Monday, September 7, 2020

Paradise Lost

 


I went to Celtic Park today. That's strange for me as I hate going to Celtic Park when there isn't a game on. There's an eerie feeling about the place when there's nothing going on and walks from the station or city centre seem a lot longer when there aren't thousands of your own around you. Today was even stranger as most of the thoroughfares were blocked off and the only real places you could go were the Celtic Way and the new fangled Celtic Shop (which is exactly the same as the old one except Adidas is all over it) which made my trip pretty pointless in all honesty and I feel pretty deflated about it now. Thinking about it made me feel incredibly sad that football is going on without the fans and there doesn't seem to be any real impetus to have us back. I know Celtic want us back and I'm sure that would be the same for all clubs but, frankly, the media seem to be loving the fact that they get full access and can still do their jobs without those pesky fans bothering them./ 

It worries me.

When I look around the place, online and off, I see many folk who simply don't understand Covid-19 or the things we must to do to try and defeat it. The latest "I AM A MORON" Bat signal is those who refuse to wear a mask or plaster the internet with conspiracy theories about the disease. I've even had people say to me that it's a hoax because they don't know anyone who has had it. I do. 17 people just now. Five of them died over one horrible weekend. I can safely say that, after witnessing these events, if someone came up to me and said it was "FAKE NEWS!" I'd have smacked them in the fucking mooth.

I miss being around Celtic folk. Personally, since March, I've been to two pubs and one cafe,  that's it. Don't get me wrong, I'd love nothing more than to be in amongst it but that's just not possible just now and folk need to realise that.


Whilst I was walking about Celtic Park, I started thinking about all the times I've came out grounds and said "Never mind the game, what about the fans" That's what makes Celtic special, the fans. There hasn't been a player yet better than the fans (Although Danny McGrain comes damn close) and I could tell stories all night about occasions I had, even in adversity, when being among Celtic fans made me feel 10 foot tall. 

I can remember packing out grounds all over England and feeling like it was a celebration of Celtic and it's support. God I miss those days. Away early, all your mates, tanked up by 10.30am, invading a new city without a care in the world. This was before football became so corporate and cynical. And they needed us then (or at least that's what they told us)

Despite rumours to the contrary, Celtic isn't an easy club to follow. It costs a fortune, there's never enough tickets and you get treated like shit all over Scotland. Similarly, it's a hard club to defend when it increases the price of season tickets when no one can get in and creates a rabbit hole akin to Wonderland in order for fans to get a refund for games they didn't get last season.

Yet I still love it and all of you as well



Thursday, August 27, 2020

Take The High Road

Nostalgia can be a good or bad thing. Recently, STV have been plugging old episodes of Take The High Road. People in their 40's and over will remember all the characters and think back to a time when it was on and get a wee glow inside them. Right up until they watch it again.

I read today, admittedly from not anyone who knows about Celtic, saying that Neil Lennon should not be criticised because of the stuff he has gone through to be Celtic manager. Sorry, but that's bollocks. Lenny would not be the kind of man he is if he ran away at the first sign of criticism. 

And he does deserve criticism.

His whole demeanour this season is of a man who is fed up. I think I know a couple of the reasons why. Firstly, Gavin Strachan was not his pick as part of his management team. Lenny approached the board and asked for Tommy Johnson but was vetoed. This came after Damien Duff had abruptly left of course. The usual family reasons were trotted out which is fine but doesn't explain John Kennedy lobbying to get the Dundee Utd job when it was available.

The reality is though Neil Lennon can't really complain about any of this as he knew what he was getting into when he took the job and things reverted to the old way of things (Peter Lawwell doing everything bar picking the team and challenging decades of cheating) that had been banished under Brendan Rodgers.

Speaking of Rodgers, however you feel about him, it cannot be denied that he brought a level of professionalism to Celtic that enabled us to absolutely steamroller the league. I don't really know if this has been maintained under Lennon but his barb last night about players not wanting to be at Celtic doesn't exactly paint a good picture right now.

When I saw his team last night, I text a couple of friends saying "Cluj Mark 2" because whatever  anyone says, it was unfathomable picking that team and those tactics last night. (Something the manager himself admitted post-match)

Where do we go from here?

I still think we are more than capable of winning the league but it has been said ad nauseum, the biggest threat to 10 in a row is ourselves.

As usual, our forays into the transfer market have been pretty bizarre. We have had Klimala since January yet the manager tells us he's not match fit, why?

