PO Box 306, Glasgow, G21 2AE, Scotland


Bobby Collins - The Wee Barra by David Saffer
; Tempus Publishing; 191 pages (pictures throughout); hardback £17.99

Bobby Collins was one of Scotland's great players at a time when Scotland had many good ones. He played for Celtic, Everton, Leeds United with great success and had a lesser impact on Bury, Morton and Oldham Athletic. His Scotland career is curious - three games in 1950, more or less a regular from 1955 to 1959, then another three in 1965. This perhaps says a certain amount about those who ran Scotland in those days. Don't anyone dare talk about a Golden Age of Scotland. It was as chaotic, quixotic and shambolic then as it is now!

But Collins was undeniably a great player. His Celtic years are well documented with programme covers and pictures, although sometimes not enough is said about the mismanagement of that great club in the 1950s. With the talent available, the club should have done better, but Collins left Celtic Park with only one Scottish Cup medal in 1951, one League Championship in 1954 and two League Cup medals (one of which was the 7-1 beating of Rangers). He was dropped from the Replay of the 1955 Scottish Cup Final against Clyde following his undignified charging of Clyde's goalkeeper, who was at least a foot taller than he! Celtic consequently lost the Replay. More could have been said about this in the book.

Bobby's departure in autumn 1958 was a mystery, usually explained away by the club's desire to earn money to finance floodlights. The book sadly glosses over his departure, concentrating instead on the impact that he went on to make at Everton, an impact that lessened under Harry Catterick in 1962 to such an extent that he was sold to Leeds United when 'they had one foot in the Third Division'.

The book then comes alive as it details lovingly Collins' contribution to Leeds with his part in the rescue of 1962, promotion in 1964 to Division One and that remarkable year of 1965 when Leeds were runners up in Division One and the F.A. Cup and Collins regained his Scotland 'cap'.

Collins was a fighter, a terrier, the archetypal tough wee Scotsman so loved by the fans. His Scotland career had its disappointments - he played three times for Scotland at Wembley and never won - but he played an honourable part in the 1958 World Cup. All in all he played in 31 Full Internationals and quite a few League Internationals.

The book is rich in photographs and attractively laid out. Mr.Saffer has clearly been industrious in his research, for he quotes extensively from such long lost newspapers as the Sunday Pictorial and The Bulletin. The end result is a book which would grace the bookshelf of any football fan.

Errors are few. Joe Baillie's name is consistently spelt wrongly and the caption to the picture on page 36 has 'Celtic hit six' against Airdrie whereas the result in that Semi Final was 2-0 after a 2-2 draw. In addition, there is the disconcerting habit of referring to 'Scotland XI' in captions, instead of 'Scotland'. In the 1950s the addition of XI often implied that it was a reserve team! But the book does capture the flavour of the 1950s. and 1960s and is a great tribute to a man who deserves to be one of the truly greats of British football.

David Potter