Sunday, 25 November 2012

The return of the King

I'm still buzzing from the news that Gillie turned up at White Hart Lane today to watch the 3-1 win over West Ham. I will confess, though, that it's a bittersweet moment. I had so wanted to be there and while I had heard a number of rumours about his imminent return there had been nothing concrete. I had my own long-standing arrangement: a return to the amateur club were I played for many years for a 40th anniversary dinner. I met several people who had read all about Gillie and I spent quite a long time talking about him (I'd also had to pull together an itinerary ahead of today's game for Arild Stavrum, the former Aberdeen striker who is writing a book about fathers and sons and football) so there was a kind of prescience about his reappearance at the Lane today - even if I wasn't quite aware of what that nagging feeling was at the back of my head - I simply thought it was a case of one too many last night. Gillie's return marks the end of a series of aims that I had hoped would come to fruition when I set about trying to track him down. The first was securing his entry into the Scottish football hall of fame - that happened even before the book appeared; the second was Dundee giving him some long-overdue official recognition - that box appears to have been ticked too since the club is planning to name a lounge after him the coming months; the final hope was that he would go back to the Lane. I can't wait to see Match of the Day 2 tonight for a glimpse.

Monday, 19 November 2012

A bit of a Dhu 2

Just a quick reminder that I'll be doing a reading at the Glasgow Spurs Supporters' Club at the Rhoderick Dhu pub in Waterloo Street, Glasgow on Thursday night (November 22nd) after the Lazio-Spurs game. We'll watch a couple of short films - one about Gillie's time at Spurs including interviews from Dave Mackay and assorted former team-mates and the other - based around an interview I gave for STV's excellent Scotland's Greatest Team programme that aired in March 2010 - which includes footage of his time at Dundee, Tottenham and with Scotland. After that, I'll do a reading featuring special guests Alan Mullery, Phil Beal and Cliff Jones* and then we'll take questions from the floor. It doesn't matter if you're not a Spurs supporter - if you're a fan of Gillie, we'd be delighted to see/convert you.

*Actor's voices may be used to protect the innocent.

See you on Thursday . . . hopefully.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

A bit of a Dhu

There’s been something incredibly dull about Tottenham’s Europa League campaign thus far despite AVB’s proclamations that the competition is close to his heart and that he would be treating it and the ‘dimensions’ it provides with the utmost gravity.
Next up for Spurs is the home tie against Maribor before an away trip to Rome to face Lazio in a match that could decide who wins the group - provided Spurs haven’t put on their draw-from-the-jaws-of-victory routine against the Czechs a fortnight earlier. It’s the Lazio match on Novermber 22 I’m particularly interested in, though, because right after that game I’ll be doing my first ever book reading of In Search of Alan Gilzean at the Rhoderick Dhu (Waterloo Street, Glasgow - just across from Central Station) courtesy of the Glasgow Spurs Supporters Club. So, if you’re even remotely excited by the thought of hearing about a time when Spurs swept all before them on the way to winning the 1972 version of the Europa League (trading as the UEFA Cup) or want to know why Gillie hated Arsenal and especially loathed Bob Wilson then please come along and I’ll do my best to fill you in. There’ll be a short film, I’ll do some reading and then we’ll have a Q&A. There might even be time for a beer, a glass of wine or Gillie’s special favourite a Bacardi and Coke. I’ll bring more details in the coming days.

An appeal

Fellow Spurs fans . . .

I have been asked to compile an itinerary for Arild Stavrum, the former Aberdeen and Norway striker, who is writing a book about fathers and sons in football.
Arild is attending the Tottenham-West Ham game on Sunday, November 25 and wants a few must-do suggestions for his time in north London. My own routine usually involves taking the train up from Liverpool Street to White Hart Lane, followed by a few beers and a sing-song in The Bricklayers. After the game, it’s either back to the Brickies or a Chick King and then the long-walk down the High Road to Seven Sisters. It’s fairly mundane stuff usually because it’s governed by the tight turnaround that comes with the territory of long-distance travelling to games so what I’m looking for are tips for specific Spurs-friendly greasy spoon cafes, pubs I might have missed, local sights and characters that must be seen/met. Given its history, the Bell and Hare is surely a must and I think a trip to Bruce Grove Museum to see the Spurs archives is worthwhile. Is the stadium tour worth a trip? It’s 25 years since I did it last. He’s also looking for some historical context to the fixture and what it means to Spurs fans and why it is of significance (perhaps more so for the other lot than us but maybe you disagree). Anyway, I’d be grateful if you could let me know your own experiences and I’ll pass on the best of them to Arild.
For the record, he is one of us. He’s also a thoroughly decent chap to boot. (Although I can’t vouch for what might happen should Brad Friedel chuck his shirt at him in the Park Lane end after our 5-0 defeat of the Hammers in three weeks’ time). But then you knew that already.

Monday, 22 October 2012

One other thing . . .

