Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Two Bloody Sundays, One IRA

91 years ago yesterday The British Army opened fire on spectators at a Gaelic Football match at Croke Park, Dublin, killing 14 innocent civilians.

40 years ago come Jan 20th 2012, The British Army opened fire on a Civil Rights march in The Bogside, Derry, killing 14 innocent civilians.

What's the difference?

I don't see any.

The first Bloody Sunday came after the IRA discovered a team of undercover British Agents known as "The Cairo Gang" and executed them, dealing a huge blow to the British Intelligence operation in Ireland. The rection to that first Bloody Sunday was an upsurge in the IRA campaign that ended a year after with 26 of the 32 counties given back. What took place at Croke Park that day horrified even the British King. The IRA had men queuing up to join that day and Eamon De Valera, who was leading the campaign, saw his popularity surge. Eamon De Valera went on to become President of Ireland and was a welcome guest at Celtic Park(below with thanks to The Celtic Wiki for the pic)

After the massacre in Derry in 1972, Ivan Cooper, a Protestant, who had been one of the leaders of march that day said "I have personally witnessed men, hundreds of them, queuing up to join the IRA today, and who can blame them?"

There is an emotive debate going on at the minute about songs, culture and heritage. It is being had in the backdrop of yet another of our players having to be moved to a safe house after an attack on his property on Saturday morning.

Whilst the debate rages, I don't agree with the attempts to make the old IRA one thing, and the PIRA another. I would not like to go to the house of this woman here


and tell her that her son is not as much a martyr as James Connolly is. Let's be clear here, these people were not supermen, they were ordinary guys in extraordinary situations. They do not deserve to be told that their cause wasn't as justified as someone elses.

Especially when it was exactly the same.

Monday, November 21, 2011

SPL shaft supporters again

The news that the SPL have done yet another pointless deal with SKY/ESPN is a hammer blow to all match going supporters and those who watch around the world at all hours. The deal so far has been a disaster with pitiful amounts of money going into the coffers of clubs to simply pay the wages of the men who sign these horrendous TV contracts. The SPL couldn't give a toss about supporters and in all honesty if Neil Doncaster has managed to walk and chew gum at the same time, I'll be amazed.

Crowds are dwindling in Scotland, with overpriced tickets and ridiculous kick off times now guaranteed for the next five years in Scotland, the game is up, the SPL is not sustainable and will die in the time period unless there is dramatic and positive change. Most clubs in the SPL don't give a toss about how the TV deal works out, they will very rarely be on TV and their fans will very rarely be inconvenienced by TV.

In terms of Celtic, largest travelling support, largest amount of season ticket holders, largest worldwide audience, we are the ones who get shafted the most. We are the ones expected to get up early on Sundays to go watch our team, we are the ones we have to watch very early morning or late at night, sometimes the middle of the night and we are ones who are expected to pick up the tab so the rest of the SPL can operate.

In a country that does everything it can to weaken and undermine its biggest team, we should never really have been surprised.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

He is a Billy and a Tim

I've had the pleasure of meeting Billy Stark three times in my life. The first was in 1987, at a big Celtic dance in Glasgow when as 13 year old boy I nervously approached him for an autograph. He said "what's your name son?" I told him and he signed my full name on the programme for the do. Don't think anyone else I've ever asked for an autograph has done that but it felt great. Then in 2007 I was heading to Inverness for the cup game there in February of that year and myself and my mate Rab stopped somewhere for breakfast and there was Billy Stark walking in his, I think, Queens Park jacket as he and his team were playing up there against someone (I could check but my fingers are killing me), we stood and chatted for about 15 minutes and he could not have been any nicer again.

The last time I met was at a dance at Celtic Park in 2009 where he came along to present awards and made a fantastic speech about how it was always great to be in the company of Celtic supporters and that every day of his life someone would come up to him and talk Celtic and he loved it. So, from my perspective, Billy Stark can do no wrong.

As a player at Celtic he came in just at the right time, summer 1987, where we needed experience and he provided it. His goal against The Huns in August 1987 lives long on the memory, Peter Grant dummying it and Billy firing a low shot right into the bottom corner in a game also remembered for Graeme Souness trying to remove Billy's leg in the second half and being red carded amidst scenes of wild joy from the Celtic support.

