Book Review – Bring Me the Sports Jacket of Arthur Montford: An Adventure Through Scottish Football by Aidan Smith
Over 46 chapters, journalist Aidan Smith, once a fanatic programme collector, then a dangerous obsessive, who is now under control without a restraining order, takes us through the wonderment of Scottish football in an episodic wandering of the mind which enriches the spirit. As a book it can be dipped in and out of so that you find that which attracts you most – any headline mention of MY team – and that which intrigues you more – anecdotes from a time you remember…
But this is far more than just a few wee stories flung together because the author is a seven-times winner in the Scottish Press Awards – though nobody says of what, could have been the raffle – but Smith cannot help himself from doing the research – though Davie Robb and the Princess of Monaco is still a startling mystery.
This is where I got particularly hooked on it. I was captured by the breadth, but Smith has also got the depth. This has anecdotes which include recent catch ups and informal interviews with people whose names I recognise as well as reports and stories of names I probably forgot but of whom I am happy to be reminded. It took me from the obscure like how former Ranger (Johannesburg) and Partick Thistle trialist (just the once, but once…) Bill Martin (who wrote the 1970 England World Cup anthem despite being from Govan – he also penned Puppet on a String for the Eurovision) got to the 1974 World Cup courtesy of Rod Stewart to the well-known like Archie Gemmill and that goal… Equally these have the authenticity of recent discussions Smith has had with both Martin and Gemmill: it makes the stories that bit better.
Smith writes with a distinctive flair – that he has not fallen over as his tongue is so embedded in his cheek, he must be lopsided when he walks is miraculous– and with that he manages to retain a lightness of touch throughout. His approach is to take some of the mysteries or weel kent myths and re-examine it to give us something more and so I am reminded of the wait for the results on a Saturday at five to five, which was never crackerjack, how Rick Wakeman ended up at Meadowbank, why some traffic wardens in the central belt asked Dougie Donnelly to move his terms of reference to Alloa, which Rangers (non-South African) player read War and Peace, why 11 Danes ended up in Greenock, how a nine goal fashionista ended up in the States whilst a nine goal embarrassed international goalie ended up acting in Australia, as well as the infamous Gullane Dunes, though I was unaware of their connection to Hearts!
It is a book filled with characters not least the author himself, who impressed with his chat up line which snared him his wife, as well as characters of the game like Haldane Y. Stewart, Tony Green and that man Montford himself. The title is a nod to the fact that of the two stalwarts of Scottish television, Montford always had the air of a bank manager giving you good news – even when it was a 4-0 drubbing. The other stalwart, Archie MacPherson, always seemed on the lookout for a goalmouth stramash or something to tie his hair down with in a wind; he was less authoritative, but equally distinctive.
As a smorgasbord it adds so much, and this makes the read that much better. If you are looking for a serious tome that delves into the reason why VAR should be challenged or how the offside rule has changed over the years, you are looking at the wrong book. But if you fancy an irreverent dribble through the stories of another time, down the wing of a fact that has been kept secret but is well known, watch cheeky keepie-uppies in front of World Cup holders whilst reliving the dream that turned into your own Argentina or the metaphorical goal through the legs of an English keeper – read on MacScruff….
But what I yearn for now is that book about Hibs … shouldn’t take as long as this one did, should it?
Donald C Stewart
(Publisher: Arena Sport. November 2022. Hardcover: 208 pages)
Buy the book here: Bring Me the Sports Jacket