Arguably the greatest player the club has ever produced, Paul Newlove started his career at Post Office Road in 1988. After finishing in 2004, he put together his autobiography with St. Helens based journalist Andrew Quirke. There can be no doubt that Newwy has a very special story to tell, as his playing career spanned some sixteen seasons at the very top of the sport having burst onto the scene as a precocious 17 year old. Sure enough, in the time honoured tradition of sports biography, this book begins with his junior days, “early doors” as he drolly refers to it, and whistles through his time at Featherstone, Bradford, St. Helens and finally, surprisingly enough, at Castleford. I say ‘whistle’ as this is a very short book and the overall feeling after reading it is that it is just too lightweight for such a great player. With 134 large typed pages, plenty of which are full page photographs, the production values are quite high, but there’s just not enough text! The publishers, London League Publications have done the sport of rugby league a great service over the years with a number of excellent books.
As a Rovers fan, I was most interested in reading about Paul's time with us, but by page 22 he’s already signed for Bradford, so we don’t learn too much really. There is room for some welcome words in testimonial brochure style from Fred Lavine, John Hill and Deryck Fox. Elsewhere, we are given the idea that Paul is a bit ambivalent about Featherstone, and perhaps he was a bit put out at the reception he received when he came back to play here. More years have passed since the publication of this book, and hopefully now his feelings have softened.
Paul Newlove remains in the eyes of many fans an enigmatic figure, and having read his story, I did feel that I’d got to know him a little better, but not much. The book includes his preferences for drinking tea on the sofa watching Emmerdale as well as tributes from some of his contemporaries such as Chris Joynt and Carl Hall. His first coach, and later agent, Peter Fox has, true to form, plenty to say, but there is nothing from the likes of Matt Elliot, Shaun McRae or Ian Millward who also coached him and could have shed some light on what motivated Newlove as a player. Paul himself is quite modest about his talent, and it’s a pity that more of his obviously very dry sense of humour doesn’t shine through in the book.