A key component in the team that won the Centenary double, Billy almost signed for Hearts that summer before coming to us and his goals that year were invaluable. He had fantastic knack of ghosting in at the back post and scored lots of headers by doing so. Of course Celtic was where he forged the friendship with The Great Tommy Burns and they would go on to manage the club from 1994-1997. Who can forget Billy Stark in tears of joy when we lifted the Scottish Cup in 1995?

So all this means that it is fantastic to see Billy doing such a fantastic job with the Scotland U21s and I'd like to think that once folk wake up and realise what a mess Levein is making, Billy Stark will be the man Scotland call on. I've also heard that when the SFA have their 5 a sides between employees, Billy Stark is the best player on the park every week. The football brain never leaves you.

Billy Stark did more in two seasons at Celtic than most do in a career, his eulogy at Tommy Burns funeral showed the measure of the man and I wish him nothing but success in the future, which hopefully includes a return to Paradise one day.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Here we go again...

Blink and you'll miss yet another massive storm in a Scottish tea cup. We now have a situation where the polis are freelancing when they feel like it and Celtic have been "reported" to UEFA. I say Celtic, it's Celtic supporters. Don't confuse that with anything else. It seems to me that since 2008 when the poppy fascism in Scottsh football started it's been one thing after another after another to try and tarnish the support of Celtic in a desperate attempt to paint us as bad as The Huns. It's an argument I've had so often that I am actually beginning to wonder if anyone really thinks there are new things to bring to it, cause I don't.

There's tons of copy out there on this and I'm not going to give you some long-winded opinion of my own that means no more or less than anyone else, I'm just going to state the facts cleary.

Irish, Catholics or Irish Catholics are not the cause of bigotry in Scotland.

There is bigotry in Scotland therefore there are Catholic Schools.

Rebel songs are not sectarian or illegal.

Celtic have 124 years as a club open to all.

Celtic have a proud Irish heritage and we are not erasing it for anyone.

Jim Traynor, like all hard of thinking people, let his mask slip last night on Radio Scotland bu saying "Celtic need to get rid of all this Irishness".  Therein is the REAL agenda. There is a concerted effort going from the police, politicians and the "justice" system to eradicate all aspects of Irish culture frim Scottish society. Due to the moronic type of thoughts that go through their heads, they see it collectively at Celtic and they don't want it in Scotland. This laughable exercise to get UEFA to punish us, when The Huns are wading in Fenian blood since time immemorial, smacks of petty agendas from bigoted wee men who want to justify the fact that they have allowed the most hateful football club on the planet to peddle policies of apartheid for generations.

The very fact that Celtic supporters attempted to hold a meeting in Glasgow to discuss this, and it was disrupted by Hun thugs, tells you all you need to know.

Monday, November 14, 2011

He's called Graham, so call Graham

There is a man in America who is fast becoming the voice of Celtic in America. The thing is, that voice could be a Beatle, Harry Redknapp or Arsene Wenger. Let me explain. For those that don't know there is a fantastic online Celtic radio show on every weekend called Beyond The Waves Celtic Show (@btwcelticshow)

The host is a man called Graham Wilson and if you aren't an avid listener by now, you really are missing out. With regular co-hosts The Coach(when he shows up), The Rev(when awake) and Seamus(when not on his Honda 50, it's four Americans with huge hearts talking Celtic with all the passion and knowledge you'd hear in Bar 67. No topic on Celtic goes uncovered and punches are not pulled, which attracts me right away.

Ok, enough of that, the main thing is it's absolutely hilarious. Graham as anchor can do impressions, songs, jingles, you name it, he will bewilder you with it.  You can Skype into the show and take part, there's always some great debate and absolutely loads of laughs.

I've been on the show a few times, shamelessly plugging, and from one week to the next you never know what will happen despite a show outline always expertly prepared.  Graham, like all the guys, is someone as Celtic coarsing through his veins but also, I think, does not know just how funny he is.

So my advice to you is listen and call in.

You might even get your own jingle....

