Saturday, 27 December 2014

Time to go home


 
Time to go home…

Just try to rest and I’ll be back soon,’ she smiled as she tucked the blankets carefully under him. He smiled as best he could although any movement was difficult for him now. She had nursed him with such gentleness and love and he just wished he could somehow repay her. She ensured his medication was administered and saw to all his needs with quiet patience. In his wilder days he had caused her much pain but she had always been there for him. Was it really over forty years ago when she’d taken him round to meet her parents? He remembered being nervous and how they’d looked at him, a pint sized, red haired wee lad who spoke with such enthusiasm about football. He watched her quietly close the door and closed his eyes. His sleep was intermittent and dream-filled, his breathing ragged and difficult.

After what could have a moment or an hour he was aware of someone in the room and his eyes flickered open. ‘Jimmy, are you awake?’ a familiar voice said. He focussed on the burly figure in the dark suit and tried to reply but could only breathe a weak word… ‘Boss?’ The bigger man moved closer, ‘Take it easy wee man.’ He sat on the bed and took the smaller man’s hand. ‘I’ve come for a chat, I hope you don’t mind. Do ye remember that time I subbed you and you threw the shirt into the dugout as you ran past?’ The bigger man smiled, ‘I chased ye up the tunnel and ye refused to open the dressing room door. Said ye were scared I would hit ye.’ He laughed gently. ‘Then there was the time you begged me not to take you to Belgrade because you were scared of flying. I said you could stay home only if we beat Red Star by four clear goals and you utterly destroyed them. God Jimmy, you were the best ball player I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a few, but ye drove me mad wee man. Too fond of a pint at times but you know what; I loved ye like a son.’ The smaller man could feel his firm grip on his hand as he recalled those days long gone when all things seemed possible. ‘I knew you’d be a handful off the park but on it you were a genius.’ The bigger man leaned close to him, ‘We wouldn’t have won half the things we did without you in the team, I hope you know that.’ The little man tried to smile and weakly squeezed his former Manager’s hand.  

The big man went on, ‘You took some punishment too, those thugs of Atletico kicked ye all over the park but you were like a lion, always back for more. Racing Club too and God knows how many home grown hammer throwers had a kick at ye but none of them defeated ye, none of them broke your spirit. You had the heart of a Lion and I’m proud you were in my team.’ He paused before continuing, ‘You were the bravest wee guy I’ve ever seen Jimmy and I need ye too be brave one last time.’ He leaned close and whispered in his old friend’s ear.

Jimmy heard footsteps on the stairs, Agnes was returning. He quietly asked his God to allow him just three more words to her. She opened the door and walked towards the bed and said in a quiet voice, ‘That was Willie Henderson on the phone, told me to tell you that you were the best player he’d ever played against.’ Jimmy waited till she was sitting on the bed beside him, cupping his face gently in her hands and looking into his eyes. ‘Agnes,’ he mumbled almost incoherently. She smiled at him, ‘I’m here Jimmy.’ He made one last supreme effort to make his body obey him and said quietly, ‘I love you.’  She smiled, her eyes wet with tears, ’I know you do Jimmy, I know.’

He could see it as if someone had painted the air in front of his eyes; a flame haired wee winger in a baggy green and white hooped shirt twisting and turning, leaving the hulking defenders in his wake. A familiar commentator was speaking in that clipped BBC English of the time, ‘Now you can see why Celtic decided to play this little boy….’ Then he was in the bright Portuguese sunshine, God they looked so young, so fit as they swept Inter aside. He smiled as he saw Bobby, Bertie, Tam, Billy and all those great friends and comrades. Then it was Hampden, goals scored, cups raised, smiles and embraces from those who had fought a hundred battles with him. Then he was a young lad again, dribbling a tennis ball around milk bottles. Practicing again and again until it was as if the ball was tied to his toe. ‘I’m goin’ tae play for Celtic one day,’ he smiled at his girlfriend. She looked back at him and nodded, ‘I know you are.’

He closed his eyes, he was tired, so tired. He heard a sound like traffic far away in the distance. It seemed to be getting closer as he strained to listen. Only then he could make out what it was, it was them, of course it was, they were always there. The sound he now knew was that of thousands of ordinary Celtic fans chanting as one, words so familiar to him. The song seemed to swirl around him, to caress him and raise him up, it had been so long since he had heard them and now they embraced him like a long lost brother...

‘Jimmy oh Jimmy Johnstone, oh Jimmy Johnstone on the wing

‘Jimmy oh Jimmy Johnstone, oh Jimmy Johnstone on the wing

‘Jimmy oh Jimmy Johnstone, oh Jimmy Johnstone on the wing..’

He knew then it was time to go home. The big man would be waiting, there was nothing to fear.

 
 
 Motor Neurone Disease  and a Celtic Legend http://www.jimmyjohnstone.com/donations/default.asp
 

 

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Touching a god


 
Touching a god
Barry shivered as he sat on his frigid green seat in the lower section of the big North Stand at Celtic Park. ‘Jesus, it’s cauld, ma arse is numb!’ His long-time friend Sniper looked at him, ‘Should match yer brain then eh? Stoap complainin’ anyway ya numpty, ye need tae dress fur the weather. You look as if ye think it’s July.’ Barry looked at his friend, ‘I dae dress for the weather!’ Sniper shook his head, ‘Long John’s Barry, ye need a couple of layers in the cauld.’ Barry regarded him with incredulity, ‘You’re no telling me that you’re wearing long Johns?’ Sniper nodded, ‘Yup. Just then their friend Mick appeared carrying three hot Bovrils, ‘Catering here is a feckin Joke, £1.70 for a Bovril? It’s boiling water and an oxo cube!’ Sniper shook his head, ‘A lot of whinging going on the day, time you bought something anyway Mick, Barry wiz just saying yer getting a a bit of a tight arse.’ Barry was indignant, ‘Did ah fuck ya big mixing, long John wearing plonker!’ Mick looked at Barry, ‘Long Johns?’ Barry nodded, ‘Aye, Buffalo Bill here’s wearing long johns, thinks he’s in the Wild West.’ Mick looked at Sniper, ‘Dae they have they buttoned up hatches at the back so ye kin have a Turkish delight withoot taking then aff?’ Sniper shook his head and took the Bovril Mick handed to him, ‘Best ask yer maw.’ Before Mick could respond a roar announced that the teams were coming out and they focused on the floodlit green rectangle before them.

