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'Willie Maley - The Man Who Made Celtic' is yet another masterpiece of Celtic literature by David W Potter, the author and historian who also lists 'Our Bhoys Have Won The Cup', 'Jock Stein - The Celtic Years' (in collaboration with Tom Campbell), 'Celtic In The League Cup' and 'The Mighty Atom - The Life and Times of Patsy Gallacher' in his portfolio.
David is a schoolteacher by profession, though now that he has retired from battering the brains of Fife's high school kids, we in Timdom can look forward to a steady stream of Celtic-minded books from David - and let's hope so, too. Potter is very unlike many authors of Celtic books that have been recently published. David is a genuine Celtic fan, 'Faithful, Through and Through', and he writes about his football obsession and his love - Celtic Football Club. A Tim with the gift of prose and tremendous knowledge of Celtic's history, David is NOT one of those tabloid trash jockeys that frequently leap at the opportunity to fleece Celtic fans with a book about our Club, when the Hack is as steeped in Celtic history and culture as Osama Bin Laden. No, David W Potter is the real deal, as Hooped as it gets, and his latest publication, 'Willie Maley - The Man Who Made Celtic', is, in my humble opinion, his finest work to date - well written, meticulously researched, factually abundant and with fascinating photographs from the archive.
David's marvellously entertaining and thoroughly informative narrative of the Celtic life and times of Willie Maley is a journey through the first fifty years or so of our beloved Celtic - a Club that was founded by Brother Walfrid and his associates, but lovingly parented, schooled, tutored and graduated by Willie Maley - 'Mr Celtic'!
David summarises Willie Maley's crucial importance in the raising of our glorious Club in the opening paragraphs: 'How much Maley contributed to Celtic can probably be summed up in the phrase, 'Willie Maley - he is Celtic'. There could certainly have been no Celtic without him, and a glance at today's magnificent stadium - an awesome sight when full - will show how much Celtic means to so many people in Glasgow, Scotland and beyond. None of this would have happened had it not been for the vision and energy of Willie Maley.'
The eventful journey during the formative years of Celtic FC begins in Ireland, the birthplace of William Patrick Maley, and his influential father, Thomas Maley, before moving with the Maley family to Scotland - to Cathcart in Glasgow. And, before long, Celtic, and specifically Brother Walfrid, is knocking at the front door of the Maley family home.
The year is 1887. Willie Maley and his brother, Tom, become Celtic players, as the Club that would become 'the greatest football club in the world' is born, playing Rangers in the volunteer-built stadium on Monday 28th May, 1888, and winning 5-2. 'The history' begins. Within ten years, Willie Maley is Celtic's manager, having become an accountant and shown accomplished business acumen and book keeping skills.
Maley begins the task of creating Celtic, the football power, with his energy, initiative, ingenuity, business brain and, most importantly, man-management skills, football knowledge and tactical awareness. In the years to come, there are glories galore and silverware aplenty, as Willie Maley guides Celtic to numerous successes and trophies - Scottish Cups, Charity Cups, Glasgow Cups and, of course, League Championships. David tells the story of this glorious chapter in Celtic's history, in particular the famous Celtic side of 1904-10 and six-in-a-row.
We are also introduced to the initial skirmishes in our eternal battle for supremacy with Glasgow's other football team, Rangers, and David recounts the first taste of bad blood between the 'Old Firm', as they were about to be christened, at the Glasgow Exhibition/ Ibrox Disaster Trophy of 1902. A four-team tournament between Celtic, Rangers, Sunderland and Everton, Celtic became victors when they defeated Rangers, 3-2, in the Final and, much to the chagrin of the host club, Rangers, we decided to keep the Cup, as it had been won fair and square.
Rivalry began and two tribes were formed. However, as David rightly points out, this then was rivalry, and nothing more than that. It was only when Rangers, in the 1920s, deliberately cultivated sectarianism, discriminatory signing policies based on religion and the extremes of Protestantism and Orange-ism, and all for filthy lucre, that bigotry within football emerged.
