Best Scottish sport reads of 2012

The fourth test match at Auckland, during the British Lions' 1971 tour. Picture: Getty
The fourth test match at Auckland, during the British Lions' 1971 tour. Picture: Getty
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Tale of the magic of the Lions is top of the pile in our annual look at the bookshelves

Behind The Lions

Stephen Jones et al

Birlinn, £19.99

Jones and his colleagues, including Scotsman writer Tom English and contributor David Barnes, adopt the chronological, interview-based format employed in the latter’s Behind The Thistle to tell the 125-year history of the touring side. Some of the most distinguished wearers of the famous red jersey are among those to recount their memories of both triumphant success and bitter failure over the past centurty and a quarter, with pride of place going to the 1971 tourists who won in New Zealand. For anyone contemplating saving up to go on next year’s tour to Australia, or indeed any rugby enthusiast, this is the ideal introduction to one of the most magical teams in world sport.

Tougher Than Bullets

Harold Davis

Mainstream, £17.99

In the pantheon of football player memoirs, this one stands alone. Davis was the footballer who served in Korea, should have lost his life, spent two years in hospital, but made a miraculous recovery to play football again at the highest level as a key player of the Rangers team of the 1960s. Davis must have been a ghost writer’s dream, with the horrors of war flooding back to him in a gripping personal account of the hell of the front line. And when he gets to the football, he fillets Jim Baxter. An exceptional read; one of the books of the year.

Glory In Gothenburg

Richard Gordon

Black & White, £14.99

‘My name is Richard Gordon and I am, for better or worse, an Aberdeen fan’. The first words in this book by the BBC Sportsound presenter strike a humorous, confessional note, but Glory In Gothenburg is very much focused on the ‘better’ side of supporting the club. While Alex Ferguson’s team ruled the roost domestically in the early 1980s, their Cup Winners’ Cup victory over Real Madrid was an undoubted highlight, and Gordon recalls it with an engaging blend of pride and wistful nostalgia.

An Open Book

Paul Lawrie

DP Publishing £16.99

While an Open Championship victory was not a bad starting point, the material for this autobiography, co-written with Scotland On Sunday golf writer John Huggan, simply got better and better as it was being written. Lawrie’s resurgence, which has seen him rise from well down to the world rankings to a top-50 player again and also become a member of a winning Ryder Cup team at the age of 43, has been one of the great sporting stories in 2012. Typically, the Aberdonian offers a frank account of events in his career, and his story is one that should inspire every young Scottish golfer.

Andy Murray: Champion

Mark Hodgkinson

Simon & Schuster, £18.99

It has been a remarkable year for British sport, and one of the most extraordinary chapters has been written by Andy Murray. From the depths of despair after losing his fourth Grand Slam final at Wimbledon, the Scot recovered to win Olympic gold and then the US Open. Tennis writer Hodgkinson has watched Murray since his early days as a pro and has written a sympathetic, insightful account.

Henrik, Hairdyers and the Hand of God

Brian Marjoribanks

BackPage Press, £8.99

An anthology of “extraordinary tales from the press box” as the subtitle has it, this collection aims to supply the stories behind the stories, as well as offering an insight into how sports journalists go about their trade. Contributors include Pat Nevin, Glenn Gibbons and Tom English; the subjects are mainly football-related, and the writing is invariably light-hearted and self-deprecating. Proceeds go to Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity.

Life On The Line

Kevin Twaddle

Black & White, £11.99

Subtitled ‘How to lose a million and so much more’, this could be described as a sports book and so much more. In it, the former Motherwell, St Johnstone and Hearts winger analyses his addiction to gambling and the effect it had on his career and family with painful honesty. It is a troubling, at times traumatic tale, but is also, in the end, upbeat: Twaddle has now not had a bet for six years, and uses his experiences to help the current generation of professionals.

Sporting Scots

John KV Eunson

Black & White,£12.99

Blessed with a pawky sense of humour, the author, born “south of Reykjavik” according to his publishers (weren’t we all?), has previously penned a tome called Sheep For Beginners. This, his latest, tells the story of Scots and how they exported a range of sports around the planet. Informative, offbeat and occasionally surprising.

Is The Baw Burst? Volume One

Iain Hyslop

Luath, £9.99

Being the travels and travails of one man, one season, 44 games, thousands of miles and a score or two of steak pies. Scottish football is in a sorry state, the author acknowledges, but is it terminal? An amusing, episodic account of the state of the game, it also has some important observations from the point of view of the people who keep the game alive - the fans who buy the tickets and pies. A second volume of potentially burst baws, this time focusing on Rangers, is published on Monday.

