"On Fire with Fergie" by Stuart Donald is a fascinating book giving a fan's-eye view of the triumphs and tribulations of following Alex Ferguson's European Cup winning Aberdeen Football Club in the 1980s. It succeeds in putting the reader into the shoes of the author and his father and weaves a narrative that works on many different levels. On the one hand the highs and lows engendered by the changing fortunes of Aberdeen are conveyed exceptionally well. But the book goes far wider, and Aberdeen's progress is set against the traditional dominance of Scottish football by two clubs, the "Old Firm" of Glasgow Celtic and Glasgow Rangers. At the heart of this book is the sense of promise that for a time there emerged a genuine third force in Scottish football: and some of the most telling moments are descriptions of off-the-field encounters with Old Firm fans during an era in which football violence was commonplace.
At this point anyone not interested in football will probably move on in search of something else. But before I lose the non-football fan's attention it is worth saying that although descriptions of football matches and discussions about football form the core of the book, this is also a book about growing up in Scotland in the 1980s. Meanwhile, the wider background makes this a book of interest to all football fans in Scotland, and not just those who follow Aberdeen FC.
Modern Scotland has a deep, complex and not always positive relationship with its football. For a small nation we have a disproportionate number of professional football teams, and the passions they engender among their supporters is legendary. Likewise the Scottish national football team. For many decades until the 1990s this was more or less the only means of expressing the suppressed sense of Scottish nationhood that has in more recent years found more direct outlets via the ballot box. Understanding the role of football in Scotland is a key step on the road to a fuller understanding of Scotland itself. "On Fire With Fergie" takes the reader on an engaging journey that provides an enjoyable insight into football in Scotland in the fairly recent past.