PO Box 306, Glasgow, G21 2AE, Scotland


7 - The Official tribute to Henrik Larsson
; Celtic FC; 176 pages paperback; £11.99

The first in what could well turn into a deluge of books attempting to chronicle the career of Larsson comes from one of the head honchos of the Celtic View and is a bit of a mixed bag.

On the up side, this book attempts to do more than the regular career review book. It provides potted histories on the roots of Swedish and Dutch football, background on the careers of some of the managers Henrik has played under and the author has certainly taken advantage of his position with the Celtic View to get some decent quotes from the current squad and from OFM.

But on the debit side we have some less than readable sections, a deeply disappointing picture gallery, a tendency to gloss over some events and some stats that are just plain wrong.

The book starts in with a look at the European cup competitions of the late 60s and early 70s, assessing how the football world was changing with the power base moving north from Spain and Italy. Some of the prose was a bit OTT for my liking and some of the stated facts could have been checked a bit better (Cruyff an unused sub barely out of his teens in the 1969 final? More like the core of team and a player with three years in the national side behind him).

From there the narrative dots around from Dutch football to the start of Henrik's career in Sweden via the appointment of Wim Jansen. As you may have gathered this chapter does not progress in a linear way, it goes off on tangents, often for over a page, before returning to the main point, and the points are often backed up with quotations, mainly from Shakespeare (King Henry the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth) although The Clash also pop up (The Magnificent Seven, of course).

Chapter one ends with Davie Hay's account of how we wound up signing Henrik despite Feyenoord 'throwing a spanner in the works'.

From there the style calms down a bit and we get more or less an account of Larsson's time with Celtic and Sweden, and the text is greatly enhanced by the quotes provided by the likes of Lambert, Myallby, Lars Lagerback and Rab Douglas, who of course had to face Henrik for a few years before he joined us.

Most of the key career moments are covered fairly well, especially the leg break in 1999, although I thought it was a bit weak that our elimination by Valencia in 2001 was pretty much whitewashed. The reader is told that Henrik scored to level the aggregate score at Celtic Park and then had a shot cleared off the line, but sadly we went out on penalties. Not really the whole story is it? The author could have mentioned that despite scoring a wonder goal Henke also missed two or three golden chances and also missed in the penalty shoot out. After all, he is only human.

Bizarrely enough the photo gallery of the book features not one, but two pictures of his fateful spot kick in that shoot out. Very strange.

The photos in this book are pretty poor; nothing you won't have seen in the View and for a book that spent so much time setting the scene in Sweden and Holland not one picture of him in anything but a Celtic kit.

All in all this is a 'Close but no cigar' book. It aspired to great things and the author should be given credit for not producing some piece of mindless pap. But it would have benefited greatly from some stronger editing calming the style a bit, removing some of the more tortured metaphors (anyone else ever thought of Larsson as 'a ravenous she-cat intent on feeding kill after kill to her devoted family'?) and making more of an effort with the pictures.

6.5 out of 10

AB MURDOCH

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