Former Derby County, Notts County, Chesterfield and Mansfield Town keeper Steve Cherry’s frank autobiography lifts the lid on local clubs and a fine career

Steve Cherry in FA Cup Sixth Round action for Notts County against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.
Steve Cherry in FA Cup Sixth Round action for Notts County against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.

It is always preferable to read the autobiographies of footballers who have been around the divisions and clubs rather than some pampered 20-year-old Premier League starlet who doesn’t even have to wipe his own nose.

Books on the life of people who have not even lived a life can be so annoying.

So it’s a pleasure to read Cherry Picking – the autobiography of Nottingham-born goalkeeper Steve Cherry, who has so many local connections with successful spells at Derby County and Notts County, a 10-game loan spell at Chesterfield and a single game for Mansfield Town that I was at.

Compiled in conjunction with writer Jonathan Nicholas, the book sees Cherry speak candidly about the clubs, players and managers he works with and it was a nostalgic rush to hear some of those players’ names that I had long since forgotten about.

There were also great memories of several games that I either attended or reported on, including Forest v Derby clashes, lots of Notts County games when I worked at the Nottingham Post and the single Stags game he played in at Brentford which I reported on.

A fans’ favourite at most of his clubs, the reliable Cherry won Player of the Year awards at Derby County, Plymouth Argyle and Notts County.

But he did face an initial battle with the Plymouth fans who took an instant dislike to his arrival and displacing of popular keeper Geoff Crudgington and gave him a very hard time.

Football gave Cherry the chance to escape his inevitable life down the pit, having been born to a mining family in Calverton.

But from the early days of playing Top Estate v Bottom Estate without any real goalposts on the Pit Field, his dreamed of one day playing for Notts County only to fail his trial with the Magpies at the age of 15.

Little did he know then that later in life he would twice win play-off finals with Notts at Wembley and help them into top flight football as well as play two Anglo-Italian Cup finals with them beneath the Twin Towers.

We get a good insight into banter with supporters and how chants and songs can get to players and how a loss of confidence can hurt.

There is also an hilarious tale of Cherry smuggling a fried chicken box to his goalmouth, anticipating the Wolves fans’ usual taunts about his weight and then pretending to eat the chicken during the game.

He also wore a Chubby Brown tee shirt under his keeper’s shirt at one game which he lifted to reveal it echoed the fat chanting being directed at him, admitting that sort of old school banter would cost him a red card these days.

He also recalls the terror of a possible death threat letter from the IRA and how he saved the life of John Fashanu after a nasty collision on the pitch.

There are the inevitable tales of late nights and drinking that are largely absent from the more hi tech modern game which is also very short on true characters.

Along the way, Cherry reveals his secret method of trying to get penalty takers to shoot to a particular side – often proving very successful.

I always find it enjoyable to be able to relate to the towns, and in this book often the streets, being spoken about. And much of it is local to Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.

Cherry’s 30-year career took him around the divisions and up and down the country taking in spells at places like Watford, Walsall, Rotherham and Rushden.

After 743 League games, it ended with matches and spells at non-League clubs.

This book serves as a fine record of an excellent career.