As the temperature hovered around minus 6 degrees, Kilmarnock strung most of their team around their penalty box. It was turgid siege and as the friends watched Celtic huffed and puffed without looking like scoring. After 54 minutes the sucker punch duly arrived when Kilmarnock scored with virtually their first attempt on goal. ‘Hate these boring teams’ Barry moaned, ‘ye pay good money tae see the match and they kill the entertainment stone dead.’ Mick glanced at him, ‘It’s up tae Celtic tae break them doon, Barry.’ Sniper agreed, ‘Aye, we’ve been pish so nae excuses.’ It took until the 86th minute for Thomas Rogne to head in a Ki free kick and level the match. As they left the stadium after a forgettable 90 minutes, Barry shivered, ‘Hear it’s the cauldest December since records began.’ Sniper in his usual argumentative way replied, ‘Records began aboot two hunner years ago, we had a fuckin ice age before that so nane ay yer pish, Barry,’ His friend shook his head, ‘Jeez, you would cause a fight in an empty hoose ya big reprobate!’ Sniper grinned, ‘Don’t know wit a reprobate is but I’d rather be a reprobate than a masturbate like you.’ Barry and Mick laughed, ‘Aff yer rocker ya mad man.’

As they drove home in Barry’s battered Ford Fiesta they discussed the upcoming trip to Ibrox. ‘Got three tickets aff Brendan oan the bus so we’re good tae go.’ Sniper said quietly, ‘Am workin’ but I’m trying tae get  the day aff.’ Barry said sympathetically, ‘I hope ye can make it mate, no the same without your mad havering at the bigot dome.’ Mick added, ‘Wit is ye dae at the shop, Sniper? Can they no get somebody else tae cover yer shift? I mean you’re only there over Christmas int ye?’ Sniper nooded, ‘Naw, it’s specialised work.’ Barry was mystified, ‘It’s a big department store, wit could be so specialised that only you can dae it?’ Sniper remained evasive, ‘I got special training for it, I need tae dae it.’  Barry glanced at Mick mystified before looking at Sniper. ‘Well keep asking for the day aff mate, we want you at Ibrox.

Two days later Barry knocked on Mick’s door, ‘Christmas shopping time. I thought we’d head in tae Buchanan Galleries and see if we can see big Sniper. I’m dying tae know whit he does there. He’s clamped up aboot it and that just makes me mer nosey!’ Mick nodded, ‘Aye, that big plamf is hiding something.’ They parked in the multi storey car park and took the stairs to the mall area. The shops glittered and glistened and throngs of excited shoppers filled the stores. Excited children ran here and there as harassed parents tried to keep track of them. Mick and Barry wandered the Mall picking up gifts for their families. When the gifts were safely bagged, they headed for the huge John Lewis’ store where Sniper had his Christmas job. Despite looking around the store they failed to see him. As they were about to leave they noticed a group of noisy children queueing outside Santa’s Grotto, which was in fact a big plastic house with cotton wool snow on the roof. Mick smiled, ‘I must bring ma wee nephew tae see Santa.’ Barry nodded, ‘Aye the wee wans love aw that stuff.  As they were about to leave the door to Santa’s Grotto opened and a small boy wearing a Celtic shirt under his anorak came out grinning, ‘Ma! Santa supports Selik!’ he beamed to his mystified mother who hustled him off. Mick looked at Barry, ‘Ye don’t suppose….?’

The two friends waited for around half an hour till the queue of children had gone and the Grotto was quiet. Mick knocked on the door feeling rather stupid as he said, ‘Can I have a wee word wi ye Santa?’ A gruff voice responded, ‘Naw, am oan my brek come back after wan!’ Mick pushed opened the door and saw one of the strangest sights that had ever met his eyes. The unmistakable figure of Sniper sat on a throne of sorts wearing the full Santa suit and beard. In his right hand he held a half bottle of Buckfast Tonic Wine which he was swigging from. ‘Sniper, izzat you?’ said Mick with incredulity. Barry also peered into the Grotto, ‘I’ve seen it aw noo, Santa Sniper the children’s entertainer! Hahaha.’ The two friends laughed heartily as Sniper in his red and white suit glowered at them, ‘Aye fuckin laugh ya pair a dicks! I needed money for Christmas and they bams at the jobcentre sent me here, aw right, nae big deal!’ The three friends sat in the Grotto and shared the wine, ‘Sorry I laughed,’ said Barry, ‘but the last thing I expected was you in a Santa suit.’ Sniper smiled, ‘I’m the best Santa ever by the way. Any wee Tims I see get two gifts instead of wan!’ Mick laughed, ‘Aff yer heed ya  rocket ye!’ Outside an impatient voice called, ‘Santa, you have children to see.’ ‘Fuck, ‘ said Sniper, ‘that’s my supervisor, I’ll get sacked for having pals in the Grotto!’ Mick calmed him, ‘Chill, we’ll handle it.’ Mick whispered briefly to Barry who nodded, before he exited the Grotto. The smartly dressed Supervisor narrowed his eyes at him as he approached. Mick smiled at the man,‘You in charge around here big man? Let me tell you, that Santa has been great to my Brother,’ Barry emerged with a gift and a stupid look on his face. Mick leaned close to the Supervisor and whispered, ‘No the full shilling ma brother, know wit ah mean, still a wean at heart?’ The Supervisor nodded and sputtered a rather embarrassed ‘Thank you,’ as Mick took Barry’s hand and led him from the store like an oversized toddler saying loudly, 'Mon you and I'll get ye a Happy Meal.'

Sunday January 2nd 2011 dawned cloudy and cold. Barry had given the tickets for the match at Ibrox to his friends but still remained unsure if Sniper would get the time off to come to the 12.45 kick off. He and Mick had told Sniper they would get him in the Broomloan Road stand if he could make it. Their seats were adjacent so if he got in they wouldn’t miss him. In Buchanan Galleries Sniper was deep in debate with his line Manager, ’But this ticket cost £35, ah canny miss the match!’ The Manager was having none of it, ‘Your shift is 10am till 6pm and we make no exceptions!’ Sniper reminded the man that Christmas was a week before and very few kids would want to see Santa in January but it was to no avail, he would have to work. He stomped into the Grotto and pushed the irritating white beard onto his face. He sat on his Santa throne in a foul mood and considered his options. Within 30 minutes the first child arrived before him, ‘Hiya Santa,’ smiled a boy of about 8, ‘I know Christmas is past but can you fix it for Rangers tae beat the manky mob the day?’ Sniper looked at him, ‘Listen tae me sunshine, Rangers ur shite, got it?’ With that he burst out of the Grotto and passing the Manager growled, ‘Stick yer Joab ya dick, I’m aff tae the match.’

