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.