Scottish Football: It’s Not All About The Old Firm

Scott Burns

Pitch, £12.99

Written by journalist Scott Burns, this book does pretty much what it says on the cover: tells the story of the national sport as it exists away from the stranglehold of Glasgow’s big two. The emphasis is on the trophies won by all those other, so-called provincial clubs, including Raith Rovers and Livingston in addition to SPL teams such as Aberdeen, Dundee United, Hearts and Hibs.

Out of Bounds

Sam Torrance

Simon & Schuster, £18.99

With contributions from some of the most famous names in golf, this volume by the celebrated player, Ryder Cup captain and commentator is deserving of its subtitle: Legendary tales from the 19th hole. Raucous and ribald, it encouragingly shows that even the greatest of golfers can lose their composure at times - often to the extreme amusement of others. Ian Botham and Tim Henman, to name just two more usually associated with other sports, are among Torrance’s aiders and abetters.

Rangers: The Official Illustrated History

Lindsay Herron

Hachette Scotland, £25

A very accessible introduction to Rangers’ history by Lindsay Herron, this book has been published to celebrate the club’s 140th anniversary. Including more than 200 photos from the club’s own archives, it is an excellent introduction to the subject for younger supporters, as well as having a wealth of material to entertain more seasoned and knowledgeable fans. The best photo is almost certainly the one of Alfie Conn sporting the world’s longest sideburns in 1973.

The Hibernian Miscellany

Bobby Sinnet

History Press, £8.99

The miscellany format is a familiar one which has been employed on many subjects, but it makes for accessible reading and so widens the appeal. In other words, this book should be of interest not only to Hibs fans, even if it is written with a distinctly green-and-white tinge. Unlike conventional histories, it does not get bogged down in excessive detail, opting instead to focus on the quirky and curious as well as including more orthodox information.

From Athens To Zagreb

Mike Buckle

Luath, £14.99

A lifelong fan, Buckle digs through his own memories of following Hearts around Europe and wrote the book as a celebration of both the team’s exploits and the travel adventures of the supporters, with contributions by former players, team officials and individual fans. Match reports of every fixture are supplemented by analysis of both clubs’ form at the time and fine detail of the build-up to the match.

The Game On New Year’s Day

Ted Brack

Black & White, £11.99

With the 40th anniversary looming of Hibs’ greatest win over their Edinburgh rivals, Ted brack, author of several previous volumes about the Easter Road club, has dug under the surface to recall that afternoon. Putting the game in its historical context - it took place on the day that the UK joined what is now the European Union - the author also interviews some of the participants about their memories.

Saving Scottish Football

Paul Goodwin

Tangent £11.99

Head of Supporters Direct Scotland, Goodwin collaborates with some of the best-known names in the game to examine the problems facing it and to suggest some possible solutions. Jocky Scott, Davie Hay and Jimmy Calderwood are among the expert witnesses who come to a reasonable consensus about what needs to be done next.

Doddie: My Autobiography

Alex MacDonald

Black & White, £14.99

From his early days with Rangers to his time as Hearts manager, MacDonald was always whole-hearted and down-to-earth, and his life story reflects that enthusiasm well. He reminisces fondly about his times at Tynecastle and with St Johnstone and Airdrie. but above all this is a book about his love for Rangers as a supporter and a player, with the 1972 Cup Winners’ Cup win being a highlight.

From the Heart

Sandy Clark

Black & White, £14.99

Successively a player, manager, coach and pundit, Clark seems to have been around Scottish football forever and has accumulated a wealth of colourful material along the way. This autobiography starts with him joining Airdrie. The signing-on fee, which went to his dad, was two whiskies. John ‘Bomber’ Brown didn’t think much of this book, but you just might.

Gary Mackay’s Hearts Dream Team

Gary Mackay

Black & White, £11.99

The man who has made the record number of appearances for Hearts also grew up on the terraces at Tynecastle, and so is ideally placed to offer this selection of the best players to wear maroon. The position-by-position format adds up to a modern history of Hearts, with some particularly entertaining insights into Mackay’s early years at the club.


Phil Mac Giolla Bhain

Frontline, £9.99

The sirens started to sound at the first of several references to Rangers supporters as “the Ibrox klan”. The author makes no attempt to disguise his hatred for Rangers, stating at one stage “please let this football club die”. And yet he yearns to be taken seriously as a journalist, repeatedly complaining that no-one from the mainstream media ever calls him. As the tale unravels, Mac Giolla Bhain starts to disappear up his own rear, declaring: “I am aware of my own contribution and I rather like the guy I see in the shaving mirror every morning.” These are two classic mistakes: believing you are the story, and wanting a story to be true. When it’s not.