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Sean McPartlin (Edinburgh)

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The Loneliest Boy in the World: The Last Child of the Great Blasket
The Loneliest Boy in the World: The Last Child of the Great Blasket
by Gearoid Cheaist O Cathain
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.38

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A new angle on an old story, 5 Jun. 2014
The Loneliest Boy in the World - The last child of the Great Blasket
By Gearóid Cheaist Ó Catháin with Patricia Ahern. Collins Press.

The Blasket Islands, off the coast of Kerry in the extreme west of Ireland, have a habit of getting under your skin. Once discovered, they are not easily forgotten.

This is partly due to their history – an isolated Gaelic community, fighting against the odds, until what seemed an inevitable evacuation in 1953; and partly due to their position ‘on the edge of the world’, so near but so far from the jetty at Dun Chaoin on the mainland. Today the ruined village clings to the island slopes above an tráigh bháin – the stunningly white beach – as grassy tracks lead between the still clearly defined fields.

Sitting by ‘the American Well’, where day by day the islanders gathered and talked of those who had emigrated to the ‘next Parish west’, it’s difficult not to hear those voices, and impossible not to seek to capture the lives of those who were once here.

Luckily – and this is another reason for the island’s haunting presence – those voices speak clearly to us through the island’s literary tradition. It is a tradition encouraged and promoted early by visiting scholars, and follows on from the original highly acclaimed works from Tomás Ó Criomhthain, Peig Sayers, and Muiris Ó Súilleabháin.

Many books by islanders have been published, adding to the writings of scholars such as JM Synge, Brian Ó Ceallaigh, Ray Stagles, and Robin Flower, and the body of work is often referred to as the “Blasket Library”. All add to our knowledge of Great Blasket and its surrounding islands, all are told from different points of view.

Last year we had a memoir from Michael Carney, the oldest living islander, and now comes the story of Gearóid Cheaist Ó Catháin – the only child on the island at the time of the evacuation – and the last survivor of that group.

Written with Patricia Ahern, this is a new and fresh angle on the story of the Blaskets. Only 6 when he left the island, Gearóid’s description of his early life, and the people who inhabited it, is based on a child’s view and is sharp and observant in a way that adults may not always replicate. He saw the islanders as being the same as him – not knowing any other children, he saw no distinction between adult and child. The islanders, in their turn, treated him as a full member of the community, and even in his brief years there, he learned the daily routines, the working practices, the survival skills necessary to these folk on the edge of the world

If you’ve ever sat amongst the ruins on Great Blasket and wondered about the ordinary lives of these people: meals, sleeping, working, and enjoying themselves, this book gives you answers in a typically understated island style.

On Chritmas Eve, 1948, journalist Liam Robinson, and photographer Donal MacMonagle, visited the Blaskets and a piece was produced on Gearóid’s singular life. A wily subeditor headlined it “The Loneliest Boy in the World” and it was syndicated across the globe.

Gearóid is still at pains to point out that he was not lonely in any sense, and laughs at the suggestion that his ‘only friends were the seagulls’, but he is honest enough to agree that he enjoyed the amazing reaction to the article. Good wishes, toys, clothes, and offers came from the five continents. An American rancher offered to adopt him, others offered land and a home to his parents and family, he gained penpals in other countries. The Blasketers were used to international attention in later generations – but the story of Gearóid Cheaist Ó Catháin seems to have struck a nerve internationally.

It is symptomatic of the islanders’ phlegmatic approach that they took the fuss in their stride, and Gearóid details in a quite matter of fact style how his life was changed - but not to any great extent. However, two highly affecting moments in his writing refer to his later meeting with Robinson in 1988, and to the atmosphere on the island on Christmas Eve, when there was a lighted candle in the window of every house and the full moon made glisten the frost on the tarred felt roofs.

Another attraction of this book is that we learn in some detail of life on the mainland for the islanders after the evacuation – and local characters around Dun Chaoin, such as the larger than life publican, 'Kruger', fairly walk off the pages in the later parts of the story.