Not that there was not religious intolerance, prejudice and sectarianism long before that in Britain and Ireland and, being an historian and writer of honesty, credibility, social conscience and political awareness, David W Potter is not averse to describing all the manifestations, rebellions and upheavals that were ubiquitous at that time. David's story of Maley is intertwined with the social and political unrest in Ireland and Scotland throughout Victorian and Edwardian Britain.
The horrors of poverty, squalor and urban deprivation always lurk in the background of the book, as does The Great War, the 'land fit for heroes' thereafter that plainly was not that, The Depression and the rise of the evil of Nazism. David does not shirk his duty to tell it as it was and does not labour with the sensitivities that some would prefer were not retold. Commendable, David! One cannot rewrite history for the benefit of misplaced ideals of current political correctness. The truth is the truth.
Aside from every kick of the ball and the winning of so many trophies, there are the great Celtic players of the era that David brings to prominence, from Maley's perspective - Quinn, Gallacher and McGrory are, perhaps, the most famous. There are also players such as Tommy McInally that David describes from Maley's viewpoint - McInally seems to have been the Frank McAvennie of the 1920s. And, there are the tragedies: from the death of Peter Johnstone, a Celtic player, in the trenches of Flanders in 1917 to the deaths of Willie Maley's brothers, Father Charles O'Malley and Tom; from the deaths of Maley's mother and his wife to the injuries sustained by Maley's sons during the First World War; from the tragic loss of John Thomson, the Celtic goalkeeper killed at Ibrox in 1931, to the equally premature death of the Celtic player, Peter Scarff, from Tuberculosis in 1933. All were Club and personal tragedies that struck the Celtic father figure, Willie Maley, very hard indeed.
David writes of Maley's reaction to the death of John Thomson: 'But, what Maley liked was that Thomson, the boy from the Fife mining village who belonged to an obscure Protestant religious sect, had earned all that he had earned through his association with Celtic, the so-called team of Irish Catholics! Thomson could not have done it without Celtic or without Maley......but now he had been so cruelly taken away. Maley would take some time to recover.'
In fact, David frequently stresses just what the burden of leadership did to Maley, a man with the weight and responsibility of Celtic on his broad shoulders, as the Celtic manager frequently lapsed into periods of depression and melancholy, caused by tragedies, deaths, poor on-field performances, the surrounding poverty, the political upheaval and criticism of Maley's Celtic team by the supporters, frustrated by events on the pitch.
Maley was indeed a complex individual. Undoubtedly a benevolent father figure, an astute businessman, a born leader, a thoroughly charitable man and a football master-tactician for Celtic (especially for identifying players such as Quinn, Gallacher and McGrory), David also describes Maley as 'autocratic' and 'obsessed with money.' David writes: 'Financial parsimony was only one aspect of Maley's character. Another was sheer obstinacy and stubbornness, that he and only he knew what was best for Celtic, and he would decide.'
Indeed, other facets of Maley's persona will unsettle the Celtic reader, such as his pro-Empire views, his monarchism and his extreme reluctance to allow his liberalism and undoubted sensitivity, charity and philanthropy to become wholly supportive of the common man and the latter's political struggles during the period. Maley was not a socialist by any manner of means. However, throughout the book, one cannot help but realise that Maley was, then, Celtic, from foundation in 1888 to the end of his tenure in 1940.
His successes were quite phenomenal. And, one cannot help but draw parallels with another man of such massive importance to our Club - Jock Stein. This could have been said by Big Jock, but was in fact said by Maley: 'It's not his creed nor his nationality which counts - it's the man himself.'
And, the following could have been oratory delivered by Jock Stein to The Lisbon Lions, but was, in fact, Maley: 'It's an honour and a privilege to wear those green and white jerseys. These people out there (indicating the crowd) have given a lot to see you wearing those stripes (Celtic still wore green and white vertical stripes until 1903). What are you going to give back to them?'
Reading David W Potter and, in particular, this book, 'Willie Maley - The Man Who Made Celtic', is a history lesson well worth having. David helps to reinforce, through his recounting of Celtic history and culture, exactly who we are, where we came from and what makes us Tic. Why we are a culture club, in fact! 'If You Know The History.....!' Well, David does know his, and it's a joy to read. David crystallises exactly what Willie Maley did for The Cause of Celtic. So much, in fact, that we still sing about it in the Willie Maley Song: