CELTIC BOOK REVIEW – We’ve got MAJIC, STAN AND THE KING OF JAPAN by Matt Corr, reviewed by Manus Gallagher…
I love discovering new Celtic books. I love Celtic books with detail in them that I may have lived through but forgotten. I love Celtic books that pull you in, so that ultimately you are disappointed when you reach the end. This is just such a book.
Whilst primarily focused on the 2005/06 (Gordon Strachan’s first) season, it is not just a routine re-stating of game-by-game match reports and statistics. This is a wonderful rollercoaster of a book that makes you feel like you are reliving the whole season all over again. The pain, the agony, the joys, the tragedy. It is the fourth Celtic book that Matt has written or co-written and is a brilliant addition to the Celtic library.
One of Matt’s great achievements is his ability to link players or occurrences that may seem to have nothing to do with the subject matter – in this case the 2005/06 season. He achieves this several times in this book:
1. This was Gordon Strachan’s first season as Celtic manager, so Matt takes the reader on a brilliant trawl through Strachan’s football career.
2. Jackie McNamara left in the summer of 2005, so Matt treats the reader to a trip through Jackie’s Celtic career.
3. The one and only Jimmy Johnstone passed away during the season. This was such an emotional time for all concerned. It happened just before the 2006 League Cup Final which became known as The Jinky Final. Matt takes the reader on an extremely emotional trip through Jimmy’s wonderful career.
4. Henrik’s Barcelona career also gets the “Matt Treatment” for the very good reason that in the 2005/06 season, Henrik was still contributing to the Celtic cause.
There are more examples of this which add to the quality of this book.
Why 2005/06 you might ask? Well, this was a season that not only experienced a managerial change, but also experienced an enormous turnover of players. For example, some of the departures from the Seville 2003 squad were:
1. Larsson & Mjallby – left in summer 2004
2. Valgaeren, Lambert, McNamara, Douglas, Hedman, Sylla, Laursen, Fernandez – left in summer 2005
3. Sutton & Agathe – left in January 2006
We also lost Bellamy after an outstanding five months on loan.
These were replaced by players such as Boruc, Telfer, Zurawski, Nakamura, with Keane (Roy) and Dublin coming in January. A huge turnover, at a time when we had just experienced Black Sunday at Fir Park in May 2005. We also proceeded to lose our first competitive game 0-5 against Artmedia Bratislava and then drew 4-4 at Fir Park in our second competitive game. AND, the wage bill had to be reduced.
So there was work to be done, in the pressure cooker that is Glasgow ‘fitba.’ Gordon Strachan had to deal with all of the above and win the League title back.
Touching on Black Sunday, Matt deals with the heartache at Fir Park in an accurate and emotional manner. After reading this part of the book, I had to take a break and have a few deep breaths because it felt like I had relived every minute of 22 May 2005 all over again. (I was in the Motherwell end that day, but that’s another story for another day).
I must mention again Matt’s coverage of the tragic passing of the one and only Jimmy Johnstone, voted Celtic’s greatest-ever player by the fans. Jimmy was my favourite player when growing up and I absolutely hero-worshipped him. Matt accurately covers what this wee magician meant to all concerned. It is clear what Jimmy meant to the Celtic fans. It is clear what the Celtic fans meant to Jimmy.
“A little man with a big heart and huge talent, who will never be forgotten by the Celtic family”.
Matt also covers how emotional Jinky’s funeral and the Jinky Cup Final were, and the impression the whole occasion had on people like Roy Keane, Shunsuke Nakamura, Dion Dublin and Neil Lennon.
Brilliant coverage of a rollercoaster of emotions in that season – and we won the League by 20 points with six games remaining!
My simple recommendation of this book is: Buy it. Read it. Treasure it.
It’s a wonderful book.