Book Review – Aberdeen FC: Back Issues 1980-1990 – The definite guide to Aberdeen home programme of the 1980s by Peter Elliott

The match programme. Once the only source of information about your club and a must-have for spectators at the game. Now however, with the advent of social media and its ability to provide up to date information at the push of a button, and the recent change by some clubs to a digital programme, the very existence and purpose of the ‘physical’ version is under threat. Collectors though will be please with the recent release of Aberdeen FC: Back Issues 1980-1990 which as the books introduction states, is “the definite guide to Aberdeen FC match programmes issued during the 1980s, the decade which defined the modern club” with, “the aim of producing…a series of similar guides covering each decade”.

The decade was indeed a memorable one for those watching at Pittodrie. Under the stewardship of Alex Ferguson, the club won three league championships (1979–80, 1983–84 & 1984–85), four Scottish Cups (1981–82, 1982–83, 1983–84 & 1985–86), one League Cup (1985-86), the European Cup Winner’s Cup (1982-83), and the European Super Cup (1983). The Dons weren’t as successful after Ferguson left in 1986 but did do the Scottish Cup ‘double’ in 1989-90. The backbone of the team and indeed the Scottish National side, included Jim Leighton, Willie Miller, Alex McLeish and Gordon Strachan – all Aberdeen legends, with Charlie Nicholas having a couple of useful season at The Dons at the back end of the 80s after a difficult time south of the border with Arsenal.

The reality is that this A5 publication does exactly what it says – it’s a guide to all the home programmes from the 1980/81 season through to 1989/90. Each campaign features the covers from all the programmes produced with a handy checklist detailing the date of each game, the competition and opposition with also the addition of any other fixtures played at the ground, as well as games where programmes were not issued. Brief notes also accompany each season’s summary, generally detailing significant events at the club. It’s a great piece of research by Peter Elliott, that throw up some interesting nuggets of information along the way. For instance, in April 1987 Aberdeen were due to host Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in a friendly, however the players were stranded at Manchester airport due to fog and the game was never played, although a programme was produced. Indeed, it is a feature of the times, that when games were postponed, the original match programme was still issued even when out of date.

A must for all Aberdeen fans whether or not they collect programmes, as it is a handy summary of the homes games at the Club. And on the horizon is the companion to this edition, with the away fixtures from the 1980-1990 period.

(Publisher: First Dons Match. March 2022. Paperback: 90 pages)


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Book Review – Into The Bear Pit: The Explosive Autobiography by Craig Whyte


It was no use. We were stuck. There were fans everywhere, blocking the road.

“Let’s just walk from here, shall we?” I said to the others in the taxi.””

From page vii of Into The Bear Pit, sub-titled, An Explosive Autobiography, it is the first example of Craig Whyte’s leadership. Ironically it would appear, on the evidence of the book, it was his last.

Let me do as we all have to when it comes to matters about the two biggest clubs in Scotland and set out my stall. I am neither a Rangers nor a Celtic fan. I have therefore little investment in the fortunes of either nor in the misery of the other. But I, as a football fan, who saw the benefits of one of the big two fall into the laps and onto the terraces of many a smaller club can see why it is that these two take up so much of our broadcast media and attention. They are a big deal.

On the evidence of his own book, Craig Whyte was very much far from a big deal, though he constantly claims to have handled many big deals. It is his hope that he can make sense of that complexity. He cannot.

The facts are simple.

On or around the 6th of May 2011, Craig Whyte bought Glasgow Rangers Football Club for £1 from Sir David Murray. The deal involved the transfer of considerable debt to Whyte which meant the £1 was symbolic: it was to cost him far more than a quid. In advance of the final transfer of the club, Whyte had been touted by some in the media as a man who had wealth that was off the scale. It was not the last time that the mainstream media was to further suckle on falsely succulent lamb (When buying Rangers, entrepreneur and millionaire, Sir David Murray once hosted a lunch for the Scottish media serving lamb described by one journalist in his column as succulent. Since then it has become the byword for sucking up to owners/directors/anyone in charge). Once in charge, Whyte oversaw the demise of Glasgow Rangers Football Club, which was rapid, and in less than a year it had entered liquidation.

