Best Scottish sports reads of 2014

In Search of Duncan Ferguson by Alan Pattullo.
In Search of Duncan Ferguson by Alan Pattullo.
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We review year’s top stocking fillers

1)  In Search of Duncan Ferguson

Never Mind the Jambos

Never Mind the Jambos

Alan Pattullo

(Mainstream, £18.99)

WHEN Duncan Ferguson – a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside a pigeon-loft – broke cover, took his coaching badges and sat behind the manager on the Goodison bench, it might have looked like the reason for this book had been lost. But that assumed standard, take-each-biog-as-it-comes fare, which this isn’t. We’re biased, but our Alan has written the best here, and it’s all the better for having zero contribution from the great enigma. Ferguson doesn’t talk but everyone else does: headbutt victim Jock McStay, Donald Findlay, QC, the Barlinnie jailer who turned the key and, blimey, the Finnish composer of a Dunc-inspired opera.

2)  Exposed at the Back

Arild Stavrum

(Freight Books, £14.99)

IS STAVRUM the first footballer from the old SPL to pen a novel? This is the second crime thriller from the former Aberdeen striker. Write about what you know, say publishers. So he’s written about football, the dark side: bungs, bent refs, match-fixing, gambling addictions, the exploitation of youth players from Africa, the sexploitation of their sisters – and the murder of a super-powerful agent.

3)  Yogi Bare

John Hughes with Alex Gordon

(Self-published, £18.99)

JOCK Stein’s left winger for six championships but not Lisbon, hit headlines with anecdotes about the manager’s ultra-disciplinarian ways but there’s more to this book. Hughes is candid about his drinking, marriage breakdown, battle with cancer and being held up in his own pub. “Look pal,” said Yogi, “why don’t you put the shotgun down, have a pint of heavy and we’ll say no more about it.” Guess who won.

4)  The Commonwealth Games

Brian Oliver

(Bloomsbury, £12.99)

AT EDINBURGH in 1970 they were dubbed the Friendly Games. The Queen attended for the first time and photo-finish technology was introduced, though not required for the triumphs of the Stewarts, Lachie and Ian. Flash forward 16 years, again in the capital, for “the most bizarre, most troubled Games ever staged”. Self-styled saviour Robert Maxwell caused embarrassment but if ’86 had been cancelled, the event may never have made it back to Scotland.

5)  Black Diamonds and the Blue Brazil: A Chronicle of Coal, Cowdenbeath & Football

Ron Ferguson

(Saint Andrew Press, £14.99)

THIS well-received book from 1993 has been re-published with a new introduction by Sir Alex Ferguson and new forewords by Craig Brown and Jim Leishman; an updated author’s preface and postscript. An even more essential read than it was in the first place. Scotland’s Fever Pitch, re-booted.

6)  Slim Jim: Simply the Best

Tom Miller

(Black & White publishing, £9.99)

THIS biography of one of Scottish football’s enduring football greats manages to be genuinely revealing with regards Baxter’s personal circumstances, and “the secret” of who his birth mother was. But it is also a celebration of a true talent, whose career was compromised by an appetite for partying.

7)  Never Mind The Jambos: The Ultimate Hearts FC Quiz Book

John McBurnie

(The History Press, £6.99)

WHICH Hearts manager once scored three goals in a European final? This and many more questions will test the knowledge of all Hearts fans – whether a dedicated diehard, armchair enthusiast or junior Jambo. Packed with posers from the origins of the club, through to recent cup glories and the turmoil of the Romanov years, featuring questions on club legends such as John Robertson, Rudi Skacel and the Terrible Trio, European travels and, appropriately for the centenary of the start of the First World War, a section on the Hearts team which enlisted en masse.

8)  Moonwalker: Adventures of

a Midnight Mountaineer

Alan Rowan

(BackPage Press, £9.99)

The adventures of sports journalist turned Munro-bagger Alan Rowan. Never mind climbing peaks over 3,000ft – try climbing them at night, like Rowan decides to do, when he feels “like the last man on earth”. This poignant, well-written memoir is about much more than climbing mountains, however.