Saturday, November 12, 2011

When Mark McGhee was King

23 years ago today was one of the most eagerly awaited Celtic-Huns games I can remember. The previous encounter has seen us lose 5-1 at Ibrox, the like of which I'd never seen in my life before. So when they came to Paradise on November 12th 1988, revenge was in the air. I distinctly remember folk saying on the bus through "1-0 will do me" but we did dare to dream a little.

It was a Saturday 3pm KO and so darkness was descending by kick off. The Huns had not won at Celtic Park for eight years then and their support came that day expecting that long run to be over. I have to be honest, when Mark Walters scored their usual penalty, I did too.

Then something wonderful happened.

Trying to clear a cross, Terry Butcher planted a beautful diving header right past Chris Woods to bring us level. I can still see Butcher now, faced down on the turf, punching it in frustration. We had them on the rack then. Paul McStay was running rings round Ian Ferguson in midfield, there was a scramble and Mark McGhee scored a beauty right into the bottom corner to put us 2-1 up and send most of Paradise into delrium.

I always remember Mark's celebration that day, running right past the main stand, right arm going round and round before Roy Aitken caught him to congratulate. We were still going crazy when Billy Stark deflected a shot past Woods to make it 3-1 at half time. 3-1 at half time, yaaas, we can avenge this right now.

Sadly, we didn't. Try as we might, and Paul McStay again gave everything, we just could not get the 4th and 5th but gladly took the three points anyway.

When I got home that night My Ma was watching the Esther Rantzen Hearts of Gold and the whole Celtic team were on it. Pre-recorded obviously but things like that were always good.

As is demolishing The Huns when they think all they have to do is turn up and win.

*Thanks to The Celtic Wiki for the photo.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

That strange Airdrie game

November 1991 for Celtic had more twist and turns than Tommy Burns. One game though stands out more than any other for me, a 3-0 win over Airdrie at Broomfield. First of all, this game should never have been played. It was pretty much dark by 2pm that day and the rain pelted down throughout it. In these situations you always relied on the radio. I should say I love the radio but back then, at 17 years old, I thought anyone who took a radio to the games was a geek. Two guys on our bus did and they both were. You'd hate these guys when, enroute to Tannadice or somewhere, they'd gleefully inform you the game was OFF, always emphasising the OFF. Or maybe that's just how I remember it.

For this game though it was still on although at Chapelhall, our normal stop and a short drive to Broomfield, we still feared the worst. If you remember, the buses used to park a good mile and a bit walk from Broomfield so you were left at the mercy of "Section B", the feared Airdrie casual crew. Not really. The only time I ever saw them was at the other side of the fence from us in the ground standing in their orange sashes and, latterly, KKK outfits.

Celtic were wearing the worst away strip in the club's history, as you can see from the photo, although I'm guessing what has shocked you more in the photo is Tony Cascarino about to score a goal. Tony didn't have the best of times at Celtic to put it midly and had only scored two goals thus far. His first was set up by Tommy Coyne, an open goal versus Hearts, and he somehow managed to hit at the Hearts goalie, Henry Smith, with his goal attempt, comes off him, and goes in. His second came at Ibrox, minutes after being cheered on by baying huns as he came off the bench, Nigel Spackman played a brilliantly short back pass and Cascarino slotted it past Goram to get us a 1-1 draw. That was that until this game. You see not only did Tony score a great goal that day, turning the defender and bulleting home from 20 yards, he played his part in one of the funniest things I've seen in my life.

Spurred on by his goal, Tony flew into tackles and started to look like the player we thought we were getting. Unfortunately for him one tackle resulted in him completely melting a Policewoman on duty who got pretty badly injured. If that wasn't bad enough, when the stretcher guys came round, things got a whole lot worse for her. They put her on the stretcher, rain teeming down, right front of the Celtic part of the ground along the touchline. Knowing the jeers were getting louder, the two stretcher guys thought there was only one thing for it, run like fuck.

Except there was one problem.

The guy holding the back of the stretcher was faster than the guy holding the front of the stretcher and this meant he kept banging into it and knocking the Policewoman off it as they tried to run round the huge Broomfield track, all whilst the game was going on. I think the guy did it three times before more polis intervened and got her out.

All to the Laurel and Hardy theme tune.

St Mirren beat The Huns at Ibrox that day and we left the ground chanting "Feed The Bear" in light of Roy Aitken's recent move there.