Happy 74th birthday, Alan. For more context to this blog post see here:

If Gilzean ever goes back to White Hart Lane he'll raise the roof

Hello, it's been a while. Some news reaches me from afar that might be of interest to Gillie fans and followers. First up, I've heard a rumour that the great man is expected back at White Hart Lane some time this season (courtesy of Steve Perryman's gentle promptings). I can't confirm or deny that one but I do know that it would be a wonderful occasion and I'll certainly be keeping my ear to the ground – I don't want to miss that roar when he finally steps on to the pitch for the first time in decades. The second piece of news is confidential, for now, but this one is concrete and concerns Dundee and something that I focused on – or rather the lack thereof – in the book. Again, I'll provide confirmation when I get the nod.
Finally, I have heard and read complaints from some about the price Gillie is currently selling for on Amazon. I've seen upwards of £50 with some online affiliate sites. I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that the book has now gone to a third run in the new, smaller format and can be purchased for the meagre sum of £6.29. Amazon's delivery time claims one to two months but there are books in BackPage Press' warehouse so it should be a considerably quicker process than is claimed.

Here's a link:

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Gilzean hits the bar

The life of an author is invariably one of managing ever increasing expectations without wanting to appear hubristic. Not content with torturing myself mentally during the writing of In Search Of Alan Gilzean, I have spent the interim period doing it all over again. First, you hope that people will buy your book, then you hope they will read it and, then, if that's not enough, you want them to like it. For the writer, though, of greater concern is those that have not enjoyed the work. What was it that those who criticised it did not like? What could have been done better? What would I change if I had the chance to write it all over again?

These were the questions that occupied my mind in the days after last week's British Sports Book Awards. You will recall that In Search Of Alan Gilzean was nominated in the best football book category for the event at The Savoy last Monday evening. It didn't win but that didn't stop the six of us (the remaining UK-based members of BackPage Press, myself and our wives and a girlfriend) from having a long-overdue and very boozy post-publication party. It was clear we were going to enjoy our night when a tray filled with fine champagne was waved in front of our noses and we embarked on some celeb spotting. Mike Atherton was there, as was Gabby Logan, but perhaps the most impressive famous face on show was that of Brian Moore who, in the flesh, is one of the scariest men I have ever set eyes on.
Moore would later melt upon winning the best autobiography award, his voice cracking with emotion as he recalled the circumstances behind why he wrote Beware of the Dog before admitting that the sportsman in him meant he would have been 'gutted' had he lost. His gallant and eloquent summation was that, in any case, it was only someone's opinion that he was deemed the winner.

The positive news for us was that we had been selected as a nominee rather than having submitted the book for shortlisting. To me this was evidence that we had a chance and when the nominations were read out there was more to be confident about with the revelation that "the winning book represented a personal odyssey". And that "it was a story about a town (Coupar Angus, surely?) a city (it must be Dundee) and about a club (ah bugger it, it's the book about Leeds United, isn't it?). I'd marked down Anthony Clavane's Promised Land as the live outsider when I'd first seen the list of nominees – along with Mike Calvin's Family which was the bookies favourite – and so it came as no great surprise to see him lift the award. But I won't lie, there was a pang of envy when he mounted the steps to collect it. There was surprise, too, when WH Smith picked up the best retailer award. Not least from The Independent's Stephen Brenkley here: who presented the cricket award and noted the lack of the sport's books available in the retailer's stores. I have had a similar experience with Smiths. Gillie has not been stocked in my local store in Hamilton since publication and that to me seems like something of a missed opportunity, not least when they have books about other former Tottenham players such as Darren Anderton and Steve Hodge, who also just happen to be English. But I digress.

The rest of the evening was spent chatting with other authors about their experiences. Tom English, who won best rugby book for The Grudge, a superb socio-political account of the 1990 grand slam decider between Scotland and England told me he conducted over 100 interviews in the writing of his book and during one fortnight, specifically taken off work to clock up some words, he wrote "9000 only to throw 8000 of them away". Clyde Brolin asked how long it had taken me to write Gillie. He was surprised to discover that it had taken me just over a year. His book, Overdrive, had taken five. My theory on the writing process is that there is no right or wrong time-span. It is a nebulous concept and relates to the time needed to tell the story as fully as possible but also the conditions that govern your day-to-day existence. I simply had to have my book finished by the deadline imposed. The question is not would it have been different had I been given more time but rather would it have been written? There was also the opportunity to meet the prolific Spurs author Martin Cloake, who had given Gillie a very favourable review on his blog and with whom I'd enjoyed a correspondence in the run up to the awards. I will confess that I took far too much pleasure from Martin's 61: The Double book winning best illustrated title and Tom's The Grudge taking the rugby gong, perhaps because Martin is a fellow Spurs man and Tom is a fellow Irishman or perhaps because I was all too aware that it might be the closest I would get to winning myself. And thus it proved. As reality set in, I downed more and more wine and suddenly I was smiling. Gillie would have been proud.

When I woke the next morning I felt 'gutted', just like Brian Moore might have done had he not won. But, as I reconsidered his words and the effects of the previous night's drinking finally started to lift, I told myself there's always next time . . . I've already started planning for it. Let the self-flagellation begin.