Tag Archives: Celtic Book review

Celtic Book Review: ‘Yogi Bare’ by John Hughes

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 Oh the Bear! The Bear!

The Bear is Everywhere,

Feed the Bear! Feed the Bear!

 

I had been looking forward to this book by John Hughes, the popular striker of Jock Stein’s Lisbon-era squad known to all as ‘Yogi Bear’ and feted by the Celtic support with the original chant of ‘Feed the Bear’. The Coatbridge bhoy was a fine goal-scorer with an unusual style known as much for his thrusting runs and fierce shooting as his maddening inconsistency at times. He missed out on Lisbon itself through injury but played in the club’s other European Cup final in 1970 and, having made his Celtic debut aged only 17 in 1960, should have a wealth of great stories and memories to share of the club’s golden era. What could go wrong?

 

Quite a lot, as it turns out. The warning signs were there when the book’s release was promoted in the press.  The Daily Record headline was ‘John Hughes lifts lid on run-ins with Celtic great Jock Stein’ while the Daily Telegraph used quotes from Yogi for the astounding claim that ‘Jock Stein was intimidating, inhumane and corrupt’. Now, you might think there were at least a few positive angles to promote first in a Celtic career laden with silverware before getting round to dishing the dirt? Not when there’s a character waiting to be assassinated, it seems. “He got rid of me when I was in my prime and three months later I was finished at 28. People say to me, ‘Are you bitter?’ Yes.”

 

Now that’s curious, because in the book itself Yogi goes out of the way to deny this: “I repeat I am not a bitter guy.” Yet he says it so often, after yet another bitter outburst, that he quickly loses all credibility. Was he finished at 28 as he claimed in the Record? It turns out that he is as inconsistent off the field as he was on it at times. He left Celtic at 28 but then had two seasons at Crystal Palace before joining Sunderland where a persistent knee injury brought the curtain down on his career. But we shouldn’t let the facts get in the way of a sustained assault on Jock Stein’s reputation . . .

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There is clear anger that Stein sold him to the London club when the player’s view was that he had plenty more to offer. But if Jock Stein decided that playing young strikers like Kenny Dalglish and Lou Macari the Quality Street Gang was a better strategy than sticking with a player regarded by all and sundry as inconsistent and nearing 30, that’s a decision that was entitled to take. Yogi wonders if his failure to score an easy chance in extra-time in the 1970 Final v Feyenoord might have had something to do with it – it’s hard to escape the conclusion it did. Bearing a grudge about his exit from Celtic Park over four decades later cannot be healthy however. Given that he chose not to attend his former manager’s funeral in 1985, it unfortunately doesn’t come as a huge surprise.

 

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The attack on Jock Stein doesn’t end there. There is anger at being forced to join Crystal Palace without negotiating with other clubs and also at Stein’s decision not to advise him while away on a foreign tour that his wife had suffered a miscarriage back home. As others have pointed out, those were different times – Managers had almost complete control over transfers in the absence of agents and men were rarely directly involved in pregnancy-related issues. The story told in the book regarding the miscarriage highlights Stein’s apparent insensitivity. It’s a shame the story wasn’t put in the public realm while he was still alive to give him the opportunity to respond to it. At the very least, in response to the stinging criticisms made, Stein could have pointed out that John Hughes hadn’t won a single medal before he arrived, that stuck with him through the regular periods when he lost form and even recommended Yogi for his first management post – all facts which are, begrudgingly, admitted in the course of this book.

 

Unfortunately another great Celtic servant, Sean Fallon, comes in for similar treatment from Yogi. John Hughes made his dislike for the former Assistant Manager known with critical comments at a supporters event at Celtic Park last year. They appeared ill-judged at the time but his criticisms of Fallon in the book are unfounded as well. He claims that he wasn’t a regular first-team pick in the early 1960s because Sean Fallon didn’t fancy him: “It didn’t matter that I was scoring goals every other game, my face didn’t fit. He never bothered to tell me where he thought I was going wrong. I was left out of the team and I was too naïve to ask for a reason.” Did he ever ask for an explanation? Apparently not: “I would probably have been shooed away into a corner like some errant schoolboy.”

 

ImageSean Fallon clears the Celtic dressing room of errant schoolboys . . .

 

Yet Sean Fallon was never the manager and it was known to the players that chairman Bob Kelly picked the team – yet Yogi’s ire is directed solely at the Irishman. Despite everything that you’ve heard or been told previously about Sean Fallon you are now meant to be believe that he was unapproachable and uncaring. And if you think that’s far-fetched, what about this: “Sean Fallon had a lot of power in team matters and would even lock Jimmy McGrory out of the dressing [room] on some occasions.” It’s one thing re-writing history to try to undermine the popular picture that has emerged of Sean Fallon as a fair and decent man; it’s something else completely to suggest that he would lock the elderly McGrory out of the Celtic dressing room. You might be forgiven for thinking there’s a theme emerging here: Sean Fallon, of course, is also not around to defend himself from these ‘new’ five decades-old allegations.

