Friday, 2 November 2012

The Road to Lisbon Press / Twitter quotes


Stevie ‏@SPH1964 "Read it yesterday in one sitting. Not what I expected, in a good way. Brilliant read"

Napoleon ‏@itarbet "fantastic book written in a great & unusual style!"

CiarĂ¡n Barbour ‏@CiaranBarbour "One of the best books I've read...sensational."

BoyneBhoy ‏@BoyneBhoy "You got the same stars as a Sevconian but yours were earned. Now I think of it, that should be my review!"

The Heat Of Lisbon ‏@theheatoflisbon "Just finished @RoadtoLisbon book. Beaming with pride at final paragraphs."

Celticbynature ‏@Celticbynature "Finished book last wk on holiday. Very enjoyable. Got better with every chapter. Highly recommended. Defo screenplay in there."


"AS a fellow writer The Road to Lisbon fills me with envy and admiration. Not my team, not quite my era yet I was hooked - utterly drawn in by the two narratives and it made me remember what I felt like when I first fell in love with football and it wasn't a job but a passion. Thank you to Charlie and Martin for that."
Graham Hunter, Sky Sports' Spanish football expert


"Reading The Road To Lisbon reminded me of the extraordinary football achievement by Jock Stein and his players, and also what that success meant for the Celtic supporters. I have to confess that I had a tear in my eye at the end of the novel."
Paul Cuddihy, Editor, Celtic View


"Jack Kerouac's 'On the Road' meets David Peace's 'The Damned United' in Martin Greig and Charles McGarry's spectacular novel, masterfully, and grippingly, telling the story of Celtic's European Cup win in Lisbon in 1967. It is seen vividly, and graphically, through the eyes of the legendary Jock Stein and a young Celtic fan."
Brian Marjoribanks, Scottish Daily Mail


"FICTIONAL accounts of actual episodes in football has become an in-vogue genre and this enjoyable novel invites the reader to ride in tandem with Tim, a Celtic fan who makes the journey of his lifetime from the Gorbals to Lisbon to watch Celtic become the first British side to win the European Cup in 1967.

But we also get how it felt to be the man on whom fell the burden of masterminding victory over Inter Milan. Jock Stein is evoked as an often stern and cursing disciplinarian whose struggles proved that Celtic’s historic achievement was a victory born of graft as well as inspiration. When in the company of Tim, this book reads like an On the Road for the footballing hipster. Inside the head of Stein, we are reminded of the Damned United’s treatment of Brian Clough."
The Scotsman


"WITHOUT doubt, 1967 was a landmark year for Celtic. In the hands of Jock Stein, they had become a mighty team, and this novel is set in the week leading up to the European Championship in Lisbon, where there were to face Inter Milan for the cup. It tells of Tim, a young man from the Gorbals who travels to Portugal with some mates for the game. Tim aspires to be an artist, and the tension between his upbringing and the bohemian world he wants to join is palpable. But his story is interspersed with the thoughts of Stein himself as he plans for the forthcoming match with military resolve and thinks back over his career up to that point, The Stein sections can be a little exposition-heavy, but they’re intense, portraying the legendary manager almost as a force of nature. By focussing on both boss and fan, the authors capture the passion and determination of the true football devotee."
Alastair Mabbott, The Herald

Monday, 23 July 2012

Rest In Peace, Joe McBride

AS Celtic prepare for Saturday’s pre-season friendly against Inter Milan, supporters will inevitably cast their minds back to that evening 45 years ago when the Nerazzurri were put to the sword by the Lisbon Lions.

The gap between the two sides was in one sense thin, in another as wide as the River Clyde is at Greenock. Despite Celtic’s dominance – and a modern statto analyst would have had a field day, noting in particular Celtic’s 42 attempts on goal (yes, you read that right) to Inter’s mere five – only a one-goal margin clinched the final tie. There never has been as one-sided a final and probably never will be.

Nonetheless, as Celtic, trailing to Sandro Mazzola’s early penalty kick, launched failed assault after failed assault on Inter’s charmed goal, an anxiety crept in that the Bhoys’ dominance in every department wasn’t going to prevail.

This fraying of collective nerves is described in our novel The Road to Lisbon. In those latter scenes in Estadio Nacional, Jock Stein and co-protagonist Tim Lynch, a Celtic supporter who has travelled to Portugal for the match, endure similar agonies from different vantage points.

Yet the sheer drama and unbridled ecstasy of winning the European Cup was no doubt accentuated by the nail-biting that had preceded it. Had Celtic cruised to the 3-1, 4-1 or 5-1 win their play deserved, the affair would have fizzled out. Joyous and seismic the achievement would have remained, but to turn it around late on after such unbearable frustration and tension invoked a sense of historical occasion typical of the club.

