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Scottish football book choice

Be a book reviewer

By Julian Taylor

Confessions of a Highland Hero: Steve 'Pele' Paterson (Birlinn)

Steve Paterson, "a wee boy from the Moray Firth" who journeyed to Manchester United and back again, tells the candid story of a man who flirted with success as a player before becoming a respected coach in Scottish football.

Confessions Of A Highland Hero by Steve Paterson (Birlinn)

Sadly, the traditional après-match vices of drink and gambling marked Paterson, the awful endgame in his case being the loss of his family, home and self-respect.

An addictive personality, the Highlander's headlong recklessness and self-loathing painstakingly detailed here is, occasionally, quite incredible to comprehend.

Of course, the high-water mark of Paterson's career was guiding Inverness Caledonian Thistle to a famous Scottish Cup win over Celtic in 2000. Yet in 'Aberdeen calls at a bad time' an essentially modest man found the spotlight of his time at Pittodrie too much to cope with.

His description of missing a game due to a drinking spree - one of countless others - the night before is a poignant one, not least for what a troubled figure had to face up to in the aftermath.

Thankfully, with the help of former Arsenal captain Tony Adams' Sporting Chance clinic, Paterson, now a social worker, deserves huge credit for tackling life once again.

One thing is obvious. Confessions of a Highland Hero would not have been an easy undertaking. But it appears for Paterson's own salvation it was absolutely necessary.

Heart-rending, and not to be casually dismissed as another opportunist 'misery memoir', this is both an astonishing and poignant book.

The Goalie by Andy Goram (Mainstream)

A character as extrovert as former Rangers and Scotland goalkeeper Andy Goram is apt for an appealing - and controversial - autobiography.

One of Rangers' cherished nine-in-a-row heroes, Goram suggests a blend of professionalism and a band-of-brothers team spirit fuelled what was a trophy juggernaut in the 1990s.

The Goalie by Andy Goram (Mainstream)

The book contains a hilarious account of an unlikely reunion with former Old Firm foe Paolo di Canio; his respect for the late Celtic boss Tommy Burns; the truth of Goram's deep disappointment on being dropped as Scotland keeper for the 1998 World Cup by Craig Brown.

Goram also talks about his schooling at Hibernian which served as the perfect grounding for the intense spotlight which shines on a fledgling Old Firm goalkeeper.

His devil-may-care approach to the experience of an unlikely Indian summer at Manchester United fascinates; Goram's friendship with David Beckham, Fabian Barthez and Paul Scholes puts a not unsurprising clash with the complex Roy Keane into perspective.

Flawed Genius: Scottish Football's Self-Destructive Mavericks by Stephen McGowan (Birlinn)

With such a litany of, "colourful" characters, the term, Flawed Genius, should be the sole copyright of Scottish football. Indeed, author Stephen McGowan has a richly talented squad of ne'er-do-wells to choose from.

Naturally, stagehand rogues of yesteryear such as Frank McAvennie, and even the great George Best in his unlikely swan song with Hibernian get star billing.

Flawed Genius by Stephen McGowan (Birlinn)

However, the most remarkable chapter, 'The Kaiser of Kincardine', centres on Celtic's seventies enigma George Connelly. Jock Stein's shiniest star, a painfully shy man, fell out of love with football and, filled with self-doubt, flushed it all away for a reclusive life of questions unanswered and talent unfulfilled.

An honourable mention too, for Partick Thistle legend, the controversial Chic Charnley - a gifted player, wandering midfield minstrel and serial underachiever. Leaving Charnley to coaching, McGowan claims, would be akin to putting Keith Richards in charge of the Rolling Stones' mini bar.

Celtic fans will find an intriguing discussion on the 'Three Amigos' of Paolo di Canio, Pierre van Hooijdonk and Jorge Cadete - players of no little flamboyance who danced on the edge of success before eyeing the main chance and another pay check elsewhere.

And no book of this nature could be without Rangers' legends Jim Baxter and Paul Gascoigne. The former a sixties entertainer on the pitch and bon viveur off it; the latter who helped drive the Ibrox club on to nine league titles in a row.

The success of Flawed Genius lies in its reminder that football, for all its' modern businesslike solemnity, remains an entertainment - and that we should still cherish the precious few mavericks who brighten up the game with their exquisite style.

Archie Macpherson: A Game of Two Halves - The Autobiography (Black and White)

Macpherson is one of the last great figures of Scottish football and a long broadcasting career will always promise to throw up a catalogue of fascinating tales.

A former headmaster, Macpherson entered the world of broadcasting in the sixties and his career with the microphone was spent mainly with the BBC, Scottish Television and Eurosport.

Archie Macpherson - A Game of Two Halves (Black and White)

Both he and his contemporary, Arthur Montford, chronicled a golden age of Scottish football, with Rangers and Celtic, then as now, at the forefront.

Macpherson notes how his friendship with Celtic boss Jock Stein got off to a difficult start, while he found a kindred spirit in a young Alex Ferguson, then a hungry manager at Aberdeen.

His rarefied position afforded special insights. For instance, he accounts how the pressure of being Rangers manager affected Willie Waddell and how, bizarrely, he became acquainted with notorious Glasgow gangster Arthur Thompson. Only in Scotland?

Macpherson is fondly regarded as a cult hero to Scots. The evidence from the commentary box is damning as he reveals in the aftermath of Scotland's famous 2-1 win over England at Wembley in 1977: "Surrounded by English indignation (at the behaviour of the exuberant Scottish fans), inwardly I wished I was on the crossbar with them."

These memoirs will appeal to those of a certain vintage who will appreciate the string of colourful stories, of football anecdotes within the wider context of a bygone era.

Macpherson's capacity for a wonderful, if at times, endearingly surreal, turn of phrase helps bring it all to life.

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see also
Paterson candid about addiction
18 Nov 09 |  Scotland
Goram sure Smith won't walk away
29 Oct 09 |  Scotland
Celtic's lost legend
19 Nov 07 |  Scotland

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