Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Love letters

All manner of emails and letters have reached me since the release of In Search Of Alan Gilzean. All have extolled the virtues of Gillie as a player and each correspondent has expressed his/her genuine affection for the man. One, David Potter, the eminent Celtic historian, author, and a Perthshire contemporary of Gillie's, felt moved enough to write a review of the book "for anyone, if you want" and I have enclosed it below. This is not meant as self-congratulatory praise but rather to answer the accusation by another reviewer that the book does not go far enough and that I was "disappointed" that I did not get the answers I wanted. Let me be clear:  I was not disappointed by how my search ended. It was, after all, something that could only be controlled by how events unfolded and the journey was only a part of discovering Alan Gilzean, the man. The search was two-fold: it was a physical search and a figurative one. The outcome is what it is. And, anyway, as I have said previously in this blog, many of the answers about what happened next are there but they will not be picked up by reading the book with a superficial eye. They have not been spelled out and with good reason.

There are some books that football fans really must read. This is one of them. The author, a lifelong fan of the Cockerels of White Hart Lane, has decided that the well known recluse Alan Gilzean must be tracked down and given due credit for what he achieved. He did indeed achieve a great deal, did Alan, but there now remains a danger almost half a century on from his floruit that his memory may begin to dim. Indeed there are now some in his native Coupar Angus who have not heard of him, and with his old club Dundee (not for the first time) in danger of extinction, there is a chance that Alan's contribution may disappear as well. This book is therefore a timeous attempt to redress the balance.
The high point of his career to Scottish eyes at least was the goal that he scored at Hampden on the rainy day of 11 April 1964 to beat England 1-0 and secure a hat-trick of victories over the "Auld Enemy", but to London eyes of course, he was the King of White Hart Lane, and the author has been very diligent in tracking down Gilzean's team mates to talk about Alan. A complex character emerges. Contrary to what has been said elsewhere, Gilzean did not really have a drink problem (others did, of course) although he liked a drink and had a few "moments". He was not necessarily the keenest "forager" for the ball, for he felt that his job was to score goals. He had a particular dislike of Bob Wilson, not because he was the Arsenal goalkeeper, but because he was a "fake" Scotsman who, Gilzean thought, became Scottish when it suited him to win a Scottish cap.
The Dundee days are well documented with emphasis on his great performance in the Ibrox fog of November 1961, the game that really convinced folk that Dundee might just win the Championship. They wobbled a bit near the end, but eventually did it, leading them to an eventful run in Europe the following year. Maybe he should have stayed at Dens, or perhaps held out for a transfer to Rangers or Celtic, but to England he went in December 1964 (after a prolonged wrangle with Dundee which did not reflect well on anyone), and teaming up with men like Jimmy Greaves and Martin Chivers, became the legend of Tottenham Hotspur. The author compares him with Berbatov. Gilzean, in my view, was a lot better.
The book leaves a few questions unanswered, questions that will possibly never be answered, simply because Alan Gilzean does not wish to answer them. He is entitled to his privacy, but this should not deflect us from glorifying the great man that he was. The author has done an excellent job in this respect, and at £9.99, the problem of what to get for Dad's Christmas has now been solved. Any self-respecting Dundee or Spurs fan must have this book, as indeed should anyone who likes football nostalgia. For Dundee fans, nostalgia is about all that they have left.
David Potter 

Friday, 22 October 2010

Happy Birthday Gillie

Couldn't let the day pass without mentioning that today is Alan's birthday. His exact date of birth was a matter that vexed me for some time when I was writing the book. Both his son, Ian Gilzean, and a former Dundee team-mate, Bobby Wishart, speculated that they couldn't even be sure of his correct age when interviewed for a piece in The Scotsman last year. The internet invariably threw up two dates: October 23rd 1938 or October 22nd 1938. The discrepancy seemed miniscule, yet was a major one at the same time and seemed to encapsulate perfectly all of the rumours and myths which accompanied his life. It took a visit to the public records office near the end of my search to confirm that Alan John Gilzean was indeed born on October 22nd, 1938.

Happy 72nd birthday, Gillie.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Attention Dundee fans

Tickets are selling fast for the second In Search Of Alan Gilzean night at the New Picture House cinema in St Andrews on Saturday, October 23rd. I understand that these are straitened times for the club and supporters are being asked to dig deep for the second time in seven years but, hopefully, the night in St Andrews will give fans a chance to reflect on a time when Dundee were the best team in Scotland and possessed the greatest player in the country. Pat Liney, the goalkeeper from the 1962 league-winning team will be in attendance as will Ron Ross, former sports editor of the Dundee Courier and a schoolfriend of Gillie's. If it's as much fun as the launch in Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre last month then supporters are in for a treat.
All ticket proceeds from the evening will go to the Dundee Supporters Society. Tickets cost just £5 and entitle you to a £2 discount on the book. They can be purchased here: http://bit.ly/9WAHyn Doors open at 8.00pm.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Gillie night in St Andrews

For those of you who missed the launch of In Search Of Alan Gilzean, there is a second chance to watch the great man in action and hear stories about his life at Dundee and his early days in Coupar Angus. Pat Liney, the goalkeeper in the 1962 league-winning team, will be in attendance once again as will former schoolfriend Ron Ross, the former sports editor of the Dundee Courier, who features heavily in the search. Both men were among the few who actually witnessed Dundee's epic 5-1 win over Rangers at Ibrox in which Gillie scored four times. Indeed, Ron travelled through the fog to Glasgow in the company of Billy Forbes, Gilzean's cousin. Pat, of course, famously had to ask Alec Hamilton, the Dundee right-back, what the score was because he couldn't see Rangers' goal area from his own.

