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Books - The Road to Lisbon (2012)
Title: The Road to LisbonAuthor: Martin Greig and Charles McGarry
Published: 17 May 2012
In 1967 Celtic manager Jock Stein stepped from the tunnel of Lisbon s Estádio Nacional and took up a position pitch-side as his team of home-grown players ran out to face the might of Inter Milan, the charismatic superstars of Italian football, in the European Cup final. Celtic were a team forged in Stein s own image, steeled with a relentless industry and integrity by their inspirational manager whose character had, in turn, been honed by the horrors of the deep dark of the Lanarkshire coalfields.
Martin Greig and Charles McGarry's extraordinary novel delves to the very heart of that incredible season, telling the story through the eyes of Stein as he plots and plans and drags his team to the pinnacle of European club football and those of Tim, an idealistic young fan from the south side of Glasgow, whose dreams of life beyond the decaying slums of the Gorbals are inextricably tied to those of his heroes.
The Road to Lisbon is a novel of hopes and dreams, of self-discovery and triumph over adversity ... and of an unerring love with an institution that represents so much more than just a football club.
Glasgow May 1967. The Beatles, Muhammed Ali, The Summer of Love and Celtic. The world is changing and thanks to a former miner from Lanarkshire football too is about to change. The story of Celtic's European Cup triumph is of course - to understate greatly - a familiar and cherished tale. Every Hoops fan knows the characters, the heroes, the twist and turns. But the story has never been told like this.
The success of the Lisbon Lions has frequently been described as a fairytale. But as magical as their triumph was the success of Jock Stein and his team was rooted in reality. There was no magic wand. No fairy Godmother. Just a lot of hard work, faith, determination and comradeship. There was no castle or enchanted kingdom. Just Glasgow and it's shipyards, it's decaying tenements, it's gangs, it's bigotry and it's warmth and humour. The Road To Lisbon may be a novel but it is certainly no fairytale.
Told from the alternating perspectives of Jock Stein and Celtic fan Tim the book follows both men from May 19th to May 25th - from when they set out on their journey to the Portuguese capital to the elation of the final whistle. But for both men this trip - this mission - is one which has lasted much more than seven spring days. This is a journey which began many years before.
Stein is a determined, steely, confident character. The boss. For him the road to Lisbon began not on the football field but in the "blackness of a coalmine" and a job which moulded a teenager into a man. A man who rejected the "them and us" values of his upbringing in "Protestant Burnbank". A man who had to slink down backstreets to court his Catholic love and future wife. A man who they whispered was a "turncoat". Stein's response to those who chose to hate because of religion is simple but emphatic: "**** them. **** them all".
We follow Jock from Burnbank to Paradise via Coatbridge and Llanelli. For him it's "..about football. Always football". From his earliest days he is driven, obsessive. From working out formations with salt and pepper shakers in a Sauchiehall Street cafe as reserve team coach to finally becoming the manager of Celtic. His destiny. A manager fiercely proud of his "wee team". A manager always looking to improve, to learn. A manager who despises the taste of defeat. Especially to Rangers. Even though his side were league champions he reveals how a cup final defeat to the Ibrox side "...sits in my stomach all summer".
The book takes us inside both the dressing room and Jock's mind, not just on the run to the final, but for key games throughout his career. We hear a soap sudded Jinky singing in the bath. We see 'manager' Jimmy McGrory, head bowed, spirit crushed, reading out Robert Kelly's team before the 1955 Scottish Cup final. And of course we see - through Jock's eyes - the men who became Lions.
But as someone once said football without fans is nothing. So then there is Tim. A young shipyard worker and frustrated artist. Drifting unsatisfied from one yard to another. As families move out from the Gorbals to the huge new yet isolated schemes on the edge of the city, Tim struggles to adapt to the changes around him. For Tim the road to Lisbon began when his father swapped the hills of Donegal for the docks of the Clyde. Now, among all the upheaval, Celtic remains a rare constant in his life and he is re-energised at the prospect of the pilgrimage to Portugal. A pilgrimage - in a Hillman Imp - which provides a delightful cornerstone to the book.