Anyone who has read the Blasket names on the gravestones in the new cemetery near Dun Chaoin, overlooking the island, must have wondered how they made a new life on the mainland. Earlier books by Cole Moreton, and last year’s offering from Michael Carney, paint a picture of the American emigrants; Gearóid does the same for those who stayed closer to the island – as well as detailing his educational experiences – his first meetings with other children in the national school at Dun Chaoin, his boarding school experiences in Kilkenny, and his eventual education in Dingle’s more familiar surroundings.

The tales of his adult life, and the gradual loss of his parents and their generation from the island, fill in more gaps in our knowledge, and there is a sense, as there must be, of some things coming to an end.

An old tale, then, from a new angle, but what endures – as it seems to in all the books in the Blasket Library – is a sense of a remarkable people, far removed from the sentimentality we may be tempted to show towards a lost way of life, accepting of what needed to be done, proud of their past, embracing their present, and facing their future with a strong Faith and self awareness.

It’s difficult to better the famous lines of Tomás Ó Criomhthain, and indeed Gearóid repeats them more than once:

“Ní bheidh ár leithéidí arís ann”

The like of us will never be again.

Scotland '74: A World Cup Story
Scotland '74: A World Cup Story
Price: £2.48

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Back in the day: Scotland 74., 14 May 2014
When in our cups, those of us old enough to remember the times when Scottish qualification for World Cup Finals was, if not a formality, then certainly an expectation, tend to bang on about the vainglorious expedition that was Argentina 78. However, the competition previous to that, in West Germany in 1974, which in a sense initiated our international adventures, is a story which is far more nuanced. Those two imposters, Triumph and Disaster, were already assured of a place on the Scotland team coach - but the outcome was nowhere near as predictable as it was to later become.

So broadcaster and sports journalists Richard Gordon makes a good choice when he chooses to revisit those times forty years on. If Argentina can be viewed as slightly sickly technicolour, his account of "Scotland 74" demonstrates the fine detail often to be found in technically superior monochrome.

Wisely -for readers too young to know, and those of us still trying to forget, he sets the event in context - indeed we only reach the actual Finals half way through the account. This means we have a roller coaster ride through previous World Cup experiences - or rather the SFA's bizarre and wonderful reactions to them, and a parade of very different management styles from committee through Ian McColl, Bobby Brown, Tommy Docherty and the man who led Scotland in Germany, Willie Ormond. For a flavour of how different things were in those days, try and conjure up a contemporary scenario where the national team travel without a trainer because he needs to attend to his club's injury list at home. And how romantic is the selection of Hibs' Erich Schaedler, son of a German PoW, as a member of this World Cup Squad?

Rightfully, the qualifying tournament and the Finals themselves receive most attention. We tend to remember our football in tabloid headlines, but, while some of them are recalled here, those who appreciate the author's fluent communication and passion for the game on radio won't be surprised to discover that his style is easy to read and strong on detail and character. As you would expect, contemporary match reports feature, and it is lovely to see that doyen of sports journalists, Ian Archer, receiving some long overdue prominence.

Gordon has assiduously interviewed many of those who were there, gleaning authoritative recollections from the likes of Martin Buchan, Denis Law, John Blackley, Danny McGrain, Peter Lorimer and Joe Jordan. Their words, added to contemporaneous reports, and the reflection made possible by time, makes for a thoughtful and, in places, quite moving account, of crucial days in our footballing history.

What's the theory on why Buchan and Morgan got the nod ahead of Blackley and Johnstone? Why do squad members still ponder on the nationality of Zaire's coach? How human is the tale of Billy Bremner, still hurting from that near miss v Brazil, and uplifted by a tumultuous welcome from the fans in Glasgow, being dropped off at his parents' house in the Raploch by John Blackley from Redding? Come to that, what was the real story behind Jinky's boating excursion at Largs?

The author captures the intensity of the times and the impact of a Scotland squad operating at a vertiginous level of world rankings compared to today. On the page, the players and management are recognisable individuals who come to life in a way largely unfamiliar to us these days, and when we realise half a dozen of those who travelled are no longer with us, our reflections become that wee bit more poignant.