The night starts at 8pm on Saturday, October 23rd in the New Picture House in St Andrews and tickets, costing £5 but entitling you to a £2 discount on the book, are available here: http://bit.ly/9WAHyn

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Scottish Daily Mail and Dundee match programme

Here are two further pieces which appeared recently in the Scottish Daily Mail and the Dundee programme. One focuses heavily on the search and the other answers some of the criticism I heard when the blurb for the book was first released - chiefly that Gilzean's name had not been forgotten by Dundee or Tottenham supporters.

Scottish Daily Mail, Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

Dundee match programme versus Raith Rovers. Saturday, Septermber 20th, 2010

Sunday, 3 October 2010


Two nice reviews appeared online and in the national press this weekend. The first is in the Sunday Herald and is written by Harry Reid, estimable former editor of The Herald, and the second is on the Sports Journalists' Association website and is written by Anton Rippon, himself an author of over 30 books and the founder of prolific football history publisher Breedon Books.



Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Statues, shirts and shameless plugs

I've been a bit remiss of late. I had expected to post more regularly than this in the weeks following the launch but I have been pretty busy with interviews and spin-off work since 'Gillie' was released. In that time Dundee have announced they are effectively skint and are considering administration for the second time in a decade, I've heard an unsubstantiated rumour that Coupar Angus was going to erect a statue to Gilzean, Spurs have revived memories of the Glory nights with a resounding Champions League win and Gillie has been pictured here http://plixi.com/p/47513707 with a Spurs supporter named Jason Evans, who spent the best part of 50 minutes chatting to Alan recently and even got him to sign a specially designed 125th anniversary shirt.

In the meantime, I have had numerous emails and letters from fans of both the book and Alan Gilzean. I have already told those whom I have responded to that I am extremely flattered by their kind words. For those who have contacted me and not heard back, apologies. I will be in touch just as soon as I get a chance. I have been overwhelmed by the reaction to the book and in recent weeks a number of reputable organs have either previewed or reviewed it. I enclose these shameless plugs below for your perusal.

You will also find a lovely review of the launch by The Scotsman's Alan Pattullo here: http://sport.scotsman.com/football/Alan-Gilzean-remains-a-mystery.6539656.jp

Finally, for anyone interested in contributing to the relief fund set up by Dundee supporters to help the club through its latest financial crisis, you can do so here: http://www.dee4life.com/

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Berbatov? Pah! He isn't a patch on Gilzean

"He was far better than Berbatov," said Ian Ure, the centre-half in Dundee's title-winning team in 1962.

"If I was a football manager and you gave me the money to buy one of them, then it would be Gillie every time," concurred Pat Liney, the goalkeeper in the same team.

The 100 or so guests who attended the launch of In Search of Alan Gilzean in Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre yesterday could hardly have realised the significance of the words they had just heard from Gillie's former team-mates, two central characters in the book.

Less than 24 hours later, Dimitar Berbatov would single-handedly guide Manchester United to a 3-2 win over Liverpool in a thrilling Premier League match, the highlight of which was a sensational overhead kick by the Bulgarian.

It wasn't just that Ure and Liney expressed the sentiments, though, it was the assurance with which they did so that made their claim that Gilzean was Berbatov's superior all the more convincing.

It proved a fitting end to a wonderfully nostalgic launch. The Dundee legends were full of tales about the title-winning team and their former team-mate with the golden touch.

Ure remembered losing his temper with Gilzean because he felt he wasn't putting in a shift during an away match against Cologne in the European Cup, losing his temper with a German opponent whom he booted in the ribs in revenge for an earlier challenge and losing his temper with another goalkeeper, Bert Slater, who, concussed from a blow to the head, wouldn't come round in the dressing-room at half-time, despite several slaps to the face. There were plenty of belly laughs at that one.

But perhaps the funniest tale was left to Pat Liney. Recalling an FA Cup tie against Spurs whilst playing for Bradford City in the 1970s, he recounted the teamtalk before kick-off.

"Our manager was making plans for corners to Spurs," said Pat. "He was telling Norman, our centre-forward, to come back and pick up Martin Chivers every time Spurs had a corner. He went through most of the team. And then I said to him, 'What about Gilzean?" and he said, 'Is he good in the air?'. To which I said 'Well, he scored about 50 goals one season in Scotland and 40 of them were with his head.'"

It was a good weekend for the Gilzean brand. This morning, Jimmy Greaves recalled his former strike partner with real warmth and affection in his weekly column in the People, but claimed that he hadn't spoken to his "blood brother" in 40 years.

