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bertie auld book

A Bhoy called bertie – The Life and Times of Bertie Auld by Bertie Auld and Alex Gordon; Black and White publishing; 271 pages (16 pages of colour and b/w pictures); £18.99 hardback.

Alex Gordon ghosts Bertie’s book in a style reminiscent of an evening in the great man’s company. If you’ve ever had that pleasure you’ll know what a treat it is. As such it’s a book that’s full of humour and anecdotes about Auld’s early life, his football career and his madcap time as a manager with Partick Thistle, among others.

Don’t be put off if you think you’ll have heard all the stories before. It’s true that Bertie gets a lot of exposure these days, both at Celtic Park and on Celtic TV, but the tales he has to tell lose little in the re-telling in this book and there’s plenty of new material.

On the subject of matches against Rangers, for example, he recalls John Greig, who naturally revelled in these games, going over to the Celtic End to fetch the ball for a throw-in: “A voice exclaimed, ‘Greig, I didn’t realise you were such a dirty bastard.’ The Rangers captain swiftly replied, ‘Have you not been watching me all season?”

The chapters I enjoyed most were those dealing with his younger days, growing up in Maryhill and signing for the Hoops at a time when the likes of Charlie Tully was at Celtic Park.

Soon after signing, Bertie’s mother bought him a car. Unfortunately she had spent so much money on it there was none left for petrol so he decided to pawn a suit. On the way there he was spotted by a neighbour who was looking out the window and asked him if he would do a favour by taking with him a nightshirt belonging to her husband that might be worth two shillings:

“In Maryhill the pawnshop was up a close… There were little cubicles in the place as about three or four employees worked behind a long desk. They were probably there to protect your privacy although, of course, everyone knew everyone else’s business in Maryhill. The bloke behind the desk asked, ‘Name?’
I whispered, ‘Auld’.
I kept my voice low again, ‘Auld.’
Suddenly this big guy from the next berth looked around the partition and said in an ear-splitting roar, ‘Bertie Auld, of Celltic! What are you doing here?’
I mumbled something and the guy at the desk took the two parcels. He opened mine, looked it up and down, inspecting both the trousers and the jacket. ‘How much?’ he asked.
‘Two quid?’ I ventured. He said nothing. He opened my neighbour’s parcel. He shook the nightshirt and I noticed it had been slightly soiled. Again he was quiet and merely asked, ‘how much?’
I swiftly disowned the garment. ‘My neighbour’s looking for two bob,’ I replied.
‘OK,’ he said, slamming down some cash with a receipt. ‘Two quid suit jacket and trousers.’ Then, in an unnecessariloy louder tone he added, ‘Two shillings shirt and shite!’

He deals briefly with his time in England and his international career, but it’s his time at Celtic, as you would expect, takes up the bulk of the book. And what a time to have been a part of the Hoops’ first team! If you were lucky enough to have lived through it the Bertie’s recollections of the games in Lisbon, Milan, the Bernabeu, Argentina, Leeds and all the rest will satisfy your nostalgia cravings and have you reaching for the DVDs.

Bertie’s management career with Thistle, Hibs and Dumbarton has become the stuff of legend and most of the stuff he reveals in the book is another insight into the Pythonesque world of life at the lower levels of Scottish football. He also settles a few scores with Alan Rough, who had some things to say about Bertie in his own book. Hard to believe Bertie thrusting mince pies into the players’ faces without Roughie grabbing a few and stuffing them into his face.

The chapters towards the end of the book where he gives his opinions on the modern game are weaker, but overall this an entertaining read that will pass a few hours while you’re waiting for the new season to start. An ideal birthday present for Grandpa Tim.