At Ibrox a dignified minute’s silence was observed to mark the 40th anniversary of the Ibrox disaster. It finished to a tremendous roar as both sets of fans geared up for battle. Mick and Barry sat near the front of the Broomloan stand, Sniper’s empty seat between them, ‘Big man would love this.’ Shouted Mick through the din as 7500 voices roared out defiantly across the Ibrox pitch, ‘Let the People sing their stories and their songs, the music of their native lands…’ A commotion to their left drew their attention and as they turned they heard a familiar voice call out to them, ‘Hope you kept ma seat ya pair a’ fuds!’ It was Sniper still dressed in his full Santa suit.  Mick grinned as Sniper reached them. ‘Santa, ye made it!’ Barry slapped his back, clasped his hand and smiled as the three buddies joined in the singing… ‘This land is your land, this land is my land, from the northern Highlands to the Western Islands…’ The game thundered and roared around them as they were drawn into its mesmerising raw beauty.

Both teams had chances in a grimly fought first hour but the moment of decision arrived in 62 minutes when through ball from Joe Ledley saw Samaras race clear of the Rangers defence. Goalkeeper McGregor, seeing the danger raced from his goal as the three friends watched from behind the goal. ‘Come on Sammy!’ roared Mick as the big Greek reached the ball and nicked it past the stranded keeper. There was mild hysteria in among the away support as Samaras gathered the ball and from a tight angle, stroked the ball into the empty net. ‘Yaaaaaas!!’ roared Barry as he hugged the red suited Sniper, ‘Ya fuckin beauty!’ The big Greek ran to the crowd and was submerged beneath a wave of joyous Celtic supporters. Sniper, Mick and Barry were caught up in the melee, hands hugged voices roared and that magical moment was etched onto their memories forever. When the delirious crowd settled a little, Sniper looking delighted said to Barry, ‘I touched Sammy, I actually touched that big Greek god!’ Mick laughed as the away support sent another thunderous anthem roaring across the pitch, arms draped around each other they sang their hearts out… Ooh ah Samaras, said Ooh ah Samaras- Ooh ah Samaras, said Ooh ah Samaras!

7 minutes later Samaras won a penalty and sealed the game with a firm shot past the keeper. The three friends watched it all glad to be in each other’s company, glad to be part of that amazing band of fans, glad to be Celts. It was a day they’d always remember; the day samaras ripped Rangers apart and the day Sniper went to Ibrox in a Santa suit.

 

Monday, 22 December 2014

On the banks of the Molindinar


 
On the banks of the Molindinar

I had intended to write an article on the club I hold dear today but events in Glasgow totally changed the mind-set of all of us who call the dear green place home. I had arranged to pick up my daughter and her wee one at the City Chambers at 1.30 this afternoon and as I drove around the Square I saw them walking past the Millennium Hotel and crossing at the lights. They got into the car and as usual the wee yin asked for the ‘Frozen’ CD to be played and we drove off to her singing ‘Let it go.’ Shoppers scurried here and there and the lights twinkled as Christmas music drifted across from the ice rink. All was normal in the fine City of Glasgow, at least for a few moments more….

I don’t pretend to understand why these awful things happen. Far greater minds than mine have struggled to explain the meaning of suffering and death throughout human history. Such events are and always will be a part of life. What is important is that we take the necessary steps to make such events rarer and try to lead our lives in the right manner. We have also seen the spirit of Glasgow again today. This gritty, ballsy city rallies around when its children are hurting. We saw when football fans like ourselves were lost in the awful events at Ibrox Park in 1971. We saw it after the Stockline factory explosion, the Cheapside Street fire, the Clutha Bar accident and other such events. We saw it when our cousins in Liverpool needed a shoulder following the Hillsborough disaster. Glaswegians are a mixture of Lowlanders, Highlanders, Irish and in the last century a hundred other nationalities. They are of all faiths and none, all have helped weave the tartan of this city and each strand has its place in the pattern. They may squabble and argue over football, politics and a hundred other things but they know when things of the magnitude of today’s events occur that they are all Glaswegians, all ‘Jock Thomson’s Bairns.’

On a linked note, I was reading only this morning about the great Inter Milan and Italy striker Sandro Mazzola. His father Valentino was the star striker with the all-conquering Torino team of the 1940s. This side was known as ‘Il Grande Torino’ (The Great Torino) and was on the cusp of winning the Italian League title for a record fifth consecutive season. In May 1949 as they flew home from a friendly in Portugal, the plane crashed killing everyone on board. One of the greatest Italian sides ever was wiped out in a moment. All of Italy was stunned and when Torino could only field their youth team in the final four league matches of the season, their opponents (Genoa, Palermo, Sampdoria and Fiorentina) in a mark of respect and solidarity fielded their youth teams too. Torino won the title.

Sandro Mazzola was just a boy when he lost his dad but like his old man he knew where the net was and wore the number ten shirt as a player. We remember him best for his penalty goal in Lisbon in 1967 but three years previous to that he led Inter to victory over Real Madrid and scored two goals in the European Cup Final. Real Legend Ferenc Puskas gave him his shirt saying to him, ‘I played against your father and he would be proud of you.’ Such sportsmanship and common humanity is touching. Sandro Mazzola like the some of the citizens of Glasgow today suffered a great loss but went on bravely into the future and achieved much.

We can’t begin to imagine the pain some are going through in our city tonight but we can show in our words and actions that we care. John Paul the second, no stranger to pain himself in his later years, said once…’Do not despair for we are an Easter people.’ His faith in this life being a precursor to the life to come was solid and for some that belief sustains them in dark times. For those who are not believers there is comfort in the fact that the common humanity which binds us all together has been demonstrated again by the good people of Glasgow. This old city has been through much since St Mungo built his small church on the banks of the Molindinar burn. Much has changed in the hundreds of years since then but the capacity of Glaswegians to help others has not.

Rest in peace those lost today. God bless those in pain tonight.
 



Friday, 19 December 2014

Not a prouder man...