He also had some particularly nice words to say about the book. You can read Jimmy's column here: http://www.people.co.uk/sport/columnists/jimmy-greaves/2010/09/19/why-i-ve-not-seen-my-spurs-partner-alan-gilzean-for-40-years-102039-22571450/

And finally, for all those who missed the launch we're hosting another Gillie night next month in NPH Cinema in St Andrews on Saturday, 23rd October at 8pm. It promises to be another great night. We will also be announcing details of Spurs-themed Gillie nights in the London area in the near future so keep checking the blog or http://www.backpagepress.co.uk for further details.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Dundee Evening Telegraph

For those who missed it, this preview appeared in last week's Dundee Evening Telegraph. Look out for forthcoming reviews of the book in the national press in the coming weeks.

Friday, 10 September 2010

A message from our sponsors

In Search of Alan Gilzean, the biography of one of Dundee's greatest players, is out on September 20, but you can be a part of the official launch, at Dundee Contemporary Arts on Saturday, September 18, from 10am until 12pm.
The author, James Morgan, will introduce a film of some of Gillie's best bits. He will then be in conversation with Pat Liney to talk about the player he saw develop at Dens Park, the part Gillie played in the championship team of 1962 and the man behind the legend.
There will be a Q&A session and the opportunity to buy copies of the book, which James and Pat will be happy to sign. To claim a free ticket to this event, e-mail backpage@backpagepress.co.uk. with 'Alan Gilzean launch' as the subject. Please indicate the amount of tickets you would like. Maximum of four per person. Places are limited and tickets will be awarded on a first come, first served basis. Good luck.

Edit: I have just been in touch with Ian Ure's wife (Ian is out of the country at present) and he has confirmed that he will also be in attendance.

Sunday, 5 September 2010


There seems to be a bit of confusion about the release date for the book. Officially, it is Monday, September 20th but some people have already received their copies because they have ordered them directly from BackPage Press. BackPage have several hundred books at their warehouse whereas Amazon have not received their copies . . . yet. They will do, just not as quickly as BackPage. It follows then that if you can't wait for your book, you would be better to order it direct from the publisher. You can do so by following this link: http://www.backpagepress.co.uk/purchase.htm and you'll also get a free ebook.

There has been a very positive response from those that have received their copies and that's because BackPage Press have made a first class job of the production - I hope my words have done them justice. There are a number of Gillie-themed events planned over the coming weeks. Launch day is at the Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre at 10am on September 18th and we hope to have a number of players from the Dundee league-winning side in attendance. BackPage have been busy putting together a 15-minute film about Alan's time at Dundee and Tottenham and there will be an opportunity to ask questions afterwards. More details to follow. As for Spurs, there are plans in the pipeline to host a Gillie night in the London area and I am aware that there is a campaign underway to try to get him back to White Hart Lane in the near future.

Finally, there is a chance for 10 readers to win a copy of the book from the Four Four Two website. Follow the link for your chance to win: http://fourfourtwo.com/win/simple.aspx?win=236

That's it for now but I intend to provide a few more updates in the days before release and hope to see you soon.



Monday, 23 August 2010

Latest download

One of the perks of writing In Search Of Alan Gilzean was that I got to meet a number of Spurs legends; players whom I grew up idolising and who had been merely names on the pages of the books I read. That all changed on the day I started the book. Suddenly, I was being forced to brass-neck it with guys I had idolised. I learned a lot about myself during my initial phone calls with them. Those initial calls would eventually become sit-down meetings. To a man, I found them charming and fascinating. But the one former player that stood out most for me - probably because he was part of the first Spurs team I remember from childhood - was Steve Perryman. Steve roomed with Gillie for many years and his fondness for the man remained undiminished despite not having spoken to him for well over a decade. I hope his warmth for Alan shines through in the following download - the last before the book is released - which BackPage Press have recently made available here:


Wednesday, 18 August 2010

More from the diary

Saturday 2nd May
Received an envelope stuffed with cuttings from Bill Hutcheon, the editor of the Dundee Courier and Advertiser. There are no match reports just news articles and interviews from titles across the DC Thomson network. A three-part series of interviews, which appeared in The Weekly News in the early 70s, is particularly insightful and speculates that an anti-Anglo bias explains why Gilzean won so few Scotland caps. This is intriguing because Gilzean suggests in Kenny Ross's book that there were two reasons why he left Dundee for Tottenham: the first was financial, the second because he feared his international career would suffer if he remained at a club which enjoyed sporadic success.
Another notable gem is the revelation that Gilzean is not Coupar Angus's only famous son. Dr John Bain Sutherland, who after emigrating to America as a teenager in the 1920s, went on to become one the most successful coaches in American Football history as a coach of Pitt University, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. His portrait is hanging in the town's council chambers on the day Gilzean is presented with a watch for scoring the winning goal against England at Hampden in April 1964, a victory which sealed a hat trick of Scottish victories over the Auld Enemy.