For some Tim's Glasgow will evoke youthful memories of the city's past. But for many readers his story reveals the Glasgow of our fathers and grandfathers. A city of discrimination, poverty, petty crime and gangs but also a place of genuine warmth, community and lifelong friendships. A place where the chain smoking waitresses are "friendly but unhygienic".
Between them Jock and Tim take us on that ultimate journey to Lisbon. Two very different men, two very different stories, two incredible journies - but just one cause. This is the trip we all wish we had made. By the time of the final you can feel the sun burning on your back. The authors' capture the tempo of the game perfectly - the hope, the despair, the frustrations and the, at last, the sheer tear stained joy.
The incredible story of Lisbon lends itself perfectly for the subject of a novel. Thankfully Martin Greig and Charles McGarry have more than done it justice. This is the story of Celtic and Jock Stein's greatest triumph. But it is even more than that. It's a story about families, friendship and a community. It is a unique, brave and very welcome addition to the Celtic bookshelf. It is also a work written with a genuine love for the club. Any Celtic fan following Jock and Tim's journey to sunnier climes this summer should ensure The Road to Lisbon is in their suitcase or on their kindle.
Review(By St Anthony)
This is the contrasting story of Jock Stein (Celtic manager) and Timothy Mario Lynch (Celtic fanatic, Gorbals boy and member of the notorious Cumbie gang) and of how they each set out on their very own ‘Road to Lisbon’.
The book is written in the vein of what is going through the minds of each man at this time and they are each recalling their past events. The authors certainly get inside the psyche of the characters and Jock Stein’s ‘road to Lisbon’ recalls the main parts of his life. Of mining, football, Llanelli, the return to Celtic, injury and management. And a deep desire to prove himself in management at the highest level.
Tim’s journey is more literal and the book describes the escapades of him and four Gorbals mates as they set out in an old car with the Celtic ‘carcade’ and travel through England, France and Spain en route to the holy grail of the Estadio Nacional. They don't yet realise it but they are pioneers in European travel for football fans. The 12,000 or so who made it over to Portugal by car, bus and plane were the first and blazed a path for others to follow. For the vast majority of them it was their first time out of Britain and there is an innocence to all this which the book manages to convey well.
Stein recalls the happenings of his life in detail. The alienation of the Protestant community when he married Jean, a Catholic. The feeling of isolation and worry in Wales with Lanelli. The devastation of the injury which ended his career and ultimately set him out on the road to coaching and management. But most of all, the biggest fear in his life, the fear of failure and going back to mining. ‘The darkness, the blackness….’ This fear ultimately becomes his driving force.
It’s well known that Celtic chairman Robert Kelly was reluctant to hand over the reigns of management at Parkhead to anyone but Stein is driven also by the desire to repay his chairman’s trust by proving he is worthy of taking ‘full control’.
As for Tim he is at the crossroads of his life. His Father is seriously ill, the Gorbals community he has known and loved is literally being destroyed, he has a mundane job and he has a misguided loyalty to the Cumbie gang. There is a growing realisation that if he does not change his ways then all will not end well.
There is one small criticism of this book. The Stein part is very similar to David Peace’s ‘The Damned United’ which is a fictional recollection of Brian Clough’s thoughts during his 44 day tenure as Leeds United manager. Stein deserves to have a similar book written about him in more detail and it would make fascinating reading to include the entire Celtic management years, of Lisbon, Racing Club, Milan 1970, the nine in a row, his declining the Manchester United job and his complex relationship with many of his players. There is certainly enough material and I wonder if the authors would consider this as a future project ?
A wee epilogue at the end wouldn’t go amiss either. Does Tim get to art school in London ? Does he hook up again with the worldly Delphine ? We should be told !
This book is thoroughly recommended to Celtic fans of every age. And as we all know there is a happy ending.
- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Birlinn Ltd (17 May 2012)
- Language English
- ISBN-10: 1780270844
- ISBN-13: 978-1780270845
IMAGE BY KIND PERMISSION OF THE AUTHOR
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