Book Review: Glory In Gothenburg

Glory FrontGlory In Gothenburg, by lifelong Dons fan and radio presenter Richard Gordon, is the tale of Aberdeen's remarkable triumph in the Ullevi Stadium in 1983 - "The night Aberdeen FC turned the footballing world on its head", as the coverline on the book's jacket mildly understates.

Following the book's recent publication, Aberdeen-Mad has a peek inside...

There's never a good time to read a book about Gothenburg. We Dons fans have had almost 20 years of being served dross and tatties in a hope reduction, a sprinkling of misplaced optimism, topped off with crushed dreams, and served in a dirty ashtray with a hangover.

It could even be said that now, with the Dons 3 points off the top of the SPL and a serious chance of mixing it at the upper end of the division for the first time since Marcus Tandy was a household name, it is even worse. Just as we were getting used to the fact that the fitba on show from the men in red is of a decent standard, here we are reminded of a team that not only entertained but got results, played with swagger and skill, and put fear into every team in Scotland - and some in Europe too. Whatever Aberdeen does this season, it won't be that.

With those thoughts in mind, it took a few days to open the cover of this book. But you can't avoid it for long - what a cover it is, managing to squeeze in the three iconic images of May 1983: the open-topped bus, John Hewitt wheeling away from goal, and Willie Miller in ethereal arms-aloft pose with the European Cup-Winners Cup gripped in one hand. Alright, I'll read it then.

Instantly, it is apparent that this is no dreary documented revisit by an inky-fingered historian, neither is it a detached run-through by a disinterested writer aided by a fleeting knowledge of Scottish sport, Wikipedia, and a publisher's advance.

The introductions at the beginning of this book confirm what listeners to Richard Gordon's mostly insouciant, sometimes indignant, and occasionally passionate championing of the Dons on Radio Scotland's Sportsound will readily attest. Gordon (or 'Gongy', according to the author's introduction) is a Dandy.

But the author is more than a Dandy; he is a journalist - and that is what is key to this book rising above the dry storytelling and going-over-old-ground that is often found in historical narratives.

What Gongy has done is intertwined the chronological account of Aberdeen's 1983 escapades with in-depth interviews with every major player involved in the action - and a few of the supporting cast too. This refreshing method of recounting the drama ensures that every chapter is approached with interest and departed from with a fresh insight or two.

It means that not only is the story of Aberdeen's ECWC triumph told as a snapshot of the club in 1983, but as an enduring mini-biography of each player involved, from before they pulled on the famous red to the present day.

At this point, I could quote some of the best bits, and tease a few amusing titbits like Gordon Strachan's bingo win and Mark McGhee's jumper, or some of the heartbreaking moments and tragedy - but I'm not going to. Why? Because you will buy this book. You just will. Richard Gordon has written a cracker here, and has crucially managed to stay firmly on the right side of the historical/hysterical divide that supporters tread when writing about their team, but without shaking off his Dons toorie in the process. Get hold of this book, put it on your Christmas list, buy it for a relative (but read it first) - whatever you have to do, just read it. It IS a good time to.

Stand Free Ed

Glory In Gothenburg, written by Richard Gordon and published by Black & White Publishing, is out now in hardback priced £14.99.