The sad passing of Joe McBride this month has meant the dusting down of another stat – 35 goals in 26 appearances (again – yes, you read that right!). That was the striker’s tally during the initial half of that golden season until a persistent knee problem stuck him down on Christmas Eve. This inevitably invites the question: Would McBride have converted more than a few of Celtic’s chances in Lisbon, had he stayed fit and played against Inter? Probably.

Yet video analysis evidences that Celtic were not particularly profligate that day, their scoring exploits undone instead by the width of the woodwork or the fingertips of an inspired Giuliano Sarti.

Celtic were anointed in the sense that they had two other more-than-able forward players who would fill the gaping McBride-shaped void, one of whom would score in the final.

The prolific Willie Wallace had already arrived from Hearts, contrary to the widely held misapprehension that he was bought in to compensate for the loss of McBride immediately after his injury, while Stevie Chalmers, previously barracked by some on the terraces, had been given a sense of direction and confidence by his dynamic new manager, a transformative process that was classic Stein. Chalmers’ latent talents as a predator were ably demonstrated by that stabbed winner in the Lisbon heat. Of course, playing just behind these two was outside-left Bobby Lennox, the club's second all-time top goalscorer.

It is notable, and according to obituaries typical of the man, that McBride was always philosophical about missing out. Of course, he had already played a significant part in Celtic’s wonder year; and it wasn’t all about the European Cup – Celts famously won every tournament they entered and McBride’s contribution was crucial.

Rest In Peace, Joe.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Lisbon in the imagination

WRITERS sometimes make out that promoting a book is a chore. This is nonsense. It is a pleasure to finally get out and chat with folk after being immersed in the solitary writing process for so long.

There is also a realisation that, when a book is published, it takes on a life of its own and becomes a vehicle for other people's imaginations. Everyone takes something different from it and that is as it should be.

There is a line from the Scottish author Alasdair Gray, who said of his seminal novel, Lanark, that one of his aims was to create the city of Glasgow in the imagination. One of our aims in The Road to Lisbon was to re-interpret the Lisbon experience in an imaginative way.

Forests have been felled in writing about Celtic's victory in 1967, but much of it is factual and covers similar themes. There is a romance and a mythology to the occasion which we felt had been overlooked.

What is more, we felt that the fans were a huge part of that experience - the ones who travelled to the game, the ones who stayed at home, those who have had the torch passed down to them over the course of the last 45 years. They deserved their place.

Hopefully, we have managed to capture some of the passion and romance of Lisbon. More importantly, it seems to have inspired the people we have met since the book came out to tell us their own Lisbon tales ... tales we hope will continue to echo through the generations.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Scottish Daily Mail article

This article was written By Martin Greig and appeared in the Scottish Daily Mail on May 25, 2012. It is reproduced with their kind permission.

IT IS 45 years to the day since Celtic beat Inter Milan to become the first British club to lift the European Cup. The passing of time has leant Lisbon a mythical quality, but it should be remembered for more than just the heart-tugging romance of the story.

Some of what we know about Lisbon has been exaggerated, but that is not to diminish the impact of what Celtic achieved. Rather, it demands a more refined appreciation.

The defeat of the Nerazzurri has been cast as the ultimate triumph of attack over defence; the day a ragtag bunch of swashbuckling Scots stuck their false teeth in a bonnet and sucked the life out of Inter's catenaccio system; out of the darkness and into the light, so the Lions ensured European football emerged from its defensive stranglehold.

It is an assessment that fails to do justice not only to the feat itself but, more importantly, the man most responsible for it. Without Jock Stein, there would have been no Lisbon. It is his story. And it is through him that many of the grand claims about it can be sustained.

Graeme Souness once spoke of 'the dawn of Stein', alluding to the profound influence he had on European football after his emergence. Sir Alex Ferguson, of course, is the most high-profile disciple.

In 2007, before his Manchester United team played Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League, the most successful club manager of all time made an emotional pilgrimage to the Estadio Nacional. It remains his touchstone. But Stein's legacy is much greater than those 90 minutes under the Portuguese sun.

Celtic's European record under him was remarkable. In the seven years after Lisbon, they reached the final of the European Cup once more (where they lost 2-1 after extra-time to Feyenoord in 1970) and also made the semi-finals (1972 — lost on penalties — and '74) and quarters ('69 and '71) twice apiece.

So what about Lisbon? To fully appreciate what Stein achieved, we must understand what came before. Most of the players who would go on to become legends were already at Celtic when he arrived in March 1965, but it was a club in disarray.