 

There is more than one flight of fantasy in this autobiography. Intriguingly, the story of how Big Yogi almost became a Juventus legend wasn’t featured in the Daily Record promotional pieces. I wonder if it was because even they didn’t think the story held water. “John Hughes of Juventus. Doesn’t sound right, does it? Yet that could have been the case at the start of the sixties, remarkably only year after I had broken into the Celtic first team.”Something certainly doesn’t sound right. How often had the Juve spies watched the young Hughes in action? How much lira were they prepared to stuff into Bob Kelly’s biscuit tin? We don’t know. What we do know is that a Scottish reporter once asked him if he’d heard of Juventus and that they were keeping tabs on him. Was the young Celt interested? No, he advised the reporter. And that’s basically the entire story. Even Nacho Novo’s agent couldn’t have made up a better one.

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Sourness is a constant feature in the John Hughes story, unfortunately, and it bookends his career. He believed he was due to be picked for a Scottish schoolboys international in the 1950s against England at Wembley, only to lose out to a striker from Helensburgh: “Yes, Helensburgh, that hot bed of football” moans Yogi, as if the fact he was from Lanarkshire and not the wilds of Dumbartonshire should have guaranteed his selection. When his playing career appeared over he was approached by former team-mate Bertie Auld, then managing Partick Thistle, to turn out for them. Yogi was surprised at the approach: “This was the same Bertie Auld who only passed the ball to me when he didn’t have other options!” Again, another double-take is required. Is he seriously suggesting that in the hundreds of games they played together winning every trophy on offer in Scotland Bertie refused to pass to him? Doesn’t he think this might have been noticed?

 

The book is littered with criticisms of his team-mates at different times although he’s far less keen to discuss his own shortcomings: “Please do me a favour and let’s get rid of the annoying inconsistency tag once and for all . . . I had to be reliable to get into any of Jock’s line-ups. Hopefully, this will once and for all bring a halt to the wayward assessments and unfounded observations that my form was up and down like a yo-yo.” And yet, the abiding memory of most supporters who saw him play regularly was . . . inconsistency. They must all have been mistaken then.  That’s certainly the outlook in Yogi’s world.

 

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Unfortunately ‘Yogi Bare’ has little to recommend it and I feel saddened to write that about a Celtic player’s memoirs. The book is at its best when recalling the great games he played and scored in. His scoring record in the Hoops is clearly a huge matter of personal pride, as it should be given that he’s in the top 10 of all-time Celtic strikers. The chapter on his experience of playing for Scotland is worth a read. Yet he has a knack of turning almost every positive into a negative and is a bundle of contradictions. He bemoans being underpaid at Celtic – yet criticises the enforced move to Palace where he doubled his wages. He says he doesn’t feel like one of the Lisbon Lions – yet he still attends functions as a Lion. He puts the blame for the failure to beat Feyenoord squarely at the door of Jock Stein – while saying that before the game “Most of us had already worked out how we would spend our win bonus.” If the manager was guilty of complacency in 1970, he wasn’t the only one.

 

The book costs a whopping £18.99 and is self-published. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear as though it’s been fully proof-read with some glaring errors (Is Billy McNeill’s nickname really ‘Caesar’?) and typos at times. The writing lacks imagination and comes across as tired, especially in the later chapters. One example is when comparing the obscene amounts of TV money that exists in the modern game to his time, the author states: “Sky was merely something that was above your head in the seventies.” Witty banter, it ain’t.

 

The book seems to have been issued for the principal purpose of boosting Yogi’s pension pot – and there isn’t even the consolation that a portion of the book’s profits are going to charity. That fact in itself is in keeping with this autobiography: it lacks charity in every sense.

 

The Shamrock rating: 4/10

 

The book can be purchased here via Amazon:   http://www.amazon.co.uk/Yogi-Bear-John-Hughes-Story/dp/1904684882/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1400600573&sr=8-1&keywords=yogi+bare

 

 

 

Celtic Book Review: Life With The Lions, by Ian Young

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There’s Fallon, Young and Gemmell who proudly wear the green

Clark, McNeill and Kennedy – the best there’s ever been

 

It is 1965.  Celtic full back Ian Young has just played his part in the famed 3-2 Scottish Cup Final victory over Dunfermline which set the club on the path to Lisbon and glory.  For Ian, as he dropped his fiancée off after the club’s celebratory banquet in the Central Hotel, it was a ‘top of the world’ moment.  His long held-dream of a Scottish Cup winner’s medal nestling in his pocket.  A beautiful woman he would marry the following summer.  The pride of his father, a Junior football stalwart, having witnessed his son play on the winning side in the final at Hampden. 

But something wasn’t right.  “All of a sudden a huge feeling of anti-climax hit me.  I don’t know where it came from but it hit me hard.  For some reason, although I had just achieved my life’s ambition and had everything that I ever wanted or wished for, I knew that there had to be something more than this.”  Whatever it was that Ian was looking for, it would take years to find.  And the search led to the decision to write this book. 

