PO Box 306, Glasgow, G21 2AE, Scotland
The Road to Seville edited by Paul Cuddihy and Joe Sullivan; Celtic FC; 300 pages illustrated throughout; £19.99 hardback
This is the club's official homage to the UEFA Cup run and, in my opinion, they've made a real hash of it. Having employed a bunch of people who refer to themselves as 'The Celtic Media Team', the directors appear to be satisfied that they can sit back and leave everything to them; broadcasting, internet, Celtic View... you name it. The thought occurs that perhaps the club are trying to do things on the cheap and that the 'Celtic Media Team' might be spreading their prodigious talents a tad thinly.
On the evidence of this book you'd have to conclude that this is certainly true in the writing department. Having eschewed the opportunity to involve some proper football writers in their UEFA Cup project, somebody has then decided that it would be a good idea to let the CMT each have a chapter to themselves to cover all of the European ties played last season. The results are, to say the least, variable. The quality of the writing varies from acceptably pedestrian, through to media studies course journalism and on to people like Margot McCuaig (who she? ed) who seem to intent on emulating Anthony Burgess in A Clockwork Orange by inventing her own idiosyncratic rules about grammar and syntax. Considering this book has been edited by two different people you'd think that at least one of them might have been able to do something with this girl's writing.
Alas, this is another complaint about the book. I suppose there's not much you can do with the kind of soporific prose contained in some of the chapters (somebody called John Cole deserves as special mention here) but when charging twenty quid for a book the least your readers can expect is a lack of basic errors, as well as proof reading for typos. The frequency of these is noticeable, especially when you consider there were two editors being employed for the job.
Pre-match build-up and reports of the games themselves are often recycled directly from back issues of the Celtic View - dull enough the first time but almost stupefying second time around. In fact, large chunks of the View are quoted at great length while the authors' attempts at describing the places visited by Celtic fans along the way rarely rise above that offered by Paul Cuddihy, whose visit to Basel inspired him to write: 'Like many European cities, Basel is clean.' Apart from the fact that the airport straddles two borders, that's about it. Paul Theroux can sleep easy in his bed.
The worst aspect of the book, for me, is that somebody in their infinite wisdom has decided that the incredible feats of the players should have to share space with what seem like interminable digressions about how zany it is to be a part of the madcap world of the CMT. Do we really need to know which of them smokes, who's scared of flying and how much fun it was to bring in pictures of what the CMT looked like back in the 80s in a book which advertises itself as 'The official story of Celtic's UEFA Cup campaign?' Who gives a shit about these fevered egos? There should be a warning on the cover.
This kind of thing reaches its nadir with 'Tony Hamilton's European Diary', a couple of pages of banter from the man who reads the raffle numbers at half-time, the purpose of which escaped me. Excruciating.
For all it is 300 pages long, not all of these are written by the CMT. The remainder are given over to e-mails sent to the View and apparently just plonked in, again with what seems to be the minimum of editing. Like 'Celtic Views', the book containing entries for the Celtic writing competition, these are a bit hit and miss, but this is perfectly understandable. I can't help feeling that in the hands of a good writer these stories would have been the kernel of a decent book.
What was wrong with tempting Campbell and Woods to reform for this gig? Kevin McCarra is another writer with an excellent Celtic book to his name. Why not offer him the task of doing justice to the club's most historic European campaign in thirty years? Answers on a postcard to Kerrydale Street.
On the plus side, the book is lavishly illustrated and contains some brilliant pictures. However, not all of them have captions, especially those which appear to have been sent in by View readers. Maybe the editors stand by the old bromide that a picture is worth a thousand words. A strange philosophy, mind you, if you fancy yourself as a writer.
At one point in the book Cuddihy dons his philosopher's hat and reflects that, 'The problem with raising the expectations of football supporters is that they expect more.' To this profound though I would like to add, 'The problem with charging football supporters twenty quid for a book is that they expect to get something that's well written in exchange.'
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