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Any Celtic book with Tom Campbell's imprimatur on it has a lot to live up to in terms of expectations given that he has been involved in writing some of the best Celtic books on the shelves. While he only writes one chapter of this one, he has done a sterling job in coaxing another nine contributors to put together a book that won't disappoint anyone who buys it.
Each of the ten chapters - each by a different author - deals with an event in the club's history that either had far-reaching consequences or that could genuinely be described as sensational. If you believe what you read in the tabloids we're never very far away from a crisis, but the truth is that while they might arouse intense interest for a while they are relatively insignificant in the grander scheme of things. It's unlikely that anyone could put up with a convincing case for the events described in 'Ten Days...' being insignificant.
The chapters appear chronologically, starting with Bob Crampsey, he of 'Now You Know' fame (did you know he was Brain of Britain in 1965?) writing about Celtic losing to Arthurlie in the Scottish Cup (read that bit again). Alright, it was a long time ago - 1897 to be precise - but it was still one of the biggest shocks in the history of the competition. I'm a sucker for the early history of Celtic anyway, but Crampsey's detail and source material made it an amusing and enlightening read. It was a result that changed Willie Maley's managerial reliance on expensive imports and influenced Celtic's signing policy for decades to come.
Actor John Cairney then narrates the events surrounding the death of goalkeeper John Thompson in 1931. Cairney acknowledges himself that he draws on Tom Greig's book about 'The Prince of Goalkeepers' but he has still managed to produce a dramatic and moving piece of writing. The fact that Celtic fans - and others - still visit John Thompson's grave to this day illustrates what an impact his death had at the time as well as his place in the folklore of the club. Cairney gets the tone spot on in this one.
Professor Patrick Reilly's chapter revolves around the winning of the 1938 Empire Exhibition Trophy, but his take on this is to look at how the board became entrenched during the war years (pardon the terrible pun) and let their chance to build on this victory - no mean achievement at the time when the Hoops were able to beat some of the best teams in Britain - disappear, stifled under a suffocating blanket of self-interest and preserving the glories of past years, much like the Empire itself. A really thought-provoking read and another reminder that there are similar threads that run throughout the history of Celtic. The lessons from the past and all that. Let's hope they've been learned by the current custodians.
Tom Campbell's chapter concerns the Victory Cup semi-final replay between Celtic and Rangers in 1946. What might seem like a relatively obscure match among the hundreds played by the club over the years, its significance becomes clear when you read about the farcical performance of a referee who sent off two Celtic players and watched another two being carried off while, according to some of the players, acting (and smelling) as if he had been imbibing strong liquor. Three players were later suspended by an SFA committee and, argues Campbell, 'Celtic's post-war distrust of the SFA stems largely, though not exclusively, from that notorious match... In 1946, after being in the football doldrums throughout the wartime seasons, Celtic started to show some green shoots of recovery but had to deal with two major obstacles: the domination on the field of play by a highly competent Rangers side; and the machinations of supine SFA committees manipulated by a secretariat clearly motivated to harm the club in the council chambers. This scenario was to be a recurring motif in Scottish football for decades.'
Of course, a 'day that shook Celtic' needn't necessarily have been a disaster, and Tony Griffin chooses one such for his chapter about the arrival of Jock Stein as Celtic manager in 1965. He does an excellent job of describing the miserable events of the preceding seasons before capturing the mood of a support poised on the verge of hitherto unimaginable greatness. It marked a seminal change in the direction of the club and left a legacy that still resonates today. The recent tribute to the Big Man spoke volumes - literally - about his place in Celtic's history. Tony Griffin's chapter about him is a worthy tribute as well.
David Potter, himself an author of some fine Celtic books, returns to another train wreck with his piece on the departure of Kenny Dalglish to Liverpool in 1977. Read it and relive that JFK moment when you recall where you were when you heard the news when the King had shot the craw. The chapter's called 'Defection', which is maybe a bit harsh when I think about it with hindsight, but it shows that this was a sore one to take at the time, especially when it came with the realisation that this was another sign that we were inexorably heading for a period of mediocrity.
By the same token, 'defection' isn't strong enough to describe Maurice Johnston's antics in 1989 when he appeared on the telly to proclaim his return to the fold only to reappear on telly a few weeks later announcing he had gone over to the dark side. Maybe that's why Gerry Dunbar's chapter isn't called 'Defection' but rather 'Unforgiven'. Quite a timely contribution to the book this, now that Johnston has reared his ugly head in one of the tabloids saying that he'd come back to Scotland in a minute if it was to be the manager of Celtic... or Rangers. I couldn't help but feel the red mist descend again having had that particular wound reopened.
The final three chapters recall three specific games, each of which has its own place as a 'shaky' day: Craig McCaughtrie relives the day when Celtic beat St. Johnstone to win the league under Wim Jansen to stop ten-in-a-row, a day the stadium was shaking, with relief as much as anything else; Tom Shields chooses, in his familiar witty style, to write about the Inverness Caley game when John Barnes' jacket began to shake on its shoogly peg; and Pat Woods analyses the effect of last season's finale at Fir Park, where the team's collective knees began to shake.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading all of the contributions and I think it's safe to say that I've got Uncle Tim's Christmas present sorted out for this year.