The past was a foreign country, they did things differently then, and reading this book goes a long way to help our understanding of how and why. Like all accounts of Scottish international football, its subtitle could well have been "What if?"

Thanks for the memories!

The Game on New Year's Day: Hearts 0, Hibs 7
The Game on New Year's Day: Hearts 0, Hibs 7
by Ted Brack
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.99

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than just a game, 5 Oct. 2012
The Game on New Year's Day: Hearts 0, Hibs 7

Like the Hibs themselves, Ted Brack's books on his beloved football team have never been predictable. Starting with `There is a Bonny Fitba' Team' - an account of the author's own '50 Years on the Hibee Highway', he's moved through `ghosting' the autobiography of Lawrie Reilly, penning a retrospective on the Hibs career of Franck Sauzee, and helping Pat Stanton pick his team of all time Hibs greats. His latest outing focuses on the game that all Hibs fans love hearing about - particularly after their Hampden misery of May 2012 - "The Game on New Year's Day', 1973, which resulted in the score Hearts 0-7 Hibs.

It would be difficult task to devote an entire work to a single game, though, and, wisely, Ted has not attempted this. Instead he has done something much more resonant and interesting - focusing on the game, but also placing it in the context of what came before and after. Having succeeded in that, this book is as much a paeon of praise to that wonderful team known as `Turnbull's Tornadoes' as it is an account of a single game.

I think my enjoyment of this latest volume of Hibee History was down to voice it gives to the individuals who played that day. Even Alan Gordon and Erich Schaedler, both sadly no longer with us, and Arthur Duncan, whose legendary speed has taken him all the way to New Zealand, are quoted, but the rest of the team and coaches John Fraser and Stan Vincent feature throughout the book - with their views on football, Eddie Turnbull and each other. The bond between them is still obvious 40 years later and in revisiting that amazing season, as well as the Tynecastle game, you get the feeling that perhaps only now are these wonderful footballers realizing how close they were to true greatness.

For those who were at the game, the attraction is in finding out more about their heroes, what they were really like, how they thought about the game, the quirks of professional football in the 70s. They were one of the last generations of footballers who could claim a true connection to their fans, but, for all that, media coverage of them as people rather than footballers was not common. Now we discover who was the life and soul of the party, what Johnny Hamilton meant when he said he was feeling `brand new' and how Jim Herirot found out he would be leaving Easter Rd. Alec Cropley's move to Arsenal, as well as Pat Stanton's departure to Parkhead, is also covered in the words of the players themselves, as are the trials and tribulations of Mickey Edwards, and they are all honest and forthright in their summation of Eddie Turnbull - the manager and the man.

As in the Sauzee story, Ted gives the fans a section to reminisce and, interestingly recounts the memories not only of those who were at the game, but also those of fans whom, for whatever reason, missed the game that day. Thus the author's voice, mingled with that of players and fans, successfully conjures up the atmosphere of that very special era and that magnificent team of footballers.

Of course, the game itself has its own dedicated section - the goals and their build ups, the skill and tenacity of the players, the magnificent leadership of Pat Stanton, and the support's growing incredulity as the goals kept on coming. However, its place as yet another illustration of what this team of Tornadoes were about is well demonstrated with reference to other games where 7, 8 or 9 goals were scored and the phenomenal strike record of O'Rourke and Gordon.

To provide the context, we learn how the players joined Hibs originally, recall their victories in the Dryburgh and League Cups before this memorable result, and the author completes the circle by detailing Hibs' decline as that team were prematurely broken up, and tells what became of the personnel as they, one by one, moved on from Hibs to other teams and subsequent careers.

Naturally, Hibs fans will love this book, but I believe it has a wider resonance, for it speaks of a time when football in Scotland was in a different place - in terms of ability, popularity and passion.

After the upheaval of the past 6 months in the game, I can detect a reawakening of interest in a sport that might just be returning to a more equable state, away from the hegemony of the Old Firm. There are more folk out there now who are interested in the game's history and will read about great sides like the Tornadoes, even if they support other teams. They could do worse than read this book if they want to reach out and touch what it was like to be a football fan in the Scotland of the early 70s. All human life is here, as they used to say - Jock Stein, Alex Ferguson, Jim McLean, Alec MacDonald and even Davie Syme and JRP Gordon of Newport on Tay - the men in black!

