Wednesday, August 31, 2011

8 Questions for Peter Lawwell

1) What have you done for the Club in the last three years by way of investment and creativity?

2) It’s fair to say you have balanced the books but can you argue that it hasn't been done against a backdrop of cuts which has ultimately led to a downsizing in all aspects of the Club. We have lowered our calibre of player for the first team year on year; the supporters services have been diminished, the environs of the stadium are not up to scratch. We actually have a full corporate facility which is no longer open, The Captain’s Table in the North Stand. Can you deny this?

3) Turnover is down year on year, ticket sales are down, retail is down and success on the park in the last three years has been unacceptable. What is being done to rectify this?

4) There has been a debacle with the last two managers, one of which you grossly undermined and the other has been appointed with absolutely no credentials to do the job.Are you the right person to pick a manager?

5) We have seen a commercial deal with Nike and since then nothing by way of major investment. The only significant income stream comes from the fans and the ticket and merchandising pricing policy is not line with the current economic situation being faced by millions of people. We charge EPL prices for a vastly inferior product. What is being done to rectify this?

6) We spend far too much of our income on player salaries and have failed to produce emerging talent which has been good enough to establish themselves in the first team, what is being done to rectify this?

7) Last season we balanced the books by selling Aiden McGeady. What happens when there is no McGeady type sale? A transfer window like this?

8) In times of such austerity how do you square taking circa. £1.m a year from the Club for delivering all of the above, which is more than probably 90% of the first team playing squad. It seems there is no money for the essentials but there is money for you to do what on the face of it is a pretty poor job. Unless your job is to ensure that the major shareholder reaps a dividend every year, is it?

Friday, August 26, 2011

When Dermot killed the goose

There is a scene in the film Glengarry Glen Ross where two real estate salesman are lamenting the hard times they find themselves in. At one stage one of them says, on a previous land deal, "They killed the goose", referring to the fact that they had a good thing, blew it, and it never came back again.

Celtic used to be a club that had a family in it. Employess you could talk to, rely on, who understood how Celtic worked, that it wasn't just about money. Peter Lawwell changed that culture into one of fear and dictatorship. Now, Fergus kicked a lot of arses but people knew he was right, Allan MacDonald was a nut job whose bombastic nature made him a figure of fun inside the club, Ian McLeod was most popular among staff but it was Martin O'Neill who had everyone going in the same direction. The five years MON was at Celtic, Lawwell was there for two of them, nobody knew he was, because MON ran the club and everyone loved him. Towards the end of the 04/05 season MON lost focus for obvious reasons but the plan was put in place to get rid of him regardless, MON was always going. Because MON would have no problems tell Dermot Desmond to go fuck himself. The night DD knew MON had to go was after we lost 3-0 at Shaktar in 2004 and MON went home in DD’s plane that night, said the team needed £15-20m to strengthen and he would do it for him. DD said no and MON told us, the supporters, to “Get ready for life in the slow lane”

The goose had been killed.

Gordon Strachan was approached in March 05 and the first thing he was told was “You need to sell to buy”.
Therein lay the beginning of the end of Celtic as a player and is the reason why we are now a laughing stock.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Celtic on Life Support

Can we say now that we are officially Shamrock Rovers? That seems to be the mentality now, given our pathetic attempts to even get into Europe, the club is sliding faster down than an Ice Lolly on a chute. As a club, we remain a worldwide institution run by incompetent, greedy, shallow men, as a team we are rudderless, with no leadership on the park and a management team who are out their depth when it comes to the crunch.

This is now the worst era at Celtic since Brady-Macari-Burns.

Why are we accepting this? Everyone knows the problems at Celtic, we have the worst CEO since Kenneth Lay, we have a dictator who owns 29.9% of the club yet makes every decision without consultation, we have employees who ponce around in suits and glasses they don’t need, never having paid into a Celtic game in their lives, trying to tell us how to behave.

For five years now I have been saying it and I will say it again, until the regime changes, NOTHING will change at Celtic.

We are a few bad results away from complete collapse of the whole club.

Sickened, saddened but not surprised.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Time to Huddle up Peter

I was as angry as anyone yesterday after that pathetic performance. Four good players missing, four other players playing out of position, makes it pretty easy to understand why it looked so disjointed, it does not however explain the lack of urgency, fight and belief. Neil Lennon was right to berate the players but he himself must look in the mirror as there was no Plan B. Again.