Friday 8th May

I've ramped up my research on the back of reading Kenny Ross's book.
I went to the Mitchell Library in Glasgow today to look at their back catalogue of Herald newspapers. There are a number of articles of interest from the 1961-62 season. The first concerns a supporter who died in police custody after scuffles involving Dundee and Celtic supporters after the sides' league meeting on November 4th.
In an outside column at the foot of the sports pages the newspaper reports that a 20-year-old Celtic supporter, Peter Richard Gilroy, had died in custody after being arrested following one of the incidents which followed the Dundee-Celtic match at Dens Park.
Gilroy from 15 Porterfield Road, Renfrew passed away at Dundee Police Office. Mr James Clark, procurator fiscal, said he was investigating the matter. A post mortem was carried out on November 6th. His family were told of his death on Sunday 5th November after his sister Mrs Ruth Neill went to Dundee to identify the body.
The Herald gives substantially more coverage to the match, however, noting that: “The feat of Gilzean, Dundee's inside left who scored four of their goals must surely force the Scottish international selectors to reconsider their plans for the World Cup play-off match with Czechoslovakia. Not only did Gilzean, who has been an Under-23 cap, score four times but he was within inches of scoring four more and in every aspect he was the superior of [Ralph] Brand, Rangers' inside left.”
However, for whatever reason, Gilzean wasn't named in the team. The man who lined up at inside left? Rangers' Ralph Brand.
It adds significant weight to the idea that there was not just an Anglo-bias but a provincial bias, too.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

A first phone call

I promised blog followers that I would provide regular updates by way of diary entries that I kept during the writing of In Search Of Alan Gilzean but so far I haven't really delivered on that promise.
One of the major challenges in writing the book was trying to juggle the arrival of a new-born son with finding time to get words on to screen. Believe it or not, now that the book is finished the challenge is proving even more demanding. So I've had a rummage around in the attic and blown the dust off a couple of books to give you another flavour of what kind of journalistic endeavours I was involved in just over a year ago.

Tuesday 14th April
Phoned Ronnie Scott who works for the Sunday Post and who was once of the Dundee Courier. He has interviewed Alan Gilzean in the past and he tells me that he was recently at the Dundee Hall of Fame dinner when Alan was voted in. “He wasn't there to pick up his award, his son Ian picked it up for him,” he tells me “he's quite reclusive, as I'm sure you've already discovered.”
“Have you read the Hunter Davies book The Glory Game?” I tell Ronnie that I have.
“There's the famous story in that where Alan goes to a Greek restaurant the night before a game and the owner says to him 'Your usual, Mr Gilzean' and then plonks down a bottle of Bacardi and four cokes in front of him.”
Ronnie informs me that Ian lives in Carnoustie and I tell him that I will arrange to meet up with him, if and when, I arrange a sit down with Ian. I have a home number for Ian which I had assumed to be an old one but I check the dialling code for Carnoustie and it is the same as the number I have.
“Hello?” asks a young voice. “Hello, is Ian there?” I ask. Silence.
“It's for dad,” whispers the voice, as the phone is passed to someone else.
“Hello,” asks a woman, who has an undeniable east coast of Scotland twang.
“Hello, is Ian there? I repeat my question. My heart's in my mouth and it's constricting my throat.
“He's workin, whose callin?”
“My name is James Morgan. I am a sports journalist with The Herald in Glasgow. I'm thinking about writing a book about Ian's dad and was wondering if he would be amenable to meeting up with me to discuss it.” Amenable? I think, where did that come from?
“He won't be home for another hour. I'll get him to call you back.”
“Did you get my name okay?”
“Yes, it's James Morgan.”
I give my number, hang up and wait.

Monday 20th April
12.30 I telephone Craig Brown, the former Scotland manager and erstwhile team-mate of Gilzean's at Dundee. His voice sounds frail and distant like he's speaking from inside a box. I ask if it's a good time to talk and he tells me he's on his lunch and in the car driving but he says he'll happily tell me a few stories if I call back later. He adds this caveat: “He's a hard man to track down.”
2.00 I try Craig Brown again. Fortunately, the line is significantly better. He tells me he is driving from Preston, his English home, to Prestwick, where he has a home in Scotland. “I've got a dental appointment in Glasgow, tomorrow,” he adds. It's a good start: if he is prepared to give me small seemingly unimportant details like that, he is unlikely to hold back on other information. Brown proves to be a charming interviewee.
From the off, it's clear he recalls Gilzean with a measure of awe but also with genuine fondness. But it his descriptions of Gilzean the player that interest me most. So far, I have read little about what type of footballer he was, although the one thing I'm certain Brown will impress upon me is Gillie's aerial prowess.
“He had a great reputation for his ability in the air particularly crosses from the right rather than the left. All strikers have a favourite side and his was the right.” Bingo.
“At Dundee, Gordon Smith provided excellent crosses for him. He was very, very good on the ground and this has often been overlooked. His touch was excellent and he had medium to good pace. He had many great attributes; he was athletic, and he seemed to glide about the pitch – that wonderful gift that some people have and he had a wonderful ability to finish. He was never flustered when he had a chance to score, he was always calm.”
“We wore white shorts at Dundee and after the game we would come into the dressing room and everyone's shorts would be filthy and muddy but his shorts would be immaculate. He was not the kind of striker who put himself about. He was a gentleman's striker. He wasn't rushing into tackles and chasing up ball. He had this zip about him and although he was not the hardest worker a lot of people said that's why he had that extra zip.”

