just wanted to get back home. With hindsight you think, 'Why the bloody hell was I playing?' Very soon afterwards, Francesca died. She was sleeping between us. I realised what was happening and woke Susan. We cradled Francesca and cried."

Francesca would have been 16 on 11 October. Every picture they have ends when she was two and a half. Gunn's old team-mates Robert Fleck and Ian Butterworth have daughters of the same age, so when they see them they cannot help but wonder what she would have been like.

They moved on by helping to generate money for childhood leukaemia projects - £800,000 and counting - and with the help of Melissa, 14, and Angus, 10. "Nigel Worthington said when he got sacked by Norwich that he had lost his job, but he still had his health and family," Gunn says. "Those things are paramount."

Melissa has played in goal but now plays netball, although her father says with a mixture of love and exasperation: "We reckon she could be a great defence lawyer. She's very good at arguing." Angus is also a keeper, a fan of Robert Green and Petr Cech, and already plays for Norwich's Under-12s. "He says he wants to play for England, but I've registered him with the Scottish FA, too, don't you worry."

After injury ended his playing career, Gunn became the sponsorship sales manager for Norwich. Noting his interpersonal skills, the Championship club recently appointed him ambassador, which involves representing the club in both city and county, and even in Suffolk. "When I go to a game at Ipswich, the stewards shake my hand but I still see them having a wee snigger over that goal I conceded in the derby."

First wincing at the memory, he breaks into a grin. "But the record books show 'Ullathorne og'," says Gunn. "They don't say anything about me."

Another brush with fame: New Gunn making headlines

"Susan's the famous one now," Bryan Gunn says of his wife's growing reputation as an artist, which was enhanced this year when she received a major award from Sir Peter Blake. "I'm now Mr Susan Gunn!"

A former art student, she had put her creative talents on hold to be a wife, mother and fund-raiser. Her sporting passion is golf and it was a chance meeting at a golfing dinner with a former art school principal, Bruce Black, that encouraged her to resume her studies.

"Susan ended up winning the Sovereign European Art Prize in January," the proud husband says. "It was for a painting on gesso and Sir Peter was head of the judging panel. The prize-money has gone into upgrading her workshop and materials.

"She is currently exhibiting alongside Damien Hirst and Gavin Turk at the Fine Art Society in London. Sometimes it goes above my head, but I'm happy to be pouring the wine at the private views."


October 2006

Never too late to tell a great tale or two as City legend Bryan Gunn comfortably proves.

Today's footballing stars frequently stand accused of rushing to pen their life stories perhaps, well - just a little too early. The roller-coasting tales of Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and Stevie G should yet have some way to run, both professionally and personally.

And then you can go to the other extreme. Canary goalkeeping legend Bryan Gunn hung up his gloves at Hibs eight years ago, yet only now is his autobiography hitting the shelves. Has the man from Thurso left it too late at the grand old age of 42? Most emphatically, no.

Gunn has written 'In Where It Hurts' in collaboration with Anglia TV's Kevin Piper, and in short it makes for gripping, and often moving reading. Some of the anecdotes are inevitably familiar - heck, you'd want your money back if the Portman Road divot wasn't mentioned - but this is a treasury of wonderful new material, packed in equal measure with pints and punch-ups.

And that, of course, is the beauty of waiting until your playing days are well and truly behind you before finally putting pen to paper. You're that much less likely to face retribution for flogging your cup final tickets to the highest bidder or for thumping your star midfielder so hard in the ribs that he never plays a game under Martin O'Neill.

The majority of the book naturally covers Gunn's long and distinguished career at Norwich, where he played 477 games between 1986-98 to become the Canaries' fourth-highest appearance maker of all time.

But any football fan will also love the early chapters dealing with those frustrating early years at Aberdeen, where Gunn's perpetual role as understudy to the indestructible Jim Leighton restricted him to just 21 games in six seasons at Pittodrie.

This is largely due to a wealth of classic anecdotes about one Alex Ferguson, Aberdeen manager at the time, and distinguished author of the foreword to Gunn's autobiography.

