Saturday, 22 August 2015

Men against Bhoys

Men against Bhoys

The rather grubby Service Station car park was already full of green clad Celtic fans as Mick guided his battered old Fiesta into a parking bay. ‘About time anaw,’ muttered his friend Sniper from the back seat, ‘Busting fur a pish since Carlisle and Niki fuckin Lauda here wants tae batter oan tae the next Service station.’ Barry, sitting in the front passenger seat shook his head, ‘You’ve tanned about 8 cans since we left Glesga, maybe that’s why yer bladder’s so full ya numpty.’ Sniper glared at him, ‘Shut it short arse, just coz you cannae drink without getting jailed or conking oot.’ Barry smiled, ‘I’ll be driving us back up the road ya big bam so there’s no much point in me drinking is there?’ Sniper grinned, ‘Aye, we saw wit happened when ye nipped big Kerry at the New Year.’ Barry laughed out loud at the memory of actually getting a woman into bed at a party before promptly falling asleep due to excess consumption of some aniseed flavoured shots.  ‘At least I can attract a bird, aw you can attract are flies, ya pie.’ Sniper smiled, ‘Brewer’s droop, I heard? Need tae get ye oan yon Viagra’ Barry laughed and shook his head, ‘you just make this shite up don’t ye? I conked oot wi the bevvy, there was nothing drooping except my consciousness.’  Sniper regarded him with mock pity, ‘Imagine that, the baw oan the goal line and ye couldnae put it in the net.’ Mick cut in at this point, ‘you never stoap, dae ye Sniper? Always trying tae win the argument,’ Sniper clicked off his seatbelt with a satisfied grin, ‘Never lost an argument to the Pollok midget in my life Mick, and I never will. Ah never needed Viagra either.’ Barry smiled at him, ‘If you had a brain you’d be dangerous ya big fud.’

They exited the car and Sniper headed hurriedly for the toilets as Barry and Mick entered self-service restaurant. ‘Let’s see what delights are oan the menu here.’ Mick said as they joined the long queue of Celtic fans standing with trays by the rows of over-priced food. ‘Hope we stuff this mob the night,’ Mick said to Barry, ‘That prick Souness gets on my nerves at the best of times but that ‘Men against boys’ shit really annoyed me.’ Barry nodded, ‘It’ll have annoyed the players as well, Martin will have them wound up like springs. We’ll win it, don’t you worry.’ Sniper returned at this point and joined them in the queue, ‘You buying, Barry? We’ve aw had enough of your tight arsed ways.’ Barry looked at him, ‘I was buying but thanks tae yer cheek yer getting nout aff me.’ Sniper looked at Mick, ‘See wit ah mean? Ye’d think he had a rattlesnake in his pocket. Tight as a flea’s arse that yin.’ Sniper proceeded to eat a bewildering variety of food as the queue shuffled along slowly. Sandwiches, cheesecake and several pieces of fruit disappeared into his mouth. He had no intention of paying for any of it and when he eventually reached the till with a tray which was empty apart from a few crumbs, he bought a cup of tea for 80p and sat at a nearby table. Mick and Barry had to admire his style. Any evidence of his pilfering was now in his stomach.

How far tae Blackburn fae here?’ Sniper enquired as the two co-drivers sat beside him with their honestly purchased food. ‘Aboot 50 miles mate. Do it in an hour if the traffic’s ok.’ replied Mick. ‘Ah cannae wait,’ said Barry, ‘I really think Celtic owe that mob a doin.’ Sniper nodded, ‘Ye got that right, Sherlock. Disrespectful rat that Souness. I’d love tae see his face if Celtic batter them oot of Europe.’ They sat discussing the game for half an hour and each in their own way was convinced that Celtic had the beating of Blackburn Rovers. ‘Better head,’ said Barry, ‘I don’t want to miss any of this.’ They finished their food and joined scores of other Celtic fans heading for coaches, cars and even two hardy souls on a motorbike. As they buckled up, Barry put on the radio in time to hear Graham Souness say,  'If Celtic score one then we can score three. Hopefully by 10pm tonight people will be saying 'Bloody hell, that Blackburn are a good side.'' Sniper could take no more, ‘Och there’s numb nuts oan talking shite again! If I see that prick the night his RS McCalls’ will be getting rattled! Get the tape oan, Barry!’ Barry needed no further encouragement and pushed the tape into the cassette player. They snaked out of the Service area and back onto the M6. As they joined the traffic heading south they sang along with a familiar song…

‘Let the people sing their stories and their songs
And the music of their native land
Their lullabies and battle cries and songs of hope and joy
Join us hand in hand
All across this ancient land, throughout the test of time
It was music that kept their spirits free
Those songs of yours and of mine..’