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

[69/70] Tottenham v Manchester City, Sep 13th 1969

Another defeat for Spurs but contained in this video are two exquisite examples of the G-Men in full flow. For children of a certain vintage the name Stretch Armstong will have a particular resonance and at one point in this game Gillie manages to contort his neck into the kind of shape Stretch (a pliable kids' toy) might have struggled with (1.18). Gilzean's reverse flick for Greaves' acrobatic volley (2.17) - which is subsequently disallowed - demonstrates why Spurs fans were so in love with the pairing.

The nine-month transfer window

There used to be a time when finding out that Tottenham had signed a new player was a surprise. This was an era long before 24-hour, wall-to-wall media coverage, blink and you'll miss it updates and quotes from Harry Redknapp on just about anyone with a pair of fitba boots.
Transfers seemed to be so much less protracted in the past: one day said target was another team's player the next day he was your team's and channels for the information were confined to P302 on Ceefax or one of the red tops. It helped, of course, that there was no such thing as a transfer window and clubs could sign players practically all year round. None the less Gillie's own transfer from Dundee to Spurs was six months in the making and turned into a bit of a saga before he eventually signed on at White Hart Lane, a week before Christmas 1964. Two newspapers, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Express, had the story. Another far cry from the present.
Now journalists across Britain indulge in a fastest finger in the west style gunfight to see who can be first to pull the Twigger [sic]. And that's if they get the news first. Club websites, both official and unofficial, Sky Sports News, the BBC website and fans forums all vie with each other to be the first to 'break' the news. A recent example was the Efrain Juarez transfer from UNAM Pumas to Celtic. The Mexican newspapers reported that Juarez was all set for Parkhead, the Scottish newspapers picked up the story the following day and by day three the Mexican press were quoting the Scottish press as having said the deal was almost done. It's a long way from the days when Jim Rodger of the Daily Express used to set up transfers for talented Scottish players who wanted to make a career down south and then break the story the following day. Rodger or 'Scoop' as he was better known, was effectively one of football's first agents and helped facilitate Gilzean's move to Tottenham, having been requested to watch him repeatedly by Bill Nicholson. Often times, Rodger would pick Nicholson up at Glasgow central on the overnight train from London and the pair would drive off into the morning mist in search of a potential target.
Anyway, in deference to the good old days of blissful ignorance and a time before Manchester City-induced stasis, I've included my five favourite transfers in Tottenham Hotspur's history.

Danny Thomas This transfer in June 1983 sums up how things were done back in the pre-agent football world. Thomas was one of English football's brightest young talents and, in the summer of 83, he celebrated a call up to the England national team with a £250,000 transfer from Coventry City to Tottenham. He quickly established himself as one of the best right-backs in the country and won a UEFA Cup winners' medal the following season despite missing a penalty in the shootout with Anderlecht. I loved Danny Thomas as a player. He was quick, skilful and fearsome in the tackle, and he should have had a glittering Tottenham career but for a sickening challenge by Gavin Maguire, the QPR defender. But what I loved most about this transfer is that I found out about it in the pages of Shoot! as a nine-year-old newly smitten with football and especially Spurs.

Jurgen Klinsmann Another one which reminds me of the days before the interweb. The summer of 1994 had been a fairly fraught time in Tottenham's history what with a 12-point deducion in place from the Premier League due to transfer irregularities. All talk had been about whether Spurs would stay up ahead of the forthcoming season but it dissipated just as soon as the club made the annoucement that Klinsmann had signed a two-year deal on Alan Sugar's yacht in Monaco. Again what I loved about this transfer was the alacrity with which it took place and the relative stealth with which the deal was done. My brother phoned me at work to tell me that we had signed the German striker - it was the first time I had heard his name even connected with the club.

Gary Lineker The England and Barcelona front man arrived at a time when Spurs were on the up. Terry Venables had managed to steer the club to a sixth-placed finish in the previous season (88/89) and with Chris Waddle and Paul Gascoigne starting to click as the campaign drew to a close, the addition of Lineker hinted at the outside chance of a title challenge. All the good work (Lineker cost just £1.5m, a steal given the goals he would score at the club) was undone, however, when Waddle was sold to Marseille for £4.5m a few weeks later. The Geordie would finish second in the European Footballer of the Year awards the following season - an award he should have won. Nevertheless, for those brief few weeks, Spurs fans had the chance to dream again.

Jermain Defoe Defoe arrived at Spurs on my 30th birthday in 2004. I thought he was our Ian Wright, a theory that was reinforced to me when the diminutive striker scored on his debut against Portsmouth. That game lives long in the memory. I was with my then girlfriend (now wife) for the game. She had tears in her eyes as the teams came out 'because of the emotion' but by the time Gus Poyet stabbed in Tottenham's winner she was fast asleep. The score? 4-3 to Tottenham. She still refers to JD as 'wee Defoe' but I'm still waiting for him to become 'our Ian Wright'.