Tony scored one more goal and let in February 1992.

The Policewoman probably never recovered.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

When crowds were always 38,000

This was a big game. I remember it well because it was the sort of game you don't get now, two teams who are in the title race not just from Glasgow, a big signing that week in November 1991 and a huge crowd for both teams. November 9th 1991 and the crowd was swelled by the fact that Celtic had spent £1m on a new centre half with a good pedigree (changed days now eh...), the player in question was Tony Mowbray. Apart from a very good debut, Tony also hit the corner of bar and post with a 35 yard shot that would have sparked a Jungle pitch invasion had it gone in.

Aberdeen scored first through Eoin Jess, who was always a a bit of a thorn in our side, and I remember standing under the Number 2 in the Celtic end, but a bit further forward than normal as it was packed and the goal came came at the old huns end of the ground and the heart sank that wee bit further when you realised, from afar, it has gone in.

The atmosphere was electric that day and you could not move in the ground yet, as usual, the crowd was put out as something ridiculous like 38,000 not the actual 55-60,000 it actually was. Jim Bett was playing well when he was tackled and before you could say "Get it up ye Bett ya hun bassa" Paul McStay had split the Aberdeen defence wide open, Charlie Nicholas had nutmegged an Aberdeen defender, dragged it wide of the goalie and somehow slotted it in past the other Aberdeen guy on the line. 1-1 and the scenes of genuine joy from the players and Charlie in particular are things we see too little of these days.

Second half came and so did the tension, you knew the next goal would decide and that came true when Gerry Creaney, who at this point was looking like Gerd Muller, off the bench a few minutes before, bulleted home a header, downward then bouncing back up,  that gave us the two points and sparked more scenes of wild joy.

Hard to believe all this happened 20 years ago today, Aberdeen were a really good side then whilst we were about slide into another decline that would take years to get out of, yet no one that day would have believed that.  Simply because back then a 2-1 win over Aberdeen had you out drinking all weekend.

Now we say that's not good enough...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Roamin in The Bremen

23 years ago today I was in Bremen. On a freezing cold night, I saw Celtic get a 0-0 draw which wasn't quite enough to get us into the quarter finals of the European Cup. I was young and daft at the time, as opposed to being old and daft now, but to think back it strikes me now that pretty much all European trips then were rated on how close to Amsterdam did the opposing team play. This was long before the days of just hopping on planes (I was on a plane to get to America in 1987 and then not again until 1997 for a trip to Dublin), so you knew that you'd be on a bus to Dover for 10 hours before even hitting continental Europe. Dover was the only port that allowed football fans to travel through after a mass riot between West Ham and Man Utd fans a few years previous.

So when a draw came in, draws were always made on a Friday afternoon then, most of us prayed for Holland obviously, or Germany. A bus then would cost you around £60 which included a one night stay in a hotel (Although I don't think the place we always stayed in Amsterdam could honestly call itself a "hotel", something sounding similar perhaps) and from memory games were always played on a Tuesday or Wednesday. The Bremen game was a Tuesday night so that meant the bus would leave on a Sunday afternoon,  then you'd in Amsterdam for Monday morning, allowing for stops and the ferry.

The trip from Scotland to Dover was very boring, you'd drink yourself into a stupor, sing like fuck and eventually realise you were only at Carlisle. Back then the second you entered England was always the cue for non stop chanting and tapes being turned up.

The ferry was always bizarre, you were only on it for about an hour but everyone made the most of it. I remember going to Hamburg in 1996 and the whole of the bar was singing the Jorge Cadete song, next thing a hun comes in and to a man everyone started "Oh spot the looney, spot, spot, spot, spot the lunatic"

Off the ferry and back on the bus most folk would try and crash out but invariably there would always be one guy annoying everyone. One trip, to Berne, this guy was trying to chat up a girl whilst everyone else was trying to sleep, eventually another guy got up and walked up to them and said "Listen hen, either shag the boy or tell him to get to fuck so we can aw get some kip". And they say romance is dead.

You'd arrive at your hotel bleary-eyed, stiff,  but glad you'd made it. There would be a quick dash upstairs, wash, change and out. This would be the point where everyone would feel human again.
After a long night in whatever city you'd been in, most would crash out around 4am and get some much needed kip in an actual bed. Some though would stay up and you know them as they'd be the ones face down in their ham and cheese at breakfast.