There's also the Leigh Griffiths situation. We were told he came back overweight, why? Surely the club were monitoring all the players in lockdown?

It all feels a bit disjointed just now and, in this season of all seasons, that should not be happening.

I don't know much but one thing I do know is if this continues, we will all be taking the high road.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

From Albert With Love review-From a Jambo

 


"As a Hearts fan, this is exactly the type of book I’d ordinarily avoid.  A story of the 86 season, culminating in Hearts chucking the league and Celtic pipping us to the post in heart breaking fashion.  And to be honest, I am in under no illusion that most Hearts fans would never even contemplate reading it, in fact I wouldn’t either if the author wasn’t a personal friend.  However, for that reason I did read it, and in doing so I was hit a great wave of nostalgia and a good insight into being a football fan in the 80’s.    

As much as the book is a bit of a love letter from Paul to Celtic and Albert Kidd in particular, it’s also a look back at an era of football that’s gone forever.  Travelling to games home and away by hook or crook (and being able to remember your whole supporters bus over 30 years later). Scotland actually being not bad and standing on the terraces, or outside the boozer waiting on the adults with your bottle of coke, is a warm reminder of a time when football never cost an arm and a leg.  It was an era I missed as a fan, when I started going it was coming up to the introduction of all seater stadia which has led to a bit of a sanitisation of the game, and reading this makes me feel like I missed out.     

  

It's also feels a bit more than just a football book, it's a throwback to growing up in the 80's in general and remembering all the characters from your childhood including the “famous” footballers from your area, and I'm sure a lot will resonate with people who grew up in a certain type of environment. I think it also illuminates the difference between now and then.  These days people will happily use social media to dehumanise whole sets of supporters and give the impression that they’d never even entertain hanging about with them.  But Paul’s stories of growing up with guys that were supporters of other clubs and they were in fact, just your mates, regardless if you followed the same team or not.  It is a good reminder that you don’t always have to show how much you dislike others to have your opinion taken seriously.  

 

I know it’s probably just through nostalgia tinted glasses, but Paul makes this season feel like a simpler time.  He tells a story about getting a radio cassette recorder for his Christmas which he used to get his mum to tape commentary from games he was attending.  The innocence of childhood where you’d happily relive run of the mill games over and again because it was your passion, it genuinely reminded me of how much football used to consume everything I done as a kid. 

  

In terms of reading this through the eyes of a Hearts fan it’s quite difficult so many happy memories from people around a subject you are so used to hearing horror stories about.  No matter your age the spectre of 86 looms large over Hearts fans, even for me growing up I was too young to grasp what it meant, but until we won the cup in 98 it was always levelled at us as a reminder we’d not won anything for decades and bottled the big chance we had.  

  

However, Paul’s done a great job though of while being clearly for Celtic fans, he’s included a lot of well researched information about Hearts and other clubs.  It's also good to see references that most Jambos would be familiar with including a warm look at the infamous China, “King of the Hearts supporters”.  

   

What really gives the book a good insight to the season is that it’s not just Paul’s stories which are enjoyable and relatable, which they genuinely are including a startling revelation for anyone that knows him about his time on the stage. It’s that it contains a collection of views, mainly from Celtic fans, but also nuggets from Hearts, Hibs and Dundee United supporters which helps give a more rounded view of how the season unfolded.    

  

The biggest compliment I can give the book is it’s an easy read.   I know that could be taken negatively, but it’s not intended to suggest there’s a lack of substance.  It was an easy read because of how well it flows. A review of a season always carries the danger of feeling formulaic, but I think this book speaks to Paul’s story telling style that each tale is woven into the recollections of games humorously and seamlessly.  The way he writes is almost like an internal monologue, it feels like you’re listening to him in the pub when he explains to the reader how he preferred Mark McGhee to Mo Johnston which wasn’t the popular opinion at the time, but obviously would be in the years that followed. Or how he resented Hearts fans for coming out of the woodwork when riding high. 

 

Obviously this will appeal mainly to Celtic fans, but it’s a great read, and most importantly a fun look back on the game for anyone who wants to remember, or get a taste for, the joys of being a Football fan in the 80’s"


@pauloneil1874 



 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Help, I need somebody.




This is not so much a blog but more a stream of consciousness that has been wanting to come out of my mind for about a month. It's all me, all on me and reflective only of me. It's a way of stopping myself drinking myself in a stupor (or more of one)

Ok so we won 9 in a row. I was completely against the calling of the league early but as time went on and deaths from Covid-19 got higher, I could see no other way ahead. I was also against anyone being punished by the league being called and the ongoing fiasco around it tells you why.