It's not an exaggeration to say that the fans loved the Tornadoes and there was a rare affection between team members as well. They were a wonderfully gifted lot who, as their words in the book demonstrate, perhaps never fully appreciated how great they were. Ultimately that maybe prevented them from winning more medals, but it also made us love them more.

At times, this book brought tears to my eyes: once when the crack of Onion Brownlie's broken tib and fib as it echoed around the ground is recalled. If you want to know the other two occasions - what wee Jimmy O'Rourke did when he slipped out of the NB during the team's celebrations after the 72 League Cup win, and what a primary school janitor said to John Brownlie at Broomfield Park - you'll need to read the book!

There's Only One Sauzee: When Le God Graced Easter Road
There's Only One Sauzee: When Le God Graced Easter Road
by Ted Brack
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The past is a different country......, 7 Oct. 2011
There's Only One Sauzee: When Le God Graced Easter Road

Edinburgh author Ted Brack has a fine record of books based on his beloved Hibernian FC. From his own history of 50 years on the Hibee Highway as a supporter: "There is a Bonnie Football Team" through his collaboration with a Hibs Hero in producing `Pat Stanton's Dream Team' to his recently acclaimed biography of `Last Minute' Lawrie Reilly, written along with the great man himself.

His latest offering, again from Black and White Publishing, takes a slightly different tack - the legend is still there but the biographical angle is eschewed for an account of three remarkable years in the club's history when the green and white was worn by French Internationalist and European Cup Winner Franck Sauzee.

Franck, or `Le God' as the book's title reminds us was his soubriquet among the Easter Rd faithful, is a famously private man who tends to shy away from publicity. Though he is working as a TV pundit on French TV channels and has verifiable contact details, he resolutely ignores all blandishments to come over to Edinburgh to renew his love affair with the Leith club's supporters, so this book has been written without any direct input from the man himself.

Ted makes this clear from the start and, sensibly, suggests no pretensions to a biography, though, if one comes, presumably in French, it will be an interesting read. In this account, the author rather seeks to recapture some of the seasons of excitement and magic that Sauzee, along with The Little Magician, Russell Latapy, manager Alex McLeish and their team mates, brought to Easter Rd around the millennium.

There is a recap of Sauzee's career before he found his way to Easter Rd, which only serves to remind the reader of the shock engendered by the star's appearance in Hibs colours - compared, more than once in the book, with the emergence of George Best twenty years previously, though, as is also noted, Sauzee was far closer to his pomp when he arrived than was the Belfast Boy.

Much of the book, and its account of games won and lost, provides a context for that time a decade ago when Hibs were a major force to be reckoned with at the top of the league. Manager Alec McLeish put together two teams, really: one to escape the first division, which the team won by a record number of points, and then one to challenge the Old Firm. Whilst Sauzee and Latapy were the foundation of the success enjoyed, it is good to be reminded of the skills and contributions of team mates such as Zitelli, Pataaleinen, Laursen, Lovell, the emergence of a young Ian Murray and the youth team goal scoring exploits of O'Connor and Riordan (whatever happened to them).

It's an enjoyable journey, particularly for the reader who shared its highs and lows - from regular Derby victories to the deflation of a defeat to Aberdeen in the semi-final and the disappointing showing against Celtic in the Final, the following year. A recurring theme in the book is the thought that, if Hibs were ever to break their Cup hoodoo, this would be the team to do it.

However, as the title states: "There is only one Sauzee' and his presence looms over the book just as surely as his influence directed Hibs whenever he was on the pitch. Tale after tale and memory after memory refers to the class he showed, off and on the field, and his obvious love for the club and its fans. He was a world class footballer, but the fans honoured him at least as much for his appreciation of what the `Eebs' meant to the support.