As Cyril Horne, of the Glasgow Herald, later wrote of the player who would be voted the greatest-ever Celt: 'Jimmy Johnstone was at such a low ebb early in 1965 that it was probable he would revert to Junior football again — and sink without a trace.' Billy McNeill had also thought seriously about abandoning a rudderless ship.

'To be honest, everything was a joke at Parkhead,' he later said. 'We did nothing that could be described as proper training or preparation.' Stein immediately began to use players in positions where their talents could be fully exploited. John Clark was moved from lefthalf to sweeper, beside McNeill. Bobby Murdoch was shifted from inside-right to wing-half. Bertie Auld was eventually moved from outside-left to form a formidable central partnership with Murdoch.

Bobby Lennox's role changed from being a traditional insideforward to an outside-left with a requirement to get into the box and score goals. Johnstone was told in no uncertain terms that his parlour tricks must contain end product and that he should occupy a more advanced role within the new 4-2-4 formation. Chalmers was told to play further forward to better utilise his lightning pace. They were all masterstrokes.

As far as Lisbon was concerned, Stein's genius was not in unearthing gems, but in polishing the ones who were already there. Very quickly, a team of world-beaters emerged.

With domestic supremacy achieved, he set his sights on Europe and the 1966-67 season represented a raising of the stakes. The dramatic win over Vojvodina in the quarter-final was later regarded as 'the final before the final' — several Lions claim the Yugoslavs were the best team they faced — but there could be no underestimating the challenge presented by Inter, who had won the trophy two out of the previous three seasons.

It has since been presented as the ultimate clash of ideologies — embodied by the attack-minded Stein and the defensive Helenio Herrera — but that was not strictly the case. For example, there were plenty of aspects that united Stein and Inter's Argentinian coach.

In November 1963, while manager of Dunfermline, Stein travelled to Herrera's Italian boot camp to observe his methods and left impressed by what he witnessed. It was a militaristic regime, with a strong emphasis on preparation and discipline — and it firmly established in Stein's mind the need for full autonomy as a coach. To a modern audience this may be a given but, as a player, Stein had watched on as the Celtic board picked the team ahead of boss Jimmy McGrory.

As Luis Suarez, Herrera's playmaker for Barcelona and Inter, said: '[Herrera's] emphasis on fitness and psychology had never been seen before. Until then, the manager was unimportant. He virtually slapped the best players, making them believe they weren't good enough, and praised the others.

They were all fired up — to prove him right or wrong.' Although Herrera did not invent catenaccio, he became its chief exponent. Contrary to popular belief, though, his version was not bereft of creativity. Neither was Herrera a defensive obsessive.

At Barcelona, he won the Spanish title in 1959 and '60, with his team rippling the net 182 times. It was a side for the city to be proud of and, after the Argentinian was dismissed when Barcelona lost to Real Madrid in the 1960 European Cup semi-finals, he was carried down the Ramblas by appreciative fans.

He then moved to Inter later that year, where the country's defensive culture forced him back to the drawing board. With Serie A rivals intent on containment at all costs, Herrera set himself a challenge of beating them at their own game. Catenaccio — where four defenders mark the strikers and a sweeper is used as the launchpad for counterattacks — was his chosen system. There was attacking verve within it.

Giacinto Facchetti was transformed into a rampaging full-back. In season 1965-66, he scored 10 goals and netted a total of 75 times overall for the club. The Brazilian Jair brought pace to the right wing and Herrera also enticed Suarez to Inter from Barcelona in 1961 for a world-record fee of £142,000. Both Jair and Suarez would miss the '67 final. Then there was legendary Italian striker Sandro Mazzola. It was far from a team built only for defence.

Stein's victory over Herrera was tactical. He correctly identified the game would be won on the flanks. Midway through the 1966-67 season, he had switched Tommy Gemmell to the right and moved Jim Craig to the left. It was to prove the key change in finally breaking Inter. Up against two full-throttle wingbacks, Inter could not create in the wide areas.

For the first goal in Lisbon, rightback Craig squared for left-back Gemmell to unleash a venomous drive into the net. After that, and without Suarez, their creative font, Inter's system shut down. The outcome became inevitable, despite goalkeeper Giuliano Sarti's impressive show of resistance.

It is not as simple as saying that Celtic rescued European football from its defensive shackles. It was subtler than that, but their victory did mark an important shift in emphasis away from containment systems and back towards individual talents.

A year later, George Best scored in the 1968 final for Manchester United and was crowned European Footballer of the Year. Then came the Total Football era of Johan Cruyff's Ajax, who won three consecutive European Cups from 1971 to 1973.