Image Ian, far left, celebrates winning the Scottish Cup at Hampden in 1965

 

For Celtic fans born since the 1960s, Ian Young’s name is one occasionally heard in passing – as when the old song ‘Celtic, Celtic – That’s the team for me!’ gets an airing – but not a lot is known about the defender, or what happened to him after he left Celtic.  As the book title suggests, he was a team-mate of the Lisbon Lions.  But he wasn’t to share their stage of the Estadio Nacional on that glorious day. 

Signed by Sean Fallon with Bob Kelly in attendance in May 1961 aged 18, in just over two years the Neilston boy had supplanted Dunky MacKay as the Celtic right-back.  It had been a surprise signing for Young, a boyhood Rangers fan.  Having trained at Ibrox with his brother as a youth, he turned his back on the deceased club when manager Scot Symon reneged on a promise to pay their travel expenses.  After signing on at Celtic his former pals in the Neilston RSC now ignored him in the street, creating a desire to do down his former team that would match that of his next manager, Jock Stein: “No-one wanted to beat Rangers more than I did.” 

The Young family had no qualms about Ian joining Celtic and, despite their Church of Scotland background, as far as Ian was concerned “my religion was football and that was all that mattered.”  He categorically denies the claim of Tommy Gemmell that they were, as non-Catholics in a mostly Catholic team, subjected to abuse from team-mates on sectarian grounds:  “Tommy’s recollection however is totally at odds with mine.”  Instead, he recalls how on the way back from a 6-0 away victory over Deventer in the Netherlands in 1965 the first team sang a medley of rebel songs – with an Orange song thrown in for good measure.

The arrival of Jock Stein as Celtic manager in 1965 changed the course of history at the club.  Ian Young played more first-team games than any other Celt that season.  His standing would have been enhanced in the new manager’s eyes by his famous tackle on Rangers winger Willie Johnston at the start of the 1965 League Cup final which kept Johnston quiet for the rest of the game in front of 107,000 fans.  This was seen at the time, and proved to be, a watershed moment in Glasgow derbies.  The message was clear:  under Stein, Celtic would now match steel with steel.  Ian Young denies that the manager gave him an explicit order to take Johnston out of the game.  But the message was understood by all and Celtic’s steel would soon be rewarded with silverware. 

 

ImageIan – back row, far left – with seven future Lisbon Lions

 

Ian won a League Champion’s medal in season 1965-6 but his appearances fell due to a bad ankle injury which allowed Jim Craig to take his place in the first team.  He returned for the semi-final tie against Liverpool in the European Cup Winner’s Cup but was then dropped a few days later for the Scottish Cup Final against Rangers as manager Stein opted for the more attack-minded Craig.  And the die was cast.  He would only play in the Celtic first team one more time – in the Glasgow Cup. 

In every sense Ian Young was a spectator as Celtic blazed the trail to domestic and European glory in season 1966-7.  He was there on the side-lines in Lisbon – filming the game for Stevie Chalmers on the striker’s cine camera, capturing that incredible moment for his friend when his goal won the big cup for Celtic.  Yet there is no bitterness shown towards the manager who dropped him or colleague who replaced him at right-back.  After another season spent in the reserves he took a free transfer to his local club St. Mirren where he played on for two years before further injury problems – and impressive performances from a young Gordon McQueen – forced him to retire from professional football at the age of 26. 

With a young family to provide for Ian settled into full-time employment away from football after a few years coaching Junior clubs.  He continued to feel the gnawing sense of emptiness first experienced after the 1965 Cup Final but a number of years passed before he found what he considers to be his calling – Christianity.  Without hectoring or evangelising, Ian sets out the path he went on which led to spiritual fulfilment.  And it is the rewards that he has felt since that persuaded him to write this book, nominally about his football life but ultimately about his spiritual life.  As he himself puts it, from the Lisbon Lions to being ‘alive with the Lion of Judah’ as Jesus is occasionally referred to. 

This autobiography is entirely the work of Ian Young’s own hand – unusually for a footballer’s book there’s not a ghost-writer in sight – and he has done a fine job.  It is an honest and refreshing read.  It is unusual because the motive in writing it hasn’t come from any desire to put the record straight or to slate former team-mates or managers.  There will be little tabloid interest in Ian Young’s story.  He chose to write it to share his spiritual experience and encourage others to follow him on the path to enlightenment.  This makes ‘Life With The Lions’ both an unusual and unusually brave book. 

There are insights along the way which will fascinate Celtic supporters, such as how he shared a near-death airborne experience with Jimmy Johnstone which led to the famous winger’s infamous fear of flying and also how he was the beneficiary of an act of charity by Desmond White – a feat in itself more likely to encourage Celtic fans to believe that there is a God after all.  Ultimately though, this isn’t a football book.  It is much more. 

A unique book in the burgeoning Celtic library, it adds to the compelling story of the squad of footballers who made the name of Celtic famous across the world.  For Ian Young though, trophies, football and fame were to prove much less fulfilling than faith.  He finally found what he was looking for. 

The Shamrock rating: 7/10 

 

ImageThe book can be purchased online here for £8.99: http://shnpublishing.com/ian-young/