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pat crerand book

Paddy Crerand: Never Turn the Other Cheek; by Pat Crerand; Harper Sport Publishing; 352 pages hardback; £18.99

Another football biog, but this one could hardly be more different.

Pat Crerand made the most of his talents, but not with Celtic. He left the club at the same time as George Connelly was arriving, sold by Bob Kelly, on the face of it because of a dressing room bust up but really because the directors could get money for him.

His family history is a familiar tale of emigration from Ireland; both his parents were Irish and his brother John was born there (although he, bizarrely, became a Rangers supporter) and his tales of anti-Catholic bigotry in Scotland and Northern Ireland are vivid and bitterly recounted.

The book is full of strange little facts, stories about Irish gangsters who hailed from the same village as his relatives, or the family history of Che Guevara Lynch and, unlike so many footballer books, this one contains real opinions on people, games and world events.

It also contains stories of an unbelievable amount of fist fights. Not that he admits to starting many of them but he does admit to having a short fuse, something re-enforced by a story about a recent event when “a Newcastle fan caught my arm with a cup of tea…so I hit him”.

Obviously the bulk of this books concerns his time in England with ManchesterUnited, but his time at Celtic Park and the shambles that was early 60s Celtic is pretty well covered.

Crerand spares no one in his description of his time at Celtic Park. All the dirty laundry is hung out: McGrory – nice guy, should never have been a manger, didn’t pick the team, didn’t stick up for the players, didn’t even give any kind of team talks prior to games; Bobby Evans is accused of arranging fixed matches, claiming to have been present at a first team meeting where match rigging was discussed and the fact that Willie Fernie and Bobby Collins were sold to pay for the Celtic Park floodlights.

But the main target is Bob Kelly, the man who picked the team on a whim and ensured that the players’ salaries were kept low.

As with the George Connelly book, wages were a big, or rather far, far too small, thing with Celtic at the time. When he was sold by Kelly to United he more than doubled his wages.

And it’s not only Celtic that gets it here – Falkirk in the 50s was, according to Pat, “the most anti-Catholic, anti-Celtic town in Scotland”. I believe the people of Airdrie may want a recount on that one.

His Scotland debut has an unusual tale to it. He was playing at Hampden against, of all teams, the Republic of Ireland. In those days they didn’t play “Scotland the Brave” before games, they played the Queen. Crerand refused to sing along: “I loathed what the British royal family stood for” (can see that going down a treat with English readers). Then they played the Irish anthem and he sang that one instead!

Crerand goes on to say that if he was playing today he would have played for Ireland. You will be not be surprised, therefore, to read that Crerand is a fierce Irish nationalist, a subject he touches on frequently in the book, particularly when recounting his childhood.

His departure from Celtic was typical of the time; cross Bob Kelly, find yourself dropped, get told by a reporter you’re leaving.

While he describes leaving as a wrench, he does admit that he had begun to consider leaving in any case, disillusioned by the state of the club.

The one thing I would have liked to have read about after he left was his return in 1966 for a preseason game and a 4:1 drubbing dished out by the Lisbon Lions.

Perhaps the most interesting tale is how he sounded out Jock Stein about succeeding Busby as manager at Old Trafford and the circumstances of Stein’s refusal.

All in all not a bad read and certainly not the usual footballer book fare.