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celtic encyclopaedia book
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Celtic The Encyclopaedia; compiled by Tom Campbell and George Sheridan with a foreword by Billy McNeill; Argyll Publishing; 352 pages illustrated throughout (colour & b/w); £20.00 hardback

A glance at the compilers of this one should be enough to convince you to buy it. Tom Campbell will probably be a more familiar name, having been the author of several books about the Hoops that have become essential reading, but George Sheridan is good company. He founded the Celt fanzine along with the late Eugene MacBride - to whom the book is dedicated together with Tommy Burns - and co-authored that essential work for Celtic anoraks everywhere, ‘An Alphabet of the Celts’.

To put it simply, once you buy this (and if you’re a reader of this magazine you will undoubtedly be tempted already) you will never get tired of dipping into it for the kind of trivia that will see you elevated to guru status among your Celtic-supporting mates.

All the facts and figures behind the club’s historic triumphs and disasters are here, of course, but there are also thousands of delightfully quirky headings listed within its 350-odd pages to fill those absolutely non-essential gaps in your knowledge of the Hoops.

Under ‘Ecclesiastic Connections’, for example, you can avail yourself of the knowledge that when Celtic went to Argentina to play racing Club, there were 107 supporters in the official party, whose number included six priests and and the Reverend Robert Jack, a Lutheran minister from Iceland. To paraphrase Brian Belton, what they did when they found out that the hotel was swarming with hookers is anybody’s guess.

Did you know that Celtic Park hosted a baseball game on 28 September 1918 when two teams representing branches of the American forces played an exhibition match in front of 12,000 spectators? Or that Celtic used goal nets at home for the first time in a friendly against Dumbarton in 1892? It was New Year’s Day and the Celts lost 8:0. “It is believed the goalkeeper had been celebrating too much the night before.”

Under the heading “Huns” you’ll find the following information: “During World War I Celtic, because of their domination of Scottish football, were often likened to the powerful German armies and were described as ‘Huns’. The term was not considered an insult.”

To discover more about ‘fires’, ‘half-time ructions’, Hollywood Celts’, ‘own-goal bonuses’, ‘Quiz Ball’ and ‘turncoats’you’ll have to invest in a copy of the book.

If I was to venture any criticism at all it would be that the index is two out when it comes to page numbers, which is a bit annoying, but that is a miniscule fault in what is otherwise a worthy addition to anybody’s Celtic reference collection.

Hundreds of pictures accompany the informative and witty text so you won’t be disappointed if you buy it for yourself, and nor will Uncle Tim, who, by the look of things, is spoilt for choice this Christmas.

Thoroughly recommended.