 
Not a prouder man

Jock slipped his jacket back on, not because he was cold, quite the opposite in fact. It was to hide the perspiration on his white shirt, a sure sign that he was feeling the pressure. He looked at himself in the mirror, ‘We’ve come a long way,’ he mumbled to himself as he tidied his tie, slipping the knot up towards his throat. ‘Don’t let them see anything but confidence, not today of all days.’ He slipped his sun glasses into the pocket of his jacket and exhaled. ‘Let’s go.’ He walked the few yards along the corridor towards the dressing room where he could hear the familiar banter and laughter of his players from behind the door. He had fostered their sense of comradeship, got them fighting for each other. They were a real team, friends as well as team mates. He was proud of them all, they were like his sons and he’d brought them so far this last couple of years. Now they faced their last mountain to be climbed and it was a big one. He fixed a confident little smile onto his face before he turned the handle and entered the room.

The laughter and noise subsided as they saw him enter. Bright, intelligent eyes regarded him, watched him to see if that old confidence he had instilled in them was still on his face. He made sure it was. He glanced along the line of players who seemed to be almost glowing in their pristine green and white hooped shirts. He had worn that shirt himself a decade earlier but good as some of his team mates were in the 1950s, few if any of them would get into this Celtic side. He waited for silence, his little pauses often added to their sense that he was about to say something important. ‘Right, listen up boys,’ he began as silence fell around the room. ‘We’ve already had a season to remember and I want to ask you to make one last supreme effort today. We know this lot we’re facing today have been over the course. We know they’re good players but you’re better than them.  You’re fitter, stronger and you’re a better team. You also play the game the way it’s meant to be played. We’ve achieved so much this year but we have a chance to make history today. No Scottish team has ever done what you can do today. No British team has ever done it and I want you to be the first. I want the history books to remember you as a great side 50 or 100 years from now. We might never have an opportunity like this again so seize it! If you're ever going to win the European Cup, then this is the day and this is the place. But we don't just want to win this cup, we want to do it playing good football - to make neutrals glad we've won it, glad to remember how we did it. We must play as if there are no more games, no more tomorrows. Don’t come off that pitch with any regrets, give it everything you’ve got and I know that’ll be enough to win.’  He turned to his imperious skipper who sat regarding him with rapt attention, ‘Right Billy, lead the boys out. Lead them into the history books!’  The young captain jumped to his feet and snarled at his comrades, ‘Right, you heard the Boss, let’s get out there and win this!’ There was roar from the assembled players, a guttural masculine growl. The players stood as one and followed their captain out the dressing room door. Stein watched them as they left, Murdoch, grim faced and determined, Johnstone, eyes glowing ready for battle. Auld, fists clenched like a boxer, tense as a coiled spring. Last to leave was Lennox, focussed like a greyhound ready to spring from the trap. When the last player had passed he glanced at his dependable deputy, ‘Well Sean, it’s up to them now.’ Fallon nodded and replied in his broad Sligo accent, ‘They’d follow you anywhere Jock, they’re ready.’ Jock nodded, ‘We’re so close Sean, I can almost touch it! We can make real history today and even those in the English press will have to say we’re a real team to be reckoned with!’ Fallon could see how desperately his friend and colleague of many years wanted to win this match. ‘Jock, you’ve filled those lads with belief, you’ve trained them, coached them, given them a shoulder, kicked their arses when they needed it but now you have to do one last thing… Trust them!’

The two old friends left the dressing room and stood behind the two teams who were lined up in a narrow tunnel below the pitch. Stein looked at the Italians, tanned, toned and exuding confidence. His pale Scottish lads eyed them nervously, as a consummate psychologist, he was about to say something when he heard the familiar Glasgow tones of midfielder Bertie Auld, ‘Right lads, let’s give them a song while we’re waiting!’ As the astonished Italians looked on Bertie began to sing…

‘Hail Hail the Celts are here,

what the hell do we care,

what the hell do we care

Hail Hail the Celts are here,

what the hell do we care now!

For it’s a grand old team to play for…..

The song spread along the line of green and white clad players until it filled the tunnel. It reverberated off the walls and suddenly it was Inter who looked unsure. Striker Mazzola glanced at a team mate and then at the player opposite him, a small red haired winger called Johnstone who belted out the song, eyes closed, face a picture of determination. Fallon glanced at Stein as he watched this astonishing display of confidence and solidarity, the big man was not given to displays of emotion but his eyes gleamed. His boys were ready alright, he knew that now. When the song was finished the German referee appeared and led the players up the steps and into the beautiful brightness of a Portuguese afternoon. The players walked across the pitch as a roar emanated from the thousands of fans who had followed them from Scotland. Stein headed for the side lines, he had done all he could. Now it was up to the players, this was their chance to shine as all of Europe looked on, their chance to put the name of ‘Celtic’ up there with the great clubs of football. He glanced briefly at the clear blue sky and exhaled, it was in the hands of the players now. A shrill whistle announced that the game had begun. The next couple of hours would decide all their fates.

Postscript

His heart was bursting with pride as he answered the questions of the waiting press, most of whom were delighted at his team’s display. ‘How do I feel?’’ he beamed at a well-known Scottish reporter…"There is not a prouder man on God's Earth than me at this moment. Winning was important, aye, but it was the way that we have won that has filled me with satisfaction. We did it by playing football. Pure, beautiful, inventive football. There was not a negative thought in our heads. Inter played right into our hands; it's so sad to see such gifted players shackled by a system that restricts their freedom to think and to act. Our fans would never accept that sort of sterile approach. Our objective is always to try to win with style."

He had trusted his boys and they had repaid him with a display of dazzling attacking football which not only blew Inter away but signalled that the sterile ‘Catenaccio’ defensive system was dead forever.  Those proud men in green and white had played in that quintessentially Celtic way. They had played pure, beautiful, inventive football and no one was prouder than Jock Stein.
 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Many Tribes, One Team


 
Many tribes, one team

You all know that story about a Glasgow football club formed to support and feed the poor and to give them some pride in their harsh, unforgiving lives. You also know that it rose to greatness and eventually became the finest side in Europe. It sounds very much like a film script or a fairy story but the rise of Celtic was all too wonderfully real.  Sometimes the values which animated and set this club apart become diluted or even ignored by those in positions of authority but the supporters who sustain Celtic would never allow this to remain the case. The soul of Celtic rests with them and over the past 127 years they have remained true to Walfrid’s ideals of helping others. The Penny Dinner Table may have gone but as a good man said 2000 years ago ‘The Poor are always with you,’ and I see so many Celtic fans doing good things, big and small to help those less fortunate. We may not be the wealthiest support but we have the warmest hearts.

