This book is a must read for St Mirren fans. 1987 Scottish Cup winning captain Billy Abercromby tells the story of his football career and his battle with alcohol which nearly killed him.
I grew up in a St Mirren mad family and I still remember the humiliation of going into primary school after the 5-1 drubbing by Forfar, as friends who followed Rangers laughed at me. I missed the Aber years in person on the North Bank, which is a shame. I started going to the games with my friends when I was 15, in 1988, when injury had already hit. We met Aber and the team multiple times that year, as we hung around Love Street to watch them train. We were a permanent fixture there and at matches, and the club did a wonderful job looking after us with free away tickets from Frank McGarvey, and David Winnie, who went to the same school my dad worked in for years. Tommy Wilson treated us like old friends, sitting with us at a reserve game one night and telling off Campbell Money for swearing in front of us. Jimmy Bone invited us into the dressing room one wet day to watch the players doing aerobics(with some ritual humiliation dished out when he uncovered who each of us had a crush on!) I won't forget the sight of poor George Shaw in a towel having just been yanked out of the shower to say hello to us! Ah we loved Jimmy! Tony Fitzpatrick was such a lovely man who always made time for us when he was manager. Aber himself was a great laugh whenever we bumped into him, despite all that he was suffering. Those were special times.
This book let me look at what came before my time. It was great to read about Alex Ferguson making players quake in their boots even then, as Aber turned up in September for pre-season training due to too much summer fun at Butlins! I was laughing at the story of Fergie coming on to the pitch as a sub during a match in Guyana pre-season to get revenge on players who had given his young team a kicking, earning a red card for himself soon after. Oh I'd LOVE to have seen that! His sacking, when he was doing great things at Love Street is one thing I'm not proud of my club for.
There was so much to laugh at in this book. Aber doing the safety drill on a plane in camp style in front of drunken players and journalists after a weather enforced party in St Etienne. Derek Hamilton flagging down a car for help as he ran from the scene of his drink driving accident only to discover it was CID from Paisley in the car, who arrested him after he blabbed his story. Paul Lambert having to sing nursery rhymes to the entire Love Street staff as a forfeit or face the fire hose in the showers. Aber's guide to the biggest psychos in Scottish football-Doug Rougvie, zombie on steroids, Walter Kidd, Skeletor without the charm, Willie Miller, world class defender and referee. Funny stuff! Aber getting his own back on countless players who were brave enough to hack a fellow buddy or dive. How I would have loved to have been in the crowd yelling 'Aber's gonnae get ye!' It was really funny to read all these stories and memories from the days with no fourth official or trial by TV. Let's face it, if Aber was playing today, referee Willie Collum would be setting new records for cards issued! Half of the players today would run a mile from Aber and his own brand of footballing justice.
Reading about the 80's brings back fun memories of other players...big Basil Fawlty on one of his mad runs up the park, Kenny McDowall taking no prisoners in the pursuit of a goal, the brilliance of players like Stevie Clarke and Frank McAvennie(another lovely guy for fans to chat to)...it's really got me remembering the many reasons why I love this club so much. SMTID.
There were also the bad times, being sent off three times in one game and a huge ban that would have ended his St Mirren career, had Alex Miller not quit to become Hibs manager. This allowed Alex Smith and Jimmy Bone to save his career and take him and St Mirren to the glory of that 1987 Cup win. I still get choked up when I think about that...Hammarby. Enough said about THAT game. The terrible injury that escalated his drinking problems. The shocking slide almost to the grave. Pretty much every St Mirren fan knew that Aber was an alcoholic but until I read this book, I had no idea of how bad his life had become, or how close he came to dying. It says a lot about that fighting spirit of his that he was able to come back from the brink to start his life again. I greatly admire him for this and hope that he can continue to stay sober.
This was a great book, one that I will certainly keep on my book shelf to remind me of the good times at Love Street. Aber, you are a legend and you will never be forgotten in Paisley!