I wasn't exactly over the moon when Celtic decided to do an online celebration of 9 in a row. I know, working in a care home,  my perspective is different to most but I wasn't comfortable with it at all. I was persuaded to watch a re-run of it and it was well put together and all that but I feel we could have waited.

Then came the season ticket refund scheme which I was delighted with. I was worried that Celtic wouldn't give supporters this option and so was glad when they jumped that hurdle. The devil, of course, is in the detail. I only glanced at it but then @celticresearch took a scalpel to it and made those who skimmed it aware that you had to first fill out a form, print it, mail it in and then you would receive a cheque back (I believe no one has received these yet)

The bad feeling was rising among the support from what I could see.

Then came the season ticket announcement that the price increase would remain and that fans would get, in return for paying full whack, access to a computer stream until further notice. My household has three season ticket holders, it would cost us £1800 to retain our season tickets and get this computer stream. This in the middle of a Global Pandemic and upcoming Depression.

I asked questions, waited on answers and have heard diddly squat back other than links to statements.

I look at the Celtic SLO. A man I have known, loved and respected for 30 years but who, in my view, really begun to change in the last couple of years. I've seen him put out tweets, that I know he would never agree with, and be lambasted by the support. Over the years I would have always jumped in to back him up. I always had his back but not now because , in September of last year, I feel he didn't have my back when I needed him most. (and I told him that then)

Bhoys and Ghirls, I am helpless right now. I was at a juncture where, when the latest Celtic statement was released, I was flabbergasted when they painted a "All is well" scenario when I don't think it is. I slept on my feelings (never comfy) and awoke to them selling Celtic face masks for £8.

Yesterday I spoke to two comrades of similar age and background and they both, independently, told me they were as bewildered as I am.

I've loved and supported Celtic all my life and really have no clue what is going on.

So help me, do you?

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Celtic, we love you.

I was talking to a few mates, Tims of my era, and we were collectively berating the Celtic social media output. Our main criticism was that it appears to be run by 14 year olds who can't see past the end of their phones. At that point, I was going to blog and berate them but then I thought perhaps that's the way they deal with fear.

It is probably becoming apparent to folk at Celtic that nothing is going to be the same again and a lot of people are going to lose their jobs. Whether you agree or disagree with folk, that's a scenario nobody wants. I saw a thread yesterday where a lot of supporters were concerned that there is a season ticket deadline on May 29th and, by that point, they will not have had any income for three months. The response from the club, from the SLO, was to say "It will be reviewed when we get more information" which will be exactly what he will have been told to say and really is not very helpful to anyone.

The wake up call is simple.

There is not going to be any football matches with spectators this side of Christmas. I know there are folk out there who still don't take this pandemic seriously but let me break a few things down. First of all, there are people dying every day with no end in sight. Even when the curve starts to flatten, that does not mean we will all be heading to the pubs as many predicted at the start of this thing. What will happen when the curve flattens is that some restrictions on places like garden centres and DIY places will be lifted and your half hour exercise may be increased to an hour.

In Scotland, as much as we love football, it is the absolute last thing on the government's agenda right now. There is no chance any time soon that they will divert a single emergency service to a football match and, once all the squabbling dies down, clubs better get their heads around that.

Which brings us back to the season ticket question. I am "fortunate" enough to still be working in this crisis so I can afford a season ticket. Don't get me wrong, I've not been paid any extra, had overtime or received any kind of backhanded bonus, I'm just working full time and also am not spending on anything outside of the usual essentials. None of this makes me special or above anyone and nor would me buying a season ticket right now either. Yet that has crept into my Twitter timeline and I've had folk saying to me "You better buy a season ticket or the club will go bust"

I don't want the club to assume I will buy a season ticket with no prospect of football on the horizon. I want dialogue, I want leadership, I don't want pie in the sky interviews with the manager.

Also, imagine you have three kids, no income and have supported the club your whole life and a complete stranger  on the internet adds to your worries by telling you that you're also going to be responsible your club going bust?

That is a mentality the club needs to squash and needs to squash soon.

As supporters, we love Celtic. For the vast majority of us, it occupies our every step, our every breath and the reason we ride the rollercoaster of life. That's why we need leadership now. Supporters need our club, the biggest and most successful in Scotland to stand up and guide us through this. Someone said to me "Celtic don't have a crystal ball" and I totally agree with that which is why they should not be acting like it's business as usual.