The day of the game was always a recovery/come down as not only would you feel rough, it would dawn on you "Fuck, I've gottae go to this game" See before wins at At Ajax and knocking out Barcelona in the Nou Camp, there were horrid defeats everywhere away in Europe then and goals were like Hen's teeth.

After the inevitable glorious failure, you'd trudge back on the bus and it would hit you, you're on this thing now for 24 hours minimum, save for that hour back on the ferry. The time you got back in Scotland you looked like you'd just done 3 months trekking in the Australian outback.

Then you'd get your Maw or Wife saying the immortal...."Enjoy your holiday then..."

Monday, November 7, 2011

Jordan's Fund shows the difference

I am sure, like me, you were all shocked and saddened to hear yesterday morning that a young bhoy, Jordan Mount, had his wheelchair stolen at the recent Rennes game. What happened next was nothing short of wonderful. After being publicised by Mince @celticmindedcom and Lauren McCloskey @lauren_mcclos and a fund being set up by Lauren, Celtic supporters have donated a staggering £2000 in under 24 hours to Jordan's Fund. Links were also posted on Kerrydale Street and The Huddleboard, as all The Celtic Family came together.

This will not surprise anyone who knows how The Celtic Family work.

20 odd years ago a charity bottle was lifted from a pub in Inverbervie, one that was frequented by Celtic supporters pre and post games in Aberdeen. The owner of the pub wrote into The Celtic View and relayed the story to disgusted readers. Within a couple of weeks the money was replaced 10 fold as supporters from all over the world sent up cash.

That's what it's all about.

The people who stole the bottle and the wheelchair, are not Celtic supporters, they're low life who care not a jot for others.

Lauren and Mince are Celtic supporters, ones I am glad to call friends, and we are all in their shadow today.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

True Grit

I tweeted earlier that lots of newspaper columns and blogs were deleted at full time today. In fact it was obvious that Graham Spiers in particular was seething at Celtic winning at Fir Park today, he had his Neil Lennon post-mortem already written and he was not happy he could not use it. I'm not one for blaming all "the media" as they are not all the same. In fact Ewan Murray's piece on Friday regarding Neil Lennon and his lack of support from above could easily have been on this blog, albeit with much more swearing and much better written....kidding Ewan.

I blogged at the start of the week that we had to stand by Neil and that he would turn this around and even his most bitter critic must admit he has helped us get two great results since. A lot of that has come down to the grit and determination of some of the players. Guys like Stokes, Matthews, Kayal, Wanyama and, yes, Samaras, have stepped up for Neil in the last two games and now we get two weeks to re-group and get players fit.

The supporters at Fir Park again showed they are brilliant and huge kudos, again, to The Green Brigade who have turned the whole away support into a movement that is both inspiring and educational. There can now be no more false dawns, let's get this show on the road again and get back to who we really are.

In football you never give up, at Celtic you cannot give up.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Faith being kept

"Keep The Faith" is not a phrase I go in for much. Every time I hear it smacks "Don't question anything". At the start of the week I blogged that we had to stick by Neil Lennon as he would steer us through this current dip. Last night's performance, particularly the spirit and fight shown, shows the players are now fighting for him again which, if you think about it, is all we ever asked.

Now we must keep this going as it seems the whole world is trying to big up Sundays game at Fir Park against us. If we show the same spirit and fight at Fir Park, this game will not be a problem, if we don't, you'll know which players need shipped in January, not the manager.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Patient Commons

Kris Commons turned up at training today looking like this after rumours swept the internet yesterday that Neil Lennon had headbutted him. Sources at the club immediately poo-pooed the story yesterday but it did apparently catch fire. Whatever that, it's good to see Commons poke fun at it and hopefully this is a sign that things are getting back to normal with him again. He has had to be patient this season and he honestly to say to himself that his season starts now. There is no doubt we look a much better team with an in form Commons in it, just look at how well we played from when he signed, and let's all hope that this picture signifies a return to the first team for Kris Commons and some of those great goals we all we know he is capable of and the better balance his inclusion definitely gives our team.