His exploits on the pitch are all here - the four teeth lost in a winning header v Hearts; his 80 yard sprint to the fans after his 30 yard goal at Tynecastle, the jig with Mixu, the volleys, the backheels and the raking passes. In Ted's words the match reports - whether from contemporary press accounts or his own memory - are never mundane, and always contain a wee nugget of information or colour. The night of glorious failure against AEK Athens, when Easter Road rocked with atmosphere, is particularly well evoked, and you can almost hear the echo of the sound made when an injured Sauzee uncharacteristically took out his frustration with a powerful kick at the Hibs dugout.

Fittingly, given the esteem in which Franck was held in the Scottish footballing community, as well as by the fans, Ted has given the latter part of the book over to the views of team mates, like Stuart Lovell, John Hughes and Ian Murray, to sports journalists like Chic Young and Richard Gordon and to the Hibs fans themselves. Regardless of age, background or angle, there is perfect agreement - Sauzee was a star, and a class act - on and off the pitch. Of particular interest is a section from Derek Emslie, Lord Kingarth of the Scottish Supreme Court, who, as a Hibs fan, became a close friend of Sauzee's. Perhaps nothing more than the accounts of their times together suggests just how different the Frenchman was to your average Scottish footballer; I don't suppose many SPL players socialize with Supreme Court Judges, nor spend down time in art galleries and museums. It makes it all the more remarkable, then, that Franck became so close to both team mates and fans.

The sad end to his time at Hibs, sacked as manager after only 89 days, receives a balanced coverage, enlightened by some interesting comments from Malcolm MacPherson, who was Chairman at the time. As Ted says, we'll never know how good a manager Le God could have become, but there is a lingering undercurrent that suggests he was too different to the Scottish breed of gaffer to link effectively with the less cerebral members of his squad.

Perhaps the sorrowful end to his tenure, and his reluctance to reappear in Leith, only adds to the legend of this most likeable of Frenchmen, who impressed all who saw or met him.

If you sometimes doubt that Hibs so recently almost had the football world at their feet, that they played football that Chic Young said he "would gladly have paid to see', or if you have a younger relative who doesn't believe you when you get all misty eyed - this is the book to bring back the good times and reaffirm that, whatever else, the Hibs are always likely to surprise with sudden elegance.

Gordon Smith, Pat Stanton, Franck Sauzee - not a team on earth would not be proud to say those players had worn their colours. The Hibs support are just grateful it was their team who had the privilege, and, as the content of this book suggests, they will talk for years of the times when `Le God graced Easter Rd'

JFK in Ireland: Four Days that Changed a President
JFK in Ireland: Four Days that Changed a President
by Ryan Tubridy
Edition: Hardcover

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Four Days for Ireland, 8 Nov. 2010
For his first book, Irish TV and Radio award winner, Ryan Tubridy, made the brave move of choosing to chronicle John Kennedy's 1963 visit to Ireland.

It took fortitude to approach this topic, given the plethora of Kennedy books on the market, the revisionist tone of many on looking back on the 'Kennedy myth',and the dubious nature of Irish American politics connections to the most unhappy types of paddywhackery.

However, his courage is well rewarded with a fascinating and beautifully presented tome that takes us back to different times and while certainly presenting Kennedy in a favourable light, gives an accurate representation of the effect the charismatic young American had on the emergent Irish nation and the genuine spell that he wove over the many who saw him during those four hectic days

Whatever one's political views on 'Camelot' with the hindisight of fifty years, there is no gainsaying Tubridy's accurate reflection that, in landing in the grey and isolated Ireland of the 1960s, he brought colour to monochrome, confidence to the deflated, and hope to the depressed.

The many excellently chosen pictures show not only the Ireland of the time, but also the contrast between the tired grey faces of the civil war survivors who made up the most of the country's political elite and the energetic young President who connected physically and emotionally with the hundreds of thousand who came to see him.

Tubridy is strong on the effects of Kennedy's visit on Ireland, as a nation, but also writes interestingly on the country's effect on JFK. It's easy to forget that, prior to 1960, a strong Irish connection was not seen as a vote getter in national US politics: Kennedy's own father, Ambassador Joe Kennedy did anything but encourage the link, after the elitism he found in Boston's Brahmins, and, as the author points out: John, Robert, Edward, Eunice, and Jean were hardly Paddy, Siobhan and Mickey in terms of a nod to the old country. JFK himself seems to have gone through the motions of an Irish link for most of his career, though he had made the journey to his ancestral village just after the war. However, those closest to him on this trip all suggest that he was genuinely moved by his welcome and, as the children of many emigrants do, found himself surprised by how at home he felt amongst the Irish.

