PO Box 306, Glasgow, G21 2AE, Scotland

Talking With Celtic by Eugene McBride; Breedon Books; hardback £16.99

Coming as it does from one of the men behind the fanzine “The Celt”, who was also a co-author for “The Alphabet of the Celts”, this book has a head start on most in that the author’s knowledge of the club could be realistically classed as second to none.

This is simply a collection of personal interviews with Celtic players from the past, not necessarily stars of the team. Indeed two of the people interviewed didn’t even make it into the first team, but were simply people who had the pleasure of wearing the green and white.

The time span covered by the book is very impressive, starting with Willie Buchan, veteran of the 1937 cup final, and finishing with Billy Stark’s recollections of the Centenary year.

By and large all the interviews follow the pattern of; where did you go to school – what was your first serious football team – how did you arrive Celtic Park – what was it like and what happened whilst you were there – how did you come to leave. This actually makes the book easier to read, given that you can simply skip over certain bits quite easily if you want.

One the more curious aspects of the interviews is the aforementioned indisputable knowledge of the author. At times it seems to unnerve to player being interviewed. How would you feel talking to someone who appeared to know more about certain aspect of your life then you did?

Also certain of the interviews, notably Frank Haffey’s, are hampered somewhat by the fact that he doesn’t remember most of the games mentioned, hence we have sections that go something like “You had a great game then”, “Did I? I’ll take your word for it”. Which isn’t really that revealing.

Possibly the worst moment in the book though is the comparison the author draws between Billy Stark and Andy McAttee. Who? After describing his winning goal on his Old Firm debut Stark is offered the comparison between himself and McAttee. A clearly confused Stark inquires further and told that McAttee played at the time of the Great War! Quite how the author can competently judge a player he can only surely have read about is never gone into, but given that this is almost the last thing in the book it leaves the impression that there could be trouble if this were ever turned into a talking book, given that you might not hear much over the noise of the anorak rustling.

The interviews themselves cover far more than simply football. Many of the older interviewees fought in the war, one was at D-Day, another helped with the air defences of London, Seton Airlie played for a couple of years in France, where one of his neighbours was Picasso, and Jimmy Sirrel (whose interview is world class from start to finish) was told to leave a gorbals dance hall by the excellently named ‘Schnozzle’, feared leader of the notorious Beehive razor gang.

Other, more predictable, topics include the tight fisted bully boy that was Willie Maley, intimidating players into not demanding their full salary, the club contracts running from July to May to avoid paying players in the summer, and of course propaganda against any players who dared refuse to renew contract because he was still owed money by the club (Johnny Paton has a hellish story about that).

This book is not one to read from cover to cover in one sitting, but to pick up from time to time, pick an interview at random and enjoy the story. Just like Alphabet of the Celts in fact. By and large, ludicrous player comparisons aside, this book is highly recommended.