The Celtic Foundation spearheads the club’s official charity drive and does magnificent work in Scotland and abroad. It has helped raise more than £7m for charitable causes since its inception and the magnificent Celtic support has been at the fore raising much of this. We all know of those who climb mountains, cycle hundreds of miles, hold raffles and do hundreds of other things just to uphold the charitable founding principles of Celtic FC. Our troubled world is in need of such kindness and sometimes Celtic connections occur in surprising places.

Kibera on the fringes of Kenya’s capital city Nairobi is home to more than a million poor Kenyans and remains a tough and unforgiving place. Poverty of a kind not seen in Scotland since Brother Walfrid walked the streets of Glasgow’s east end exists there on a daunting scale. Corrugated shacks line streets through which filth of all kinds flows. Here poverty is augmented by violence of all kinds which is spawned by the sheer hopelessness of people’s existence. In late 2007 and early 2008 during an election campaign, rival political groups set their tough guys loose to intimidate the opposition. This led to political and inter-tribal violence which killed 1500 people and many of the victims lived and died in the mean streets of Kibera. With food markets closed or ransacked by the gangs, aid convoys entered the area to feed the hungry. One convoy was stopped by a gang wielding machetes who demanded that they hand the food over to them. One aid worker, Andrew Onyanga, stood up to the gang and said no. As a gang leader raised his machete to strike him down, local women of all tribes surrounded Andrew insisting that they would die before letting them kill Andrew and steal the food their hungry children needed. In a lawless place it was an act of huge courage.

 
Into this atmosphere came Celtic fan and film maker Jamie Doran, best known to Hoops fans for his magnificent ‘Lord of the wing’ biography of Jimmy Johnstone. He met Andrew and two of the most notorious gang leaders as he was making a documentary about slum life in Kibera. They confessed that Andrew and the women of Kibera made them realise that the poverty which afflicted them all was responsible for the violence. One day as Jamie listened to them talking about their favourite English football teams Jamie told them a familiar story. He recounts that they gave him rapt attention as he outlined the birth of Celtic among the poor and hungry slum dwellers of another time and place far from Kenya. That conversation led to an extraordinary decision being made. The three young Africans would form a football team to help the poor of Kibera and to give the impoverished shanty town some pride. It would be a team which would unite all the tribes of Kibera and this in itself was something unique as Kenyan teams are usually based on tribal or ethnic lines. There was much to do to lessen the distrust  and even hatred many of Kibera’s young men felt for each other. Most thought the new team had no chance of becoming established given the tribal and ethnic mixture of the slum. Despite this a piece of scrub land was cleared to make a pitch and players came forward for trials. Incredibly a club in the Kenyan third tier folded around that time and the brazen Kibera boys applied to replace it. The Kenyan FA agreed so long as they could provide a decent arena and fulfil fixtures. This they did and the club was up and running in the Kenyan League.

The new club rapidly built a fan base and was successful in uniting Kibera residents of all tribes. Of course the club needed a name and to select its colours. The founders were unanimous that the new club would sport green and white hooped shirts and be called Kibera Celtic. When Jamie Doran returned to see the team in 2010 he asked the squad to identify which tribe they belonged to. To his pleasure the squad of Kibera Celtic represented no fewer than 12 tribes resident in the slum. The club’s goal of helping to lessen tribal hatred and violence had been realised. They adopted a club motto we of the green persuasion in Scotland would recognise and approve of… ‘Many Tribes-One Team.’
 
There are of course other links between Celtic and Kenya with powerful ex Celtic midfielder Victor Wanyama hailing from Nairobi. There was also  the case of a philanthropic western Doctor who encouraged his son to play football in the rough, tough environment of Kenya. His young son recalled playing barefoot in Kibera in games which toughened him up physically and mentally. His father wanted to ensure that his son appreciated all the good things his relatively comfortable lifestyle gave him in comparison to others his age struggling in the slums of places like Kibera. The young boy was often the only white face on the field as he mastered the necessary skills and attitude to play the game in such a harsh environment. That young boy went on to be a professional footballer of some note and started a charitable foundation to help young footballers in Kenya. He said recently…

"I barely wore shoes for two years – that toughens up your feet. I went down to Kenya this December with 80 kilos of football equipment for the team but my plans are much bigger than that. We want to build an artificial pitch in Kibera and a school too. That's my dream."

This is clearly a young man whom Brother Walfrid would smile upon given that he promotes the values Walfrid held dear. Despite having built a successful and wealthy life based on his footballing skills, he still remembers those less fortunate than himself and does something to help them. Like Walfrid he sees football as a force for good.
 
That young man’s name is of course… John Guidetti.

click to enlarge picture




 

 

Friday, 12 December 2014

The Karma Cafe


The Karma Café

There was a lot of what our German friends call ‘Schadenfreude’ (Pleasure at others misfortune) online at the latest debacle by the Rangers football club at Palmerston Park this evening. The common consensus was that most were enjoying the trials and tribulations of the latest manifestation of Rangers FC.  The most common chain of thought was that they are reaping what they sowed and that all their greed, arrogance, bigotry and hubris had rebounded on them in a fitting manner over the past few years. If it’s in the nature of sporting rivalry to want to see your most bitter opponents struggle then events at Ibrox over the past 3 years have been the stuff of dreams for some. Older Celtic fans know full well the weight of that arrogance and one commented with brutal honesty…

All my life I've had their arrogance, triumphalism and bigoted filth rammed down my throat. Their fall gives me enormous satisfaction.’

He isn’t alone in holding such sentiments and there are many who openly state that the considerable damage done to Scottish football by the whole Rangers mess has been a price worth paying to see them laid low. Such strong and passionately held feelings have their roots in the deep and complicated history of Scotland.

