The Quality Street Gang: Book Review

Danny McGrain, David Cattanach, George Connelly, Kenny Dalglish, Vic Davidson, John Gorman, Lou Macari, Brian McLaughlin, Hugh McKellar, Pat McMahon, Bobby Wraith, Davie Hay, Jimmy Quinn, Paul Watson, Tom Lally, Jackie Clarke, Tony McBride, Billy Murdoch, John Murray.

The above names, if you didn’t know already, are players who eventually became branded as ‘The Quality Street Gang’. The book written by Paul John Dykes delves into facts and figures from this era and talks in detail about just how promising each of these players were for Celtic. I have to admit that I was looking forward to reading this book, and it has certainly delivered the goods. For someone who wasn’t around to witness this exciting young group of players, it is good to read about their capabilities.

The book goes into the accounts of all the aforementioned players from Celtic’s most successful period in the 1960’s. We all know just how good the first team was at this stage, when Celtic famously won the European Cup in 1967, so it shows just how hard it must have been for these youngsters to break through and make a name for themselves. Scottish football was also at its peak back then compared to now, so the reserve league proved to be a highly competitive competition.

These youngsters were learning from the best management team around at the time in Jock Stein and Sean Fallon. The learning curve didn’t stop there however, as they had the privilege of training with the best footballing team of that era in the Lisbon Lions.  The book excellently shows how these youngsters grew day by day and how they were always willing to learn and improve. We learn of the fascinating training methods of Sean Fallon and Jock Stein, and how discipline played a pivotal part in the development of these players.

We also learn that the Lisbon Lions were very eager to pass on their knowledge of the game and how they were always trying their best to make this crop of youngsters better themselves. As mentioned above, the reserve league was thought very highly of back then, and this is shown by the number of fans who turned up to watch these exciting young players, as well as watching the first team in action. When you take into consideration that money was a big problem back then, it shows how talented these players must have been.

As the book goes on, we are drawn further in as Kenny Dalglish, Lou Macari and Danny McGrain all break into the first team, while at the same time we learn about the fall of the talented trio George Connelly, Brian McLaughlin and Tony McBride. This group of young players should have been the replacement side of the Lisbon Lions, but eventually, one by one, they started to drift apart. Whether it was for personal reasons, or to chase the money that was on offer in the riches of England, the team fell away. There were even players moving on purely because they thought they couldn’t learn anything more from playing in the reserve team during a period when they were unstoppable and there was no competition for the Gang.

The stories of George Connelly and Tony McBride were particularly sad to learn of, as these two players were regarded to be exceptionally talented. McBride likened to Dalglish, and Connelly to the legendary Jimmy Johnstone, both these young players eventually packed in football altogether due to ongoing personal troubles. It is said that Tony McBride had the wrong set of friends outside of football and he was often caught up in the tough times in Glasgow. Connelly’s story on the other hand has never fully been understood, problems have said to have been mental health issues, or the struggle to live on the lowly wage of the time and alcoholism.

The book has quotes from all members of the Gang, and they go on to talk about how happy they were to be part of the Celtic team at the time, regardless of making the first team or not. To have been a part of the reserve team was enough for some of these players. I love to read about the Celtic teams before I was of age to remember them, and Paul John Dykes has certainly helped me out in learning all about the most successful reserve team of all time, The Quality Street Gang.

I cannot recommend this book enough, it is a truly fascinating read and one that people of all ages will thoroughly enjoy. This is a debut book that the author can be very proud of, and I for one certainly hope it is not his last. You can buy the book here, http://celticsuperstore.co.uk/stores/celtic/products/product_details.aspx?pid=140946.

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