The title of a book can sometimes be an intriguing little puzzle as to what is to come for the reader. One such that falls into the category is AK-86 Two shots in the heart of Scottish Football by Grant Hill. It is only after reading the book that you can fully deconstruct the title and come to find all sorts of meaning and games at play.
Let’s start with AK-86. Well, most people will have heard of an AK-47, or Kalashnikov rifle, one of the most widely used weapons in the world, so by using ‘AK’, Hill has created the link to the weapon and therefore the use of the terms ‘shots’, as in firing a gun, in the sub-title of the book. However, in the context of the book, AK refers to the initials of the player at the centre of this tale, Dundee striker Albert Kidd, with 86 referring to the pivotal year of 1986 when the end of the Scottish League Premier Division season reached a dramatic conclusion.
So if we take that AK-86 as having a football reference, then the ‘shots’ referred to in the sub-title have a second representation, that being the two goals that Kidd scored in the final game of the 1985/86 campaign. However, they have a third meaning, as within the book, Hill talks about 1986 as being pivotal for two major changes which changed or got at the heart of the Scottish game. These events saw the end of an era for the Scotland national team, as the likes of World class players such as Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness and Alan Hanson exited the international scene, never to be replaced. Indeed 1986 saw Souness arrive at Ibrox as Rangers splashed the cash in the following years to attract players North of the Border, and as Hill outlines, start the process of financial problems that the Glasgow club has endured to this day and indeed afflicted other clubs.
In telling the story, Hill interviews many of the protagonists, including Albert Kidd, and includes contributions from managers, players and fans of the clubs involved at Celtic, Dundee, Hearts, Hibernian, Rangers and St. Mirren. By using a chronological timeline in terms of the build-up to that weekend and events some years later, the story is given a full examination including an investigation of the rumours and conspiracy theories that were banded around as the games were completed on that Saturday in early May.
Being based in England, I have to hold my hand up and say that before reading and reviewing this book I wasn’t aware of the story of the 03 May 1986. However, even if you know the outcome, Hill brilliantly maintains the suspense of the events building up to that crucial Saturday and it a book that is well worth a read, for this tale and the implications for Scottish Football following those events in 1986.