On two occasions my job took me on a tour of Ibrox stadium and it was to say the least an interesting experience. The first was a few years ago and part of an anti-sectarian initiative and I took the time to ensure the kids who went along were clued up about the nature of Scottish football and the history of sectarianism within it. I gave a balanced account to the children and can honestly say there was no bias in my teaching’ I just gave them the facts. We rolled up to the stadium on a bright Wednesday afternoon and were met at the door by a kindly old chap of the kind you see leading tours at most big football grounds. He showed us into both dressing rooms with their portraits of the Queen and very high coat hooks. He explained that Rangers liked players who were ‘big men’ in days gone past.  Upstairs, a narrow corridor brought us to the ‘Blue Room’ with its stencilled painting of former managers on the walls. Then it was onto the trophy room where a wide selection of silverware glinted in the bright lights. There were odd items too such as a bicycle given to them by a St Etienne. The kindly old chap smiled as he waffled on about glory days and what a great institution Rangers were. At the end he asked if the children had any questions. One of the boys asked him why Rangers didn’t play Catholic players for most of the 20th Century. The tour guide’s rather smug demeanour changed and he snapped in a tetchy voice, ‘I’m not here to discuss things like that so let’s go down to the track.’ We followed him downstairs and out the tunnel.

There can be a tendency among some to try to forget or at least dump in the back streets of our minds bad memories or information we’d rather not revisit. Not facing up to the past is one of the issues which can hold up closure and moving on. This is true of individuals and of institutions like football clubs. That Rangers football Club had a policy of excluding Catholics from their team from around about 1920 when John Ure Primrose, a staunch Mason and Unionist, led them on the road to perdition, is beyond dispute. Harland and Wolff arriving on the Clyde in 1912 and bringing with them shipyard workers steeped in Orangeism had its effect too. However, Ure Primrose is a vital figure in undestanding the descent into open sectarianism and exclusivity by Rangers FC at that time. That the SFA and SFL stood by and said nothing about this policy for over 70 years remains a stain on their record. One Rangers fans site is honest enough to say of Ure Primrose…

‘It's also worth pointing out that prior to 1912, there wasn't any trouble between Rangers and Celtic fans even though there was a religious divide in the fans. 1912 was obviously the year the UVF started up and Primrose became Chairman. He was eager to build links between Rangers and the Masonic lodge, which prior to 1912 had no direct link. Primrose was an outspoken anti catholic, and publicly pledged Rangers to the masonic cause and publicly voicing Anti Catholic sentiments.’

With such a man at the helm, Rangers were clearly heading in a direction which would in the long term damage the club and Scottish society greatly. A club has a clear duty to try to guide and educate its supporters in what constitutes decent behaviour. Rangers, by singling out a minority in Scottish society to discriminate against sent out a powerful signal to their supporters that the prejudice held by some was valid. This contributed to a century of poisonous and insidious bigotry which stunted the lives of many. Anti-Catholic feeling has been present in Scotland for centuries and still lingers in some dark corners. Rangers didn’t invent it but rather gave one of the more distinctive manifestations of it in our recent history.
Scotland imported more than just the people of Ireland in the 19th and early 20th century. It imported attitudes and long held enmities. It also imported Orangeism and it found in Scotland fertile soil in which to grow. If Ure Primrose was morally wrong to lead Rangers onto the path of exclusivity and bigotry, he was not alone in those days after World War One in holding views most today would find repugnant. The spirit of the times was very different then and in a sense the changing attitudes in Scottish society over the past 50 years has left those still holding such views being regarded as embarrassing remnants of a past age.

Of course the generation who endured bigotry in all its petty glory are perfectly entitled to have a wry smile at the condition Rangers are in today. The club and elements of their support are long overdue a meal at the Karma Café. Older Celtic supporters and indeed many non-Celtic supporters experienced much in their lives which has them far from upset at Rangers demise.  As a teenager I got on a bus in Glasgow which after a stop or two became filled with blue clad supporters going to Ibrox. The ordinary Glaswegians on the bus were subjected a vile songbook which included the following ditty…

We’re the wild young Bridgeton Derry

Fuck the Pope and the Virgin Mary’

I don’t write this to demonize or throw mud at Rangers fans, many of whom are decent folk who hate such bigoted nonsense, but rather I state it as a historical truth. Some in our society had descended into a cultural gutter and seemed unable or unwilling to leave it.

Of course all clubs have rogue elements among their supports but it’s hard to think of another example of a club giving tacit support to bigotry by fostering a policy of discrimination in the manner Rangers did up until 1989. A few foolishly try to deny they ever had such a policy but most know the truth. If that club, however you perceive them, are to have a future in the game then they must never take the dark path again.

For those of you enjoying their current struggles, it’s hard to blame you. Karma can be a bitch.

 

 

Friday, 5 December 2014

Celtic Star


 
Celtic Star

Stevie McNally stood on a chill December evening gazing wistfully into the bright window of the Celtic shop on Argyle Street. His breath was visible in the cold Glasgow air and he was shivering a little as he peered through the glass. Christmas shoppers flowed around him like a stream around a rock. A few of the  passers-by looked at him with disdain and one muttered audibly, ‘Oot the way Jakie.’ A small manikin wearing the child sized Celtic strip had the word ‘Sale’ written on a red label stuck to the chest and a shop assistant was about to stick on a price tag. He so wanted to buy his Celtic mad son a strip for Christmas but unless it went below £25 he simply couldn’t afford it. It hurt him that he did so little for Patrick these days. It also hurt him that his son’s mother now lived with another man who got to play with him every day while Stevie barely saw him. It terrified him that he’d drop out of his son’s life completely and be forgotten by him. Stevie had seen the other man in Pollok Park with Patrick and it tore at his heart when he saw how his son seemed so attached to him. He wanted to give wee Patrick a present he’d enjoy for Christmas and perhaps on a deeper level remind his boy that his Dad still existed. The young assistant glanced briefly at him through the glass as she attached a label which read £25. Stevie walked to the door and pushed it open before stepping into the warmth of the shop. As the door closed behind him, cutting out the chill and noise of the street Stevie looked around and soon located the sale section.

