PO Box 306, Glasgow, G21 2AE, Scotland
The Greatest Celtic Games in the World... Ever; written, produced and edited by Tony Hamilton and Des O'Hara; Celtic TV Productions; 90 minutes approx; DVD £19.99: VHS £14.99
In recent years there has been a trend at the club for producing official material which has relied, to a great extent, on the input of supporters. 'Celtic Views', for example, was a book of stories and poems chosen from entries to a writing competition featured in the View. Those who wrote in were doing so for the fun of it, and financial reward was probably the furthest thing from their minds when they did so, but the commercial department saw fit to package a collection of this stuff into a book and have the gall to charge a tenner for it. Similarly with the official book of the UEFA Cup campaign, nearly eighty pages of which was taken up with contributions from supporters.
For this year's Christmas DVD the fans are to the forefront again, this time having been invited to vote in a variety of categories for the Celtic games which they think best fit the title. That done, we're being invited to part with the best part of twenty quid to see the results.
The categories are linked together with a commentary voiced by Martin O'Neill and it wastes no time in getting down to the action. The first category is 'The Greatest League Cup Game' and there's no prizes for guessing what that might be. Think eight goal thriller against Rangers and you'll probably get it. And that's about it as far as it goes in this section. True, the League Cup hasn't been the most successful competition for Celtic when you think of the number of finals the club has contested over the years, but there are some games which spring to mind without thinking about too hard that might have been worthy of a mention.
Given the film producer's Uriah-Heep like devotion to Henrik Larsson it's curious that the 2001 final wasn't included. A 3:0 win with 10 men and a hat-trick from the K of Ks, one a sublime solo effort culminating in the coolest finish seen at hampden for many a year. How 'great' does it have to get? The '82 final against the Huns is also airbrushed out, despite another two great goals to win it courtesy of Nicholas and Macleod.
The section concerning the Scottish Cup has clips from a number of games, but it's here that the cracks begin to show, in my opinion (this is only about five minutes into the film, mind you). The archives have been trawled to find the goals from the 1937 final, which is commendable, but the pleasure of catching a grainy black and white glimpse of Johnny Crum and Willie Buchan is almost completely dissipated by dint of the film maker's obsession with grafting on match commentaries. Even more Pythonesque, the commentator is none other than Archie MacPherson, sounding very mature. He's either been sounding like that since he was four (Woodbines perchance?) or else, if he really was the commentator at the 1937 final, he must be around 108 years old at the moment.
The other thing that started to irritate me during this segment - other than further glaring omissions like the Provan/ McGarvey final - was that there were a fair few undistinguished games included. If these were voted for by the fans then I'd like to meet whoever nominated the '95 final against Airdrie. Such a forgettable football game hardly rates a footnote in 'The Greatest Celtic' anything. And will anybody really care to remember the 1:0 victory in the Cup over Rangers last season other than as part of the whitewash run?
That said, there are some classic cup moments to savour. Most you will have seen in other Celtic videos, but there are a few, like the 1954 final, that are scarcely seen these days. The 6:1 win against Hibs is one of my personal favourites. I'll never get tired of watching Dixie Deans' goals, or his celebrations. The commentary on this is brilliant as well. As Celtic take a five goal lead with two minutes to go, alex Cameron puts his reputation as a football pundit well and truly on the line: 'That must surely wrap it up.'
Liverpool at Anfield during the Seville run was apparently voted The Greatest Ever UEFA Cup match, with most of the other footage in this category also coming from that one season. They have managed to unearth a real hen's tooth - a Celtic victory in Europe during the 90s against FC Cologne - but no Valencia? No Innsbruck (another Larsson masterclass)? No Sporting Lisbon from '85, a 5:0 demolition of a very good team?
Similarly in the Cup Winners Cup category. The 'Greatest' is the 5:4 win over Partizan Belgrade, and I suppose it was great if you're a fan of slapstick defending. Also included is the Rapid Vienna game - well, one goal and a bottle flying onto the pitch - at which point I was beginning to question the sanity of some of the voters far less their ability to objectively assess what constitutes a 'great' Celtic game. At the risk of labouring a point (too late Lurker - belaboured Ed) there's nothing about, say, Celtic v Dynamo Kiev in '66, arguably our first big European scalp.
The final European segment, the European Cup, is given over almost in its entirety to around 10 minutes highlights of the 4:3 game against Juventus at Celtic Park. For some reason this seems to take a lot of the pace out of the film and makes it a bit disjointed. At 90 minutes long this was pie and bovril time for me. Once again, if you want to see the goals from the Leeds semi-final of 1970 try somewhere else in your archive. Incredible that this game should be left out. The same goes for the ____ match of 19__ (insert your own memorable European Cup tie and year here because it's not featured on this film either).
The 'Greatest' game v Rangers is a real mixed bag. Plenty of goals, but I'd rather not be reminded of the calamitous defending resulting in a 3:3 draw at home, nor could I work out what was so special about a 1:0 victory from 1968. The 4:0 Scottish Cup final victory pops up during this part of the video. It features authentic contemporary Archie commentary, not the dubbed on faux excitement specially recreated for this. As each goal goes in he sounds more and more in need of the Samaritans. The only surprise is he didn't end up dangling from a noose suspended from the ceiling of the Hampden press box.
'Greatest League Clincher' is possibly the best feature on this video. The usual suspects have been rounded up, of course, but there's also film of the '65 team winning the league at Fir Park. MacPherson's dubbed commentary spoils it again, though, especially with his twee remark, 'One wonders how long this Stein era will last.' Surely this kind of retrospective might have been used to better comedy effect during the 5:0 game against St. Mirren at Love Street. As Mo Johnston slots away his second goal Weetabix Heid could have chipped in with something like, 'One wonders how long it will be before these adoring fans want to roast him on a spit.'
The nadir of the Archie over-dubs can be heard during his voice-over of the 2:2 decider at Ibrox, with film lifted from 'The Celtic Story'. As Jimmy Johnstone scores following a muddy stramash Archie breathlessly exclaims, 'Whoa, there's a touch... it's a squeeze... and it's in!!' Perhaps he'll be doing commentaries on porno films next.
The actual 'greatest Ever Game'? As Martin O'Neill says, it's a no brainer, but rather than finish on that note, Archie is unleashed for a final time, imagining he's at the Parkhead homecoming. Spine-twisting.
Doubtless there are insurmountable problems obtaining moving images of certain games, even those with enormous significance which can genuinely lay claim to being among the greatest ever played by Celtic and particularly pre-war. But they should at least be acknowledged. Flash up a few still photographs (an entire documentary history of the American Civil War was made using this technique - and it won awards), recognise the part played in the club's history by legends such as McGrory. Wouldn't it be more interesting to hear interviews with some of the old ex-players who actually helped make this club what it is rather than a skrimshanker like Dziekanowski describing his part in a defeat to a run of the mill Eastern European side like Partizan?
Then again, maybe a title like 'The Greatest Celtic Games Since the War That We Could Manage to Find Film Of' is a bit unwieldy as a title, even if it is more in keeping with the spirit of the Trades Descriptions Act.
The DVD version has no added extras, it's just a fiver extra to buy. It will probably sell in its thousands this Christmas and I suppose from the Commercial Department's point of view, that's the bottom line.
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