Programme from 2011-12 Scottish Premier League opening home game.

So far, so simple.

What is less clear is how this came about and who were the people who should be held responsible for the fall of Glasgow Rangers. Having been defended by a former director and lawyer of some standing, who spoke warmly to Whyte, of “our club” in court, this is the literary telling of the tale by the singular Craig Whyte.

The picture showing the sale of the club, which is replicated in the book, is perhaps indicative of the whole narrative. It was taken the day after the club was sold but done at the insistence of Sir David Murray. Whyte is seen, hands on hips standing over Murray, casting a shadow over the signing of the papers. The reasoning behind the need for a publicity shot was because, as the Americans might say, the optics mattered on this one. It was not the first time that supporters were to be left hanging in the shadows.

When I bought the book, my hope was that somehow, I could find insight into why the whole thing went wrong from the one man who has cast himself and has been cast as the pantomime villain of the piece: Craig Whyte. Having read the book, I found it to be much more of a Greek tragedy. Perhaps the desire for us to hear and read something revelatory meant that both Whyte and his co-writer, got caught somewhere between the back pages of a red top daily and the front page of The Sun, hoping we would be shocked and appalled sufficiently to avoid noting that it was a tad light on detail and highly opinionated in its approach. The broom of Whyte’s creative focus sweeps long and wide.

The book itself is, however, a compelling read. Hardly likely to end up on the set reading list for any English qualification, it at least manages to hold your attention throughout, though it does tend to rely more on blockbuster statements than demonstratively crafted prose. Unfortunately for the principal character, though if it was designed to restore a fallen man’s reputation it only serves to diminish it further.

There is plenty of evidence of hubris, as he admits that being disqualified as a director, which was someone else’s fault, he sees being struck off as a director as something that: “Anyone with half a brain can get around it and it means the authorities can’t monitor them”. Not being caught out would appear to be a positive in his opinion…

Then came a move to Costa Rica – to avoid paying tax. It is hardly surprising Whyte does not feel responsible for what happened to Rangers as he actually feels responsible for nothing. His views on taxation are pretty clear: “My view on tax is that transactions between people should be voluntary, and that goes for the government as well. Tax havens are completely moral as they stop governments from stealing your money. Governments are basically shakedown operations, like the mafia, but with better manners. They are parasites with no morals whatsoever.” You are left thinking, it takes one…

Whyte was responsible for Rangers ending up in administration. It was an inevitability. He once described the company of which he found himself in charge, as “a basket case” and was the responsibility of the previous regime, not him. He talks about this time thus: “I was in control of the situation. I genuinely believed we could emerge a debt-free club, that I’d still be at the helm, and we could move on. The moment I thought I was in command was precisely the time it all fell apart. Duff and Phelps (the administrators) were acting with HMRC. Suddenly I was an outcast. Duff and Phelps were in charge, and they swiftly instructed everybody not to deal with me.” And so, he was in charge, until he wasn’t in charge. And then they were in charge. Clearly not his fault…

The stuttering form on the pitch, he claims, came through an untested manager, who was gifted to him by the previous board – another fault to be laid at their door.