I make this plea simply as a supporter who loves the club, Celtic, tell us what you think and how we can help guide the club through these treacherous times.

If you need help, think of Tommy Burns on that pitch at Hampden in 1988 and you're halfway there.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

The Corona Season

After I did my last film, Armageddon, I knew I wouldn't be doing another one for three years minimum. I'd also just finished my degree and was at a crossroads in my life. One night, whilst on holiday with my future wife in Berlin, I decided I wanted to get into support work. I did an HNC in Social Services, got my SVQ's and started working in a homeless shelter. I was dealing with people every day who had been alienated, had addiction problems,  had childhood trauma to deal with and were in an out of jail all their lives. In other words, people I can relate to a lot. The job was fantastic but the boss wasn't. She was an uncaring, unhinged, cleaning obsessive who if you told her a resident had chopped their own head off, her reply would be "Have you cleaned it up?"

I stuck with that as long as I could but eventually left and, after a few months of searching (soul and jobs) I got a job in a care home, starting at the beginning of the year. My job now is to get elderly people ready for home again after a fall or illness. Providing round the clock care, you develop a rapport with these people and get to know everything about them. All was fine until this horrible disease came along and changed everything.

It's because of that, I don't have any perspective on self-isolation, looking for things to do or the various listening parties and the like going on, as good as they sound. I've just been working throughout this and witnessing the indiscriminate nature of this thing.

It's also changed my perspective on Scottish fitba because I feel like an outsider looking in and have watched in bewilderment as silly wee men (and women) run about trying to squeeze every penny they can out of anyone daft enough to believe that a switch will be flicked and all will be well.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know I have been very vocal in my opposition to the league being called. I asked a well known bluenose in the media why he thought there was such a push for this and he replied "Peter wants the league for Celtic, it's that simple". Well, I don't buy that. I'm a well-known critic of Lawwell, I believe he and others at the club led supporters down the garden path with regards to the decades of cheating we endured, intimating they were doing something when in reality they did absolutely nothing about it.

The question is would Lawwell really push this just so we can get 9 in a row? You see the reaction of the angry mob (not something I give a toss about) and their desperation to add an asterisk to a season they had long since given up on whilst conveniently forgetting the honours "won" by Oldco by cheating therefore trying to equate a global pandemic with David Murray's financial doping is the kind of logic that creates no reaction in the mind of your average Sevco fan but rings a bell with anyone not hard of thinking.

I'd love to know Lawwell's thinking but, as usual, everything he is doing is behind the scenes and without consultation with fans leaving us leaderless and without the sort of clarification that his own statements normally ask for.

Football is changing forever and Scottish fitba better realise it soon or it will die. Fans need to ask serious questions like; Why are clubs selling season tickets now as if it is business as usual? If the league is called, what happens with the games fans have already paid for? I'm not saying I want money back for my 2019/20 season ticket but I don't want the club to assume that. They need to be talking to supporters on these issues because, whether they like it or not, the club will never be the same again.

On that, I've laughed at the notion that football will be back any time soon. People hear of a possible lifting of certain lockdown restrictions and, somehow, equate that with 60,000 people being allowed in a football stadium (That's another season ticket question btw, what if the government socially distance football stadiums and half the capacities?)

The SPFL board (Remember when Ian Maxwell of the SFA was all over the media? where has he gone?) have shown a complete lack of regard for the people in the game who pay to get in. Yet you can bet your bottom pound coin they will be all over us for money when the shit really hits the fan and that irks this fan. I hate the way clubs basically ignore us until season ticket renewal comes along in the same way politicians do until an election comes along. That has to change.

And so does the SPFL board.

Quite frankly,. appointing someone as unhinged as Ann Budge to be put in charge of reconstruction,  is akin to putting Boris Johnson in charge of running the country. There seems to be little in the way of reality at the SPFL and those who care, watch it all unfold through their fingers.

These are strange and bewildering times we live in. I've had a few dark moments. Yesterday the enormity of all this hit me hard and I took to Twitter to express that. I've also had long conversations with my wife (also a frontline worker but in a different department) and it's been dark at times.

One ray of light was in a big brown bag on our doorstep about a month ago. It was a huge selection of fruit. It baffled us at first but then a few weeks later someone left two Easter eggs on the door and a note just saying "thanks"

Maybe they should be on the SPFL board.