WHEN you look back on Bobby Evans, the first thing that will strike you is just why did it take so long before such a fitting biography was written on him? There have been plenty of Celtic books across many former players, most deserving, but how Bobby has been overshadowed is a sad note.
When the author is the much celebrated Tom Campbell, then maybe the wait was well worth it. Within Celtic literary circles, Tom Campbell needs little introduction, the author of various seminal books on Celtic, and is never afraid to call a spade a spade, even if it goes against the grain within the support. He makes it clear that he is basing his info on as much evidence as possible and avoiding any hearsay, but isn’t afraid to give his opinions & conclusions.
He played in the mostly underachieving era in the 1950’s, where Celtic failed to achieve sustained success despite a wealth of talent. With Jock Stein and Charlie Tully alongside him with Jimmy McGrory in charge, these three in their names alone have been at the front for attention. Yet few others personify Celtic in the 1950’s better than Bobby Evans, and this book clearly illustrates that. For many from that period, he was their idol, and with his flame hair he easily stood out.
Bobby’s peak years at Celtic stretched across the whole of the 1950’s, and in truth is the better gauge for Celtic than the more highly celebrated Charlie Tully. Following this ideal, Tom Campbell takes us on a review of the side through this era, with the obvious emphasis on Bobby Evans. We see the highs and lows of the times, but also as he breaks down the era in this book, we get to understand the frustrations and reasons for the repeat failings at the club (i.e. meddling chairman, team politics, underworking players, docile manager etc).
For this reviewer, I find this era amongst the most interesting in Celtic history for some reason, and I have to admit that I have learnt a lot from this book. There are lots of great anecdotes and quotes dotted around this book in easily manageable/readable chapters.
Tom also shows the difficulty of the international experience, and pulls the cover away on what generally was held to be a long satisfying Scotland career and instead shows (again) frustrations here.
This shouldn’t take away from the good times, and Bobby Evans played his part in league title wins, some cup wins and victories over Rangers, and Tom details them all well.
This is a warts and all biog too, and Tom grabs by the horns the allegations over if Bobby was involved in match fixing late on in his career. The bottom line is that the evidence is inclusive and weak. Therefore it should be taken that he is innocent till proven otherwise. With the character he had, it would be difficult to take, but not is all clear, and Tom provides a fair overview of the allegations without sweeping it under the carpet.
If anything, the second chapter that analyses the allegations over Bobby are really an in-depth look at fellow Celt Dick Beattie who was convicted for match bribery, and possibly is the most engrossing part of the book. Tom Campbell’s theory on Jock Stein’s disdain for goalkeepers possibly stemming from his experience Dick Beattie is both priceless and though-provoking. Worth the price of the book alone.
He also highlights Evan’s personal weaknesses too e.g. too thin-skinned to deal with criticism or the press, but he also shows that as a person he was maybe a professional player well ahead of his time (teetotal, professional, hard-working). You’ll understand more clearly once you read the book.
Overall, Bobby Evans was an outstanding player for Celtic, and a real great for the club. This book is perfectly written (as are all the works by Tom Campbell), and is a perfectly fitting tribute to the great man. This book really gives a fine overview of the player, and hopefully will help re-elevate his status amongst current and future generation of supporters.
I would highly recommend this book to any Celtic supporter. It’s a very fine read that all will treasure.
Review by JoeBloggsCity, Kerrydale Street & The Celtic Wiki.