The Graham Roberts Story
by Graham Roberts with Colin Duncan
Black and White, £17.99
Reviewed by Archie MacGregor
From WSC 266 April 2009
In the concluding chapter of this book there’s a faintly amusing moment of DIY psychology when it’s declared that: “You either love me or hate me. There’s never been any middle ground with Graham Roberts.” It has to be said that the preceding 240 or so pages of cliche drenched text are unlikely to have inspired many to convert to the former.
This ought to be a humble tale of how a dedicated grafter rose up through the ranks of non-League football to be an FA and UEFA Cup winner with Spurs in the space of a few seasons and then went on to pick up more trophies with the Souness-led money machine at Rangers. But boy does it come with a baggage mountain that would stand comparison with an off-day at Terminal Five.
Though co-authored by Colin Duncan, this has not prevented the text from becoming littered with a string of tiresome hackneyed observations that have to be negotiated as gingerly as any challenge from Roberts in his playing days. Being informed that Andy Gray was “no shrinking violet” or the late Davie Cooper was the sort of guy you’d want with you “in the trenches” adds precious little to our appreciation of the game during that era.
Another trait that is as bemusing as it is irksome is Roberts’s apparent ability to view the world around him as a series of parallel universes. Unless he’s got a hitherto undetected sense of irony there’s some wildly incongruent assertions. One minute he’s boasting of having “calf muscles that were perfect for crunching into the back of strikers”, the next he’s denouncing Vinnie Jones as a “talentless idiot” for his over-the-ball challenges. Nowhere is this split version of reality laid barer than when it comes to his controversial sojourn at Ibrox. Along with team-mates Chris Woods and Terry Butcher and Celtic’s Frank McAvennie, Roberts found himself in the dock on a breach of the peace charge after a stormy Old Firm encounter in October 1987. During the game Roberts was infamously seen “conducting” the Rangers “choir” as they belted out The Sash (though he claims not to have realised they were singing this particular ditty). A “Not Proven” verdict was handed down and in typical fashion Roberts insists that he’d do the same again as he can be spared “the nonsense that the actions of players can spark crowd trouble”. Yet elsewhere he recounts just how scary the Old Firm rivalry can be as he describes his panic when a group of Celtic fans tried to overturn his car during a night out in Glasgow.
Bust ups? He’s had a few. David Pleat, Ken Bates, Souness and club chairmen from across the football pyramid. There was also an acrimonious departure as manager of Clyde which culminated in him being cleared at an employment tribunal of accusations of making anti-Semitic remarks. Even if, as this suggests, he is unfazed by taking on challenges off the field as well as on it, he readily admits he’s not always been blameless for some of these scrapes. Hard as nails maybe, but hard to sympathise with as well.