One thing I never thought possible was that an event could be both relaxed and intense. Pat Nevin is a calm but erudite human, who brims with an effervescent enthusiasm for life and the Beautiful Game he loves so dearly.

Sitting on the stage alongside BBC Radio Scotland’s football commentator Paul Mitchell, he shielded his eyes from the glare of the spotlight and engaged the audience who are immediately captivated.

“Why write a book?” asks Paul Mitchell.

Pat Nevin’s somewhat cryptic answer was confident and assured. “I wanted to give something to outsiders. I wanted to give an insight of a world viewed from the inside, by an outsider”.  Pat explained that he never really fitted the modern stereotype of a professional footballer. Reading Chekov on the team bus on the way to the match, encouraging his team mates to go to the museum when in Europe for away games, Pat Nevin was regarded as an oddity of the sport. A man with an abundance of cultural capital in a world of sport, is always going to stand out. He refused to change. He loved art, music and literature. That was who he was, and he wasn’t going to change that for anyone.

His humorous, informative and engaging discussion highlighted some key messages for the audience:

Insight number one – “Be yourself.”

Don’t try and be someone you are not, and don’t try and ‘fit in’ just to please the crowd. People, he said, respect authenticity.

He pointed out the fact that he never defined himself solely as a footballer. From an early age he knew that his short football career would end at around age 35/37, and that he wanted to have a life after that brief period. Football was never his ‘identity’, it is something he enjoyed playing, watching and now talking about, but there is more to Pat Nevin than the game he so dearly loves.

Insight number two – “Do what you enjoy. If you enjoy it, fame and fortune become irrelevant.”

This takes us to the next point. Paul Mitchell asked Pat about his ‘accidental footballer’ label. This, Pat said, is something that has been misunderstood. Pat took the opportunity to put the record straight saying there was something of a misconception there. The point is that he loved playing football. He would play, not for the money, not for the fame, but simply because of his undying passion for the Beautiful Game. The point he stresses here is that whether it’s in the local park or at Goodison Park, Pat Nevin plays football because he enjoys it. It’s not just football, he said. “I love being creative,” he tells his audience. “You only have one life and have to make the most of it. Do what you enjoy, and nothing else matters.”

Paul asked him who in football he had the best understanding with. Pat sets the same quiz as he set the school children he had spent time with earlier in the day. Clue number one, he played at Chelsea with me in the 1980s. An audience member shouted out “Steve Clarke”. Pat smiled. “Correct”. He explained the understanding he and the current Scotland manager had, both on and off the pitch and how this allowed them to develop technical aspects of their game such as underlapping. He stopped, and shifted gear slightly. He criticised contemporary pundits and commentators who claim to have invented concepts and tactics that have been around for decades. “Pundits talk about Pep winning back-to-back leagues without an out and out striker. They talk about the ‘false number 9’ as if Pep had invented it. Andy Roxburgh had great success in the 1980s with his Scotland Under 21 side playing a false 9, it’s far from being a new tactic.”, he said. He is also critical of the use of jargon by commentators and pundits. He deploys the Pat Nevin translation service.

“Transition” – you’ve given the ball away.

“Low-block” – you’re rubbish.

‘High-block’ – you’re good.

Insight number three – don’t use jargon to make yourself look clever.

Straight talking is the best policy. “Look at the best minds in football, they say it like it is”. This advice provided an opportunity for Paul to explore some of Pat’s work as Chairman of the Professional Footballer’s Association. The PFA is like a trade union for ballers, and Pat did more than most to protect players from the pitfalls of being in the public eye. One of his most significant contributions is the extensive media training made available to players in order to combat the propensity of the British tabloids to destroy people’s careers and reputations in their search for a scandalous story. This is why footballers appear as boring Pat said. It is because they are told to say nothing that can be twisted by the press in search of salacious gossip. He gives a few pertinent examples from his two books (The Beautiful Game, and his most recent, Football and How to Survive It).

Like Andy Roxburgh, the former Scotland manager who invented what is now the international system whereby players have to achieve qualifications before moving into coaching and management, Pat Nevin made many different contributions to football and used his experiences and cultural capital in the service of improving the Beautiful Game. His intellectual competencies were deployed to protect players from the press, and to improve their overall well-being, while his skills at the game enabled him to pick out future stars by closely watching movement on the pitch.

At heart, Pat Nevin is a people person. This is evident in his generosity, in both answering people’s questions and in giving his time to share his experiences with the audience and to talk at length to everyone who approached him with a question, request for a selfie or signature in his latest book.

Despite having spent the day at a local school, where many children had special needs, and having to drive to Manchester immediately after the event, he made time to talk to people at the end. “Come and have a chat”, he said. “You don’t need to buy a book, just come and say hello”. Most of the audience did exactly that!