A strength of this book is to be found in the many asides and personal comments Tubridy has been able to glean from those who were there, making the tale more detailed and authentic than any previous accounts.

It's easy to look back and demean how people felt, the innocence of the times, the pliability of the media, Tubridy achieves the much more difficult task of telling it how it was at the time, and he performs with some elan.

If you are interested in the early 60s, Ireland or America, this book will provide a great read and a treasure trove of unknown detail about a crucial four days in a nation's history and the impact of a great political hero.

Truly Tubridy has shown us the way we were.

The Life and Times of Last Minute Reilly
The Life and Times of Last Minute Reilly
by Lawrie Reilly
Edition: Hardcover

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better late than never, 10 Oct. 2010
As a member of Hibernian's iconic Famous Five forward line in the 50s, and as a Scotland internationalist, Lawrie Reilly gained the soubriquet 'Last Minute Reilly' for his habit of scoring crucial goals in the dying seconds of games. Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that he's left the production of his autobiography till his 82nd year.

For all the long wait, this volume is worth reading for its depiction of a time in football which is slowly slipping beyond the memory of those who still attend stadia around the country - with gates of 50,000 or more a frequent occurrence at Easter Rd, and Hampden hosting more than twice that for internationals and even some club games. It's hard to imagine today's stars arriving at Tynecastle at 2.30pm, fresh from Best Man duties, in full wedding gear, and turning out half an hour later in an Edinburgh Derby, as Lawrie did. Likewise, you can't help but think that footballers, who travelled to the ground on buses alongside the fans who were paying to see them, may have had a greater understanding of the privilege it is to hold supporters' dreams in your hands - or at least at your feet.

Lawrie played 355 times for Hibs between 1945 and 1958, scoring an amazing 238 times. For Scotland he scored 22 goals in 38 games. Legends such as Tom Finney, Stanley Matthews and Matt Busby all rated him as up there with the best centre forwards they'd seen, and a raft of top teams tried unsuccessfully to lure him away from his beloved Hibees. He operated in an age of soon to be extinct 'one club men', before the abolition of the minimum wage, and betrays absolutely no regrets at all.

Lawrie co-wrote his story with Ted Brack (There is a Bonny Fitba Team, Pat Stanton's Dream Team) and those who have read Ted's work before will recognise the easy mixture of match facts, social colour and personal anecdote. To read this book is to be taken back to football's great post war era of huge crowds and innovation - floodlights, European football, foreign tours. Hibs led the way in all and Lawrie was right in the thick of it.

He tells of hearing his 'family whistle' from the stands and spotting his dad in the crowd before his first International at Wembley, of his dispute with the club over the failure to promise him a testimonial match, and of his long struggle with the knee injury that finally brought a premature end to a brilliant career. Throughout the book his love and affection for his colleagues in the Famous Five shines through and, whilst eschewing any false modesty about his own exploits, he is generous to a fault towards all the players in that treble championship winning side, not just the forwards, and he heaps praise on many of his most difficult opponents. It speaks volumes for the man's character that he remains friends not just with former team mates but also with many of those he played against.

Where Lawrie's memory for detail of games that took place 60 years ago fades, we have fascinating snippets from contemporaneous press reports in their wonderful old style, but mostly we have a hero's reminiscences and the smell of the liniment from our fathers' and grandfathers' halcyon days.

Lawrie is a modest man, confident still in his own abilities as a footballer, but a little bemused at the attention and celebrity poured on todays's stars. Befitting this attitude, and while friends and family get timely references throughout his story, the focus is very much on the games he played and the men he played alongside and against. As such it's not just one man's memories but an account of a very different time - in football and in society. There is humour and misfortune, great days and crushing failures, the joy of victory, and the disappointment of defeat, particularly, this being Hibs, in the Cup!