He goes on to describe being fined by the SFA: “…completely clueless. They were complete clowns. They had a lot to say about me at the time, but did they say anything about the EBT case? A club effectively cheated the game for years and no sanctions were taken against any of the individuals responsible.” The people around him at the time may well have been out to get him apparently as: “It seemed that everyone I came into contact with tried to shaft me. Many of them succeeded.” Not that he ever gave them anything to complain about…

Whyte shows great consistency when he comes to the Rangers’ directors: “I thought the board were a bunch of pompous buffoons and meeting them served no purpose. I decided they were all going to have to go sooner rather than later.” Of the players he shows little by way of self-regard and more of his own self-importance when he speaks of the players thus: “In the main footballers struck me as mercenaries. They were there for the money, not because they loved the club. They got in at 10.30am, had a run around the pitch, got their free breakfast, their free lunch and then they disappeared. What a life.” Even I was tiring of the irony as again it was not his fault…

And then, we come to HMRC. With customary dismissiveness, there is continued self-revelation which seems apparent to those of us who read it but never seemed to be raised by an editor when a man who could not steer the club through this crisis commented that: “From the moment I took over I was confident that we’d either win the case or be able to do a deal with HMRC. At the time of the takeover, I didn’t believe there was a single problem facing the club that was insurmountable. In my experience, when it came to dealing with HMRC, there was always a deal to be done. They always wanted to get paid. It didn’t make sense to me.” He does not go on to outline the deal he was able to make; for he never made one. But then again, they were out to get the Rangers and therefore him: not his fault…

12 months later Rangers were starting life in Scottish Football League Third Division.

His reputation should be repaired because some big boys did it and then ran away.

Rangers are an institution. One of the major revelations which is a confirmation rather than an expose is that Sir David Murray was able to stop media stories getting out. Whyte inherited that ability as he was able to phone up editors and get them to do his bidding. His downfall was that the internet became the place where the material evidence against him and the previous administration became the stuff of discussion boards and conspiracy theorists. But for once, the conspiracy theorists were accurate. It did not take former player, John Brown standing on a bus outside the Rangers’ Stadium which became known as ‘The Big Hoose’ to suggest that things were dodgy to convince the rest of us that they were. We all knew they were dodgy. That the Scottish press turned on Whyte had as much to do with Whyte not having the recipe to succulent lamb as not being able to hold the line over the greatest story that ought to have been exposed, years before.

And so, it goes on. What he wanted was not, what he was getting. His genius for taking big organisations and turning them profitable seems to have deserted him.

There is irony in abundance as the hope to understand what went on in the club during his tenure is found not in the prose but between the lines. Supporters, long suffering ones, should have welcomed the opportunity to have “the truth” delivered in this book to ease their pain: how disappointed they have been. Whyte gives us insight, but the insight is of a venture capitalist who saw this football club as just another company he needed to turn around, and of a man who cannot see anything in the mirror but a wronged individual, Whyter than Whyte.

But you can hardly put it down.

I struggled to set it aside during my reading of it as each chapter includes stunning revelations that at times made my jaw drop. Not of the deeds done to this unfortunate wee soul who ended up in the court dock, having spent months in the docks of living rooms all over Rangers’ supporters’  Govan homesteads but of the indescribable naivete and lack of acumen, business or otherwise, I have ever read about.

The book itself does a lot to answer questions that non supporters of the club have been asking. Do Rangers have or have Rangers had an undue influence over the Scottish press? Is there sense of entitlement within the club? Are they more establishment than established? The stories of being able to stop stories getting to the press chimes with the experience of journalists like Alex Thompson of Channel 4 who, after years of being safe in war zones, tells tales of being threatened by members of the press in his telling of this sorry tale. The level of arrogance that comes from Whyte is evidence of that sense of who we are rather than what we are. As well as seeing himself as the saviour Whyte tells us as he sees it and castigates everyone bar him.  He tells us that there was little by way of a plan to pass over the club to a new owner, little by way of a plan to deal with the debt and nothing in planning for a contingency when the inevitable looked like it was going to happen. Rangers were THE club, THE people and nothing would ever happen to OUR club – just ask the establishment figures behind it, he seems to have thought. The major issue for any fan, of any club, in reading this is that there is little by way of contrition to the people who really do matter – the fans.

The downfall of the club may have been written in the stars, but the meltdown happened through the mind of its principal protagonist.

