Phil Stant is perhaps not remembered as a Lincoln City legend. A decent second spell as a player are sandwiched between a disaster of a loan spell and latterly a disappointing run as manager of the side. I initially picked up his book to read his thoughts on his Imps tenure, but by the time I reached that part of his career, I had already had my perceptions of him changed dramatically.
Before reading his story I had an image of Stant as a hard-as-nails centre forward who displayed his tattoos to put off defenders and barged his way to a Golden Boot. I knew he was tough, but I imagined perhaps it was a persona, an image cultivated to survive in the lower league game. I knew he’d been in the army, maybe that added to his reputation as a fearsome individual.
By page 136 we had barely touched on his football career, and his story is all the more rich for embellishing his career before the game. I won’t ruin an enthralling and endearing read here but Phil Stant wasn’t just ‘in the army’. Phil Stant served in the Falklands, a scenario that tested his ‘don’t-give-a-fuck’ northern attitude to the extreme. He saw things no man should have to see, and he lived a life no man should have to live. He doesn’t pull any punches about his early life either, whether it is the candid admission of regular theft as a boy or his penchant for a bit of fisticuffs after a nights drinking.
The read is made even more appealing when you know that he has penned every word himself, it feels far more personal than the raft of autobiographies out there. Stant was relatively high-profile at the time he came into league football thanks to his army exploits, but it passed me by in the early 1990’s. The transition from soldier to footballer is handled eloquently and honestly as well. I’m surprised someone who seemed to have a devil-may-care attitude towards everything ended up such a committed and dedicated professional. I think there army life formed a strong foundation once he stepped into the professional game, the edge it gave him certainly serves him well during clashes with managers and players later in the book.
I’ll examine his Lincoln City claims in a separate blog, but stories of a bust up with Shane Westley had me in stitches, as did his assumption that Darren Davis ensured he missed a league clash to avoid him after getting him sent off the year before. Somehow he makes the aggressive side to his football sound engaging, and the goal scoring exploits almost land as a sub-plot, something that came as a by-product of playing the game. Don’t get me wrong though, Stant isn’t a thug by any stretch of the imagination.
Phil Stant only ever wanted to earn a living doing what he loved, but he never intended to land in the professional game. He never intended to end up in the army, and he certainly didn’t intend to end up in Port Stanley surrounded by the misery and destruction of war. All the while he delivers his story with a touching and often brutal honesty, never shirking his own short comings.
I managed to lay my hands on a later edition that features a final chapter dealing with his return to the Falkland Islands, something the first copy of the book I read did not have. It served to stitch everything together nicely at the end, and as I finished the final few paragraphs I didn’t feel as if I’d read a football book as such. Sure Phil Stant was a footballer, sure he played for a few clubs and scored a few goals, but as he wandered around the modern-day Falklands he put everything into perspective. This is so much more than a football book, and it is a superb place to start off my review of publications featuring the Imps.
Amusing, honest, and poignant are perhaps three words I’d use to describe his story, all the more remarkable as it was told in his own words. The foreword, written by Stan Ternant, told of how proud Phil Stant was of the fact he wrote it all himself. Given some of the other things he achieved in his life, I’d say it is just one more thing the ex-soldier from Bolton can be proud of, even if he can’t claim the same of his spells at Lincoln.