The same young assistant who had stuck the sale label onto the manikin sized him up as he approached the window display. He knew he looked rough. He had been unemployed for what seemed forever and since parting company with Patrick’s mother he had spiralled down and now called a grim room in a hostel by the Clyde, home. A fight with an un-medicated schizophrenic in another hostel the year before had left him with an angry red scar which ran the length of his cheek. He caught a glimpse of himself in a mirror and quickly looked away. Wrong choices, wrong friends and the wrong attitude had seen his life fall apart after he parted with Annie. Booze and drugs fuelled much of his downfall although he was now making a real effort to stay clean and sober. He looked at the smart young shop assistant in her neat Celtic Polo shirt, her smart pony tailed hair freshly cut, ‘Aw right hen, is that boy’s Celik strip in the windae twenty five bar?’ She glanced almost imperceptibly over Stevie’s shoulder towards a male shop assistant as if reassuring herself that he was watching, before focussing on Stevie, ‘No, the top is £25. The full strip is £45 in the sale.’ Stevie’s heart sank a little, ‘Jeez Brother Walfrid widnae like that.’ His pointed little joke met a blank stare so he continued, Ye goat it tae fit a seven year auld?’ She nodded, ‘Yes,’ and fetched a shirt from a pile on a nearby display shelf. ‘I’ll take it to the till for you.’ Stevie was used to this. Poor looking people were considered potential shoplifters by some and not to be trusted with the merchandise till the money was handed over. She handed the strip to a burly male colleague who looked at Stevie without bothering to put the hooped shirt in a bag as if doubting that he could pay for it. ‘Twenty five pounds please?’ he barked at Stevie who took the money from his tracksuit pocket and counted it out onto the counter. Two wrinkled tenners and five pound coins. All that remained of his Jobseekers allowance.  The assistant took the money with his fingertips as if it might be infectious and placed it in the till. He then bagged Stevie’s purchase and handed it to him. ‘Thank you, Merry Christmas.’ His less than friendly expression rather undermined his festive wishes.

Stevie walked through the bustling streets noticing the excited children gaping at the Christmas lights and generally enjoying being in town at this time of year. Music, which sounded like Peruvian pan pipes drifted down from Buchanan Street and the sparkling Christmas decorations lifted the whole scene. Stevie caught glimpses of that other Glasgow too, the one few bothered to notice. He spotted Eddie, a long term homeless friend of his begging outside Argos. He was sitting on a piece of cardboard and had his dog Jinky with him. Eddie had been hospitalised the year before when some drunks turned on him. For some, homeless also meant worthless but Eddie was the most kind-hearted and decent guy Stevie had ever met. He shared whatever he made begging with the other ‘invisibles’ of the Glasgow homeless scene who crossed his path. Stevie smiled at Eddie as he passed, ‘You still no goat a job ya chancer?’ Eddie grinned his toothless grin back at him and replied in his gravelly Glaswegian voice, ‘Waitin oan a call fae Selik, hear they need a striker!’ Stevie laughed, ‘Striker? You couldnae strike a match ya auld bam.’ The friends smiled at each other and Eddie gave Stevie a small clench fisted salute as he walked on.

Stevie’s Celtic store green bag was inside his tracksuit top close to his heart, ‘Patrick will love it,’ he mumbled to himself as he headed towards Clyde Street and his bed for the night. He skipped up the stairs into the hostel and noticed a group of the residents had gathered at some sort of meeting in the TV room. He entered and sat just as a stout man in a tidy suit was finishing speaking. ‘So basically, the Foundation gives tickets to those who couldn’t otherwise afford to go to a game. I’m leaving 20 with the hostel manager and I hope to see some of you at Celtic Park next week.’ It seemed to Stevie that he’d timed his arrival to perfection. As the man turned to leave, he noticed Stevie’s Celtic shop bag now in his hand. ‘I hope you can make it pal, you’re obviously a fan.’ Stevie nodded and chanced his arm, ‘Can I take my boy?’ The man smiled, ‘Of course you can.’ Stevie looked at the Hostel manager who held a white envelope stuffed with tickets. The man, a life-long blue nose called Ian, had a soft spot for Stevie and caught his eye, ‘Don’t you worry Stevie boy, goat your name oan two already.’ Stevie was elated. He could take Patrick to the match. His son had never been to Celtic Park and perhaps they could share a good time together. Make a memory Patrick would treasure.

Stevie used the office phone in the hostel to phone Annie. It was his first call to her in six weeks. ‘I want tae gie Patrick a Christmas present and take him tae the match oan Saturday.’ She responded in the curt, dry manner she adopted when he called these days. ‘You can meet me at my ma’s and I’ll check ye oot first. If yer drunk or smellin’ of hash yer no getting near him.’ Stevie felt a surge of anger but controlled it, ‘I’m aff the drink and don’t touch any other stuff, Annie. Ye need tae trust me mer.’ She cut across him, ‘Stevie, you’ve let me doon so often, I canny trust ye. Wan o’cloak at my Ma’s and nane ay yer nonsense or ye kin forget it.’ With that the phone went dead. Ian entered the room at that point, ‘Stevie, ye need tae square yerself up before goin’ tae get yer boy on Saturday. I got some gear aff a guy who left the hostel last month. He wiz aboot your size.’ He handed Stevie a black bin bag. Stevie glanced inside at clothing he knew was a cut above anything he owned. He smiled at the middle aged hostel manager, ‘Cheers Ian, yer no a bad guy for a zombie.’ Ian laughed. ‘Just you and yer boy have a good time son. They grow fast and it’s important he knows who his auld man is.’ Later, as Stevie tried on the nearly new clothes he found piece of paper in the pocket of a pair of jeans. It was a receipt with Ian’s name on it. He had obviously given him some of his own clothes. Stevie mumbled to himself with a wry smile, ‘Aye, no a bad guy for a Zombie right enough, Cheers Ian.’

Stevie McNally felt a little nervous as he walked up towards Annie’s mother’s house. It was here he had finally blown his relationship with Annie three years before. Annie was waiting by the close, looking to Stevie as beautiful as she had when he had first got up the nerve to ask her out when they were 16. Now as they both approached 30, the affection they once felt had melted like April snow. There was not a day which passed without him regretting losing her but he accepted that he had blown it and wouldn’t get another chance. He smiled nervously at her, ‘Aw right Annie, yer looking well, doll.’ She sized him up, noticing the smart clothes which had replaced his usual track suit. ‘So are you. Glad tae see yer sorting yourself oot.’ He nodded, ‘Done some bad stuff Annie, I know that but I’m on the right road noo and I just want tae see the wee man for a while, you know.’ He handed her the bag from the Celtic shop, ‘Here’s a wee present for him for Christmas.’ She took the bag, ‘Get him back here for six, Stevie.’ With that she turned and nodded at the first floor window where her mother was watching the scene below from behind the net curtains. After a moment, the close door opened and six year old Patrick stepped out into the bright chill of the day. He seemed bigger than the last time Stevie had seen him and his tousled dark hair needed a trim. Annie zipped his warm jacket and gave him a hug, ‘See you at supper time Patrick. Stay wrapped up.’ As she headed back into the close Stevie called to her, ‘Annie!’ She turned her head as he continued, ‘I really am sorry ye know.’ She pursed her lips and turning, headed into the close without replying. Stevie smiled at his son who regarded him with amused interest, ‘We really gone tae the match Da?’  Stevie took his hand, ‘Of course we are but first we’ve going tae see the statues at the front of Celtic Park and the walkway. It’s brilliant, Patrick.’ They set off hand in hand, Stevie’s spirits lifted by simply being with his boy.