Lawrie plainly states 'I was born a Hibee, I am a Hibee, and I'll die a Hibee'. If that clarion call sparks a response in your heart, then you'll love this book. Once you've read it, you'll understand why the shout went up from the high terracing of the old Easter Rd - "Gie the ba' tae Reilly!" He never let them down.

Pat Stanton's Hibernian Dream Team
Pat Stanton's Hibernian Dream Team
by Pat Stanton
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And here is the team for today - or any day!., 26 April 2010
Generally speaking, football fans are a pretty argumentative lot; discussion and disputation is, after all, part of the fun of following `The Beautiful Game'. However, task any group of Hibernian supporters with deciding the status of Pat Stanton, and you would get complete unanimity. Great great nephew of Hibs' first captain, Michael Whelaghan, and from a family that was died in the wool Hibernian, Paddy Stanton was the `fan on the pitch', alongside his Holy Cross Academy buddy, Jimmy O'Rourke, the mainstay of Turnbull's Tornadoes, that 70s team who were the natural successors to the Famous Five.

The support loved Pat because he was a Hibee, just like them, but he was so much more: Scotland's Player of the Year in 1970, Hibs, and, far too occasionally, Scotland's, Captain Courageous, classed by Tommy Docherty as `better than Bobby Moore' and chosen by Jock Stein as the anchor of a double winning team at Celtic at the end of his career, giving him the two medals he hadn't been able to capture with his beloved Hibs. Pat was a class act - in defence or in midfield, scoring goals, making them, or stopping them; like a Boys' Own hero, he could do the lot. We puzzled at graffiti in the 60s and 70s that proclaimed that Eric Clapton was God, because we knew he wasn't - that epithet was reserved for a good looking man in a green and white shirt, with the number 4 on his back.

Now, in collaboration with Ted Brack, Pat has chosen his Hibernian Dream Team, and taken the opportunity to cast his mind back over the Hibernian greats that he has watched and played alongside over the years.

Fans of all ages will get something special from this very accessible volume. The auld yins will become misty eyed as Pat recalls the players he grew up idolizing, like Lawrie Reilly and Bobby Johnstone: my generation will be fascinated by Pat's memories of the Tornadoes and the League Cup win in 72; and younger readers will be interested in his take on the reigns of Miller, McLeish, Sauzee, Williamson and Mixu, whilst hearing the voices of their fathers and grandfathers extolling the genius of Smith, Marinello, Baker, Stevenson and Hamilton.

Every Hibs great for the past half century gets a mention, as well as some of the less revered names, and the writer is also honest in his appraisal of managers and directors. What were his thoughts on Eddie Turnbull, Jock Stein and Bob Shankly? How did it feel to play against Gordon Smith? How does he choose between Leighton, Goram and Rough? Was Tom Hart right in bringing George Best to Easter Rd? Will John Hughes be good for Hibs? And the question already on everyone's lips: does Pat pick himself?,

I won't give the game away, but as Alex Ferguson, another great Stanton fan, admits in his introduction, there is enough talent to make a first team, a subs bench, and a pretty tasty reserve squad.

The joy of this book is that it gives a platform for us to listen to the wisdom of a man who is far too modest to ever hold the floor in pub or club. As his biography suggested, Pat Stanton truly is `The Quiet Man", but his views and anecdotes are really worth hearing, exhibiting a dry wit, and making revelations about several generations of great footballers. Pat talks about the Hibernian Greats without ever seeming to realize his own position in their number, but then part of his classiness has always been his modest demeanour and his avoidance of self promotion.

At one point Pat refers to an awards night when he was due to make the presentation. Spotting another quiet master in the corner, he suggested that Gordon Smith, Prince of Wingers, should do the speech instead: "Why ask Dean Martin when you can get Sinatra?" says Pat. Well, you could say that Dino had what it took without needing to produce the razmataz so beloved of Francis Albert, and, throughout this book Pat's modesty is evident in many ways.

