Celtic Book Review: ‘The Spirit of ’86’ by Andrew Reilly

The Spirit of 86 by Andrew Reilly – 8 Games That Won The League

Book cover


The Shamrock batters on relentlessly with the campaign to review every Celtic book ever published. For your delectation, dear reader, we provide this review from our Cushendall correspondent of a book dedicated to one of the greatest Celtic stories of them all . . .


1986 is a year which conjures up many different memories. Maradona’s greatest ever goal at the Mexico World Cup or the even better one which came 4 minutes before it are both right up there.  But for Tims the world over, 1986 is remembered in glorious lime green amid the incessant rain of Love Street in Paisley.

Match ticket


Those of us who are of a certain vintage will remember forever 3rd May 1986. It stands out as one of Celtic’s greatest final day league triumphs and was carried out in traditional swashbuckling Celtic style.


What a lot of us do not remember is the seven preceding games which lead up to that incredible day.  Seven games Celtic had to win to have any chance on the final day.


Team and fans celebrate on pitch“Some people are on the pitch . . . they think it’s all over”


Andrew Reilly’s book recalls the final eight games of that season in fabulous fashion.


Put simply this book is just a wonderful trip into the recent history of our club and is clearly written by someone who stood on those terraces and experienced it all first hand. His recollections of all the protagonists involved, the Celtic players, managers and opposing players, very much matched my own. His description of Davie Dodds alone is worth the money.


Fans celebrate behind Jim StewartThe Celtic fans take flight behind Jim Stewart’s goal


It is also a timely reminder of how different Scottish football was back then. Both Aberdeen and Dundee Utd had genuine quality, both players and management. Both competing regularly with Europe’s elite. Reading again Celtic’s starting 11 for these matches would just make you salivate Homer Simpson style (I would advise having a towel handy while reading). It is incredible how much talent was in this team. Their work ethic and desire to win each game is evident on every page and the descriptions of the goals on that final day will raise the hairs on your arms – and maybe a few other places.


But there were also some similarities to football as we know it today. The first thing the reader will notice from the top 5 positions of the League table of 29th March 1986 is the absence of a now defunct club from Govan. In 1986 they were in quite a mess, both in footballing and financial terms. Fortunately they got themselves out of that mess by getting into an even bigger one.


The other similarity is the problems Celtic have encountered over the years with football authority. The book details perfectly the spat between Celtic and the SFA over the release of 3 players for an international friendly which was to take place the same night as a crucial league game at Fir Park. The quote from the ‘Evening Times’ on the subject is unbelievable to read but demonstrates perfectly the feelings of the Rangers-led media at the time. Some things never change.

Tommy salutesTB celebrates with the fans


One particular area where this author is to be congratulated is the thorny issue of one Judas Johnston. The author uses his proper name (I just can’t) and although it may now stick in the throat of most of us, his contribution in those final eight games can never be overlooked. His goal against Aberdeen at Pittodrie being noted by the author as ‘tremendous’ and he was the final piece in the 3rd goal at Love Street, a goal the author describes as ‘the greatest Celtic goal he ever witnessed’. It would be too easy to overlook Johnston in this book given the array of players around him on the pitch, but he rightfully claims his place in our history regardless of his antics in 1989.


I loved reading this book. It was an education and also brought back huge memories, of being stuck to the radio on Saturday 3rd May 1986, dancing round our kitchen when Albert Kidd scored at Dens Park and that famous scene of Jim Stewart (the St Mirren keeper), ball in hands, as the Celtic fans start to jump about on the terracing behind him when they heard the news from Dens.


St Mirren versus Celtic 3rd May 1986

Celtic fans besiege the Love Street tunnel at the game’s end


So if you’re the age to remember that day, or maybe the gargle has dimmed your memory, pick this book up. Even if you’re too young to have witnessed the events of 1986, this book will transport you back to a day when Celtic players were still top class and didn’t complain if their strips got proper dirty or the pitch was a little uneven.


Redbay Roy


The Shamrock Rating: 8/10


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The book can be purchased from Amazon here:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Spirit-Of-86-League/dp/1477613706/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1410342745&sr=8-1&keywords=Andrew+Reilly+Spirit+of+86


Andy is part of the Rhebel Rhebel collective – follow their excellent Twitter feed here:  https://twitter.com/RhebelRhebel

They also some produce some top-ranking t-shirts for Celtic supporters:  http://rhebelrhebel.spreadshirt.co.uk/

including this belter!


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Danny and The Bear get the party started in style in the Love Street dressing room . . .

Snatch of the Day!


Meanwhile, up in Dundee, things weren’t going quite as expected for the Jam Farts!   Pass a hankie!  (Yes, it really was that much of a turn on)  

Hearts fan greeting


To read our other Celtic Book Reviews, please click here:   https://theshamrockglasgow.wordpress.com/book-reviews/


To buy a copy of Issue 1 of The Shamrock fanzine, please click here:  https://theshamrockglasgow.wordpress.com/subscriptions/


If you have any suggestions for a Celtic book that you’d like to see reviewed, please get in touch:  https://theshamrockglasgow.wordpress.com/contact/


Fan with scarf  Love Street 86




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