As far as Celtic debuts go, this book by Frank Rafters is up there with Jorge Cadette and Barry Robson in terms of memorable first impressions. With over 450 pages it is a wide-ranging appreciation of the men who made Celtic great in the pre-Lisbon era – and of individual supporters who follow the team from all corners of the globe, providing Celtic with its core strength.
To write a first book of this range and depth in such an engaging and enjoyable matter is truly impressive. When you consider that the author is still in his early 20s you realise it is a remarkable achievement. Although, it should be pointed out, Frank is no novice when it comes to writing about Celtic. He is the main man behind the successful Maley’s Bhoys website and Twitter feed which has thousands of followers among the Celtic support. With this book Frank has successfully developed his interest in the club’s history into a single volume celebrating the players, managers and supporters who create what he calls, with a scientific rationale no less, The Celtic Effect.
This is no straight-forward re-telling of the club’s history. The author has created a blend of historical profiles of leading players and insightful fan stories of following the team’s fortunes from every continent in the world – interspersed with some of his own experiences of watching Celtic home and away.
Despite being a young man he knows his history. He felt there was imbalance in the Greatest Ever Celtic side voted by supporters back in 2002 as it contained no players from the pre-Lisbon era.
Effectively the club’s first seven decades were overlooked as fans, understandably, selected players they’d seen in person or on film. To address this imbalance, the author has made a personal selection of profiles of those he considers the most influential Celtic players from 1888-1960. Those who follow Maley’s Bhoys online will be familiar with the style: detailed and well-researched pieces illustrating what made these men the greatest Celts of their eras. While the names are familiar the author has used access newspaper and Hampden Museum archives to great effect. Match reports and obituaries help give a true flavour of the achievements of these Celts on the park and their standing off it.
In between the player biographies are varied and often funny tales of fans following the Hoops from far-flung Philadelphia, Santiago, Adelaide, Kisumu (Kenya), Crete and Hong Kong as well as supporter experiences in Madrid, Milan, Stuttgart, Barcelona and (of course) Seville. Not forgetting Coatbridge, home to Billy Davidson, teller of some memorable Celtic stories with the best undoubtedly being what he got up to on 26th May 1967 in the company of the big cup. (Although how he came to have portraits of Henrik Larsson, Muhammad Ali and Carol Vorderman on his living room wall is another interesting tale!)
The most fascinating story in the entire book for me was that of Bill Boland. At the time the author interviewed him Bill was the oldest living Celtic player. How he went from the pit at his village in Muirkirk, Ayrshire to Celtic Park in the 1940s is a great read – but even more fascinating was Bill’s account of being a Celtic supporter for almost a century. This really was Celtic history come to life.
All in all, ‘Standing on the Shoulders of Giants’ is a truly worthwhile read. As with any debut, you could find room for improvement in the excessive word count at times or the strange fascination with bold typeface but heavy editing would inevitably have lost some of this book’s intrinsic charm. This is a fine addition to any Celtic library and here’s hoping the author goes on to establish a regular berth in Celtic’s first team of historians and writers.
The Shamrock rating: 7/10
The cost of the book is £12 and is available here: http://maleysbhoys.com/2013/11/14/order-details-standing-on-the-shoulders-of-giants/. As with most books, it is available on Amazon but we would recommend avoiding that corporate giant as the author/publisher often only receive a tiny percentage of any sale from them.
To win a copy of the book please enter our free competition here: https://theshamrockglasgow.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/book-competition-win-a-copy-of-standing-on-the-shoulders-of-giants/