9)  Fergie Rises

Michael Grant

(Aurum Press, £18.99)

THE glut of books on Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United revolution is exactly why this one is so interesting; it deals exclusively with Ferguson’s “rise” in the north, the north being Aberdeen. Michael Grant’s detailed and thoughtful study is not only marked out by an impressive cast-list of characters, including Gordon Strachan and Alex McLeish. It also contains pearls from Ferguson’s old programme notes, a neat idea by an author whose account is superbly written.

10)  Scotland ’74:

A World Cup Story

Richard Gordon

(Black & White publishing, £11.99)

FORTY years on from Scotland’s unbeaten World Cup campaign in West Germany, Richard Gordon tracks down several of the players involved. Just as importantly, he also provides some much needed context. The author felt the campaign had been unfairly forgotten on the back of the Argentina misadventure in 1978 and illustrates how perhaps Scotland’s most talented-ever squad came up just short to earn the title of first country to exit the World Cup without losing a game.

11)  Etape

Richard Moore

(Harper Collins, £20)

WRITTEN by Scottish author and former Commonwealth Games cyclist Richard Moore, this is a virtual Tour de France: 20 chapters, 20 stages from different years. Some stages are included for their notoriety, mystery, quirkiness, or even tragedy. But all are from the “modern” era, which the author defines as starting in the 1970s. Each chapter includes a new interview with one or several of the protagonists from the stage, and the author has spoken to some of the sport’s biggest stars – Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Mark Cavendish, Scotland’s own David Millar – and the most notorious of all, Lance Armstrong.

12)  Big Jock: The Real Jock Wallace Story

David Leggat

(Black & White publishing, £9.99)

JOCK Wallace is not the most successful Rangers manager, but it is perhaps too easily forgotten that he won two domestic trebles in three years in his first stint at Ibrox. A spirited reassessment of Wallace’s life, this chronicles why he left Ibrox the first time around and includes details of his time at Leicester City, where he handed 17-year-old Gary Lineker his debut. Illuminating for those whose impression of Wallace is solely as a gruff, sergeant-major type.

13)  Unthinkable! Raith Rovers’ Improbable Journey from the Bottom to the Top of Scottish Football

Steve Lawther

(Pitch Publishing Ltd, £14.99)

RAITH Rovers’ pinnacle was winning the Coca-Cola Cup 20 years ago last month. Steve Lawther tracks down players and officials from the era. “Unthinkable” is what Jock Brown screamed into the mic as Celtic’s Paul McStay prepared to take the decisive penalty in the shoot-out: “Unthinkable, surely, for the skipper to miss!” he cried. Even McStay agreed to contribute.

14)  Growing Up In Green

Sandy Macnair

(Braidwood Books, £10.99)

A NOSTALGIC trip back to the 1970s, when flares were flares and Hibs were good! Macnair defied his Partick-supporting dad to attach himself to Hibs, and although he was rewarded with the exploits of Turnbull’s Tornadoes there were plenty of emotional bumps and scrapes along the way. A coming-of-age tale with some crazy capers thrown in. Very well written and full of laughs – many at the author’s expense.

15)  Charlie Miller:

The Proper Charlie

Charlie Miller, Scott McDermott

(Black & White Publishing, £9.99)

AN UNFLINCHING reflection on a career some would say was criminally wasted by a player with such abundant talent. But as Miller points out, he won four league titles and a League Cup at Ibrox and, in addition, got to play in Norway, Australia and Belgium. He also spent three years at Dundee United, where he reckons he perhaps played the best football of his career despite succumbing to the perils of alcohol abuse and gambling.

16) Scottish Rugby: Game by Game

Kenneth R Bogle

(Luath Press, £30)

BILLED as the most comprehensive book about Scottish rugby ever published, and since it records every game played by the Scottish rugby team since 1871, it probably deserves this status. Charts players, scorers and even referees and includes detailed match analysis. An archivist’s dream.

17)  Alex Ferguson:

My Autobiography

Alex Ferguson

(Hodder & Stoughton, £25)

PUBLISHED last year, this is hard to ignore considering it is still featuring at the top of the best-seller lists following an update. The extra chapters deal with Ferguson’s first year of retirement – and, of course, the awkward question of the failure of the Old Trafford successor he anointed, David Moyes. Ferguson isn’t so keen to claim the credit for this now.