But why should I care? I do not have an affinity for the club nor a desire for its demise. As a writer I managed to get many column inches out of a saga that I once described as a gift that kept on giving. The media and the pundits had a field day, former players became heroes by supporting one side or another and calling for deeds to be published or making calls to arms to keep the club in existence. Some of the players became Judases in the eyes of sections of the support when they left to play for other clubs when the contracts dried up. If ever the supporter of any club became central to a tall tale, this was it. They were panicked, freaked and judged – often harshly – in their new spotlight.

He does leave a message for Rangers’ long suffering fans: “I don’t care what happens to Rangers now – but I have a lot of sympathy for the Rangers supporters. Those fans have suffered more than anyone, and through no fault of their own.” Once more the irony is that fans DO care what happens to their club and having taken it all away in one hand, his mealy mouthed apology is wiped away again in misunderstanding what he is saying. I am sure the message is meant to go some way to try and stop the death threats and the ill feeling felt towards him. It may never be a big enough pantomime season to ensure his effort to go from the villain to the hero but on the evidence of the book, fans shall be happy to see him recast as one half of the pantomime cow: and not the front end…

By the final page I was left, however, with a deep sense of unease. Of course, this is a self-publicity exercise for a man who was shy of scrutiny, a long letter of self-justification for not being able to turn round the institution he bought and is a long-awaited insight into the Whyte methodology of working. I expected all of that, but it is also revelatory. Rather than it being about Rangers FC and the mess he made, this is a shout out to the world that he was set up and despite all his genius could not make it all good again.

The final visual memory, Whyte left us with, is of a man coming out of a revolving door with a big grin. He had got caught in a revolving door with a policeman, a representative of the authority he despises. As a visual metaphor of his time with Rangers, like how the book began, I can think of no better. We had a man caught in the whirlwind of his own making, who was caught in the clutches of a framework he neither understood nor knew enough about to come out of it with grace. The problem for me is that the supporters of this club are left with his legacy without the ability to admit to his own hamartia, whilst he is sitting somewhere counting what comes from Into The Bear Pit By Craig Whyte, is that he is carrying on his life in some fashion with the scars he left behind a daily living reminder of why he should never have been allowed to get involved in the first place.

Donald C Stewart


(Publisher: Arena Sport. February 2020. Paperback: 240 pages)


Buy the book here: Into the Bear Pit

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Book Review – The Ghosts of Cathkin Park: The Inside Story of Third Lanark’s Demise by Michael McEwan

Book cover.

1967 was some year.

This was the year in which Scottish football found beauty in a left foot on the Wembley turf as Baxter played and World Champions stared. It was the season when we arrived in Europe where the Lions roared in Lisbon and Rangers lost out in another European final, Dundee United defeated Barcelona and Dunfermline showed up in the Fairs Cup.

And so, the highs are our backdrop but, in the foreground, 1967 had its own tragedy.

It was the year in which a once proud team of military bearing found itself smeared in scandal, Third Lanark Football Club, The Hi-Hi’s. The scandal involved corruption that was out of sight, with asset stripping in plain sight. By the end of the 1966/67 season, we witnessed the city of Glasgow reduced by one team: permanently reduced. Glasgow ought to have been a city filled with sporting pride but in the shadow our national stadium, unfolded that tragedy where a community lost its club, that haunts to this day.

And now, Michael McEwan has brought those ghouls to life through The Ghosts of Cathkin Park, published by Birlinn, which tells the story of the demise of Third Lanark in the southside of Glasgow.

McEwan is a marvellous narrator, who tells a compulsive tale. It is one filled with skulduggery when one man, Bill Hiddelston, evolved into the pantomime villain of the piece, even managing a dramatic exit in a puff of smoke and mirrors, ruled a roost and ruined a legacy.

Prompted into the tale, from observing the demise of another Glasgow footballing institution – Glasgow Rangers – McEwan saw parallels which included the unscrupulous investors, greedy men looking for their pounds and the flesh of a beast laid bare and vulnerable which had the heart of a fan and the soul of a supporter whose loyalty was abused, and their investment ill used in the process.

