What Was, What Is, and
What Might Have Been
by Matt Jansen with Jon Colman
- Format Read – Hardback
- How did I get this book – Review copy received from publisher (many thanks to Polaris)
- Date Read – September 11th to September 16th
Matt Jansen had it all. He was young, quick, audaciously skilful and, at the turn of the millennium, regarded as one of the most intelligent attacking talents in English football. His potential seemed boundless. But after earning himself a place in Sven Goran-Eriksson’s England squad he was involved a serious traffic accident. He suffered a brain haemorrhage and slipped into a six-day coma. Jansen survived and, astonishingly, he was back playing for Blackburn just four months later. Physically he may have felt he was ready to return to top-flight football, but mentally he was nowhere near. Battling the spectre of the accident, he was unable to recapture the instinctive genius that had previously defined him. In an effort to reignite his career, he joined Coventry, Bolton and then Wrexham but he was never able to find his former footballing self and was finally forced to admit that his playing days were over.
As a Blackburn fan the reveal of this book from Matt and Polaris Publishing had me very excited. While Matt was at Blackburn, he was my favourite player, and I remember listening to the league cup final in my room while I was (supposed to be) studying for mock exams. I always wondered what the full story was behind his accident and what followed, and now I had the chance to find out Matt’s story.
The title of the book What Was, What Is, and What Might Have Been tells you everything you need to know about what is contained in this book. Matt was one of the brightest prospects in English football before his accident. There are a number of things that happened, and decisions made that might have made things go differently, but the biggest of these was his moped crash in Italy.
As an opening to the book Matt discusses an online article in which he is named as one of the best prospects who never made it. Their description of Matt is brief and doesn’t deal with any of the issues he has faced. This book, in my opinion, corrects that.
The book continues with Matt hearing news that he is about to be selected to play for England for the first time and continues into the unfortunate circumstances why it never happened. This was possibly a factor as to why Matt did not go to the world cup – which ultimately lead to the horrific crash which has affected Matt ever since.
We hear from many more people than just Matt in this book. Celebrity appearances include former bosses Graeme Souness and Sam Allardyce as well as Sven-Göran Eriksson, Alex Ferguson and Garry Flitcroft. However, the voice of one other person in this book speaks louder than all the others. That is of his wife Lucy. Her open and honest recollections of life with Matt before and after their accident in Rome are fascinating and allow us to see both sides of his life. Lucy is joined by other family members in telling the story during the period where Matt was in hospital and the early days of his recovery. Quite simply, these are days he mostly doesn’t remember, and instead of glossing over them we get the full picture from another source. These chapters are a hard read but are once again brilliantly insightful. I was left with a lump in my throat reading some of these sections and can’t imagine how hard it was for Lucy to have to relive some of these stories in order for the book to be completed.
Anyone who has followed Matt’s career will know about the ups and downs after his accident, and it was brilliant to read about his transformation from player to manager with his friend Garry Flitcroft. The stories of how he has become a manager read a little like a redemption story, and I sincerely hope that Matt gets to continue working in football in some respect for a very long time to come.
This is so much more than a book about football. Reading Matt tell the story about how he rose through the ranks, and even turned down a move to Manchester United only takes up part of the story. We also have a story of physical and mental hardship. A story of how a person’s self-confidence can be eroded away to nothing. No, this is not just for football fans, this is a story for anyone who has gone through psychological issues. A story of living through hell and coming out the other side. I loved each and every minute. Highly recommended.
All opinions are my own. I did not receive any payment for this review.