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