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celtic view book
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The Best of the Celtic View: the 100 covers that made you laugh, cry and cheer; by Paul Cuddihy and Joe Sullivan; Headline Publishing; 222 pages illustrated throughout; £19.99 hardback

How could we resist a title like this? The dear old Celtic View, brainchild and celebrated organ of the legend that was Jack McGinn, 40 years old and the raison d’être of the blatt you are holding in your hand right now.

What we have here is a mainly visual chronicle of how the View has chosen to reflect the major events in the history of the club during its existence. The editors have selected significant View covers and accompanied them with some text to put them in context.

These, the cover of the book gushes, are the 100 covers of Pravda that made us “laugh, cry and cheer”.

This book charts the story of the View chronologically, starting from the 60s when Jack’s organ sprang up for the first time. In the first few years of its inception the club’s in-house newspaper, which appeared every Wednesday, was a paragon of sobriety and understatement, unrecognisable concepts to a medium almost completely sold-out to tabloid values. League title wins in the mid to late 60s were celebrated with the journalistic equivalent of a Stanley Matthews-style manly handshake and headlines like “congratulations” or “the cup final”.

The Lisbon souvenir issue is positively over the top. It even has a couple of pictures and a splash of green on the front cover.

Our other European Cup final is represented by a View cover from the day of the final, May 7th 1970, complete with distinctly upbeat messages from Bob Kelly, Jock Stein and Billy McNeill. This is one of the issues I remembered from my boyhood days. On one of the other pages the View had printed a map of where the victory procession would take place. Talk about confident of victory.

The issues from the 70s reflect a mixture of highs and lows, the most infuriating cover being one from 1971. No fewer than 100,000 people had paid to see the first team and the reserves in the space of a week. The club chose to brag about it; the fans must have been wondering where all the money was going.

During the 80s the newspaper format stayed the same, but you can tell that the Pravda style that became so infamous is beginning to seep its way into the articles. Jack McGinn is quoted in a feature on the renovation of the South Stand in the summer of ‘87. “Last year saw the transformation of the Celtic End - this year it’s the stand.” This was the kind of rhetoric that was starting to wind people up, especially fans who were standing in the ‘transformed’ Celtic End wondering what kind of parallel universe Jack and his cronies on the board were inhabiting.

The 90s was the View’s nadir. It hit the buffers on March 2nd 1994 with a front page lead about ‘Cambuslang - the dream comes true’. As Kevin Kelly stood in the middle of a toxic swamp with his arms outstretched like a manic scarecrow, even the View staff must have realised that nobody with half a brain was believing this stuff any more. Yet, even in this book there are no covers featuring the likes of Terry Cassidy, Patrick Nally, Gefinor, Stadivarious or the assorted futuristic ‘artist’s impressions’ of what Celtic Park was going to look like if we all kept faith with the Kelly and the cronies.

Jock Brown practically took over the View at one point, sniping back at his one-time mates in the media, but he doesn’t rate a mention either.

There’s definitely an air of truth and reconciliation about the club these days, so it would have been a laugh to be reminded of some of these pantomime villains that blighted us for years.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, even though I don’t remember cheering at too many of the covers (anybody who cheers when they see a Celtic View cover needs help). I did laugh in a GIRUY way at some of the 90s covers, and I may even have shed an inner silent tear when I turned a page and saw a picture of Martin Hayes grinning back at me holding aloft the Celtic scarf for his signing on photo shoot.

The early issues were more interesting than practically anything that was in the last 50 pages - lots of Henrik hagiography - and there were reminders of old View features that were a bit of a fix for a nostalgia junky like me. Who can forget the Celtic Boy feature, the terrible cartoon that used to take up about half of the front page or the Spotlight on a Fan feature? Bob McDonald’s European football round-up I can genuinely claim to have given me a lifelong interest in the game beyond these shores. Thanks Bob.

But what happened to ‘Pick A Team’ or, my own personal favourite, the £10 Star Letter, most of which started with, “Hats off to Jack McGinn and the Celtic board for...”

Nicely presented, loads of evocative pictures and even some undemanding text. Ideal for Uncle Tim’s Christmas.

MANFRED LURKER