Comedian and Celtic fan Kevin Bridges’ autobiography (We Need to Talk About . . . Kevin Bridges) is all about growing up in Clydebank and his first tentative steps into live comedy – before making it very big indeed.
The book is laced with hilarious stories from his childhood and one of the best is the tale of his developing fascination with Subbuteo and Celtic in the mid-1990s as a young bhoy:
“When we got home on a Saturday after my mum’s home help duties and our trip to the shopping centre, I’d lay the pitch out, put the goals up, sort the advertising boards and make all the other necessary match day preparations and then line Celtic up against whoever they were playing that Saturday.
If I didn’t have a team with the correct colours, I’d tell my mum that it was their new away kit. I don’t think she really gave a shite but it was a means of justifying the flaw to myself. I was usually meticulous in my attention to details, and maybe it was also a little bit of me hinting that I needed some new teams.
A way of letting her know that if my Subbuteo league were to be taken at all seriously, I’d need more financial backing from the chief investor.
We had to be home for 3 p.m. every Saturday afternoon or I’d begin to panic that I didn’t have my Subbuteo game ready to run concurrently with the real game. If we were running late and my dad hadn’t gone to the game, I’d beg my mum to phone home and ask him to put the teams out for me.
We would listen to the Celtic game on the radio and I’d react to whatever was happening. It kept me entertained throughout the match. I was pretty protective of all my Subbuteo gear. The first time my dad accidentally stood on one of my Celtic players, breaking the player off the little round plastic disc thing it was attached to, I was pretty pissed off. But he was quick to rectify the problem and used his cigarette lighter to slightly melt the plastic at the bottom of the player’s feet, then stick it back on to its base.
I mentioned that the player was now noticeably far shorter than the rest. ‘He can be Brian McLaughlin,’ he replied. Brian McLaughlin had just come on the scene at Celtic, a youth player who’d played the odd game here and there and who was no more than five foot six or seven in height. It made sense and we now had a unique team. I was soon snapping players from other teams and asking him for the lighter to correct this crucial detail that I’d overlooked.
I never actually played a game of Subbuteo, which would have required at least one other person. I’d try to get Mark and Gary into it when they came up to our house, but they didn’t really get the attraction. They would carelessly break players, so the cigarette lighter would be out as soon as they left and another raft of Brian McLaughlin-types would be promoted from the youth academy.
Diminutive Celt Brian McLaughlin celebrates at the 1995 Scottish Cup Final – even down on one knee goal-scorer Pierre van Hooijdonk almost towers over him
Playing the game itself, I remember, was terrible and involved tapping the players gently towards the ball with the tip of your finger, the ball being about the same height as the players. I’d feel for Brian McLaughlin, who looked like a contender on Gladiator when the ball rolled towards him.
Nobody could comprehend my passion for Subbuteo, nor did anyone pay much attention to my constant live updates from the game in my head that I’d act out on the pitch. But it kept me absorbed on a Saturday afternoon, and my dad would be left in peace to listen to the football and check his pools coupon.
It was the early 1990s and in the middle of Rangers ‘nine league titles in a row’ domination of Scottish football, a fairly grim time to be a Celtic support, as they’d regularly be finishing fourth and fifth in the table. I’d try to offer some escapism by going my own way and inventing better results on the Subbuteo pitch: ‘It’s six – nil to Celtic, Dad. Brian McLaughlin’s got five, and Mark McNally scored from the halfway line.’ Any player I’d hear him screaming and shouting at on the radio or TV would go on to have a great game in my head.
My fascination grew over the next couple of years and especially when my dad started to take me with him to my first few Celtic games. I was in awe of Celtic Park, the floodlights, the turnstiles, the scoreboard, the crowd, the advertising boards, the burger vans. I was there as the chairman of a proud, ambitious Subbuteo club. I didn’t care about the game. I was there on a fact-finding mission, scouting for ideas on what we could be doing to improve, the methods we should use.”
In the book, Kevin goes on to describe his detailed plans to replicate the 1994 League Cup Final on his parents’ living room floor – and how he ended up getting the blame from his Dad for Celtic’s defeat that day. It is a tremendous read.
The book is available in all good bookshops (if any still exist) and also online here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Need-Talk-About-Kevin-Bridges/dp/1405913762/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1457440907&sr=1-1&keywords=we+need+to+talk+about+kevin+bridges
Kevin’s current live DVD is also available on Amazon: