PO Box 306, Glasgow, G21 2AE, Scotland

Walk On - Celtic Since McCann by David Potter; Fort Publishing; 250 pages (inc. 16 pages of b/w pics) paperback; £8.99

It's been a while since anyone produced a book about the history of our club. The last ones that spring to mind were the tomes written around the centenary year. Perhaps the fact that nobody else has recorded the events of the Nineties lends weight to the proposition that, 'History is written by the winners'. It was a pretty tough decade after all. However, the past few years have seen us emerge from that dark time and it's only right and proper that a stock should be taken of how we got to where we are today. In years to come we'll struggle to explain just how important the arrival of MON was to the club and the only way to do that is to put the MON years in context. David Potter's book does all that and more.

Potter seems to have emerged during the last few years to establish himself as a worthy heir to the crown of Pat Woods and Tom Campbell. Woods appears to have retired from the Celtic history writing business and Campbell's excellent works are all too rare. With this book, his life of Patsy Gallagher from a couple of years ago and his Willie Maley biography (reviewed in NTV 115) he's making a real name for himself as an extremely able Celtic historian.

'Walk On. Celtic since McCann' opens with a fairly depressing assessment of the final days of the old board. It's fairly depressing because it's a very accurate picture of exactly how the heart was being ripped out of the club by a group of men more interested in retaining the family business than their actual job as custodians of an institution that we all had a stake in. The author doesn't mince his words in this chapter. Indeed he's not afraid to pass comment on any of the events he records and the book is all the better for it. That's not to say that I agreed with everything he had to say but I've read too many football books recently that restrict themselves to a dispassionate retelling of events without any attempt to pass judgment on those same events. Potter's comments bring colour to what could be otherwise just a pedestrian retelling of things we already know.

As we are all thankfully aware, the board were soon on their way and on the 4th of March 1994 a wee man with a bunnet, a big wedge of cash and a business plan walked into town. Potter takes this as his starting point and chronicles the subsequent ups and downs the club went through over the next nine seasons. Perhaps this is a book that should have been kept back until the end of this season as surely we'll all be celebrating the ten year anniversary of the great man saving the club. Won't we? Surely? Ach well, maybe not all of us. And, after all, there is a case to made that Celtic getting to Seville is the high point of McCann's legacy to the club. It's only fitting that the book should close with a review of that remarkable season.

Before we get there Potter takes us back to 1994, the appointment of Tommy Burns, the season spent at Hampden and the Rod Stewart look-a-like. Now, I'd be very surprised if the majority of you reading this weren't around then. In fact if you weren't around then what the heck is a nine year old doing reading this? Should you not be out setting off fireworks and smashing phone boxes? When I was your age... sorry, lost my thread for a minute there... where was I?

Ah yes - as I say the majority of us will recall this season and all the subsequent seasons well. Or at least we think we will. When I first picked this book up I really felt that there would be nothing in it that I wouldn't know or remember. Truth be told it's amazing the things you forget. Potter describes games that I know I attended and I can't believe the things I forgot. My memories of those days seem to be made up of tiny wee things (Pierre's first goal against Hearts) or else the really big things (going along to Celtic Park to stare at the construction site that was to become the North Stand.) This book manages to fill in all the memories that fit in between these events.

As we progress through the years it's inevitable that the events described become clearer and clearer in the memory. If not for Potter's willingness to describe these times from his own point of view the later chapters would seem to be a bit pointless - we all know how the Scottish cup game against Inverness Caley Thistle (2000 edition) ended but it's intriguing to read Potter's take on those days. I was surprised to see he avoided mentioning the infamous dressing room barney rumour but perhaps it's right that a true historian deals only in facts and his view of them. Having said that I was amazed to read his disgust at our more recent defeat against that same team. His comments regarding our defeat last season by Inverness CT seemed a bit extreme but each to their own I suppose.

If I have to criticise (and I just have to) I would say that it would have been interesting to hear more about the fans over the past ten years. Maybe that's slightly self indulgent but McCann is a man that to this day still divides supporter opinion. Perhaps it would have been worthwhile to comment on the fans perception of his achievements and failures. I felt that the Bhoys against Bigotry campaign should have been discussed in more depth as this has, in my opinion, significantly changed the way fans conduct themselves at Celtic Park. Potter also fails to discuss the attempts by the Celtic Trust to get a fan on the board. Maybe history will prove that these events are worth nothing more than footnotes but writing this in 2003 I can't help but feel that they are integral parts of our recent history.

Overall this is a worthy addition to anyone's Celtic bookshelf. It records a time of great turmoil and great achievement in a style that is extremely readable. I'm sure it will be turning up in more than a few Christmas stockings next month. It's a book that will appreciate in value the further we move away for the post McCann years. With an appendix containing Celtic's full results from 1993 to 2003 it also doubles as an essential reference tool.

When I had finished it I couldn't help but marvel at the contrast between the first and last chapters. The past ten years have been not without their disappointments but Potter seems to be telling us that it's only by experiencing the lows that we can truly appreciate the current highs. It's a message that just can't be argued with.