That all said this is not time for knee-jerk reactions. We will be a better team once Kayal, Hooper and Kelvin Wilson come back and it's August, not February. I heard a lot of people criticise the supporters yesterday, and whilst I will never blame the fans for the defeat as some did, we need to keep cool here. The glee with which our defeat yesterday was met gives a timely indication of how many enemies we already have, without turning on each other.

I watched with interest Peter Lawwell give a speech at the Celtic Graves event on Saturday and he spoke of Celtic being a unique club. If he's not careful, that uniqueness is going to be a club who were streets ahead of their rivals and did everything they could to stall and offer said rival life support. Make no mistake about it, this is the most crucial week of the current board's tenure. We are one defeat in Sion from this era being the worst we have had to suffer since the mid 90s and when you consider that in that era, all director bonuses have remained intact, they must realise that a failure to spend and being knocked out of Europe in August again would mean they are living on borrowed time. Players have off days, managers get things wrong, fans can lose it but to get it so spectacularly wrong on such a consistent basis is a hark back to the days of the Kellys and Whites.

It's time for all Celtic supporters, players and directors to huddle up, and the directors need to lead it this week.

Otherwise they might regret extending the car park.

Friday, August 19, 2011

European 'not quite' Away

I once went six years without seeing Celtic scoring an away goal in Europe. From Neuchatal Xamax in 1991 to FC Tirol in 1997 I never saw us score and let's face it, the one at Xamax was scant fucking consolation. It would incredibly anorakish and depressing to list the away games but I'm going to anyway

1992-Cologne (0-2), Borussia Dortmund (0-1)
1993-Young Boys of Berne (0-0), Lisbon(0-2)
1994-Didn't qualify
1995-(Paris St.Germain 0-1)
1996-Hamburg (0-2)

We did score three in Batumi in 1995 but, of course, I wasn't there. My first European away was in 1982 against Ajax of Amsterdam. Not really sure how I managed to be there, best theory is that was the caveat for my old man to go. We won 2-1. The next time was 1986 to Dublin where we beat Shamrock Rovers 1-0. After that Honved in 88(0-1), Bremen 88(0-0) and Mostar in 1989(albeit to play Partizan Belgrade 1-2) and then I started to go regularly to away games, first one "on my own" was with Chris O'Neill in 1992, the aforementioned Cologne game. When I started going to European aways I thought you won some, lost some. Then in the 1990s I thought you lost some and you lost some even heavier.

I'll be honest, in the 1990s especially, the game was the worst part of it. You lived for the trip even if it meant days and days on cramped buses with no beds, gallons of drink and Lynx in short supply. It got to the point where you just went for the trip and the fitba was a side issue as you pretty much knew you'd get beat. At that time a hardcore for around 3-4000 went to these games, rising up to 8-10,000 for games in places like France and Germany. To not even qualify at the end of the 1993/94 season was unbelievable but not for the first time in the era, we didn't qualify at the end of the 1989/90 season either.

That is how bad it got.

If you had told me in 1993 that 10 years from now you'll be in Seville along with 100,000 other Tims competing for a European final, I'd have thought we'd left you in our main European stopping on the way to the game spot, Amsterdam, just a wee bit too long.

Why am I telling you all this?

Well tonight, after a disappointing 0-0 home draw with Sion, The Huns losing to Maribor and Hearts getting rode ragged by Spurs, a lot of the doom merchants are now out telling us this is the end for Scottish fitba. Now, first things first, it's poor just now, no getting away from that. I wouldn't attempt to say otherwise. However I've seen it poor plenty times before and will again, mixed in with times of greatness. In the 90s Celtic were getting pumped by everyone abroad, and at home too, yet from 2000 the likes of Juventus, Valencia, Ajax and Barcelona were falling our sword.

We do have a crisis in Scotland but we can come back from it, with good investment in youth and a re-think on pricing in the game so to get all grounds packed again.

I also reckon the next European away goal is six days away, not six years.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Born on The Bayou-The Story of The New Orleans CSC&Hurricane Katrina

As we approach the 6th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I caught up with some of the Celtic supporters who were directly affected by it, how they got over it and what has happened since. This is their story.

Co-founder Joe Chalmers picks up the tale:The New Orleans CSC was formed in 1996 and has now been going an incredible 15 years .If  my failing memory serves me correctly it was a time when a lot of CSC’s were forming and we had the advent of the Vegas Convention. I remember calling the one and only “Castlemilk Cat” and asking, “Mr. Donnelly…how do you start a club?” “Easy” says the mighty one. “Find a pub, get a bunch of Celtic supporters and club together to get the game money and hopefully you’ll get walk-ins…Oh and yae need a big dish!”

