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Ian Redford produced a searingly honest, absorbing autobiography

T HE diary seems to show it is more than two months since Ian Redford walked into the reception of Citizen M hotel in Glasgow for a Herald interview to promote his autobiography.

Rangers players during a minute's silence for Ian Redford at Ibrox on Saturday. Picture: SNS
Rangers players during a minute's silence for Ian Redford at Ibrox on Saturday. Picture: SNS

That really can't be right. It feels like yesterday. I can still remember the coffees we ordered, the receipt for it is still in the wallet somewhere, I can still tell you what he was wearing, the whole conversation is still on the dictaphone.

When someone phoned on Friday evening to say he had been found dead the news went in and at the same time it didn't. It literally felt like Redford had only just shaken hands and walked off into the town.

I hadn't met Redford before and remembered him only as a smooth, accomplished midfielder in a pretty hopeless Rangers team and then in a powerful Dundee United one. All of that was a quarter-of-a-century ago and he didn't have, or seek, a media profile after slipping into life after playing. When you arrange to meet a footballer from the past there's always a moment when you wonder if it's going to be a job to recognise him. Redford was instantly, unmistakably Redford. He aged well.

He had seemed intriguing and different, based on his posts on Twitter. Clever observations, political comments, witty remarks, all of them far more interesting than most footballers on social media.

The Herald piece was the first he did for the autobiography and a few others followed before publication. It was the first media prominence he had known for years and a treat for those of us who had the chance to meet and chat with him. When we first spoke on the phone I couldn't understand why he was whispering until, laughing, he explained that he was sitting in a library.

Easy-going, articulate, intelligent, thoughtful, self-effacing, charming; it would have been a pleasure to have known Ian Redford. Someone had suggested the book could be called "Aye Reddy", or else "Ever Reddy". He had smiled and politely said no to those two. Too corny. He didn't see it as a normal, typical footballer's autobiography and didn't believe it should have a normal, cliched title. He called it "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" for two reasons.

Firstly, the song was from one of Robert Redford's most famous films and of course the pair of them share a surname. Secondly it's a slightly melancholy title which captured the fact there was more to his life, darker elements, than simply being a gilded footballer. It won't have escaped his notice that the lyrics include these lines: "The blues they send to meet me won't defeat me/It won't be long 'til happiness steps up to greet me".The book reveals an introspective man, sensitive and haunted by the loss of his brother Douglas to leukaemia in childhood. He talked about how difficult it was for his family to deal with that and the strain it put on his relationship with his father. They loved each other but showing it didn't come naturally to his dad and feelings were bottled. There were spells in Redford's life when he suffered depression.

He took it hard when he was teased by team-mates about coming from a privileged, land-owning family. He felt vulnerable and self-conscious when it was diagnosed that he was completely deaf in one ear. The book was a release for all of this. Redford made sure it was all there, on his terms, by writing the words himself rather than employing a ghostwriter which would have exposed it to the risk of becoming the sort of bland pap common to many football autobiographies. These were his issues in his words.

A colleague has written that when he interviewed Redford he had become worried that some chapters were too harsh on his family. That he might have regretted some of his words, or his candour, towards his parents is a horrible thought. That isn't the sort of thing you can undo.

A few hours after we spoke he had texted to point out the book was mainly dedicated to his mum and dad, as if he might have given a misleading impression. Whatever he felt about it, he produced a searingly honest, absorbing book and it would be fitting if Rangers, United and other supporters start buying it up in droves. Hopefully every reader likes it. Hopefully he did.

Cod psychology isn't appropriate or respectful. We're not equipped to make pronouncements about what was going on in his mind over the hours leading up to Friday, when his body was found in some woods. I got the impression that he wasn't quite sure what to do with himself next after trying work as an agent, been in the golf tourism industry and even become a professional golfer. "Maybe the book might lead to some media work," he said. He seemed quite relaxed and easy-osey about it.

When we finished he cracked a wee joke about needing to find his wife because he'd let her loose in the shops with his credit card. But first he had to head off to Buchanan Galleries. Something to do with getting a coat repaired or returned, I can't remember exactly.

It was just one of those little things we all do every day in life, unless something makes you feel you can't face it any more.

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