Back cover.

McEwan’s journalistic background gives us plenty of context whether it is the games played in and around the Thirds or the march towards European glory by either of the other two Glasgow clubs. It is a heady mixture of reportage and context that lies in the shadow of their tumble. At times it may feel like the year is being investigated more than the demise of a once proud club, but it does serve a purpose. Occasionally though, the episodic nature does disrupt the principal narrative, and it feels like the journalist is outmuscling the storyteller. Your desire to discover the next chapter keeps you reading on.

The reason is that Hiddleston ruined more than Third Lanark. You might expect this of a man who died before the law caught up with him. As chairman of Third Lanark his is the one name more closely associated with this story than any other. His name was the one referred to by the Board of Trade who found that Hiddelston’s practices merited police investigation. His was the name associated with the penny pinching and refusal to spend anything close to what was needed to allow the club to reach 1968. And his was the name blamed when things were not properly recorded or accounted for.

The fact that there is little new to report on the story and little by further revelations to be uncovered does coral your narrative but where McEwan’s journalistic leanings have truly paid off are the new voices being heard. Hiddelston does not emerge from the pages with much to redeem himself, we do, however,  get other perspectives. McEwan excels in bringing to the page, the voices of people who were there. People from the terraces can become caught in the myth and mystery but the people who spent their tentative careers, fledging lives and autumnal passages in and around the club have a very purposeful tale to tell. McEwan gives them a platform and it adds to the human disaster. There are interviews with past players, aplenty, but the real coup is the interview with Hiddelston’s son, Crawford. The voice of the former chairman may not be able to be heard as he died in the aftermath of the club folding, thus avoiding the charges being laid against him by the Board of Trade for multiple offences, but reading the effect it had upon his family, especially his wife was instructive. Whilst those fans and players are key to the memories and to the legacy, it is the inside stories which draw you in and make this such an important book.

And to the story itself. I had heard of repainting footballs white to fool referees, but I’d not believed it; it was true. I had no idea about the bath with no plug; it is true. I was sceptical over the failure to pay out to visiting clubs; it is all fact. There are multiple minor details which hinted at a bigger malaise – McEwan has documented them within their context that was obvious to those who wished to see it.

Third Lanark badge.

If there is one message, however, that is loud and clear from the book it comes from the commentary on the guidance and the governance of Scottish Football. To hear former players, claim that Hiddleston could not have died of a heart attack because he never had one is one thing or that he was just a disgrace, is another, but the role played by the Scottish footballing authorities is the emerging debate: failure to regulate, monitor and ensure fair and correct protocol is hardly new then.

But there were other villains; not least a corrupt set of directors who had colluded, were prosecuted, convicted and fined; but also, Glasgow Corporation who brought the concept of Rotten Boroughs right up to date. In the end you put down the book with a sullied hope that things should not be as bad as that now until you read over what has happened since – Airdrieonians, Clydebank, Livingston, Vladimir Romanov, Dundee, Rangers…

If Michael McEwan’s The Ghosts of Cathkin Park has taught us one thing it is not to draw a line under the past and move on but to remember that those who forget the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them. Please not again…

Donald C Stewart


(Publisher: Birlinn Books. September 2021. Hardcover: 288 pages)


Buy your copy here: The Ghosts of Cathkin Park

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ABERDEEN FC: BACK ISSUES 1980 – 1990 by Peter Elliott

This fully-illustrated guide provides details of all programmes issued by Aberdeen FC from season 1980/81 to 1989/90.