Luka Modric I was lying in bed nursing a hangover early one Saturday morning when I received a text which simply read 'We've signed Modric'. The Croat had been linked with a string of Europe's top clubs. He had been vaguely linked with Tottenham but it was more or less recognised that his destination would be Chelsea or Barca or some other big hitter. It was almost inconceivable that he would join Spurs. The transfer revived memories of the good old days and gave me an indication of what it might have been like to be a Spurs fan when the club signed Ossie Ardiles and Ricardo Villa. I got to meet Ossie and Ricky during the writing of In Search Of Alan Gilzean. Indeed, they autographed a book for me which I had bought for Steve Perryman for an auction night to raise funds for Exeter City's youth development. Steve being Steve thanked me but told me to keep the book which he signed, too. I intend running a competition on the blog in the near future with the book as a prize. I will, though, insist that you buy a copy of ISOAG in order to enter.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Alan Gilzean's induction into the SFA Hall of Fame

One of the main themes of In Search Of Alan Gilzean centred on my efforts to have him inducted into the Scottish Football Association Hall of Fame. It was, therefore, hugely gratifying to see him pick up his award in November 2009 and finally receive the recognition he so richly deserved for a wonderful playing career.

His appearance at Glasgow's Hilton Hotel caused something of a stir at Tottenham and beyond. This was one of the first times his fans - and friends - had caught sight of him in almost two decades away from White Hart Lane.

What Gillie meant to you

As noted previously, there have been quite a few expressions of interest about the book to the Back Page Press website. There are also a couple of contributions to the discussion thread on the book's Amazon website.

To save you the bother of clicking away from the site, I've included them here for your perusal. I'm nice that way.

From Back Page Press
"At last, this is long overdue. A true great who has never been given the recognition he deserves."

"As a lifelong supporter of Dundee F C (I am now 72) and someone who knew Gillie well during his time at Dens, I would please ask that you e-mail me with progress on the forthcoming book."

"Thanks so much for doing a book about Gilly. Whatever his self-perception, he ranks as one of Spurs' all-time greats, and it'd be great to see him at the Lane just one more time ..."

"I watched The King of WHL play almost every week of his Tottenham reign and he was sublime. The greatest game excitement wise I've ever seen, period, was the 4-3 win over Burnley in the FA Cup (when the FA Cup was the pinnacle of the game) in '66 when Gilzean was just amazing. We walked all the way home that night singing his praises - happy days!"

". . . And please amend the copy that says One of the best British strikers of his generation is a forgotten man. He might be keeping a low profile but for any of us fortunate enough to see him play - home or opposition fans - the complete opposite is true."

From Amazon
"Not forgotten, not lost - at least to Dundee fans. He was up at a function recently, with others of the league-winning side!"
A. M. Ide

"Thank you for writing this book about Alan Gilzean. As a Spurs fan during the years Gillie played for them I had often wondered what had happened to "the king of White Hart Lane". He was a "one off" and a true footbaling genius. I hope that he will be available to sign a copy for me when the book is published, like many, many more Spurs fans I`m sure. I would like to think that THFC would be willing to host any book launch south of the Border but I`m happy to travel to Dundee - there are several trains per day from Kings Cross."
Mr. C. Hazlehurst

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Tottenham v Stoke City 1972 Colour 4-3 PART 2

Tottenham v Stoke City 1972 Colour 4-3 PART 1

1971-1972 West Ham v Spurs (League Division 1)

Another match against West Ham, this time at Upton Park, which ended in a 2-0 defeat for Spurs. On the first occasion I watched this clip I was reminded of an interview Gillie gave in 1964 during his Dundee days in which he defended himself against accusations that he did not track back enough. There are three observations to be made here: the first is that the accusation could not be levelled at him in the highlights shown below, the second is that he looks ungainly doing so and the third is that Gillie's role in the Spurs team was changing. Having started his White Hart Lane career at centre-forward, he found himself increasingly playing as a support striker to Martin Chivers. Invariably, he found himself on the left or right wing more often and it had an impact on his goal output, although during the 1971/72 season he had one of his best at Tottenham registering 22 times.

Despite the increased workload and the unfamiliarity of his new role, his partnership with Chivers flourished. Chivers to Gilzean throw-ins provided a rich source of goals for a team that would win three trophies in three years at the start of the 70s but Chivers was also the beneficiary from a series of Gilzean knock downs just as Jimmy Greaves had been previously.

1970-71. Spurs v West Ham (Jimmy Greaves returns to Spurs)

Greavsie and Gillie are reunited for the first time on a football pitch since the England striker's move to West Ham in a deal which also brought Martin Peters to White Hart Lane. It says much about how his stock had fallen that Greaves was included as a makeweight in the £200,000 transfer.