Gunn enjoyed a warm relationship with Fergie, who brought him to Pittodrie and swiftly made him an automatic choice for both car-washing and baby-sitting duties - though sadly not for that elusive first-team place.

When Leighton proved unshiftable Ferguson ultimately set up Gunn's £100,000 move to Norwich. Ten years later he included Eric Cantona in the Manchester United side he brought to Norwich for Bryan's star-spangled testimonial match.

But the classic Fergie 'hairdryer' treatment was alive, well, and breathing fire even in those early days. Gunn relates one half-time tirade in which the manager's face turned a brighter shade of beetroot as he forced his startled players to dodge a succession of tea-cups, saucers - plus the tea-pot itself - as they smashed against the dressing room walls. Small wonder, as Gunn points out, that David Beckham may have ended up on the wrong end on of a airborne boot.

Another wonderful tale relates to the relish with which Fergie - an old-fashioned centre forward in his day - occasionally liked to take part in training matches and rough his keepers up a bit. Messrs Gunn and Leighton did not take such treatment lying down - their not-so-subtle response was to punch the ball clear while making sure they caught Fergie full in the face during their follow-through!

Gunn's legendary career at Norwich included finishing fifth, fourth, and then third in the top flight under the management of Ken Brown, Dave 'String Bean' Stringer and Mike Walker respectively. He also won two Barry Butler Memorial Trophy player of the season awards - all in all, not a bad way to follow in the hallowed footsteps of Messrs Nethercott, Kennon, Keelan and Woods.

Again, Gunn relates some splendid stories of his time at Carrow Road - many of them relating to the curious exploits of a certain Jeremy Goss. Quite where a "thump-each-other-in-the-stomach-as-hard-as-possible" competition featured in the hard-drinking Canary midfielder's fanatical fitness regime is hard to fathom. At any rate it backfired badly when Gunn's miscued uppercut cracked a rib and landed Gozza in Mr O'Neill's black books.

Gunn still rates his best save as the incredible close-range block from Adolfo Valencia which preserved City's historic 2-1 UEFA Cup win against Bayern Munich in the Olympic Stadium in October 1993.

That high-point arrived 12 months after the undisputed low-point in the lives of both Bryan and Susan Gunn - the loss of their two-year-old daughter, Francesca, to leukaemia in 1992.

The couple's ongoing work to raise funds for the Bryan Gunn Leukaemia Appeal - which currently stands at around £800,000 - has long-since ensured that Francesca's story is well-known in Norfolk and way beyond.

Here though, for the first time, is the full, moving account of her illness, which was officially diagnosed on cup final day in 1991. Hardly surprising in the circumstances that a shell-shocked Gunn, staring blankly at the hospital TV, was unable to summon much sympathy as Gazza self-destucted in tearful agony following his rash challenge on Gary Charles.

Quite how Gunn managed to return to action just a few days after losing Francesca is something only he and Susan will know. To maintain the match-winning form which helped City clinch third place in the inaugural Premier League season was truly extraordinary, and a measure of the man's bravery and resilience.

Having come to terms with such personal tragedy, it is hardly surprising that Gunn coped admirably with subsequent professional setbacks - most notably the broken leg and dislocated ankle which he suffered one fateful night at the City Ground, Nottingham, in December 1994. One disaster led to another as the Canaries were relegated a few months later after nine successive seasons in the top flight.

A word for the wordsmith. Bryan Gunn might have been forgiven for never working with Kevin Piper again. After all, the last time he did so he ended up toiling away in an Anglia TV editing suite until 4 in the morning, and conceded five goals at West Bromwich Albion the next night.

But Piper has done him proud here. There's considerable skill in the ghostwriter's art - get it wrong and the writer's natural speaking idiom can easily come through more strongly than the subject's. That never happens here - fair play to Piper and his trusty Dictaphone.

"In Where It Hurts" is a thoroughly entertaining read and merits a place on the bookshelves of any football aficionado - not just Canary followers. Just for good measure the Bryan Gunn Leukaemia Appeal will benefit by £1 for every copy sold.

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