As a regular visitor of Scottish lower league grounds I was intrigued at the premise of this book, purporting to be a serious response to Henry McLeish's white paper in the state of Scottish football from a fan's perspective.
Sadly, as noble an endeavour as this book is, the writer lacks the knowledge and sophistication to really make much of a proper fist of it and it becomes pretty laborious very early on.
The first thing that grates is the repetition. This is less of a serious investigation of Scottish football and more of travelogue account of an attempt to visit each ground in the top four Scottish Divisions in a season and write around 1500 - 2000 words on each (he admits to writing the pieces in the immediate aftermath of each visit). After only three or four matches we begin to see that the writer is following a rather shallow template of boxes which he feels he must tick in each "review". As he finds any visit to a team below, say top six in the SPL, is a similar experience to the one before the reader quickly gets the sense that the writer himself is fed up quite early on with the task as he resorts to tedious, hackneyed reviews of the pies at each ground (at least fifty words on ALL of them which becomes quickly tiresome) and sums up his diagnosis of every club by stating, rather obviously, that they ought to work closely with the local community to stir interest (again, he does this on over forty occasions).
The problem here is that this is a Rangers fan effectively touring Scottish grounds like a fish out of water, standing back and observing the goings on at lower league matches rather than a lower league regular with years of experience of the scene. His preference for industrial estate, identikit, flat pack stadia over traditional town centre grounds (because they're easier to get to by car) will stagger many of the fans who've seen people driven away in droves by the lifeless banality of the "modern" versions.
His trip to Cowdenbeath is simply insulting. He may not have much taste for Central Park but to allow the setting to irritate him to the point of speculating that "most of the people here appear to be unemployed" is obnoxious and nauseating.
Any time he does make a point or put forward an opinion he feels the need to apologise for "the rant" immediately afterwards. Unfortunately, the real problems from the fans' perspective aren't dealt with such as the one up one down disgrace between SPL and SFL1 which is responsible for thousands of people staying away. A Rangers fan from Prestwick, he ponders why Ayr can't build a "proper" stadium to attract the locals and myopically attacks the state of Somerset Park.
It's a shame this book is poorly executed as there aren't enough titles of this nature available. If you want to read about life in the lower leagues then Jeff Connor's Pointless (East Stirlingshire) and Simon Hood's Bicycle Kicks (York city) are far more literate, humorous and properly researched by credible fans of the game at the lower level. This is little more than a slightly snobbish extended guide to the diddy teams written in that irritating, trite Sunday Post "ooooh the banter!" style. Unfortunately, there probably a decent market for that very thing.
Even as a Sassenach I have always been interested in Scottish football and have followed the fortunes (and otherwise) of Stenhousemuir FC from afar. So with an Amazon token to use I bought Iain Hyslop's 'Is The Baw Borst'. I read it with interest. The book records Iain's travels to every ground in the Scottish Premier and Scottish League all in one season to watch a live game. Each chapter tends to follow a similar format, but none the worse for that as Iain seems to be a man of habit - steak pie and Bovril at almost every ground. The book offers a fascinating glimpse of the various and varied grounds of Scotland, some large, some small, some grand, most not so grand. I read the book with an AA map at hand to help me see where he was travelling, for despite my interest in Scottish football, my experience of Scotland is generally restricted to the western coast and Islands of Scotland, an area sparse in its football teams.
My main criticism of the book is that Iain has probably not envisaged people south of the border reading it, otherwise he might have been more explicit with his locations. Many of the names of Scottish teams give little clue as to their location: Raith Rovers, Ross County, St.Johnstone, Queen of the South and so on. Also the nick names he gives as subtitles gave me little clue and so I had to cheat by turning to the end of the chapter to look up who was playing.
As someone who has never watched a live Scottish game and has seen only a handful of Scottish grounds, including those of past memory, Third Lanark and Gretna, this was a first class and enjoyable tour. Iain's dedication and determination have proved worthwhile and I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Scottish football.
By chance the Scottish Football Association published a possible replanning of the leagues the day after I finished the book and much of it seems almost as though they have read Iain's suggestions for the future of Scottish football with which he concludes his tour.
A first class mostly serious but occasionally humerous account of a seasons worth of football through the Scottish senior leagues through the eyes of an ordinary fan. The book refreshingly deals with a look at the basic problems within Scottish football and offers an opinion on how things could be improved. A great read that certainly gives the reader some food for thought...................on the off chance you get sick of pies!!!
Excellent Read - Iain knows his football! My husband could not put this book down. This book went into great detail, he must have spend months and months researching all these clubs. Looking forward to the next one...