Oh right! A big dish! How Big? Try 12 feet…and a decoder!!!

I vividly remember one evening going into the ballad room in O’Flaherty’s looking for a Stephen Patterson and asking him if he would like to start a club. “Are yae serious?” said the big Lurgan mhan. From there it was the simple matter (GULP!) of convincing the owner (Danny O’Flaherty) to spend $3000 on a new satellite dish and a decoder. Also, if it hadn’t been for the work of Bobby Orr in recruiting new members, it would not have been possible. We had a lot of good times at O’Flaherty’s, having had our fair share of famous visitors, Gerard Butler, The Lord provost of Glasgow (Peter Mosson) but to name a few. In the summer of 2002 Stephen and Pauline Patterson bought their own bar and the following season the New Orleans CSC moved to its new permanent home"

No one on the ground knew just how bad Hurricane Katrina would be until it was too late. The citizens of the Louisiana Gulf Coast were well used to tropical storms and hurricanes but nothing could prepare them for this. New Orleans CSC President was worried to an extent, but something else to attend to first, "My daughter was born two months premature on August 22, 2005 just seven days before Katrina hit. My wife had a c-section and wasn't released from the hospital until the Friday (27th I believe) the storm hit. We were aware there was a storm in the gulf, but it was at the back of our minds. On Saturday, as it was clear that the storm was massive (Category 5) we began to worry. The levees here were only built to withstand a Category 3 storm. We visited our daughter in the NICU and were told the Hospital was shutting down and going into emergency status, which meant we had to leave, but would be able to come back once the hurricane passed. Not wanting to leave the city without our daughter, we made the decision to ride out the storm in a New Orleans hotel room"

The strain and pressure on any family in that type of scenario is incredible, add in a Category 5 Hurricane and you're dealing with something that would test any human being to the limit. Especially when you know that is affecting people you know, people you love and, of course, being Celtic supporters, the local CSC, Stephen picks it up: "Being in the city, we had a radio and were listening to local broadcasts. At first after the storm had passed it appeared to everyone that we had dodged a bullet. Even the newscasts were saying so. After the storm was over, everyone was on Canal St looking around and everything looked normal, except for the normal debris everywhere. We decided to stay in the hotel one more night so the cleaning crews could clear the streets. When we woke up the next morning, you could see the flooding down Canal St. At that point, hysteria started setting in. Radio reports were saying that all of NewOrleans would be under 14 feet of water in a few hours, and were sitting there in a hotel watching the water rise. At that point is was pretty clear most of New Orleans and the surrounding parishes were fucked"

That kind of devastation is unthinkable for most. Rivers running down the streets, all your property destroyed, loved ones missing, dead. The recovery would need to be immense, on a scale never seen before in the area. In terms of Stephen and the local CSC, at Finn McCools,  it had been destroyed completely. Once everyone got together again, the decision was made quickly that they had to re-build it, with the help of some friends, but let's also not forget Baby Zoe,  Stephen says "Dan Shields (former member of the N.O. CSC) began trying to contact people looking for myself and what had happened to our daughter in the Hospital. A couple of days after the storm my wife's step-brother, (Chief of Medicine at the Birmingham, AL VA Hospital) had arranged with the people coordinating hospital rescue efforts to have my daughter and several other babies from the NICU flown to the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital. Dan being in Birmingham, somehow found this out and contacted Julie's step brother. All this happened while we were still stuck at the New Orleans Convention Center about 3 days after the storm. Once we were evacuated, we ended up in Birmingham and where the support was awesome. Dan brought us all kinds of baby clothes and Celtic shirts for me. I even watched a few Celtic matches and ate Scottish meat pies at his house. My daughter was in the NICU there for a little over a month so we stayed in Birmingham for about 3 months. Another person who really helped me out was Donie Kerins of the Woodside NY CSC. The amount of financial support he gave us was unbelievable. He even offered me a fully insured car for as long as I needed, as my truck had been flooded (I didn't accept the car as my insurance money came for my truck and I was able to buy a new vehicle) . I had never even met Donie before this and his generosity was staggering. We had literally lost everything, house, car, jobs, etc... so his help was tremendous. I finally met him at the 2007 Vegas convention and he is a genuinely humble, nice guy. To me, Donie and Dan sum up what it means to be a Celtic supporter. The NAFCSC were fantastic in their support and clubs like Global Hoops were incredible as well, guys you've never met in your life before raising money and giving help. It really is a family."

