BOOK REVIEW – HOOPS STARS AND STRIPES

Hoops stars and stripes is the new autobiography of Andy Lynch, the popular Celtic player of the 1970’s. The book is written by the prominent Celtic writer, Paul John Dykes, whose previous efforts, The Quality Street Gang and Smiler (The Neil Mochan story) have been met with critical acclaim.

I was delighted to read that Andy Lynch was born in St Francis’ nursing home in Merryland Street in Govan, in the shadow of Ibrox Park. I was born there too and many a Celtic fan (and player) saw the first light of day courtesy of the good sisters of that establishment.

In his teens, Andy was fortunate enough to be a Hampden ball boy for big games and in the mid 1960’s he entertainingly tells of seeing Billy McNeill scoring the late, dramatic 1965 Scottish Cup final winner against Dunfermline which kick started Celtic’s modern era. One year later and Andy got close to Pele, as the great man played for Brazil against Scotland in a 1966 World Cup warm up in Glasgow.

Andy’s senior career started at Hearts and he was fortunate enough to go straight into first team football at Tynecastle, s a young man, and make a great impression. Jock Wallace was the Hearts coach at that time and he is described as a warm, humorous man, far from the image that Celtic fans portrayed when he later became Rangers manager in 1972.

When Wallace left for Ibrox, Andy’s Hearts career stalled and he got a long awaited move to Celtic in 1973. Interestingly, Andy’s last appearance for Hearts was the 7-0 thrashing from Hibs at Tynecastle on 1 January 1973, although he manages to conveniently avoid mentioning this in the book! Perhaps some things are best forgotten.

In August 1973, Jock Stein started the new season by experimenting with two new wingers – Brian McLaughlin on the right and Andy Lynch on the left. They made a great impression but injuries took their toll. McLaughlin’s well documented injury came against Clyde but Andy’s woes were of a more niggly nature and kept him out for long periods.

By 1975 it looked as if Andy was for the exit door at Parkhead but he was converted to a left back and after that his Celtic career took off. Around that time he was unlucky not to be capped with a high standard of full back keeping him out of the Scotland set up – Danny McGrain, Sandy Jardine and Willie Donachie.

If Andy is remembered for one thing in his career then it is the 1977 Scottish Cup final when he became a most unlikely hero with the winning goal from a penalty kick. Even Andy’s father was in total shock as he watched in the stand when his boy approached to take it. If there’s ever a way to find a place in the hearts of the Celtic support then it’s a cup final winner against Rangers.

After the cursed 1977-78 season, Andy played a major part in 1978-79 when Celtic won the league in the most dramatic fashion, when Celtic beat Rangers 4-2 with ten men, in their final league match. Surprisingly, within months, Andy was out of favour and his Celtic career ended quite abruptly in early 1980 when he still had a great deal of football in him.

Andy moved to America and Canada and became a successful coach, yet despite having an impressive CV he was never given an opportunity to coach or manage in Scotland. The book ends with the fascinating tale of how Andy came to be involved in a mega million pound take over attempt of Liverpool F.C.

Paul Dykes writes this book in a flowing, entertaining fashion and Andy is refreshingly blunt when describing certain aspects of his career. The story of Colin Stein and him in the heat of a Glasgow derby game is well worth a read.

This is the time of year when people consider buying stocking fillers for their friends and family. If you know someone who followed the Celts in 1970’s then get them this book. They won’t be disappointed.

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