Nevertheless, Greavsie's return revived memories of a time when the G-Men terrorised Football League defences during the mid to late 1960s. Greaves said of Gillie: "He was the greatest player I ever played with". The respect was mutual, Gillie claiming that Greaves was his favourite ever player.

The clip featured here shows the two chatting happily before kick-off. They weren't just great friends on the pitch but off it too and some say their understanding was near-telepathic as a result. Gilzean scores twice in this game, the first of the 1970-71 season, but the clip ends before we see either goal, unfortunately. The match finished 2-2. Do any Spurs fans know whether Greavsie scored for West Ham?

Spurs 5 Man Utd 1 (1965)

The Tottenham Weekly Herald claimed that this was Spurs' best performance since their European Cup Winners' Cup win over Atletico Madrid in 1963 and while Jimmy Greaves' sensational goal quite rightly drew lavish praise, it was the 'magnificent' Gilzean who proved the mastermind behind the victory.

"The elegant Scot, twisting and turning with a flick here, there and everywhere was far too much of a handful for United's defence," read The Weekly Herald's report and Gilzean's marauding run for Tottenham's fifth seems to back up the claim. The report ends by saying that "Tottenham had shown once more that when the mood is upon them they are still the best team in the land".

Nevertheless, it was to prove a season of crushing disappointment for Gilzean and Spurs. Soon after, Greaves contracted hepatitis and the club went on a dismal run of form. Indeed, the return fixture at Old Trafford ended in a 5-1 win for United. With Gillie clearly missing his strike partner, there were murmurs in the newspapers that Spurs were preparing to get rid of 'the elegant Scot'. But the press men had underestimated how much Bill Nicholson rated his centre-forward.



He didn't score and he didn't merit too many headlines but Gillie's role in the 1967 FA Cup final win over Chelsea was crucial. Tommy Docherty, Chelsea's young manager, made a catastrophic tactical error by playing Marvin Hinton as a conventional centre-half rather than sweeper. It proved a particularly welcome move for Gilzean. But don't just take my word for it. Here's what Bobby Tambling, who scored Chelsea's goal, had to say about Gillie's role in the victory:

"Alan Gilzean destroyed us on the day though, we couldn't get near him. Joe Kinnear was marking me, I remember, but we were so poor I ended up trying to keep with him as he came marauding forward from full-back. Gilzean was a superb player and I can understand the comparisons with Berbatov. They both have a lovely deft touch."

Tambling wasn't the only one, though. 'The Daily Mail History of the FA Cup' noted:

“[Chelsea's tactics] should have been altered as soon as it became obvious that Gilzean was winning every ball. No goals came from his stream of flicked headers mainly because Greaves was magnificently marked by Ron Harris. But Gilzean's play was like a persisent, prodding finger into Chelsea's midriff, making them twist and twitch uneasily. They were never without the pressure of his presence. Spurs' control and professionalism were so overwhelming it was like watching a high-wire act practising a foot above the ground. They would not slip, and it did not matter if they did. This final died not for lack of interest but for lack of hope.”

Typically, though, Gillie did not take much of the credit. Humility was to prove a recurring theme throughout his career with him often shrugging his shoulders and saying 'it's just part of the game'.

Rangers 1 Dundee 5

Thousands missed it because of the fog, including Willie Gilzean, Alan's father and Pat Liney, the Dundee goalkeeper, who deduced that it must have been his team-mates who were doing the scoring since, when the roars had gone up, the ball had not gone past him. Bob Seith's wife thought the scoreline was a mistake when she heard it read out on the radio that evening and Willie Waddell's sister groaned every time the ball hit the net.

Some games enter club folklore simply by mentioning the scoreline. Rangers 1 Dundee 5 was one such match. Gillie took just five touches to score four goals and thus etch his name into history ever more. No game defined his Dundee career more succinctly than this one - not even during the European Cup run - and it seared his name into the Scottish football consciousness. Yet it would take another year for him to win his first Scotland cap, not least because some of the players who had been on the receiving end on that foggy day at Ibrox were selected instead of him.

Dates In The Diary

Back in the days when In Search Of Alan Gilzean was just a few half-thought-out ideas and a series of scribbles in my notebook, I toyed with the idea of writing it as a diary. Back then, I was daunted by the size of the task facing me and I was finding that the most interesting things about Gillie were what other people had to say about him and so it seemed the most natural way of conveying the idea that I was embarking on a voyage to find him.

As time went on however, I came to the conclusion that, in the absence of a single substantive document of his career, there was a need for a chronology of his life too. The result is a book which I hope weaves my search and his life together. The proof of the pudding, I suppose, will be in the reading.

Anyway, I thought it might be quite nice to give readers a flavour of what kind of things I was writing about when I started the diary. For point of reference, all dates refer to 2009.

