The Absolute Game Revisited – Part 5

July 26, 2009

Here’s a book review from TAG 47 (March 1996)


FACTS ARE CHIELS THAT WINNA DING
(This heading is TAG’s contribution to the Burns bi-centenary celebrations. Anyone who has any idea what it means should contact the editor immediately.)
The Breedon Book of Scottish Football Records

On Boxing Day when we found Santa wedged in one of the central heating ducts connected to the fake chimney, he was clutching a brightly coloured package addressed to me, and it turned out to contain a copy of ‘The Breedon Book of Scottish Football Records’. This book contains the dates and results of every Scottish League game, every Scottish Cup game and every Scottish League Cup game played between the creation of the universe and the end of the 1994/95 season. A fantastic feast for football fact fiends. The blurb on the dust-jacket notes that football results are more than just mere statistics. It says that they are milestones, not only in a football-watching career but in a very life itself. A candidate for Pseuds Comer or what? Well, yes, except, I agree with the sentiments entirely.

Like every book of this sort it contains its fair share of irritating errors. Without looking too hard I was able to note that there was no reference at all to ES Clydebank’s single season in the sun (see elsewhere in this issue for further details). The naming of the losing cup-finalists of 1987 as Dundee without the reasonably important qualification of the word ‘United‘ is annoying if you’re the kind of sad person (like me) who gets annoyed easily. Proof that this is a mistake born out of genuine ignorance, rather than a typographical error, is provided when the same gaffe recurs on page 133 when a team photograph is said to be of the Dundee team who finished 5th in the league and were beaten in the fourth round of the cup by Celtic in 1972. Dundee did finish 5th and were beaten by Celtic in the 4th round in that year. The problem is that the photograph is of Dundee United. The clues which alerted me were (a) the presence of Hamish McAlpine, Walter Smith, Tommy Traynor, Dougie Smith, Andy Rolland, Kenny Cameron, Jerry Kerr et al in the photo, (b) the fact that the backdrop is obviously Tannadice, and (c) the real giveaway that the players have badges on their shirts reading ‘D.U. F.C’. Apart from that it’s an easy mistake to make.

The most glaring error is one which, if it had been made at TAG HQ, would have resulted in the sub-editor being banished permanently to Cliftonhill. On page 102 there’s a photograph of a Celtic goal being scored and it’s captioned as being their first goal in a 2-0 cup replay win over Rangers. It’s such a great photograph that it’s pressed into service again on page 189, only this time it’s one of Celtic’s seven goals in the 1957 League Cup Final. There’s also a minor misprint in the Premier Division Table for 1975/76 which records Dundee United’s points tally as 52, when in fact they only got 32. Please don’t get the idea that I’ve pored over the whole thing looking for trifling errors. I just happened to notice that one because I wanted to remind myself just how close Dundee Utd (and Aberdeen) came to relegation that season, both surviving on goal difference only. As printed, it looks like United weren’t even involved in the dogfight at all.

One other criticism which I’d make of the book is in the choice of photographs. OK, I know that the Old Firm hordes are the biggest part of the football market, but does that really justify having Rangers and Celtic feature in six of the eight photographs on the front and back covers? One of these photographs is of Brian Laudrup. Great player, but hardly synonymous with the history of Scottish football. Inside, there are 80 photographs (yes, I counted them) of which no fewer than 59 feature the Old Firm. Of the remaining 21, ten feature Aberdeen, 3 are of Dunfermline and the two Dundee teams have two each. Which leaves four photos shared out amongst the other approximately 400 teams mentioned in the book. To put this into perspective, there are no photographs at all of about 30 of the current 40 league clubs, while, on the other hand, there are no less than 5 of Mark Hateley. This sort of thing becomes particularly annoying when there are no illustrations to accompany those sparse occasions when one of the ‘Mickey Mouse’ teams actually did something remarkable. Like, for example, Kilmarnock winning the league in 1965. That page is illustrated by a team photo of Aberdeen who finished 12th, were knocked out of the Cup in the first round by East Fife, and were eliminated from the League Cup in the first round sections, gaining only 5 points from 6 games. More recently, St Mirren’ s cup triumph of 1987 is illustrated by a photo of Ally McCoist, while, by contrast, Motherwell’s cup winning year of 1991 is illustrated by a photo of, eh, Ally McCoist. Like Hateley, super-Swally manages to chalk up a total of five pictures, even if one of these does show him on crutches.

Revolting pandering to the Old Firm and minor errors aside, this is an excellent book. It is quite amazing how memories can be activated by flicking through the pages recounting the scores of your youth. Everyone can remember the first game they were at. In my case I have to go back nearly 30 years (now 40 – aging blog Ed) to 1967 and Rangers beating Morton 1-0, with Willie Johnston scoring in the very first minute. The league table shows that that was the season when the only game which Rangers lost was the very last one of the season and yet they still finished second. As your eyes flick across to the Scottish Cup results for that year you see that the semi-finalists were Dunfermline, St Johnstone, Hearts and Morton (the last-named having narrowly beaten Elgin City in the quarter-final). Happy days. Apart from the opportunities for maudlin reminiscing which the book provides, it will also finally put a stop to all those arguments about whether East Stirling beat Arbroath by 2-0 or 3-0 in the second round replay in 1934.

Every home should have one.

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