Finn McCools was re-built, people like Stephen Patterson, his wife Pauline who owned it along with Stevie Collins and Stephen's brother Keith sweated blood, sweat and tears to re-build it, along with members of the local CSC. Photos appeared of the Bhoys and Ghirls watching Celtic beat Rangers 3-0 on a small TV in November 2005. In human tragedy comes human resistance. Although it wasn't easy, the club was re-built. Some members moved away though, some had no choice, so the club struggled for a while but it didn't fold, the people of New Orleans are made of strong stuff. Stephen again "We lost a few members and it has been very hard but a core group remains and a bond created that will never be broken"

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Castlemilk Cat saves again

The news that a deal, in principle, has been agreed for CSC's in North America to show Channel 67 in the clubs is a huge relief to all concerned. As documented in this blog, it has been a worrying time for all North American Tims since June and here, for the first time, is how it all unfolded.

Around an hour before the NAFCSC AGM in Las Vegas in June,  The Kearny CSC informed The Federation that they had struck a deal with Celtic for all games to come, $100 a game. Whilst this was welcomed by The Federation as a bold new step, alarm bells were ringing for some clubs. The figure of $100 a game simply wasn't affordable for a lot of smaller clubs who were struggling to pay their current $80 fee. On top of that, after saying they would be raising their prices and getting a lukewarm reaction from the clubs, Premium Sports, who had previously carried the SPL games, announced that they would no longer be doing so. This meant the very real prospect that a huge amount of clubs would fold and that everyone, bar the very biggest clubs, would be watching at home on the computer.

With it being late June still, panic hadn't quite set in but these were worrying times for a Federation who had put Celtic on the map in North America and were the first to provide coverage of Celtic in North America, something which, it has to be said, seemed to have been forgotten by a few people. Which no deal in sight, questions started to be asked of The Fed and President Tam Donnelly. There was abuse, lots of it, some on email, some on messageboards by characters with handles such as Green In Texas and Angus Og, whilst some gave abuse when they didn't realise others could see and hear, the general theme being that Tam wasn't up to the job and would sell us down the river.

Not the Tam Donnelly I know.

Then there was the fact that Celtic were not budging from their $100 a game fee which, it has to be said, a few clubs were considering taking, despite the fact it would kill many of the CSC's in The Fed. It also has to be said that Celtic showed very little understanding of what it is like to be a Celtic supporter in North America and must learn the lessons from that. 

Setanta Canada then picked up the SPL and rumours were rife that Fox Soccer Channel would do the same in the States, further lumping pressure on the NAFCSC.

Tam continually asked for clubs to stay behind The Fed, have faith and we will get you there. Many remained unconvinced and some clubs seemed set to break ranks and go alone with Celtic. At this point all hell was breaking loose, certain people seemed to have an agenda against Tam specifically and were raising questions with Peter Lawwell, a strategy that could only ever end with failure and looked as if could cause a civil war within The Fed. Thankfully though there were supporters, clubs like The Bronx Bhoys, New Orleans CSC and Houston Emerald continually pledged support to Tam and The Fed, could the tide turn?

After some toing and froing, behind the scenes talks, some frantic phonecalls and at last a desire to bend a little from Celtic,  at around 9am EST on Tuesday Aug 16th, Tam announced that a deal in principle had been agreed with Celtic for all clubs to show Channel 67. Game fees would be reduced considerably from what clubs were paying to Premium Sports, which was a massive relief to most in The Fed.

However, Tam wasn't finished.

He also said that the two clubs who gone alone with Celtic, at the higher $100 a game fee, were welcome back to The Fed and could also enjoy the reduced rate all clubs would now be paying. That there is the measure of a true leader. I've documented here on previous blogs the kind of skils Tam has in doing deals, and with a constant stream of abuse flowing towards him throughout, he never flinched, stayed strong and got a deal that saved The Federation all clubs, big or small, after all if we want to call ourselves The Celtic Family, you have to actually act like that too, that's the deal.

And what of the new deal? Well my club already stated that because of the very low fee we would be looking for day trips to other CSC's to give them a turn, and in turn, hope that they could come back to us as well. All helping, all supporting, the way it should be. There can be greater scope now for member recruitment and promotion of Celtic with much less pressure now on clubs and the finances.

And what of Tam? Well I hope The Castlemilk Cat is sitting with a wry smile today. Most would have chucked the towel in given the level of abuse he was getting and pressure he was under.

