The Absolute Game Revisited – Part 22

September 19, 2009

Book Review Time

GO  UGH !!

Field of Dreams. My Ibrox Years. by Richard Gough “with” Ken Gallagher.

Mad Mac asked me to do a hatchet j…, er, objectively review this book. The 25 minutes it took me to read it were most unpleasant. The first sentence in the book is “Diplomacy has never been one of my strong points”’. Well, that’s handy because it’s never been one of mine either and I’ll take that as my cue to trash this piece of garbage. Let’s start with the structure and style of it. The “ghost” is Ken Gallagher who is described on the dust-jacket as being “one of Scotland’s most respected football journalists’ ‘. In fact, he is a tired old hack who is dredged up by Old Firm players whenever they feel the need to supplement their income with some anodyne prose.

The usual routine is that, after being disinterred, Gallagher is given an intravenous infusion of cash, gets plonked down in front of a typewriter with his handbook of football cliches, and a couple of hours later the latest meisterwerk is delivered.

The result is that lazy journalism abounds and all the old hackneyed phrases are here in abundance. For example, Ralph Milne is described as “a flying machine “, while, later on, to add some variety, Red Star Belgrade’s Binic is described as, er, “a flying machine “. Feyernood are “Dutch cracks” while PSV Eindhoven are, wait for it, “Dutch cracks “. Rangers are continually referred to as “the biggest “, “the wealthiest “, “the most powerful“, “the richest” club in the land. And in case any of you thick bastards out there are missing the point all these superlatives are rendered in italics! I could go on, but you get the idea.

The writing has a style and level of inventiveness achievable by most kids in primary four. More puzzling is the fact that the book is sub-titled “My Ibrox Years”, and yet a substantial part of it is devoted to Gough’s time at Dundee United and Spurs. Indeed, by far the longest chapter is entitled “Tannadice – Triumphs and Tribulations”. Is there not some section in the Trade Descriptions Act dealing with this type of misrepresentation?

Essentially, the book can be broken down into three or four central themes. Andy Roxburgh is a bastard. Jim McLean is a bastard. Graeme Souness is wonderful, but can be a bit of a bastard at times. Richard Gough is wonderful and anyone who disagrees is a bastard.

The book contains a litany of the most petty disagreements imaginable between Gough and practically everyone that he’s ever come into contact with. Gough continually reminds us that he is “single-minded” when what he really means is “small-minded”. He casts himself in the role of put-upon martyr, constantly struggling for justice in the face of managerial tyrants. One is struck, while reading the book, by just how many of these ridiculous squabbles have arisen due to Gough’s “injury problems”. You are forced to conclude that either he is incredibly injury-prone or he is the biggest hypochondriac to captain Rangers. Indeed, his pathetic fall-out with Souness arose precisely because Graeme accused him of feigning injury. At no time does it ever cross Gough’s mind that he might be in the wrong about anything, and the word compromise does not feature in his vocabulary. He is forever right and his “single-mindedness” ensures that he always gets his own way. His bullying inflexibility is presented throughout as something to be admired. Phrases like “my strength of will” and “my self belief” recur constantly to describe “confrontations” and “battles of wills” arising from the most incredibly trivial situations. Only a complete social inadequate, or someone who was wilfully pig-ignorant, would consider that these events reflected any credit on himself.

The whole sorry mess proceeds on the entirely misconceived presumption that Richard Gough is a “star”. The truth is that it is a matter of some debate whether, as a player, he can even be described as adequate, never mind above average. He is certainly the least talented individual to enter the “Hall of Fame” with 50 caps. I concede that he played very well in 1992’s European Championships. He also scored the winner the last time we beat England. OK, so that’s four of his caps accounted for. Can anyone remember anything else about his undistinguished, but long-running, international career? Well, what about his performance in the 5-0 defeat by Portugal for example. Gough, that night, turned in the most convincing impersonation of a decapitated gerbil ever witnessed on the Iberian peninsula.

Of course, he blames all that on Andy Roxburgh and Craig Brown. Nothing is ever Gough’s fault. In all the criticism which he levels at Andy Roxburgh, most of it completely unjustified, he omits to mention the single biggest error made by Roxburgh, namely his repeated selection of Richard Gough.

This book has been extensively serialised in a Glasgow newspaper, and Gough featured in radio adverts hyping the book by promising to “lift the lid” on, for example, “why Mo had to go “. Well, Richard, tell us why Mo had to go. The answer can be found on page 139. I quote, “He didn’t want to be third choice behind Mark and Coisty and he put up his hand and said it would be better if he left. ” Wow, absolute dynamite or what! You could’ve knocked me down wiv a fevver when I read that stunning revelation. The majority of the book is the same kind of meaningless rubbish. It might have been interesting to hear King Richard’s views on the reasons why Souness upped and left the club. No chance. He simply records the fact that it happened, saying blandly, “it was obviously a decision which had taken a lot of thought and a lot of heartache to reach “. Or how about a good old South African boy’s reaction to the racist abuse heaped on Mark Walters and Dale Gordon? Neither of these players merit so much as a mention. On the other hand, there’s a huge long section devoted to Rangers performances in last season’s European Cup. It’s all utterly pointless, as the whole thing is still so fresh in our minds that we don’t need to be reminded of the “Battle of Britain” etc. In any case, the writing is so anaemic that it just reads like a series of re-hashed Daily Record match reports.

Although, for £12.99, this is a remarkably short book (153 pages including many blanks) Gough manages to run out of things to say long before the end, and the last couple of chapters are blatant fillers of the most nauseating kind. I kid you not, there are four pages devoted to Richard’s eating habits. Here’s a taster for all you gourmets out there, “Basically I have one meal a day. I have cereal and fruit juice in the morning, possibly a sandwich or something light at lunchtime and then a meal at night “. Oh, go on, Richard, tell us what filling you have in your sandwich. (sour grapes with something a bit cheesy, I expect).

The sole purpose which this book serves, apart from making plenty dosh for the author and his ghost, is to settle old scores with Andy Roxburgh and Jim McLean. In doing so, Gough unwittingly and half-wittedly reveals himself to be childish, puerile, immature, juvenile and any other adjective which describes the type of petulant brat which he undoubtedly is. He may have “single-mindedly” become captain of Rangers, but if it came to a choice between him and Andy Roxburgh, I know which one I’d invite to my party.

Richard Gough, or “Big Dick” as he’s known, for some obscure reason, has succeeded in penning the nastiest piece of crap which it has been my misfortune to encounter for quite some time. Even by the quite awesomely dreadful standards of the genre, this is supernaturally awful. As a piece of literature it can only be read by those recovering from a lobotomy operation. In short, this book is a giant squawking turkey which will undoubtedly be gobbled up for Christmas by hordes of McEwans Lager fashion victims.

Henceforth, Gough should be pronounced Guff. Just like his book.

First published in TAG 35 – October 1993


4 Responses to “The Absolute Game Revisited – Part 22”

  1. Ken Says:

    Priceless – I really miss TAG and the Heart Monitor.

  2. Vicshere Says:

    This review is so spot-on, it is actually unnerving. It’s also highly amusing. YOU should write a book, mate, I would buy it.

  3. Darren Says:

    Thanks for the memories from The Absolute Game. A wonderful magazine.

  4. almax Says:


    Thanks for that kind comment – the bonus for me is that it led me to your own blog, which looks like it’s right up my street, and I recommend it to anyone else passing through here

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