Saving Scottish Football? – Book review


On the day in which Scottish football took a sharp turn towards the rocks, it seems appropriate to write about a non-fiction book unrelated to music.

Any book called ‘Saving Scottish Football’ (by Head of Supporters Direct Paul Goodwin) should be essential reading on today of all days. Sadly, for a whole host of reasons, it’s not.

The basic premise of the book is decent – Goodwin identifies a number of issues that could contribute to ‘saving Scottish football’ to varying degrees. He then explores these issues with a range of experts with a view to making recommendations at the end of each chapter.

Problem 1 with the book is the panel of experts. With the exception of two contributors (more of them later) Goodwin goes to a panel of traditional football experts – former players and coaches. Whilst some have had other roles in the game, it’s no surprise that, by and large, their views are rooted in a traditional view of the game.

The honourable exception is Davie McKinnon,  who seems to have a grasp on the sort of change that the game needs no doubt due to his behind the scene roles at Dundee and Kilmarnock.

With that exception, by far the most thoughtful contributions come from two accountants who have acted as administrators at several clubs in recent times – Bryan Jackson and Donald McGruther. They have been exposed to the worst of what the Scottish game has to offer and realise radical change is needed.

The largely indifferent contributions of the experts undermine the whole concept, because Goodwin simply ignores the experts when they don’t agree with him (as on his pet issue of fan ownership). It would surely have not been beyond the author to have widened his scope to get genuinely different views from outwith the game.

It’s a problem too that Goodwin feels that it’s essential to quote every single ‘expert’ on every issue – even when they’ve nothing interesting to say. This is best highlighted when a quote from Darren Jackson is used word for word in two consecutive chapters on two separate topics.

Even if the use of experts is flawed  Goodwin himself could still have had something interesting to say himself.  Unfortunately there are other major problems with the book.

Firstly, it’s not well written at all. Everyone can’t be Christopher Brookmyre but surely if you are wanting to inspire then good writing is fundamental. Instead SCF is a turgid read. Even at barely over 100 pages – on a subject that I’m interested in – it took me ages to plough my way through the book and that’s coloured my attitude to the book.

The book’s readability is also badly affected by the fact that it doesn’t appear to have been proof read. There’s simply no excuse for some of the mangled sentences which appear as they only undermine the arguments being made.

By and large, Goodwin’s focus on the issues seems appropriate. Yet, even ignoring the experts, sometimes Goodwin takes the arguments to places without a great deal of evidence. The pros and cons sections, in particular, often reflect his own views without much in the way of back-up.

There’s nothing wrong with Goodwin offering his views on an issue but it would have better to use that as the basis for the book rather than to shoehorn in experts in what seems to be no more than an attempt to validate his own position.

So, this isn’t a good book. But there are a couple of other things you should know before considering buying.

Firstly it’s sponsored by Football Insights – which is Goodwin’s own consultancy firm. In part at least, ‘Saving  Scottish Football’ is promotional material for the author (and, frankly, he’s not shy about blowing his own trumpet within its pages.)

Secondly, and far more positively, proceeds from the book go to Prostrate Cancer UK. However I’d suggest that if you want to help that worthy cause (and you should) you would be better donating a tenner straight to the charity.

Perhaps the most mystifying thing about the book is the testimonials on the back cover. ‘Insightful’, ‘must read’, ‘forensic’, ‘innovative’ are just some of the misleading terms used to promote this book. I’m honestly astonished at this.

Ultimately all ‘Saving Scottish football’ does is signpost some of the issues that need addressing. There’s a great book waiting to be written about Scottish football – this isn’t it.