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We Are Celtic Supporters, by Richard Purden

Posted on September 21, 2011 by samh

We Are Celtic Supporters, by Richard Purden, with a foreword by Rod Stewart (2011)

This book, published in September 2011, examines what created the culture, ideas and beliefs around Celtic football club. Author Richard Purden travels the world to find fans far and wide, from the ordinary to the celebrity. And there are indeed a wealth of the latter – as well as rocker Rod Stewart, who writes the foreword, there are exclusive interviews with famous fans such as Billy Connolly, Jim Kerr and Noel Gallagher.

The sleeve on the hardcover edition lists these names and many more besides, and the presentation is such that, before opening the book, you could be forgiven for thinking it is a collection of short essays by these people, instead of a series of detailed interviews framed by author Burden’s point of view. Still, the variety of people interviewed, and the variety of places Purden visits to talk to them, make for a fascinating book, especially for the Celtic fan, of course. It would also no doubt be of interest to those studying the impact of religion and sectarianism on football, and vice versa – subjects the book cannot and does not avoid.

There are many mentions of Brother Walfrid, who was an Irish Marist Brother and founder of the club – his ideals punctuate the book, and while it is acknowledged that these ideals have not always been lived up to, Purden passionately argues that Celtic are a force for good, and continue to be so. Another interesting claim is made by Simple Minds frontman Kerr, who argues that it was the Bhoys who invented Total Football before the Dutch – indeed, they even taught them it, Kerr says.

Other areas touched on include Celtic’s Italian connections (Purden travels to Italy and meets the secretary of the Italian Celts, Roberto Longobardi), American fans (he chats to fans in The Parlour Bar, home of New York’s largest Celtic supporters’ club), Celtic’s place within popular culture and politics, and much more.

This book is an incisive, thoughtful and necessarily partisan look at one of the world’s most recognisable clubs. One wonders whether too much is made of the club’s unique place in history (we all like to think our club has singular historical importance, after all), but it is undeniable that Celtic have made a global impact, not least because of their origins, and many such claims made in the book cannot really be argued with.

Essential for the Celtic fan – and still a good read for those who don’t wear the Hoops. Whether Rangers fans would touch it, though, is another matter…

Review by Sam Hawcroft

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