Did Charlie Nicholas really steal those chips? How many pints could ' Hughie Gallacher down before a game? Tom Lappin speaks to STUART COSGROVE, author of Hampden Babylon the book
2 that lifts the lid on sex and scandal in Scottish soccer.
y day, mild-mannered Stuart Cosgrove is your average post-structuralist cultural commentator, a Late Show regular with a PhD in Theatre and Politics, the sort ofguy who feels at home strolling around a minimalist set in a pastel cardigan mentioning Chomsky and MC Hammer in the same sentence. By Saturday afternoon however, he reverts to a more basic, primeval Stuart Cosgrove, standing where the terraces would be if McDiarmid Park wasn’t an all-seater stadium, cheering on the blue-clad heroes ofSt Johnstone and casting doubts on the referee’s antecedents. This was the man who was arrested entering Tannadice Park for being under the inﬂuence ofdrink, and was tailed by the FBI while en route to the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
It is the second incarnation who briefly gained control of the Cosgrove persona long enough to write Hampden Babylon, a hilarious anecdotal expose’ of the sordid side of Scottish football, concentrating on the peculiarly Scottish traits of scoring more regularly in the discotheque than the penalty
area, going on alcoholic benders before midweek internationals, and causing affrays outside late-night takeaways. We’ve been waiting for a book ofthis nature for too long, and it doesn’t disappoint in dishing the dirt.
‘The idea for the book began in the back of a taxi,’ says Cosgrove. ‘A friend was telling me a story about a Scottish football manager who had allegedly been involved in a profane sexual act with a TV presenter in a studio. I must have heard this story a hundred times in various different permutations, and sexual positions. and we just started talking about these apocryphal tales that probably aren’t true, but you hear them repeated so often that they assume a truth.’
Two thoughts later, Cosgrove realised that there were enough preposterous stories that were actually true about Scottish football, to make tall tales unnecessary. Stories like the one about Abercromby, the captain ofthe St Mirren Scottish Cup winning side of 1987, who was found guilty of falsely claiming invalid benefit, while ‘gainfully employed as a footballer’, or the one about Alan Rough arrested for being in possession of stolen meat products, and taunted cruelly from the terraces. Or the multitude of sordid yarns about the red-headed midfield midget Billy Bremner. In the naked dressing-room there were eight million stories, and Hampden
6The List 17—30 May 1991