Friday 24th April
There's an email from Martin Cohen in my inbox. Martin played for Highlands Park for many years and was at the club during Gilzean's time there. Reading Martin's player biography on the Highlands Park website makes me think he's almost worthy of a book himself. Today, he is a director of the largest paint outlet store in South Africa but back in the day he was an excellent midfield player who spent a season alongside George Best at Los Angeles Aztecs and won a number of domestic trophies at Highlands Park. Also on the club's website there's a link to a cutting from the Durban-based South African Soccer Monthly which claims that on one family holiday to Durban, the boy Martin badgered his dad to take him to the offices of the newspaper so that he could look through its archives. Under the strap and headline “Soccer Monthly knew Martin Cohen would be THE YOUNGSTER WHO MADE THE BIG TIME” the article explains that Martin “would spend days of his holidays doing odd jobs around the works with a fervent hope that some of the local soccer stars would drop in and if so he would hold them in starry-eyed conversation. His day was made when this would happen.” and “. . . when Martin hit the top there were knowing smiles all round and remarks of 'I told you so' . . .”
One paragraph, in particular, stands out: “Top honours did not elude him for long, and his most memorable moment to date is his goal for the SA White XI against SA Black XI.” At first, I'm staggered by this revelation. Two teams divided exclusively by colour, playing against each other? However, almost immediately, I'm struck by the realisation that it's not that far removed from an entirely Protestant Northern Ireland XI playing against a wholly Catholic Republic of Ireland XI.
Martin has asked for my telephone numbers so that he can give me a phone. Those will be expensive phone calls. I begin to wonder just how big the biggest independent paint retailers in South Africa is.

Tuesday 27th April
Things I have learned today: Alan Gilzean was the last Dundee player to complete military service. Indeed, upon making his debut for the club against Motherwell in September 1959 he had to dash back to Aldershot military base were he was stationed. Five months later he scored his first goal, a header in a 3-1 win over St Mirren. Given that he would become renowned for his aerial prowess, it was a sign of things to come.
In 1962, he played a game against Falkirk wearing sand shoes because the pitch was icy. He scored twice.
I'm reading a book about the Dundee title winning team of 1961-62 and I've just realised the magnitude of the size of the task I have undertaken. I had no knowledge that he had been on military service (although it should have been obvious to me since conscription didn't end until 1960) – it's just another area of Gillie's life that will need to be accounted for. Meanwhile, I'm starting to have nagging doubts about hagiography and the corroboration of evidence: one person's word is not gospel. Craig Brown told me that Gilzean would drive to training and matches because he lived nearby in Coupar Angus. The book claims that he lodged in Dundee.
I'm starting to fill in some of the blanks about his days at Dundee, though. Gilzean joined Dundee as one golden era for the club was coming to an end and another was just about to start.

Reading back over these entries, they seem fairly banal now. But back then they seemed like major finds. The big details were still to come though and as I picked up more and more from interviews I found myself turning to the diary less and less. Nonetheless, there are a few gems in them and I'll post more entries in the coming days.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Looking for clues

When I was a kid my mum and dad bought the children's book Masquerade by Kit Williams. The book was a beautifully illustrated treasure hunt which claimed you could reveal the exact location of a golden hare - buried somewhere in England - by deciphering clues contained in the pages. It sat on an old pine dresser in our living room, sandwiched between a couple of Roxy Music albums and David Attenborough's Life On Earth. Every once in a while I would lift it out and flick through the pages hoping the mystery would reveal itself to me. I used to stare at the picture of the golden hare for hours - looking back I think I must have been expecting it to speak to me. It never did.

One of the central themes of In Search Of Alan Gilzean concerns his self-imposed exile from White Hart Lane. When I first started writing the book, I had thought that Gillie's time away from the club had been exaggerated and wondered why it was such a big deal. On the face of it, it didn't appear to be all that noteworthy but the more I spoke to his former team-mates the more I came to realise that there was something else to his enforced absence. It wasn't just Spurs players, either. His former Dundee team-mates told similar stories. When the synopsis of the book was first released there were a lot of Dundee supporters who questioned the claims contained in it - likewise with the first chapter. They claimed that Gilzean was a regular at Dens Park and that he had been included in the SFA hall of fame. They were, of course, correct. But what they hadn't realised was that parts of In Search Of Alan Gilzean had been written long before he had reappeared at Dundee or before he had been inducted into the hall of fame. In many ways, one was a consequence of the other.

The reason for his time away from Spurs is less clear cut. I have my own theory - and like the location of Kit Williams' golden hare - it is carefully hidden in the pages of the book. You might find it on first read or you might read it several times and never see it. But the reason is in there.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Kicking off

I can't quite believe it's 78 days to publication of the book but that's what it says on the online bookstores I keep visiting daily as I try to gauge interest in it. Back Page Press have informed me that there has been quite a lot of positive feedback via emails and other expressions of interest on Facebook and Twitter. One of the great concerns Gillie had about this book was that he felt no-one would be interested in reading it. How wrong he was.

It seems like a long time since the first chapter was made available for download as a freebie to mark six months before publication. To date, there have been well over 500 downloads from the BPP website and the figure is rising daily. If you've still not got around to reading it then you can find it here: http://www.backpagepress.co.uk/downloads.htm

In the coming weeks, I'll be writing a series of articles on Gillie, my experiences with the book, his team-mates and other Spurs and Dundee related topics. But, until then, take care and please let me know if you have any suggestions for the site.

Bye for now.