Not the Tam Donnelly I know.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


It would be easy to romanticise the recent Celtic Underground podcast with Brian Dempsey. In it Brian spoke of Celtic as "The People's Club" and dreamed of a vision that saw a one person one vote system at Celtic where fans would make the decisions and Celtic would be the centre point of a community that it always claimed to represent. At the point where the misty-eyed amongst us started to let our minds wander, Brian said "Of course it could never happen now"

I've said many times on this blog that I despise the way Celtic are run just now. Since Ian McLeod left Celtic, a massive error on the club's behalf when you consider the incredible success he has been in every job since, Celtic have been on a downward spiral. McLeod was ousted at the end of a contract in may 2003. They didn't even give him a ticket for Seville. Ask any employee at Celtic for a decent length of time and virtually all will say McLeod was by far the best boss they ever worked for, His mantra was simple to all his managers "If you're department is working fine, you can complain about anything to me, if it's not, don't let me see you until it is" It worked. The team was unstoppable, profits soared and the club was in the healthiest state it had ever been on the park since the 1970s. Of course debts were going up, to a high point of £35m and that could not be sustained but with the level of support through the turnstiles, not to mention great players already at the club, McLeod started to put into place a plan to reduce it.

The board rejected it and fired him.

Six months elapsed before Peter Lawwell took over. On a much lower salary given his level of experience compared to McLeod. At first Peter was pretty quiet, as has been stated by John Paul Taylor in an interview in this blog, Martin ran Celtic at the time and no one got in his way, not even Dermot Desmond. When Martin left the club and Gordon Strachan took over as Coach(not Manager), it was at this time that a different financial structure was put in place, one which we see remaining today. Put simply it meant that the board were not responsible for results on the park, only the finances off it. This is why you see big bonuses despite failure on the park and why idealists like me get so angry.

The questions I have now are these, we currently have a bank debt of £500,000, which could be wiped out today with the sale of one fringe player, so I ask the board(like they are reading), what's next? What new investment are you going to bring into the club? At what point will you break all links with The Huns as all fans demand? What is our future strategy, are we leaving the SPL? What is being done to ensure we compete in The Champions League again? Why do you invest so little in youth development yet triumph it as "The Future"?

Right now, more than ever, with a slowing economy, a myriad of other options for families and an awful SPL, we need some leadership at Celtic. We need an end to all the phoney initiatives that mean nothing to ordinary fans, we need the continual slide to the folk with money to end, we need to stop being served up overpriced crap at the food kiosks whilst the hospitality lounges win awards, we need to stop this fascination with the bottom line, a fascination that sold your away tickets and European travel down the river, we need to embrace the fans who are streets ahead of the current employees at Celtic in their technological skills and PR value but most of all....

We need Celtic to be Celtic again, not some faceless corporate entity that has mottos like "No idea", "Nothing to do with me" or my own favourite "Aye, aye, aye, aye, sorry I can't help you, bye". This club is great because of the fans and some of the players who have worn the Hoops with distinction. We have a worldwide fanbase just sitting there waiting to be inspired, embrace it, cherish it, because it's who we are.

That all said, my made up word of "Celtopia" still makes me think that it would be interpreted by Celtic as "Good day for shirt sales"

If that makes you smirk, perhaps we're not dead yet.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bonuses guaranteed again-Yaaaas!!!!

I'm sure, like me, you're sitting back basking in the news that once again the millionaires and billionaires that run Celtic will once again have their bonus intact. It gladdens my heart to know we have men at the club who are able to look at a player and think "If we sell him, we can reduce the debt even further" I cannot wait to tour Celtic Park again and look, proudly, at the balance sheet which will surely take a more prominent place than the European Cup in the boardroom.

The legends at Celtic now, Peter Lawwell, Dermot Desmond and Tom Allison, can rightfully take their place beside the likes of McGrory, Quinn, Tully, Johnstone, Dalglish, McGrain and Larsson.

This is normally a blog that doesn't do anything other than spout but it is time to celebrate this wonderful achievement by the board. What should we do? a gala dinner? name the stadium after them? No, we need much more. I suggest now that all fans go out and buy another strip, buy again the alarm clock that wakes you up with the Fields of Athenry and also make sure that you buy 10 Paradise Windfall tickets at each game now, a bargain at a mere £2. Oh, whilst I remember, there is another way to celebrate, the programme, to reflect our financial muscle, is now £3. For me, when I heard it, it was like hearing Albert Kidd had scored at Dens Park on May 3rd 1986.

Yes folks, the people's club are on the way back.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Curious Case of Steven Naismith

The benchmark has been set already, The Huns are going to get everything going again to ensure they win the league. After huffing and puffing at Inverness, Euan Norris could not wait to gleefully bail them out with a couple of penalties to ensure a struggling team was now comfortable. I've seen that scenario with them so often now, I know it better than my own face.