Ewood Park was chaotic when they finally parked the car and headed for the stadium. There was tension in the air and some fans related tales of fights with Blackburn supporters and the heavy handed treatment they’d received from the Police. There was talk of forged tickets and the away stand already being full despite hundreds of fans with valid tickets still trying to get in. Mick was unimpressed and said to a harassed looking Policeman, ‘Couldny organise a fart in a curry eating contest. Honest tae God, mate, get a grip.’ The man stared blankly at him as if he was speaking another language. Eventually they gained admittance to the Darwen end and joined 8000 other Celtic fans swaying and singing in the chilly November air. A huge roar announced that the teams were coming out and Celtic looked the part in their gold away kit. ‘Mon the Celtic!’ roared Sniper as the team got into their pre match huddle. The drama was about to unfold and here and there in the home sections of the stadium there were pockets of Celtic supporters. A large group was segregated from the locals by a line of Police and stewards in one of the stands. The air buzzed with excitement and the noise from the huge Celtic support set the scene. It was up to the players now.

The opening period of play demonstrated clearly that Celtic were certainly up for the game. They snapped into tackles and their mid-field were clearly on top. In 15 minutes came one of those moments Celtic fans crave so much. Sutton touched a ball towards Hartson who slipped as did his marking defender. The ball reached Larsson who controlled it as Friedel raced towards him. 100 yards away, Mick, Barry and Sniper watched in rapt anticipation as the Swede waited until Friedel dived and dinked the ball over him into the net. A huge roar erupted from the thousands of Celtic supporters in the stadium. Mick grabbed Barry and they both toppled over the plastic seats in front of them oblivious to the pain and caring only that Celtic had scored. Once the crowd settled a bit the Celtic songs boomed out across Ewood Park… ‘You are my Larsson, my Henrik Larsson, you make me happy when skies are grey…’ Celtic were in control of the game now and didn’t the away fans let their English hosts know it.

In 68 minutes, Sutton met a Petrov corner at the near post and glanced the ball into the net. The 8000 Celtic fans crammed into the stand behind the goal erupted again. ‘Yaaas!’ shouted Sniper, ‘How ye liking it it Souness ya dick! Men against boys wiz it?’ The rest of the game consisted of Celtic toying with their clearly beaten opponents. Hartson and Larsson could have added more goals but as the final whistle sounded and the delirious Celtic support belted out ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ even some of the home supporters applauded. The team had been immense and so had the supporters. When they were as one like this they were an awesome combination. For Sniper, Mick and Barry, it had been one more of the great nights they’d long remember. As they headed through the streets to their car a clearly elated Barry grinned, ‘I think we could go far in the UEFA Cup this year. Where’s the final anyway?’ Mick shook his head and laughed, ‘Calm doon you, some good teams are left in this competition.’ A nearby fan butted in, ‘Final’s in Seville mate but I wouldn’t get to excited, a long way tae go before we can think aboot that.’ Sniper was grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat, ‘Fuckin great being a Tim so it is.’

They stopped in a petrol station to fill the car for the long haul north. The crowds had long since departed and Blackburn looked like Pollok on a wet Wednesday night. As Barry filled the car a sleek, dark Jaguar glided up to the pump beside them. A smart man in a business suit filled the car as Sniper peered at the figure sitting in the passenger seat. ‘Here, Mick, check that guy oot sitting in that Jag.’ Mick glanced to his left, ‘Hard tae make him oot Sniper, who is it?’ At that point Barry jumped into the car, ‘Right lads, let’s get up the road!’ As he gunned the engine and the car began to move, Sniper rolled down the window at the back of the car and extended a middle finger as he roared, ‘Here, Souness ya fud, no grinning noo eh?’ Barry looked at him incredulous, ‘Is that Souness?’ Sniper wasn’t listening, he was chanting an old insult towards the Jaguar, ‘Peenesss! Peenesss!’ The three friends headed through the dark streets and onto the motorway. It had been quite a trip. As they headed north, Sniper opened the beer and the tape was soon blasting out again…

With a four leaf clover on my breast,
And the green and white upon my chest,
It's such a joy for us to see,
For they play football the Celtic way.’

The only traffic on the motorway seemed to be the army of delighted Celtic fans heading north. Most were content with the resounding victory over their arrogant English opponents but a few were discussing which teams were left in the tournament and whether they dared dream of making it to Seville.
That was a distant dream but still…

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