In Search of Alan Gilzean
by James Morgan
Softback – 333 pages
Publisher : Backpage
Published : 2010 (Revised and updated version published 2019)
This is a controversial book in a way and the author wrestles with his conscience about publishing it right until the end, but the story of Alan Gilzean’s life is researched and detailed, giving many insights into his career that you may not have known (there were a lot I didn’t !).
The premise of the book is to discover what had happened to Alan Gilzean after his career in football had taken him away from the limelight. The myths about his whereabouts and state of health and wealth were many and varied, but trying to find a way to the man was James Morgan’s task. A subsequent book claims to set right the wrongs included in this volume, but it is a very good read and while the personal side of the man is a much guarded secret both by Gilzean himself and by those who were close to him, some shafts of light shine out through extensive interviews with former colleagues and time spent in libraries studying old newspaper reports of games.
A star footballer at an early school age (and a good cricketer too), Alan had a good grounding at Dundee, where he had a part in their title win in 1961-62 and the number of goals he scored is stunning. While he did well at club level, the Old Firm bias prevented him becoming a regular in the national side and when he had a stand-off over the refusal of a pay rise at Dundee, it became obvious that he would be on his way and his wish was to head South.
Sunderland made a lucrative offer, but having played at White Hart Lane in John White’s Memorial match, he ended up choosing Spurs over Arsenal and he couldn’t have been happier to have done so. His time at Tottenham is well documented, but some passages of this book show a side of him that he kept hidden from the public gaze and it is enlightening to find out what he was like behind the scenes. A man who separated his professional life and his private life, there are still areas which remain unfathomed, but Gilly was a man who was seemingly generous in gift and spirit.
There are tales of his adventures in a Lilywhite shirt will be familiar to many an older Spurs fan and he is quoted as saying “Once a Tottenham man, you’re always a Tottenham man.” His devotion to the cause could never be questioned, but he rose above intimidation as he rose above defenders to use the deft flick off his head to the benefit of his colleagues. The tell-tale of an excellent player is that it all looks easy to them and that could be said of Gilzean, but he worked hard at his craft and his work ethic endeared him to a wide range of notable people within the game.
I won’t spoil the end of the book, but I can say that I enjoyed the book greatly and may have to read alternative versions of Alan Gilzean’s life to see if there are checks and balances, but this book stands alone as a work that deserves to be read.
Marco van Hip