Anyone in Scottish Football knows that Steven Naismith is as horrible a boy that ever existed in it. He does well to keep up a certain image of "innocent wee boy" but in reality he makes Nacho Novo look like Bob Geldof. When he went to The Huns it was rumoured that he was coming to us. People in the know knew that would never happen, he despises us, people who support us and everything about us.

Which makes the fact that he is an obvious cheat and diver all the more fitting. I've lost count of the amount of times he has blatantly dived try and win a penalty. Rarely, if ever, does this get mentioned by the press. Let's put cards on the table here, if Naismith was foreign, and didn't play for The Huns,he would have been run out of the game years ago, diving six times on the way of course.  The fact that he hasn't been and the continual cultivation of this "Wee Naisy" character goes on, tells you all you need to know about Scottish Football.

It's going to be another long season.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

3000 Miles from Celtic

I'm not ashamed to admit that I shed a few tears watching from afar on Tuesday. I didn't blog about it right away simply because a few things hit home to me that night:

1) Celtic, as we all know, are a unique football club.

2) There are millions out there waiting to be inspired by them.

3) I really miss going to Celtic games.

It was apparent that something special was happening on Tuesday as news started to filter through on the social media networks that tickets sales were going up and up and up. That all said I don't think anyone expected 55,000 people to turn up. Then again, maybe we should have?

In 1993, at the end of another awful season when The Huns won the treble, Celtic decided to put seats in The Jungle. As Hampden was being done up, the cup final that year between The Huns and Aberdeen was played at Celtic Park meaning The Huns were the last fans to stand in The Jungle. For once, the old board realised this could not be the case so they organised a "Jungle's Last Stand" and appealed for a few hundred bodies to turn up, stand in The Jungle, and watch a kickabout between some celebs and a few of the Lisbon Lions and Paddy Crerand. I went along as in the last game of that season, against Dundee, The Jungle gates were shut one body before I got in. The guy who got in last, Robbie Millar, was a mate of mine from Kilmarnock. Bastard. So, along with my mates Chris and Steven O'Neill, we go on the train from Edinburgh in June, on a miserable day, pouring with rain throughout, and get a bus to Celtic Park.

We arrived about an hour early and there was already a queue. What happened in the next hour is something barely mentioned in Celtic's history but should be told to every single person who wants to know what Celtic are all about. 25,000 people showed up. This meant guys who has came along to stand in The Jungle one last time actually ended up standing in a hastily opened Celtic end. I got in The Jungle this time, Robbie Millar missed his train. Ha.

I'm sure all fans think their club is special and tbey have every right to, but it is undeniable that Celtic, as a football club, has something which is just wonderful, that keeps people loving it no matter what, a kind of rebel defiance laced with song and a wicked sense of humour. All of these things kept us going through the dark, dark days of the 90s. All these things made sure we bounced back from the 90s as well.

As for me, I am missing it big time. You kind of always do but lately it has been eating away at me a lot. The last game I attended was Celtic 4 St Mirren 0 last August and that is a hell of a long time for someone like me. A ton of things have stopped me, not least having to start from scratch again here and having a young son to look after but I still see all the games so am not that bad.  That said I think supporters outside of the UK and Ireland get a bit of a raw deal, The passion I see week in, week out here is not bettered at Celtic Park, it is the same. Yet still there is a tiny bit of snobbery of either for the Yanks and Canadians among us who get "You don't know what it's aw aboot" or for guys like me "You made yer choice, you walked away from Celtic, stop moaning".  Which leads me back to my first point, you can't fucking walk away from Celtic.

And who would want to.

Phil is all you need

When Hillary Clinton was running for President in 2008, husband Bill went on the campaign trail with her. I am a huge fan of Bill Clinton and got to shake his hand in 2008 after he did a speaking gig I attended at Radio City. His influence is such that you hear "Bill" and think "Clinton".

On Radio Clyde on Tuesday, when the story that Phil Mac Giolla Bhain broke at the weekend was mentioned, Jim Delahunt made reference to it by saying "This is Phil's story you mean" and it struck me that in the Celtic Universe we now no longer need any more than "Phil" to know exactly who we are talking about. That's some achievement.

Lately Phil has some flak, anytime your head goes above the parapet someone will want to knock it off, no one is more aware of this than Phil. What I like about Phil, amongst other things, was that in the weeks he was getting flak, he was still working away to break the Sheriff Officers at Ibrox story where many others would have just said "fuck it" and gave up. Not Phil. If last year told us anything, it's that Phil doesn't give up easily. Just ask Hugh Dallas.