Patrick talked incessantly about Christmas and his Primary one class at the local school as they joined the stream of people heading for the stadium. ‘Miss Brown said Christmas is when magic things happen da, ye need tae see a big star first though. That’s the sign something really good is gonnae happen. A long time ago a baby was born and Miss Brown said there was a big star o’er his wee hoose and Miss Brown knows everything!’ As Stevie listened to his son’s rambling innocence, part of him was aching at having missed so much of his son’s journey through life while another part of him just basked in being with him on this bright winter’s day. God how he loved this boy, he was the one bright light in his life. ‘Miss Brown sounds like a good teacher, son.’ Patrick nodded, ‘She said the Romans came here a long time ago. Did you see them Da?’ Stevie laughed at his son’s utter innocence, ‘Naw Son, before my time, I think yer Grandad John did though.’ They turned off the London Road onto the Celtic walkway. ‘Look Da!’ cried Patrick, ‘It says Celtic on the ground’ Stevie stopped with his son in the middle of the huge club crest emblazoned on the walkway. His son knelt and traced part of it with his hand, spellbound. Stevie had forgotten how children could be amazed by things adults took for granted. ‘Aye but look at the stadium son…’ Patrick glanced up at the huge bulk of Celtic Park. The Celtic way was lined on both sides with green and silver Christmas lights and this drew the eye to the stadium itself at the other end of it. Christmas lights glinted from the walls above the main entrance and two large Christmas trees sparkled by the statues of three Celtic Legends. Patrick’s eyes widened, ‘It’s magic Da, it’s Christmas magic!’ Stevie smiled, ‘I know, they did a good job wi aw these lights.’ Young Patrick shook his head and pointed high above the ground to the very top of the main stand. ‘Naw, look a star! A Christmas star! Miss Brown said that means that something good is goin’ tae happen!’ Stevie followed his son’s gaze and his eyes came to rest on a huge golden star which glinted above the red brick façade of the south stand. ‘Jesus,’ he whispered to himself, ‘it is a star.’ He fought back a tear as he took his son’s hand, ‘C’mon let’s go see the Celts, see if that Miss Brown was right.’ They walked to the stadium together each in their own way amazed at what the day had brought.

 

Monday, 1 December 2014

Soldiers are we

 
Soldiers are we
 
The Celtic supporters at Tynecastle on Sunday certainly enjoyed themselves as the team put in another decent domestic performance to defeat Hearts in what many thought would be a difficult cup tie. There was a bit of chat online about the singing of the hymn ‘Walk with me oh my Lord’ by the green clad fans and most thought it was harmless enough. One wonders if there are any other professional club’s supporters in the world who would sing a hymn at a match in these secular times but the choice of song was unusual rather than offensive. That hymn was of course sung at Tommy Burns’ funeral mass in 2008 and I recall joining thousands of waiting supporters gathered at Celtic Park that day listening to that service being broadcast via speakers. There was a spontaneous singing of it on that sombre occasion and it seemed somehow fitting as it was a tribute to a great Celt and also a comfort to some still stunned at his loss.

No one can doubt the Catholic roots of Celtic FC as the Club was basically started by the teaching arm of the Church and in its early list of patrons you will find clergymen and even an Archbishop. However as time has gone on and the original founding community has become more assimilated into the mainstream of Scottish life, the Celtic support is now more mixed than it has ever been. Yes, the majority are still Catholic, at least culturally, but a large minority of the fan base these days is of other faiths or none at all. Some of the most devoted Celtic supporters I know are not from the Catholic or Irish tradition but rather are drawn to the club by its footballing record and the warmth of the majority of its supporters. That doesn’t mean that we should dispense with singing songs such as ‘Walk with me oh my Lord’ quaint as it is to hear such things at a modern football game.

Similarly with the singing of the ‘Soldiers Song’ at Celtic games, it could be argued that there is a case for the club founded by Irish migrants to continue to sing this song but there is no case for singing the corrupted version which contains the line ‘God Bless the Pope. Those of you who study Irish history will recognise that one of the founding principles of the Republic as outlined in the 1916 proclamation is equality and freedom of religion. No Irish person would accept a national anthem corrupted in the manner it is at Celtic games. The declaration of 1916 states…

‘’The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all of its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.’’

The principle that all the people of Ireland were to treated as equals in the new Republic is clear in those words. If anyone seeks to do justice to those patriots they will get the song right and not sing words which are at odds with the principles the signatories had. They faced the firing squad in Kilmainham jail in defence of those principles and would shake their heads at the corruption of their anthem. If you must sing it then learn the actual words.

There were a huge variety of songs sung at Tynecastle on Sunday ranging from ‘Viva la Quinta Brigada’ to more familiar Celtic songs.  I have stated in the past my feelings about more overtly political songs at football games being inappropriate. This is no slur on the songs themselves but rather the time and place of their airing. I recall hearing ‘The Boys of the old Brigade’ being sung at Kilmarnock and wondering if the fans singing it had any idea that the Killie boss that day, Kenny Shiels, had lost a brother in the troubles?  Of course there will be people who feel that they have a right to sing what they want at football matches no matter who it might offend. It is worth remembering that those who sing the ‘Famine song’ and other such nonsense would argue the same point. Freedom of expression must always be tempered with responsibility and common sense.

Celtic’s identity can never be separated from its Irish and Catholic roots but that doesn’t mean that it is a club and indeed a support which is exclusive. We welcome all who want to follow the Celts with open arms regardless of creed, colour or nationality. The word ‘Catholic’ translates as ‘Universal’ or ‘all encompassing’ and that is the Celtic I want to support. Willie Maley once said of Celtic players… 'It is not his creed nor his nationality which counts -it's the man himself.'  That principle applies to our support too and we should all take that into account in our choice of songs at the game. I would hate to shout or sing any words at a Celtic game which made a fellow supporter uncomfortable. We have so many great Celtic songs so let’s boom them out and live up to our founding principles.

Our roots are undeniably Irish and Catholic but over the past 127 years we have blossomed into an institution open to all.

Our past is our home not our prison.