His collaborator, Ted Brack, who shares Pat's love of all things Hibernian, proves the perfect choice for the role: nudging Pat in directions he knows the supporters would want him to travel, but ensuring that the words on the page are an accurate reflection of the calm, assured and humorous style of this Hibernian hero.

It won't take you long to read `Pat Stanton's Hibernian Dream Team' because you will turn the pages eager to find the next Hibee story and the next choice for full back, centre half, winger or striker. Pat's voice is on every page as he gives words to so many Hibernian dreams and memories. The style is simple and captivating, just like the man who shares his love of the club in this most fascinating team selection.

Whenever he refers to Hibernian, he uses the words `we' and `our'; this book demonstrates why, for all Hibees, he will always be `our Pat Stanton.'

There is a Bonny Fitba Team: 50 Years on the Hibee Highway
There is a Bonny Fitba Team: 50 Years on the Hibee Highway
by Ted Brack
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Travelling the Hibernian way, 19 May 2009
As everyone knows, sports books are strange beasts. They can be so inward looking as to be virtually incomprehensible to the reader who doesn't share the writer's obsessions for sport or team, or they can reach out to those who have no shared interest in the content but can recognise the humanity involved in loving a sport and following a team, no matter who, where, or when . Roger Kahn's classic: `The Boys of Summer' brought vividly to life the sense of community in Brooklyn in the fifties, and the pain and joy of following perennial baseball runners up, the Brooklyn Dodgers, as they finally won their first World Series in 1955. You need not be a baseball fan or a New Yorker to recognise the passion, the emotion, the plain, glorious, daftness of the team's importance to countless families and individuals.

Ted Brack's offering on his time as an Hibernian supporter: `There is a Bonny Football Team: Fifty Years on the Hibee Highway' definitely falls into the latter category: nostalgic memories for committed Hibernian supporters, but a fascinating insight into one man's life for those not so privileged! You can't help but sympathise with a guy who started to follow the Edinburgh team in the final years of their greatest period and has suffered a half century of underachievement ever since. The almost constant disappointment helps to highlight those glorious starbursts of success: three league Cup Final victories, the supremely talented individuals - Baker, Cormack, Stanton, Sauzee and the rest, European nights, resounding victories over Real Madrid and Barcelona, titanic tussles with Liverpool and Leeds Utd. Clearly, the highs and the lows are the emotional roller coaster for every sports fanatic, and Ted's book resounds to the tears of joy and the aches of disappointment. Of course the team matters far too much in the overall nature of things, but Ted's approach reflects a sense of perspective when it comes to the other mainstays of his life - the family, and his work as a much respected and committed primary school headteacher.

This book is more than just another fan's tale because we are helped to understand the passion behind the writer's commitment to Hibernian FC: how it infiltrates every corner of his life - meeting his wife-to-be on a supporters' coach, the games missed for family events like births and christenings, the emotions shared with friends and relations, the comfort of belonging to the `Hibernian family', and the gallows humour to be found in every unexpected defeat and hard to take disappointment.

In reading `There is a Bonny Football team', we come to know Ted Brack as he grows from wide eyed schoolboy to retired and proud grandparent, we learn to empathise with his Hibernian angst, and, ultimately, we share in his happiness and commiserate in his sorrows. His account is easy to read, think of it as a conversation with an old friend, and we find ourselves willing the ball into the net, praying for a Brack family celebration. His family and friends become familiar; we travel with them to far flung parts of Scotland on wild winter nights and hope laden spring weekends; and as we grow in affection for this most self deprecating of writers, we come to understand and respect his long term single minded devotion to the men of the `Cabbage and Ribs'.

So if you've had a fixed Saturday routine for most of your life, if you own a `lucky' jacket or pair of socks, if your life has been unaccountably and irrationally at the mercy of eleven men chasing a football on a field of dreams, you'll understand where Ted is coming from, you'll love this book, and you'll gain comfort from realising you are not alone! And if Hibs mean nothing to you, and football is a mystery, you'll still enjoy this life affirming story of one man, who over the years has retained a child like affection for his sporting heroes, and used it as a catalyst for professional success and family happiness.
Join him on the Highway!
There is a Bonny Fitba Team: 50 Years on the Hibee Highway
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