We need all the Phil's we can get, there is a huge Hail Hail Media emerging where we can come at the establishment from all angles and people like Phil and Paul Brennan enabled that.

Everyone has flaws, none more so than me, so before we all jump on our high horse, let's be happy in the fact that Phil is one of us and doesn't give up easily, cause if he did, who'd be telling us about the latest hun debacle?

Monday, August 8, 2011

New York's Green and White

On Friday I watched the first game played by the New York Cosmos proper since they announced their intention to be the 20th MLS team. I was privileged to be invited to Legends on West 33rd St by a Legend, one Frankie Fraser. Subway difficulties(Three women buying tickets galore in front of me) meant I got to the bar about 10 minutes before KO. I wasn't really sure what to expect but thought "It's 2.30pm on a weekday, surely won't be too many there".

As I went downstairs in the bar, I realised I was very wrong.

Congregated there were about 100 fans, the vast majority members of the supporters group "The Borough Boys". Everyone in the bar wore green (except me for shame) and unlike Baseball crowds for example, everyone was a hardcore fan. I saw Nick Laveglia, the leader and all round good guy, before catching up with Frankie and his buddy Brandon who also help run things. I couldn't stay the whole game but saw enough to realise that there's something happening here. There were great NYC based songs, passionate support for the Cosmos team and it felt like a proper football crowd.

What has all this got to do with Celtic?

Well, Nick is Celtic supporter, Frankie is a Celtic supporter and Brandon is a Celtic supporter. The Cosmos play in green and white. Their fans sing and look like The Green Brigade "New York's Green and White"

Shall I walk you through it again?

As I keep saying on this blog, Celtic have a massive support in New York, with guys like Frankie and Nick with a feel for how to work Celtic in New York. Similarly we have guys here like Chas Duffy in The Bronx, with The Bronx Bhoys, who recently handed over a $5000 check to The Celtic Charity Fund, who have a built up a living, breathing Celtic community here and guys like Jim McGinn, without doubt the respected face and voice of the New York CSC in The Parlour and Gary Haley who, along with people like the aforementioned Frankie, put Celtic on the map in Queens.

These five men could tell Celtic all they need to know about New York in about five minutes.

The question is, will they ever listen?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

From Maple Leaf to Four Leaf

Celtic currently have 23 official CSC's in Canada. I've been to Toronto twice and on both occasions made a visit to the Toronto CSC's HQ in Midland Avenue, and I was greatly warmed by the fact it was their own location. Don't look for any other team comparisons there, there are none, this is Celtic. The NAFCSC is a federation which encompasses clubs in Canada and America and a lot of that comes from the migration of Scots to Canada in the 60s and 70s.

My own friend there Mike Paul, emigrated in 1974 and never regretted it. His family are all grown up, he and his wife are very happy and they have a beautiful house just outside Toronto that I could happily never leave. Very little stress, lots of long days in the summer and very cosy when harsh winter hits.

Another who emigrated there, just a little bit before Mike, was Tam Donnelly. Tam, for the two people who don't know him, is the living embodiment of supporting Celtic. His passion is such that, along with people like Jacky Meehan and Peter Milligan, he wasn't prepared to accept not seeing Celtic any more. As technology got better, the will became stronger, let's do a deal to get the games here and in America and form a Federation, so that people all over North America can form their own CSC and Celtic can build a base here. Let's not beat around the bush here, the NAFCSC put Celtic on the map in North America as a whole.

It is interesting to look at what life was like for Celtic supporters in North America pre the Federation. The BBC World Service on the radio was invaluable, as were phonecalls although very expensive and there are stories of brothers and fathers drawing out what goals were like and then sending them across The Atlantic. It was a very grim time, then, Celtic were on live every week. That must have been akin to Adam realising Eve had more than just an allure about her.