The definitive guide to Dons programmes of the 1980s. It’s the ideal companion to any Aberdeen FC programme collection, with every cover included in full colour, along with narrative from each season, as well as check lists to show non-issues, postponed and rearranged fixtures. Additionally, it includes details of other games at Pittodrie (Scotland/Aberdeenshire Cup/Youth Cup, etc)

(Publisher: First Dons Match. March 2022. Paperback: 90 pages)


Read our review here

THE SCOTTISH LEAGUE CUP: 75 YEARS FROM 1946 to 2021 by David Potter

The Scottish League Cup is often wrongly described as the ‘Cinderella’ of Scottish football, as distinct from its two ugly sisters, the Scottish League and the Scottish Cup.

Dating from the Second World War, it is certainly the youngest.

The trophy is unusual, if not unique, in having three handles. It is a major part of the Scottish season and has been keenly contested for 75 years.

Sixteen teams have won the cup. Unsurprisingly, the big Glasgow clubs have won it the most, but Aberdeen, Hearts, Hibs and Dundee have also tasted glory. The trophy has also given the likes of Raith Rovers and Livingston their moments in the sun – and who could ignore the mighty deeds of East Fife, who won the cup three times in its first decade?

Rangers hold the record for Scottish League Cup wins, but Celtic’s victories have been more spectacular, not least their astonishing 7-1 triumph in the 1957 final.

This book pays homage to each one of the 75 seasons, with a detailed account of every final.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. February 2022. Hardcover: 288 pages)


If the wider, football-conscious world is aware of just two things about Scottish football, they are surely as follows: firstly, that there is a virulent rivalry in Glasgow between the city’s two great teams, Rangers and Celtic, based on a religious divide; and secondly, that Rangers recently suffered a catastrophic financial collapse, which ultimately led to the club’s insolvency.

Split into two separate, but closely linked, sections, Tangled Up in Blue: The Rise and Fall of Rangers FC gives the full account of both of these stories.

Stephen O’Donnell explores how Rangers first became associated with hard-line Protestantism, dominating Scottish football for decades without ever knowingly signing a Catholic footballer, until the feted arrival of Maurice Johnston at Ibrox in 1989.

He then switches focus to the club’s financial affairs, as Rangers’ unsustainable spending brought the club to the brink of collapse and, despite the hidden benefits of an illegal tax avoidance scheme, resulted in its liquidation.

Read our review here: Book Review: Tang (

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. August 2019. Paperback: 320 pages)


Fergus McCann Versus David Murray charts the changing fortunes of Glasgow’s two great footballing rivals as shaped by two business moguls. Both men came to prominence in the 1990s when new methods of governance and finance were taking hold of football.

At the start of the decade, under Murray’s chairmanship, Rangers were the dominant force, and the club went on to win a record-equalling nine consecutive league titles. Their success, however, was built on an extravagant spending strategy, which caused a financial catastrophe.

Celtic, by contrast, were struggling in the early 1990s, thanks to a complacent and nepotistic board of directors. But McCann took charge of the club in 1994 and turned things around. The new owner left Parkhead having won the league, rebuilt the stadium and left his shares in the hands of supporters. It was Murray, however, who was lauded in the media throughout his tenure at Ibrox, while McCann was chastised. Ultimately, though, their legacies would be utterly different from those misleading media portrayals.

Read our review here: Book Review: Fergus McCann (

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. July 2020. Paperback: 352 pages)

Magazine Review: Black & Gold – The magazine of the Aberdeen FC Heritage Trust (Issue 3/May 2021)

Whilst lockdown deprived football fans of their ‘live’ fix of their team, it spurred a wave of creativity amongst supporters who looked to stay in touch and connect with those they went to games with week in, week out, until COVID struck. Indeed this was the inspiration behind Black & Gold, a magazine setup by Peter Elliot with the Aberdeen FC Heritage Trust.

Peter explains: “I set the mag up with the Trust to engage with the wider Dons support during the lockdown last year (2020). Seeing a lot of older film footage and other material shared by fans of all clubs opened up the fact that football fans were interested in historical writing. There’s a great team of contributors to the magazine who have their own interests, either in players, grounds, memorabilia or general reminiscences.”

