Book review: ‘Kenny of the Celtic’ by Stephen Murray
The story of how Kenny Dalglish rose through the ranks at Celtic and became the best British forward of his generation is one that has long been overshadowed by his outstanding success at Liverpool. Yet it is also how the story of how Celtic, on the cusp of creating a second side to equal the achievements of the Lisbon Lions, managed to throw it all away. The pain of that lost opportunity – and the departure of a truly great and iconic player – is still keenly felt, as Stephen Murray’s book expertly illustrates.
This is a forensic and fascinating account of the rise to fame of a gifted footballer whose hallmark was a dedication to his which craft outshone most of his peers. Little surprise that on arriving at Celtic Park he soon became close friends with the equally committed Danny McGrain. Both joined the club in May 1967 and it was they who spearheaded the group of young players garnered by Sean Fallon who became known as the Quality Street Gang, including fellow future internationalists Davie Hay, Lou Macari and George Connelly. Those five formed the backbone of what could – and should – have become a Celtic team par excellence. The departure of Dalglish after ten years at Celtic Park was the death knell of those ambitions.
By that time Kenny was no longer a talent but a talisman also. Captain of Jock Stein’s team, they enjoyed a close relationship forged in the heat of battle. Season by season this book tracks Kenny’s rise from callow midfielder to supreme striker. The goals flowed and Stein’s stream of silverware continued while the Lions were gradually replaced without Celtic losing their stranglehold on the League title – and maintaining their position as a major force in European football. These truly were glory days.
The way that the author approaches the story is what makes this read so rewarding. Each of the Dalglish seasons is embroidered with tales and snippets culled from fan memories, newspapers and contemporary Celtic Views. This is football from the fan’s perspective, a similar approach to that adopted in the author’s impressive debut Ten Men Won The League. On different forums and social media Celtic supporters were invited to contribute their favourite Kenny memories and stories. The author also set up a Twitter account – @KennyofCeltic, well worth a visit itself – to promote the idea of the book and encourage people to share their favourite Dalglish moments, photos etc.
All of these efforts combine to give the book a genuine flavour of following Celtic in the ’70s, capturing the sights and sounds of the terraces, from an age where football was not overwhelmed by wall-to-wall media coverage. Most importantly, the involvement of individual Celtic fans reveals the sheer devotion there was for Dalglish at the time – and the desperate heartache when he left for Merseyside.
It took the Celtic support a long time to forgive Kenny his decision to leave, even though it was recognised that his chances of establishing himself on the European and world stages would improve by moving south – as he proved immediately, winning two European Cups in successive seasons in the red jersey of Liverpool. The book suggests that the desire of the Celtic board, led by Desmond White, to cash in on Dalglish outweighed their ambition for the club. His move to England, following Macari and Hay, as well as the loss of Connelly, meant the end of hope for those Celtic fans who had seen their team reach the apex of European football and thought the might do so again. What this book confirms though is it was a great time while it lasted – and is well worth remembering, in gratitude. The sight of Kenny of the Celtic, in full flow, celebrating yet another goal with a smile as wide as the Clyde, will always remain.
If you want to make Christmas special for that someone in your life with an affection for Celtic, get them this book.
And if you love them, buy them the author’s 4-2 book as well!
The Shamrock rating: 7/10
To buy ‘Kenny of the Celtic’ click here: http://cqnbookstore.co.uk/shop.php?p=75
To buy ‘Ten Men Won The League’ click here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ten-Men-League-Stephen-Murray/dp/1503109747
Follow the author’s writings on the Celtic Underground site: http://celticunderground.net/
Read more Celtic book, film and other reviews here: https://theshamrockglasgow.wordpress.com/celticreviews/
Issues 1 -3 of The Shamrock – Celtic Retro fanzine on sale on line here: https://theshamrockglasgow.wordpress.com/subscriptions/
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