Football was evolving. The spark was lit one evening in Lisbon.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Bertie Auld and a bit of toilet humour

The launch of The Road to Lisbon took place in Glasgow last night. It was an enjoyable evening with a star turn by the legendary Bertie Auld (above right). At 74, the Lion remains evangelical in spreading his love for Celtic.

Bertie’s storytelling abilities now almost match the memory of his towering football talent. He is the ultimate raconteur but there is pathos as well as comedy.

He ended with a fantastic tale of accompanying Jinky – then in the throes of his battle with Motor Neurone – to visit Alfredo di Stefano in Madrid. The tale began in Viewpark, wound its way through Madrid and ended up in an airport toilet, where a giggling Jinky – who by then had started to lose power in his arms - insisted Bertie help him relieve himself.

As a reluctant Bertie did so, another traveller entered the toilet and stared at the scene in horror.

“It’s alright big man, we’re friends,” said Bertie.
“Aye, you’d bloody need to be!” quipped the man.

The audience erupted, but it was also a poignant tale of an enduring friendship.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

How to co-write a novel without killing each other

I should point out that I’ve known Martin more or less all of his life (I am six years older than him, although I don’t look it!)

Our families were and are still close friends, ever since we lived across the back from each other in the west of Glasgow.

Martin has already written a book, ‘The Zen of Naka,’ which is an extremely engaging biography of former Celt Shunsuke Nakamura. It’s a great read, and not your average football book, often describing some of the cultural contexts of the beautiful game, which are particularly contrasting when it came to a player from Japan plying his trade in Western Europe.

Anyway, I told Martin that I had written a screenplay about the Lisbon experience. It was basically an idea I’ve had for ten years or so, the idea of creating a road movie about a bunch of pals who travel from Glasgow to Lisbon to see the game.

I always thought it had dramatic potential – the physical journey reflecting an inner journey, etc., and I’ve lost count of how many versions I’ve written!

Anyway, back in 2009 I had dragged it up to a not-too-terrible standard, and Martin asked if he could read it. He really liked it and it helped fulminate an idea inside his head.

A while later he handed me a few A4 sheets, written in the first-person of Jock Stein. To say I was impressed by the standard of writing would be an understatement. In fact, I was completely blown away.

‘He’s going to do something similar to David Peace’s The Damned United,’ I thought. ‘But in the voice of Jock Stein (one of the most interesting and impressive human beings ever to have managed in football). What a brilliant idea.’

Little did I know that Martin wanted me to be involved! And so, on a dreich January afternoon in a deserted pub in Glasgow’s West End, Martin gave me a proposition: to co-write a novel charting the Lisbon experience, one half narrated by Jock, the other by Frank (which was the name of the lead man in my screenplay at that time).

I was very excited by the idea, if a little anxious as to whether I could match the standard of his initial Jock efforts.

Monday, 7 May 2012

The day a team died

HOW seismic were events in Lisbon on May 25, 1967?

For Celtic FC, It remains their crowning glory, an achievement that has echoed through the generations. But what were the implications of the defeat for the mighty Inter Milan? Did it bring the catennacio system crashing down, as has so often been claimed?

Well, if Herrera’s Inter were the embodiment of the defensive system that had begun to take hold throughout Europe then, yes, the impact of Celtic’s victory was colossal. Helenio Herrera’s legendary Inter were never the same again.Within a week of defeat in Lisbon, Inter had surrendered their Serie A title – claimed in three of the four preceding seasons – after a last-day defeat to minnows Mantova meant the title headed west to Turin and Juventus.

In little over 12 months, Herrera had departed the Nerazzurri, humbled by his failure to breathe life into an ageing team and helpless at halting their slide to fifth place in the championship.
Sandro Mazzola, Inter’s iconic striker, reflected plaintively on that afternoon in Lisbon in later years.

"It all finished there. That week signalled the end of that great team, and was the worst time of my career. We lost everything: the European Cup, the Championship, the Italian Cup.

“Up to the match against Celtic, we thought we were unbeatable. As soon as that complex was destroyed, we were suddenly in the nightmare of not being up to winning, and the fear from Lisbon went with us to Mantova. Celtic ended up costing us two trophies, really, and it all went downhill from there." 

In 1972, Inter achieved a revenge of sorts when they denied Celtic a third European Cup final appearance by winning a penalty shoot-out in Glasgow after two 0-0 draw. “Even then I spent the whole night battering my scalp off Billy McNeill’s chin, with him winning every single header,” added Mazzola. “And nobody except me wanted to take a penalty.”