The first issue landed in November 2020, with a second in February 2021 and the third edition (reviewed here) in May 2021. First things first, for many if not most people outside of Aberdeen, when you think of the club who ply their trade at the Pittodrie Stadium, you associate the side as playing in all red, as worn by the likes of Willie Miller, Alex McLeish and Gordon Strachan. However, at the turn of the Twentieth Century and up until the Second World War, The Dons wore black and gold strips, hence the name of the magazine.

Content wise there are thirteen articles, which range from more general football content such as book reviews to the Aberdeen focused pieces which look at players (Donald Colman, Alex Jackson and Chic McLelland), seasons (1939/40) and competitions (participation in the Tennents Sixes and UEFA Cup and Cup Winners ties in Belgium), from the past. The magazine though is not solely focused on the past, with articles on the present such as AFC Milestones, which round up statistical details and news in respect of players and games since the last issue, and an interview with Paine Profitt an artist who has provided covers for The Dons matchday programme.

Unquestionably Black & Gold is aimed at Aberdeen fans, but the well written and well researched articles contained within the 44 pages of this glossy and attractively presented magazine will appeal to anyone interested in football history and indeed the social history of the game.

(Publication date: May 2021. 44 pages)


For more information and copies of the magazine:

Website –

Twitter – @AFCHeritage

Book Review: Dundee Goalkeeping Greats by Kenny Ross

When this review was written in March 2021, Kenny Ross held the positions of Chairman of the Dundee FC Supporters Association and Official Club historian. These posts and his support for the Dens Park club since childhood has seen his love and knowledge for his beloved Dark Blues produce a number of books including, Dundee: Champions of Scotland 1961-62, Dundee FC On This Day: History, Facts & Figures from Every Day of the Year, Dundee Legends and Dundee’s Hampden Heroes. Additionally he was co-author with Jacqui Robertson for, It’s All About the Memories, an account of the traumatic, yet ultimately inspiring, 2010/11 season when the club went into administration. Ross has added to his catalogue with, Dundee Goalkeeping Greats published in September 2020.

This glossily produced book pays tribute to the men who have donned the Number 1 jersey for The Dee, from the clubs very first goalkeeper in their founding season 1893, Bill McKie through to Kyle Letheren from the Scottish Championship winning squad of 2014/15. Twenty six ‘keepers make it into the book, with a short chapter dedicated to each, detailing their careers and the reason for inclusion. The book is completed with a nod to the times before substitute goalkeepers were permitted and a chapter on those outfield players who has the dubious pleasure of ‘going in nets’ and lastly a comprehensive statistics section, which makes interesting study.

For fans of The Dark Blues, the various custodians will no doubt bring back memories and reflect the highs and lows of the clubs history down the years. So readers will find within the pages of the book, the inclusion of Pat Liney, who kept goal when Dundee won their only (to date), top-flight Scottish League title in 1961/62, Bert Slater who performed heroics in the run to the European Cup Semi-Finals in 1962/63 and Rab Douglas who won the Player of the Year trophy on three occasions and was inspirational on and off the pitch in that clubs dark period of administration in 2010/11.

For this Englishman, who admits to a limited knowledge of the game North of the Border, this was a really interesting read, with great snippets informing of Dundee’s formation, the Scottish game in general and the players and managers who have graced Dens Park. For example, it was a surprise to learn about Bob Shankly, brother of legendary ex-Liverpool manager, Bill, Julian Speroni who had three years at Dundee, before his time in the English Premier League with Crystal Palace and Scottish International Bill Brown who spent a decade between the posts at Dundee before becoming part of the Spurs ‘double’ winning side in 1961/62 and the European Cup Winners Cup victorious side the season after.

The best books are produced with passion and interest in the subject matter and Ross has undoubtedly achieved this with this great tribute to Dundee’s goalkeepers down the years.

(Kenny Ross. September 2020. Paperback 114 pages)


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Book Review: AK-86 Two shots in the heart of Scottish Football by Grant Hill

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.


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