Tam himself is an extraordinary character. At one time he was a strike enforcer. This meant, in cities like NYC, he'd often visit shops asking if they would be stocking certain things? If they said Yes, the baseball bat was put on the counter and the question asked again. Similarly when strikes were coming to the front line and it became a straight out fight with the cops, Tam would be right at the front, almost always fighting with other big burly Scots and Irish dressed in NYPD uniform,

As President of the NAFCSC now, Tam is trying to steer the ship through some troubled waters at the minute, that can lead to lots of different things, praise, abuse or simply non stop "What about this...what about that..." but it is clear that most people see in Tam, the man to lead the Federation into a new world, just like Scots and Irish led their families in the years gone by to the shores of America and Canada, and, just like they did then, what is needed now more than anything, is for everyone to close ranks. The NYPD&NYC Deli owners will tell you how effective that can be.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Celtic New Jersey

The US national team has a remarkable quirk from the last twenty years. Five players who made the team, come from a 12.5 mile radius of each other. John Harkes, Tab Ramos, Claudio Reyna, Tony Meola and Jozy Altidore, were all born or raised in Northern New Jersey, Kearny, Belleville and Livingston to be exact. Harkes and Meola went to Kearny High School, Altidore to Boca Prep, whilst both Ramos and Reyna attended St Benedicts(any hun readers have now just fainted)

This is an incredible achievement from such a huge country and this area of New Jersey is clearly the home of football in America, with all players influence easily seen on the streets of particularly Kearny and neighbouring Harrison where the NY Red Bulls now play.

There's more.

Anyone with a knowledge of Celtic in America will know that there is a huge CSC in Kearny, which also happens to be the first ever CSC in America. "The Mother Club" has played a huge part in promoting Celtic in America over the years and this includes hosting various Celtic Boys Club teams over the years when they played American youth teams over there(There is even a tale of members of the CSC playing and beating a Celtic Boys Club team after a night on the bevvy!).

The problem lies in the fact that all the players mentioned, bar Altidore, played against Celtic Boys Club on numerous occasions and all would have jumped at the chance to sign for Celtic, none were spotted, none were asked, all went elsewhere. Why was that? Lack of communication? Lack of working together? Maybe. There is a lesson there for all in the modern day, work together, for the good of Celtic, always.

Incidentally Altidore was spotted at 16 and Celtic were alerted. I know this cause I alerted them on someone elses behalf. Gordon Strachan had a look, wasn't interested. Just over a year later Altidore was sold to Villareal for $10m.

the huns have signed a few yanks over the years, Walter Smith has a place in NY and can be known to be seen propping up the bar in McCormicks. He keeps an eye on the US scene, we apparently don't really.

Now more than ever communication, working together is vital, whether it's to sign good players, get more support or even just to see Celtic on TV in the US.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Celtic v The USA

Last night on Twitter I was involved in an interesting and inspiring discussion about why Celtic are so hopeless when it comes to marketing the club in America. With Celtic's continual "Ryanair" type strategy of fleecing the people you already have over and over again it means that every time they set foot in America they charge a fortune for tickets, ignore most fans and can't be arsed bringing merchandise over, something that even Timland in the Gallowgate has managed to do successfully.

Celtic are continually badly advised on how to deal with America, their clusterfuck approach to the recent TV rights deal alone should have everyone involved at their end hanging their heads in shame, because they think that a few employees who talk to two American guys once in a while will know what to do. Let's address that first. People who live here will tell you that it takes years of actually living here to understand American culture and, let's be clear here, the culture in Philly is totally different to LA and LA is totally different to Chicago. Is that so hard to understand?

The powerbase of Celtic in America should be New York. There are currently four clubs in NYC and hundreds of thousands of people with an affinity to the club. The problem is Celtic look at who subscribes to Channel 67, who goes to clubs, who is happy to be ripped off for merchandise that takes ages to get to them and think, that's that. My point is this, I've supported the New York Yankees from Edinburgh, Scotland. I say supported, that means I stayed up late for big games and checked the score in the morning for all others. The Yankees probably have no idea I exist but I could go half a mile from my house in Edinburgh and buy their merchandise. I could watch most of their games, if I chose to, on ESPN America. The Yankees don't know I exist, but they still got my dollars. Are Celtic aware of the hundreds of thousands in New York alone with a strong affinity for the club who may not get up at 7am for all games but still like Celtic? I don't think so. Celtic give them no outlet whatsoever to express ANY kind of support other than "Sign up for Channel 67", are you kidding me?

It is hard enough to support Celtic in America, given the lack of access, ridiculous KO times and constant feeling of being used, without also knowing there are people in America, and Canada too for that matter, who could greatly enhance the club but are not given any opportunity to do so. Why aren't they? It could well be the old Celtic "If we dinnae control it, it disnae happen", a policy that has really come to the fore in the Lawwell era.

The hope in all this is the rising up of a new wave of Celtic support in North America. Shows and Podcasts like @thelostbhoys and @btwcelticshow have becomes staples of not only the Celtic support in North America, but the Celtic support in general because of the way they are able to articulate the passion of the Celtic support in North America. I say to Celtic now, embrace them, cherish them, because they are the future and it's happening now.